Akshaya Tritiya, an Introduction
Akshaya Tritiya is a sacred occasion regarded as highly propitious for performing auspicious activities and also as an appropriate time for attaining prosperity, fortune and success. The Sanskrit word Akshaya means immortality or imperishability. This is, thus, the day that will lead to unending growth, expansion and success and hence, is considered most suitable for starting new endeavors, undertaking important activities, performing auspicious events and for acquiring precious things. Tritiya denotes the third day. Akshaya Tritiya thus, falls on the third day after the New Moon, that is, the third day of Shukla Paksha, the bright fortnight of the Moon that comes during the Hindu month of Vaishak or the Tamil month of Chiththirai, which corresponds to April–May.
Also known as AkhaTeej, this is also considered as the spring season festival and is observed by both, the Hindus and Jains, and also in India and in the neighboring Nepal. This is also hailed as the ‘the third day of unlimited affluence’ and is termed Navanna Parvam.
Significance of Akshaya Tritiya
Akshaya Tritiya is an occasion of immense significance as it is said to mark all the important aspects of success, prosperity and well-being. This is even regarded as Sarva Siddhi Day, the occasion of all-round achievements. This is held so sacred that any auspicious activity can be undertaken on this day even without consulting astrologers, it is believed. This can be the ideal day for worship too, as prayers done with devotion on this day will earn the complete blessings of the Almighty. This can clear the sins of the individual and also of the ancestors and can bestow one with righteous life.
The ancient system of astrology adds to the significance of Akshaya Tritiya and considers this occasion as one of the Sade-Teen-Muhurthas, that is, one among the three-and-a-half highly auspicious days. This apart, the Sun and the Moon remain as the most powerful entities that impact the self, where the Sun denotes the soul and the Moon, the mind. While the Sun dispenses light, energy and vitality, the Moon stimulates the thought process. Thus, these two remain as the energies that influence our body, mind and soul, the most. Astrologically, on the AkshayaTritiya day both these celestial bodies are in their exalted signs and our ancient sages have identified this 24-hour-period as a very appropriate time for developing a consciousness that stimulates growth, prosperity and success, and brings down anger, hatred and negative feelings. The brightness of the Sun and the Moon can also clear the karmic blockages in the mind so that achieving one’s desires and dreams becomes a strong possibility. It is also said that meditating on the concept of ever-increasing wealth on this day can sink into deep consciousness and help in establishing a permanent link with the divine archetypes.
The Akshaya Tritiya that falls on a Monday which also happens to be a Rohini star day is believed to be all the more auspicious.
Legends associated with Akshaya Tritiya
The importance of Akshaya Tritiya is well highlighted by some of the ancient legends that are associated with it.
Epic Mahabharatha narrates an interesting episode in this regard. When the Pandavas went to the forests on exile, Yudhishtra, the eldest of them was particular that they should continue the practice of feeding the sages and guests daily. He prayed to Sun God on this and was granted an Akshaya Patra, a sacred and miraculous vessel that will keep on providing unlimited food daily, until and only until their spouse Draupathi finishes her food for the day, cleans and puts the vessel aside. Duryodhana came to know of this and with a view of harassing the virtuous Pandavas even during their exile, arranged for sage Durvasa and his disciples to visit the Pandavas just after Draupati finished her food and cleaned the vessel for the day. The sage and his party reached the Pandava hermitage, precisely, as planned, asked them to keep food ready for all of them and went for bath nearby. Knowing well about the sage’s short temper and his propensity for giving curse, a distraught Draupati took refuge in Lord Krishna.
Krishna appeared before her immediately and as if to add to her woes, told her that he is hungry and demanded food for himself. Draupati explained that food is over for the day and it cannot be arranged till the next day. Krishna still made her bring the cleaned vessel to him, found a small grain of cooked rice stuck to it, ate it with relish and declared that he is full and satisfied. With the satisfaction of the Lord’s hunger, Durvasa and his disciples too felt their stomachs filled to the brim. Feeling embarrassed to face the Pandavas, who would be waiting for them with food, the ascetics quietly slipped away without informing anyone and the honor of the Pandavas was thus saved. It was the sacred Akshaya Tritiya day that the Sun God gifted the miraculous vessel to Yudhishtra, with the help of which he is said to have fed the needy in his kingdom too.
