|Observed by||Hindu, Jain|
|Type||Hindu and Jain|
|Observances||prayers, distribution of sugarcane juice and festive foods, buying gold|
|Date||late April-early May|
|2020 date||26 April (Sun) IST, 25 April (Sat) EDT|
|2021 date||14 May (Fri)|
Akshaya Tritiya, also known as Akti or Akha Teej, is an annual Hindu and Jain spring festival. It falls on the third tithi (lunar day) of the bright half (Shukla Paksha) of the month of Vaisakha. It is regionally observed as an auspicious day by Hindus and Jains in India and Nepal, as it signifies the "third day of unending prosperity".
In Sanskrit, the word akshaya (अक्षय्य) means "never decreasing" in the sense of "prosperity, hope, joy, success", while tritiya means "third phase of the moon". It is named after the third lunar day of the spring month of Vaisakha in the Hindu calendar, when it is observed.
The day is considered auspicious by Hindus and Jains in many regions of India for new ventures, marriages, expensive investments such as gold or other property, and any new beginnings. It is also a day of remembrance for the loved ones who have 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 in future get engaged to. After prayers, they distribute germinating gram (sprouts), fresh fruits and Indian sweets. If Akshaya Tritiya falls on a Monday (Rohini), the festival is believed to be even more auspicious. Fasting, charity and helping others on this day is another festive practice.
Very important, and related to the name of the festival itself, is the presentation of the Akshaya Patra to Draupadi by Lord Krishna during the visit of numerous saintly guests, including the sage Durvasa. During their exile in the forest, the Pandava princes were famished due to the lack of food, and their wife Draupadi was pained by this because she could not extend the customary hospitality to their guests. Yudhishthira, who was the eldest, prayed to Lord Surya, who gave him this bowl, which would remain full till Draupadi served all of their guests. During Sage Durvasa's visit, Lord Krishna made this bowl invincible for Draupadi so that the magical bowl called Akshaya Patra would always remain full with food of their choice, even as to satiate the whole universe if required.
Akshaya Tritiya is believed by Hindus to be the birthday of Parasurama, who was the sixth avatar of Vishnu. He is revered in Vaishnava temples. Those who observe it in honor of Parasurama sometimes refer to the festival as Parasurama Jayanti. Alternatively, some focus their reverence on Vāsudeva (Krishna), the eighth avatar of Vishnu.
According to one legend, Veda Vyasa began reciting the Hindu epic Mahabharata to Ganesha on Akshaya Tritiya. Another legend states that the river Ganges descended to earth on this day. Very significantly, the Yamunotri Temple and Gangotri Temple are opened on the auspicious occasion of Akshaya Tritiya during the Chota Char Dham pilgrimage, after closing down during the heavy snowfall-laden winters of the Himalayan regions. The temples are opened on Abhijit Muhurat of Akshaya Tritya.
In Odisha, Akshaya Tritiya is celebrated during the commencement of the sowing of rice paddy for the ensuing 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 the fields, the farmers sow paddy seeds as the 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 publicity due to ceremonial Akhi Muthi Anukula programs organized by farmers' organizations and political parties. The construction of chariots for the Ratha Yatra festivities of Jagannath Temple also commences on this day at Puri.
In the Telugu-speaking states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, the festival is associated with prosperity, and women purchase gold and jewellery. Simhachalam temple observes special festive rituals on this day. The main deity of the temple is covered in sandalwood paste for the rest of the year, and only on this day are the layers of sandalwood applied to the deity removed to show the underlying statue. Display of the actual form or Nija Roopa Darsanam happens on this day.
In Jainism, Akshaya Tritiya commemorates the first Tirthankara, (Lord Rishabhdev), ending his one-year asceticism 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 (Gujarat).
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