Akshaya Triteeya, like Rishipanchami, Rathasaptami and Vijayadasami, is considered as one of the important auspicious days in India. According to the Hindu calendar, this day falls on the third day of the bright half of the lunar month Visaka (Chittirai), in the Sukla-paksha. During this day, the sun (in Aries) and the moon (in Taurus) would be in exaltation i.e. they both would be in peak of their brightness. This happens once a year and generally falls between 14th April and 15th May. The word “Akshaya” means imperishable or eternal – that which never diminishes. Thus things, deeds and rituals performed or done on this day is permanent. This year, it falls on 13th May. It is also called Akshaya Triti by some. It is said that the Sathya-yuga, the first and the best of all yugas, began on a Sunday, in Vaisakha Sukla Triti, which is also known as Akshaya Triteeya. Some celebrate this day as the birthday of Parasurama, the sixth Avatara of Lord Vishnu. Some others celebrate as Balarama jayanti. Vedic texts indicate that sages performed the first yajna in the history of mankind on this very day. On this day, the Ganges, the most holy and sacred river of India, is supposed to have descended to the earth from Heaven. In the Puranas, there is a story which says that, on this day of Akshaya Triteeya, Sage Veda Vyasa started writing the great epic Mahabharata. It was on this day that the Pandavas are said to have secured their weapons that made them victorious over the Kauravas. Barley, one of the main ingredients for homa, was also first used on this day. There is a legend in the Puranas that Indra got purified after a heinous sin after having a bath on the Akshaya Triteeya day.
On this day, the gates of the altar at Badri are opened every year to the public for the darsan of Sriyahpati, Sriman Narayana. It is also on this day that the famous twelve Garuda-sevas of the Lord is celebrated at Kumbhakonam. Also Construction of Chariots for Rath Yatra at Puri start beginning on this day. It is firmly believed that if Akshaya Triteeya day falls on a Wednesday or a Friday, when the moon is in Rohini or fourth constellation, then the day is very sacred. As per Hindu Electional(muhurth) Astrology three lunar days, Yugadi, Akshaya Tritiya and Vijay Dashami don’t need any Muhurta to start or perform any auspicious work as these three days are free from all malefic effects.Thus, many significant events have taken place on Akshaya Triteeya, and this explains the significance attached to it.
How the day is celebrated – On this day, people seek the blessings of their elders and parents. Some people take a holy dip in a nearby sacred river. A few offer barley in the sacred fire while doing homa or offer barley preparations to the deity of their choice. Some do japa. Many give articles as alms to poor, dakshina to guru, offer donations to good causes, etc. Some perform special puja to Lord Vishnu and donate certain items like umbrellas, fans or footwear to Brahmins. Aksharabhyasa (commencing the education for the child), performing Upanayanam and receiving mantropadesa on this day brings fame to the concerned. It is not just what one buys on this day that counts, but what one does as kainkarya that comes back multi-fold. These practices confirm the belief that any new venture initiated on this auspicious day of Akshaya Triteeya would be fruitful, would continue to grow from strength to strength and bring prosperity. Hence, it is normal to see that many new ventures, like starting a new business, buying new property, beginning new construction, planning long journeys, etc. are done on this day. It is believed that trees planted on this auspicious day blossom with abundant fruits. Similarly Ayurvedic medicinal herbs, planted on this auspicious day survive forever and one do not face any shortage of medicinal herbs.
Greatness of Goddess Mahalakshmi
One of the basic principles of Visishtadvaita philosophy is that, before seeking the grace of Sriman Narayana, we should get the grace of Goddess Mahalakshmi. She is the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. Hence invoking Her blessings becomes important. Each year, the Akshaya Triteeya day is anticipated with enthusiasm as the most auspicious day to invoke Goddess Lakshmi at home. The Lakshmi Tantram, which is a part of Ahirbudhnya Samhita, emphasises this aspect. The greatness of Goddess Lakshmi has been brought home not only in epics like Srimad Ramayana, but also in the various compositions of our purvacharyas. On the Akshaya Triteeya day, special pujas are performed to Goddess Mahalakshmi to invoke Her blessings throughout the year. As a token, some buy gold (though a kamya karma), as it is the symbol of wealth and prosperity and it is a popular activity on Akshaya Triteeya day in India. But, instead of treating it as a spiritual activity, people resort to it as a purely material or commercial venture.
What a mumukshu or prapanna should do The life story of Swami Desika indicates clearly how he detested the very sight of gold. He sang Sristuti in the presence of Goddess Perundevi and Lord Varadaraja of Kanchipuram for the sake of a bachelor, who came to him seeking financial help for marriage. Svami Desika did not touch even a single coin out of that. Also when Vidyaranya offered Swami Desikan to join vijayanagar kingdom after seeing his poor financial positions, he rejected it by saying my family treasures is on Hastigiri (referring to Devaperumal and perundevi thayar) and don’t need any other treasures. These are true exposition of his greatness and his firm belief in not considering worldly wealth as significant.
A prapanna (one who has performed prapatti or saranagati) is expected to concentrate only on the holy Feet of Sriman Narayana and render service to Him and His devotees. He should not divert his attention to the worldly pleasures, such as wealth, etc. Hence, on this day, a prapanna can invoke the blessings of Goddess Mahalakshmi for the welfare of others in the world, for performing service and for the development of temples, but not to flaunt one’s wealth or to grow richer. Wealth is definitely required to do our daily routine and karmas but the interest in accumulation of wealth should be limited to that extent and for that purpose only.
In his Paramapada Sopana, Swami Desika has used nine vishayas’ as nine steps to build a staircase to Paramapada. In the Virakti-parva, he condemns all our actions that are done only for the worldly pleasures and suggests that we, the mumukshus, should concentrate only on reaching the Sriyahpati and doing kainkarya to Him. In verse 5 of his Vairagyapanchaka, Swami Desika says as follows.
sareera patanaavadhi prabhu nishevanaapaadanaat
abindhana dhananjaya prasamadam dhanam dandhanam,
dhananjaya vivardhanam dhanamudoodha govardhanam
susaadhanam abaadhanam sumanasaam samaaraadhanam.
“All that money can do is only fill up one’s stomach and remove hunger. For this, people unnecessarily praise the rich till death to earn small amounts. Such wealth is low wealth. On the other hand, if they direct their attention to the everlasting Wealth of Almighty, they can derive all benefits in life. That Wealth showed Arjuna the right path and saved the children of Gokula from the wrath of the Rain-god by lifting the Govardhana mountain as an umbrella. It would make the prapanna happy. Nothing can destroy It, for It acts as a means to all richness and happiness in life. When such a great Wealth is available, why go after a lower category of wealth.”
Since Akshaya Triteeya is good for aksharabbyasa, we could pray to Lord Hayagreeva to bestow the skills of learning and guide us. One good, well-educated child in a family can delight the whole family. Preserving and perpetuating knowledge is very essential for the development of human race.
The main goal of prapannas should be to increase their knowledge and perform service to the Lord and His devotees. This is their wealth, not material acquisitions. Only then will they be living up to the exhortations of purvacharyas who have lived a life of simplicity, acquiring only enough wealth needed for their daily lives and for serving Bhagavan, bhaagavatas and the society at large. The present tendency of going on a spending spree for one’s own gratification is not the proper way to spend the sacred Akshaya Triteeya day. Elders should show the way to youngsters that this holy day is meant for noble purposes like education, self-improvement, introspection to remove one’s defects, spiritual advancement and commencement of service to acharyas and bhaagavatas.