As per another legend, it was on Akshaya Tritiya that Sudama, the close childhood friend of Krishna visited him in Dwaraka. Sudama was so poor that he could take only a handful of Poha, the flattened rice as an offering for Krishna. However, Krishna gave a royal welcome and treatment to his old friend and enjoyed the humble offering to his heart’s content. The immense satisfaction of the Lord transformed into great riches for the impoverished Sudama, who started living a life of comfort and joy from then on.
Historical and Mythological Significance of Akshaya Tritiya
History and mythology too are linked closely with this auspicious day, when many important happenings have taken place or have begun.
According to Puranas, it was on Akshaya Tritiya that Treta Yuga, the second of the four great eras started, and Ganga, regarded the most sacred of all rivers descended on earth from heaven, thanks to the strong determination and the stupendous efforts of king Bhagiratha. Lord Vishnu, the supreme God of sustenance is also believed to have taken the incarnations of Parashurama and also Nara Narayana on this important day and hence, this day is regarded as Parashurama Jayanthi and Nara Narayana Jayanthi, the days of their birth. In addition, this very occasion is said to represent the great God Vishnu himself. The advent of Goddess Annapurna, the divine mother who feeds all the earthly beings also took place only on this day. Kubera too is said to have received divine blessings on this day that made him immensely rich and wealthy. He also reached the exalted status of being the custodian of all the riches in the world.
Sage Veda Vyasa began composing the epic Mahabharata, his magnum opus, on Akshaya Tritiya and dictating it to Lord Ganesha who wrote it down using one of his own tusks as the writing instrument. It is also on this day that the shocking incident took place in the Kaurava court, when Dushasana, the equally wicked brother of Duryodhana tried to disrobe the Pandava queen Draupati in public. Her honor was saved by the timely and divine intervention of Krishna who enwrapped her with unending cover of protection. In more recent times, saint Adi Shankara came out with his famous Kanaka Dhara Stotra imploring Goddess Mahalakshmi to bless with wealth the poor lady, who, having nothing else to give him, offered him only a gooseberry as Bhiksha. It is said that the Goddess, pleased with Shankara’s devotion immediately arranged for a rain of gold coins in that poor hut. This divine miracle is believed to have happened on the holy day of Akshaya Tritiya.
Jainism commemorates this as the day Rishabhanatha, the first Tirthankara completed his one year of asceticism, when he drank the sugarcane juice from his cupped hands.
This day also marks the beginning of many religious and social activities. Badrinath, the highly sacred Himalayan temple of Lord Vishnu is opened for worship on the Akshaya Tritiya day, after remaining closed for months in winter. The construction of chariots for the internationally renowned Jagannath Rath Yatra of Puri begins on this auspicious day, when the farmers of Odisha state also start their agricultural activities and begin to plough their lands. In the famous Banke Bihari Temple of Lord Krishna situated in Brindavan town, the feet of the principal deity or Sri Vigraha, which remain covered throughout the year, are opened on this day for the darshan of the devotees.
Akshaya Tritiya Activities
Scriptures hold this sacred day as extremely auspicious for the principal activities of worshipping the divine and performing fire rituals, undertaking auspicious activities and observing austerities, helping the poor and the needy, and donating for charity and acquiring assets. It is said that the effect of their performance on this special day will be thousand times the normal.
Akshaya Tritiya Celebrations
This day remains dedicated mainly to prayers and religious activities. Many take holy dips in the Ganges or in other sacred rivers and water bodies, and spend the day in sacred pursuits. People also offer worship at home and in temples, and many of them pray to Lord Vishnu or his incarnation Vasudeva, making offerings of rice grains. They also sprinkle Tulsi water around the picture or idol of the Lord and perform arti. Many do Homas, the fire ceremony and other rituals. This day is considered very propitious for undertaking two sacred activities and those are vrat (fast) and charity.
