Akshaya Tritiya, also known as ‘Akti’ or ‘Akha Teej’, is an annual spring time festival of Hindus and Jains. It falls on the third tithi (lunar day) of Bright half (Shukla Paksha) of Baisakhi month. It is observed as an auspicious time regionally by Hindus and Jains of India and Nepal, signifying the third day of unending prosperity. The date of festival varies and is set according to lunisolar Hindu calendar and falls in April or May of every year in the Gregorian calendar. In Sanskrit, the word Akshaya symbolizes ‘never endingness, eternal’ in the sense of prosperity, hope, joy, success; while Tritiya stands for ‘third phase of the moon’. It is named after the third lunar day of the month of Baisakha (according to Bengali Hindu calendar). On this day, most people purchase gold. It is believed that buying gold on Akshaya Tritiya brings prosperity and more wealth in coming future, as gold is considered as the symbol of good fortune and wealth. It is also auspicious to start new business, construction work on the day of Akshaya Tritiya.
The auspicious occasion of Akshaya Tritiya is celebrated with lot of enthusiasm by Hindu and Jain communities every year in all over India. The significance lies in the fact that the line of destiny changes on this day every year. In Jainism, Akshaya Tritiya commemorates that Lord Rishabhdeva (the first Tirthankara), ending his one year ascetism by consuming sugarcane juice poured into his cupped hands. Some Jains refer to the festival as ‘Varshi Tapa’. Fasting and ascetic austerities are marked by Jains, particularly at pilgrimage sites such as Palitana (Gujrat). On this day the people who observe the year-long alternative day fasting, known as ‘Varshi Tapa’ finish their ‘tapasya’ by doing ‘parana’ (drinking sugarcane-juice). According to Hindu tradition, Akshaya Tritiya is considered to be the day for remembering the loved ones, who had died. The day is regionally significant for women (married or unmarried), who pray for the well being of the men in their lives or the one, they may get engaged to in future. After prayers, they distribute germinating gram (sprouts), fresh fruits and Indian sweets. If the Akshaya Tritiya falls on any Monday, then the festival is believed to be even more auspicious. Fasting, charity and helping others on this day is another festive practice.
Akshaya Tritiya in the light of Hindu Mythology According to Hindu mythological evidence, Lord Krishna presented Draupadi with Akshay patra on ‘Akshaya Tritiya’, on sudden visit of sage Durbasa, during the exile of Pandavas to the forest. The princely Pandavas were famished for the lack of food and their wife Draupadi, pained by the lack of food for customary hospitality to numerous saintly guests alongwith sage Durbasa. Yudhisthira who was the eldest, did the penance to Lord Surya, who gave him this bowl which would remain full till Draupadi had her meals. During sage Durbasa’s visit, Lord Krishna made this bowl invincible for Draupadi, the wife of five pandavas, so that the magical bowl called ‘Akshaya Patram’, would always remain full with food of their choice, even as to satiate the whole universe, if required.
Lord Kuber, the god of wealth, prayed to Goddess Lakshmi on Akshay Tritiya due to which Kuber was showered with money. This is why, it is considered auspicious to buy gold or property on this day.
Again, it was on the day of ‘Akshaya Tritiya’ that Veda Vyasa began the composition of the epic Mahabharata. Veda Vyasa is believed to have dictated the entire epic to Ganesha, the elephant-headed god of wisdom and obstacle-removal.
‘Akshaya Tritiya’ is believed to be the birthday of Parasurama, who is the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu and He is revered in Vaishnava temples. Those who observe it in the honour of Parasurama, sometimes refer to the festival as ‘Parasurama Jayanti’. Alternatively, some focus their reverence to Vasudeva avatar of Lord Vishnu.
According to some legends, river Ganges descended to earth on this day. Very significantly, the Yamunetri temple and Gangotri temple are opened on the auspicious occasion of ‘Akshaya Tritiya’, during the Char Dham pilgrimage, after being closed down during the heavy snowfall, laden winters of the Himalayan regions. The temples are opened on ‘Abhijit Muhurat’ of Akshaya Tritiya.
Another significant event is that Sudama visited his childhood friend, lord Krishna in Dwarka and received unlimited wealth. Lord Kuber received His wealth and position as the Lord of wealth on the auspicious day of Akshaya Tritiya.
Celebration of Akshaya Tritiya in India
In Odisha, Akshaya Tritiya is celebrated for commencement of sowing paddy for the Kharif season. The day starts with ritual worship of mother Earth, the bullocks, other traditional farm equipment and seeds by the farmers for the blessings of a good harvest. After ploughing in the fields, sowing of paddy seeds are done as symbolic start for the most important Kharif crop of the state. this ritual is called ‘Akhi Muthi Anukula’ (‘Akhi’- Akshaya Tritiya; ‘Muthi’ –fistful of paddy; ‘Anukula’ – commencement or inauguration) and is celebrated with much fanfare throughout the state. in recent years the event has received much more publicity due to ceremonial ‘Akhi Muthi anukula’ programs, organized by farmer’s organization and other political parties. The construction of chariots for the Ratha Yatra, festivities of Jagannath temple also commences from this day at Puri. In Eastern India, Akshaya Tritiya is also celebrated as the first ploughing day for the upcoming harvest season. Devotees of Lord Vishnu worship the deity on this day by keeping a fast. The deity of Lord Krishna is embalmed with sandalwood paste because it is believed that doing so, the devotee is bound to reach the heaven after death. Tulsi water is sprinkled all around as a symbol of Lord Vishnu. Later, charity is done by distributing rice, salt, tamarind, ghee, vegetables, fruits, gold-silver and clothes to the poor with good intention. Some other rituals also include taking a holy bath in the Ganges, offering barley into the sacred fire and making donations, offerings on the day of Akshaya Tritiya, because it is believed that whatever is donated on this holy day, its virtue increases the manifold. Performing spiritual activities, meditation and chanting holy mantras is considered important to ensure good fortune in future, because when these activities are performed, one gradually attains both spiritual wealth and material opulence.