Today is Akshay Tritiya, or Akha Teej, one of the most auspicious days of the year. ‘Akshay’ means never diminishing or something that is perpetual, and ‘tritiya’ is the third day of a month, and in this case it is the Vaishakh month. The day is considered to be so auspicious, that any new beginnings need not be subject to any special mahurat, or auspicious time. Thus on this day, many embark on new ventures, marriages, etc. Any beginning today is thus considered to have begun on an auspicious moment, so the venture or the relationship would be fruitful and everlasting.
As a child, I have seen my mother performing many rituals on this day. One of them which caught my fancy was donning the photograph of Lord Krishna, with a white soft cloth which would be smeared with sandalwood paste! The reason would be that the weather was turning sultry and the cloth with sandalwood paste on it would sooth the deity who was confined to the closed ‘mandir’ for the major part of the day! It did seem quite amusing, but in those days faith was not something that was questioned with the remarkable alacrity that is visible now! Some Krishna temples do resort to similar rituals albeit in much more elaborate manner.
The day has a number of mythological significances which are as follows –
- This day is the birth day of Parashuram, the sixth avatar of Lord Vishnu
- Kubera, who was the richest deity in the Hindu Pantheon, worshipped Goddess Lakshmi to maintain and sustain his wealth
- The day marks the birth of Goddess Annapurna (goddess of food), who was born to feed the hungry
- On this day, Ganesha and Sage Ved Vyasa got together to start writing the epic Mahabharata
- According to the epic Mahabharata, on this day Lord Krishna gifted the Akshay-patra, the bowl which would never be devoid of food, to Draupadi
- The river Ganga descended on earth on this day
- The day also marked the beginning of the treta-yug in Hindu Mythology
- On this day, Bengalis perform the ‘Hal-khata’, the beginning of the traditional book of accounts
- In Orissa, the farmers sow the seeds on this day with a lot of religious and ritualistic fervour. Women in Orissa also worship ‘Sathi Debi’ the guardian goddess of the children, who also has the power to bestow children to the childless.
- The construction of the chariots for the famous ratha-yatra of Puri, begins today after an elaborate ritual.
- One of the most significant legends associated with this day is that of Krishna-Sudama. Poor Sudama was supposed to have visited Lord Krishna on this day to seek material help, but could not say a word and returned without saying anything, except sharing some rice that he had got along with him. On reaching home, he saw that he was gifted with all the riches that he had hoped for, or rather much more.
Such myths seem to lend credence to the fact that good deeds get rewarded on this day, thus many also resort to charity.
Astrologically, this is the day when both the Sun and the Moon are at its radiant best, which by itself is rare and only on this day. This could have given rise to the popular notion of buying gold and silver on this day, though there seems to be no mythological or religious allusion to this notion. It is said that some years back a few jewellers publicised that buying gold and silver on this day is considered auspicious and soon this spread to the entire country. This could be just another marketing success, similar to what the greeting card industry did a few years back with the numerous Days being celebrated. The value of gold and silver seldom comes down and is considered to be a good investment, so buying it on this day (or any other day) is always beneficial!
Finally, before I end, it is important to mention that this day is also an auspicious day for the Jains. According to the Jain scriptures, Lord Rishabhdev renounced worldly pleasures and distributed all his wealth and land among his children and meditated without food and water for six months. On attaining enlightenment, he went back to his village to accept food. Since he was the first monk of his era, people did not understand that all he was seeking was a morsel of food. Instead of food, people offered their erstwhile king, gold, jewellery, and all sorts of riches, but not food. When he did not get what he needed, he retreated and started meditating once again. After about another six months or so, his grandson understood why his grandfather had visited the kingdom and on this day of Akshay tritiya he offered his grandfather a glass of sugarcane juice and helped him break his fast. Since then, the Jains fast on this day and break their fast with a glass of sugarcane juice on this day.