What is the story behind the origins of Akshaya Tritiya (Akha Teej)?
Lord Krishna, an avatar of Vishnu, the God who carries out the work of sustaining the universe, figures prominently in most stories about the origin of Akshaya Tritiya. Of these, the most famous one is, perhaps, that of Kuchela, also known as Sudama, and Krishna.
Kuchela was a poor Brahmin and a childhood friend of Krishna. A time came when he was in dire straits and could not earn enough for his family. So he decided to go and meet his former school mate who was now king of Dwaraka and ask for some financial help to tide him over. Before setting out on his journey, he packed a handful of poha or aval (beaten rice) as a humble gift for his friend, the king.
When he reached the palace, Kuchela was mesmerized by all the wondrous things that he saw and felt ashamed to offer his gift that he felt was definitely unfit for a king. Krishna was very happy to see his childhood friend. He welcomed Kuchela with open arms and treated him like a god, following the age-old Indian dictum that ‘The guest is god’. He happened to see the packet of beaten rice that Kuchela was hiding and playfully grabbed it, opened it and began to eat the poha with obvious enjoyment. When he saw this, Kuchela was so overcome with emotion that he forgot why he came to see Krishna.
After spending some joyous days with Krishna at the palace, Kuchela began his long walk back home. During the journey, he suddenly remembered that he had failed in his mission and walked home with a heavy heart wondering how to console his waiting wife and children. On reaching his village, Kuchela found a palace where his hut stood, and inside the palace, his wife and children clothed in the finest of clothes. Food fit for royalty was also laid out on the dining table.
Kuchela realized that this was a miracle performed by the divine Krishna, who had many fantastic powers that he wielded to help each and every person who approached him with a problem of any sort. From that day on, the day that Kuchela met Sri Krishna was observed as Akshaya Tritiya (Akha Teej) day.
Kuchela’s humble gift and the prosperity that came his way as a reward for the gift of love that he offered from the midst of his poverty stands as a true symbol of Akshaya Tritiya (Akha Teej)– the prosperity that comes to one through sharing and giving.
Draupadi’s Akshaya Patram
Another legend associated with Akshaya Tritiya (Akha Teej) is set in the epic of the Mahabharata. Mahabharata is the story of the epic battle between the Pandava princes, who stand for Good and their cousins, the Kauravas, who stand for Evil. The five princes were robbed of their royal inheritance which they gambled and lost in an unfair game of something very like the modern chess.
When the Pandava princes were exiled into the forest along with their young bride and their aging mother, they could not find enough food to feed themselves, as they were unaccustomed to living off the forest. Lord Krishna, taking pity on their sorry plight, presented Draupadi, who was wife to all the Pandavas, with a magical bowl that would always stay full.
This magical bowl carrying an unlimited quantity of food was known as the Akshaya Patram and it is believed that Krishna presented this gift on a Tritiya day. Like the food in the Akshaya Patram, it is believed that all investments made on this day will have an unlimited increase in value.
It was also on an Akshaya Tritiya (Akha Teej) day that the Pandava princes unearthed weapons that would guarantee their victory in battle with the Kauravas.
Parasuram Jayanti or the Birthday of Parasurama
Parasurama, known as the first warrior saint, is the sixth incarnation of Vishnu, the sustainer of the universe. He received his famous weapon, an axe, at the end of a long, hard penance to please Shiva. Shiva, the god of destruction, also taught him various methods of warfare and other skills.
Legend has it that Parasurama fought the advancing ocean back to save the lands of Konkan (ie. costal Maharashtra and Karnataka), Malabar and Goa. Parasurama threw his axe into the sea and it was the areas where the axe fell that later became Kerala, Goa and the Konkan. Goa and the Konkan are even today known as Parasurama Kshetra, meaning Parasurama’s country.
After creating these regions, Parasurama is believed to have given the area over to 96 Brahmin families he chose, known as the Shahanavkuli Brahmins. These families are credited with creating the cultural heritage of this part of the country.
Beginning of the Mahabharata
According to Hindu mythology, it was on the day of Akshaya Tritiya (Akha Teej) that Veda Vyasa began the composition of the epic, the Mahabharata. Vyasa is believed to have dictated the entire epic to Ganesha, the elephant-headed god of wisdom and obstacle removal.
Descent of Ganges from heaven
The river Ganges or Ganga, the largest river in the Indian sub-continent, is the national river of India and the lifeline of northern and eastern India. However, to the Hindu, it is much more than that. The Ganga is the holiest of rivers in Hinduism, believed to have descended to earth from the heavens on an Akshaya Tritiya (Akha Teej) day.
Ganga, the daughter of Brahma, the creator of the universe, is believed to have been told by her father to flow down to earth. This was in answer to the intense tapas done by King Bhagiratha of Kosala (located in present-day Uttar Pradesh) in order to lift a curse that was brought on his kingdom by his forefathers.
Before the descent of the mighty Ganga, Bhagiratha also prayed to Lord Shiva to break the fall of the river who agreed to do so. As Ganga cascaded across and down from Swarga or the heavens, the roar and volume of the water was so prodigious that all the celestial beings and King Bhagiratha looked on with terrified awe at the destruction that would be wreaked on the earth. However, true to his word, Lord Shiva appeared suddenly and captured the river in his jata or matted knot of hair, just as the imperious river flung herself downwards. When Shiva finally let her go free, her vanity was crushed and she flowed down to earth at a mild pace.
King Bhageeratha is said to have led the way for Ganga on his chariot across the north and east of Bharat (India) before reaching the ocean. Henceforth, Ganga was also named Bhageerathi by her father, Brahma, and any incredible effort on the part of any man was termed ‘Bhageeratha prayatnam’ (prayatnam means effort).
Beginning of the Treta Yuga
According to Hinduism, there are four ages in the history of mankind known as Yugas. Of these, the Treta Yuga is the second. According to the Puranas, Akshaya Tritiya (Akha Teej) marks the beginning of the Treta Yuga.
The other yugas are Satya Yuga, Dvaparayuga and Kaliyuga. Treta Yuga comes after Satya Yuga, the age of perfect morality, and precedes the Dvaparayuga. Lord Vishnu's fifth, sixth and seventh incarnations occurred in this yuga and were the highlights of the age.
Day of Mahishasura’s defeat by Durga
In Hinduism, the Asuras are a group of deities, who represent Evil. They are engaged in eternal battle with the Devas, the gods who reside in the heavens, who represent Good. Both groups, however, are children of Kasyapa.
One of the Asuras named Mahishasur took on the form of a very powerful buffalo who wreaked death and destruction wherever he went. Finally, under his leadership, the Asuras defeated the Devas. The Devas joined their powers and a great band of lighting emerged from the mouths of the Supreme Trinity to create a goddess. This goddess, who was given special weapons by all the Devas became the ultimate source of power.
This supreme power was Shakti, the divine feminine creative power, sometimes referred to as 'The Great Divine Mother' in Hinduism. In order to defeat Mahishasura, Shakti became Goddess Durga also known as Vijaya Chamundeswari. Durga, who is Lord Shiva’s consort, represents two types of female energy – one, nurturing and protective and the other, fierce, destructive and unstoppable.
After a fierce battle with Mahishashura that lasted for ten days, Goddess Durga killed him on an Akshaya Tritiya (Akha Teej) day.