There are numerous stories behind the significance of this auspicious day that is celebrated on the third day of Vaishakha month of the Hindu lunar calendar. Literally meaning eternal prosperity, ‘Akshaya’ refers not only to prosperity that is tangible – as in wealth – but also deeper, intangible prosperity as in joy, hope and progress.
A popular legend behind the festival is that it makes the day when Lord Krishna blessed Draupadi with the Akshaya patra (pot). While sage Durvasa presented Draupadi with a cooking pot that will remain full until the entire Pandava family’s hunger is appeased, Lord Krishna blessed it to provide food for anyone who seeks it, making it the pot that always has food for the hungry with the food of their choice.
There are also references to this day in the legends that indicate that this may be the day when Lord Parasurama, the 6th incarnation of Vishnu, was born. Other stories suggest that this may be the day when Lord Kubera received this invincible wealth. It is also believed that this is the day when Sudama, Lord Krishna’s friend earned his wealth as a result of this kindness and friendship towards Lord Krishna. While some believe that it marks the day when Ved Vyasa began the writing of the epic Mahabharata, some believe that this is the day when the holy Ganga descended to the Earth, purifying every person and piece of land she passes.
For all of these reasons, Akshaya Tritiya is considered to be an auspicious day to initiate important undertakings and to conduct important occasions such as weddings and house warming ceremonies. This is usually the day when people throng jewellery stores to make a purchase, however small, in the hope that it will lead to a continued stream of prosperity throughout the year. Every year, a large number of weddings and other ceremonies would take over cities and towns.
Akshaya Tritiya is a significant festival for the Jains as well. It is believed that the Rishabhanatha, the first Jain Tirthankara, was offered food for the first time on this day after he became an ascetic to pursue a path of salvation and enlightenment. He was offered sugarcane which he accepted in cupped palms.
In Vrindavan, this festival is celebrated with much fanfare and gaiety and in all the temples, the deities are anointed with chandan (sandalwood paste), which is then given out as prasad to devotees who visit them.
Due to the nationwide lockdown this year, the celebrations will not be the same. Nonetheless, we hope that the celebration of internal prosperity stays intact. Let us take a moment to celebrate the joy, hope and progress that persists in the face of difficulties and inspires us to progress.