A lot of importance is attached for the Akshaya Tritiya vrat and hence, people abstain from food throughout the day. For this, people are required to take bath early in the morning, install the images of Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi at the appropriate place, make offerings of Tulsi leaves and sugar candy and do worship. Donations, especially of barley, that is regarded as the king of grains are made. Akshaya Trithiya Vrat Katha can then be read. The chanting of the following mantra can be done for 108 times using a Tulsi rosary — ‘Om Hreem Hreem Shreem Shreem Laxminarayanabhayam Namah’. An arti can then be performed and the daylong fast can be observed. Observing this Vrat on the auspicious Akshaya Tritiya is also considered very effective for appeasing the souls of the departed ancestors, and this can get them peace and the descendants, their blessings.
Ancient scriptures claim that gaining knowledge or giving charities on Akshaya Tritiya will be of immense value. Hence, making donations and doing charities are done with fervor on this day. These things are made both in cash and in kind. Many give food items like rice, ghee, sugar, salt, vegetables, fruits, tamarind, clothes and hand fan to the needy. People also spend the day by reading sacred stories and listening to them.
Many people earmark Akshaya Tritiya day for performing all kinds of auspicious activities. These include marriages, acquisition of assets, registration of properties like lands, houses and buildings, house warming ceremonies etc. While starting of fresh ventures, new businesses and trading activities are done on this day, others choose the occasion for joining new jobs. Another very important activity that is undertaken with passion on Akshaya Tritiya is the buying of gold, other metals, jewelry, diamonds and precious gems. In fact, the belief has become so firm and deep-rooted in the minds of many people that purchase of precious items on this day can bring prosperity and auspiciousness in their lives and hence, it has become almost mandatory for them to make big, small or even symbolic purchases and acquisitions on that day. Hence, people in very large numbers flock the jewelry shops throughout the day for making some purchase or the other. As an incentive, the shops too have started offering special discounts for Akshaya Tritiya, and open extra billing counters on this day to handle the huge volume of customers.
There are also some regional variations in its celebration. In the state of Bengal, people do the worship of Lord Ganesha and Goddess Lakshmi and also perform a ceremony for starting the new book of accounts or the audit book. This is known as Hal Khata. They also undertake many other rituals and ceremonies.
This day holds great significance to the Jat farming community. As per the prevailing custom, a male member of a family of Jats goes with a shovel to the field early in the morning on this day. He will come across various animals and birds en route and each of them is regarded as an omen or an indication for the sort of rains they will get during the year and also for the harvest they will reap. Mass weddings are also conducted on this auspicious occasion, which is considered an Unboojha Muhurth.
Akshaya Tritiya is closely related to wealth and its creation. Kubera is the divinity associated with money and is regarded as the treasurer of the Gods and the richest. However, on this day, even he is believed to pray to Lakshmi Devi, the ultimate Goddess of wealth and the consort of Maha Vishnu. Many people worship both Lakshmi and Kubera together, install the idol or image of Lakshmi along with Sudarsana Kubera Yantra and perform the Kubera– Lakshmi Puja on this occasion.
It is also said that the kings or the rulers are required to perform a special worship on this day with devotion and gratitude for the prosperity and welfare of their subjects. This puja is performed for the divine couple Sri Vishnu and Vaibhav Lakshmi, by installing their images in front.
Calling Akshaya Tritiya as Varshi Tapa, the Jains too undertake fasting and other austerities, especially at holy places like Palitana in Gujarat. People who observe alternate day fasting throughout the preceding year complete their Vrat on this day by consuming sugarcane juice.
Benefits of Akshaya Tritiya Worship
Prayers to Gods, and specially propitiating the divine couple Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi can result in the transformation of the very consciousness and in attracting benefits like wealth, good fortune and happiness. Long unfulfilled wishes can get fulfilled and there can be a positive turn-around in the loss-making business ventures. New projects launched on this day can greatly succeed. Fasting, worship and charity on Akshaya Tritiya can earn immense divine blessings and solve problems related to poverty, low income, family disharmony, ill-health, poor studies of children and difficulties due to enmities.