The third day in the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Vaisakha is known as Akshaya Tritiya*. Puranas dwell at great length on the importance of Vaisakha month and Akshaya Tritiya day. Skanda Puranam eulogises Vaisakha month:
"Na Madhavasamo maso na kritana yugam samam|
Na cha Vedasamam sastram na tirtham Gangaya samam||"
(Vaishnava Khandam 2:2:1)
"There is no month equal to Vaisakha, no yuga equal to Kritayuga, no sastra equal to Veda and no tirtha equal to Ganga." The very fact that Vaisakha is indicated by Vishnu's name, Madhava points to its greatness. This is the month dearest to Vishnu. Any vrata, danam, austerity, yagna, study etc. observed with faith during Vaisakha carries manifold fruit. Ritual bath early in the morning and danam of water are particularly praised as effective sadhanas for earning the pleasure of the all-pervasive Vishnu.
Akshaya Tritiya falls this year on Sunday, 16th May 2010.
Akshaya Tritiya is the most auspicious day in the holy lunar month of Vaisakha. Just as the fruit of dharmas observed on this day gets multiplied manifold (Akshaya, undiminished), spiritually also all observances take one closer to God, who is the true 'Akshaya'. Astrologically Akshaya Tritiya day is said to be a very auspicious day of Abhijit muhurta and hence marriages etc. are celebrated widely on this day.
Akshaya Tritiya is also noted for other celebrations. It is regarded as the Jayanthi (birthday) of Parasurama, who is perhaps the most colourful incarnation of Vishnu. He decimated arrogant and evil kshatriyas twentyone times across the globe and handed the kingdom to Kasyapa. He is also a Chiranjeevi, who will retain his form till Pralaya, the great dissolution. Akshaya Tritiya is therefore further called Chiranjeevi tithi. This day is also believed to mark the Jayanthi of Balarama, Hayagriva and Nara-Narayana. Further Kritayuga, the first of the four yugas is believed to have commenced on this day. The doors of Badrinarayana shrine at Badrinath, which remain closed during winter, reopen for darshan on Akshaya Tritiya. Also this is the only day in the entire year when one can have darshan of the holy feet of Krishna (Vihari) in Brindavan.
Story of Indra- worldly pleasures
Skanda Puranam narrates the story of how Devendra himself was freed once from a great sin by observing vrata dharmas on Akshaya Tritiya day. Indra defeated Asura Bali in a war; Bali remained in Patala. Indra, on his way from Patala to Swarga, went to the ashram of sage Utathya on earth. Utathya was the son of sage Angiras and elder brother of Devaguru Brihaspati. The sage was not at the ashram at that time. Indra happened to see the extremely beautiful wife of the sage; her beauty stood enhanced by her state of pregnancy. Overcome by lust, Indra violated the modesty of the venerable woman. At that time he also cursed the baby in her womb to be born blind. He then took to his heels, fearing the wrath of the rishi. The brahmacharis in the ashram started laughing at Indra, who was running fast. Indra became ashamed, entered a cave in Mount Meru and embarked on hard penance. In the absence of Indra, Asuras attacked Amaravathi; Bali occupied Indra's throne.
Unnerved by the sudden developments, Agni and other Devas asked Guru Brihaspati about the whereabouts of Indra. Brihaspati informed them of what had happened. Devas immediately proceeded to Mount Meru and saw Indra downcast with shame. They praised his valour, implored him to come out, fight the asuras and regain Swarga. When Indra did not even utter a word in reply owing to sense of shame, Brihaspati advised him: "This world is subject to the laws of karma. Pleasure and pain, honour and dishonour, victory and defeat arise as fruit of previous karmas. Wise men do not grieve over pain; nor gloat over pleasures. Hence do not grieve." Indra bemoaned: "Due to union with another's wife, my valour, strength, fame, power of mantras and sastras are all gone."
Brihaspati pondered over the matter and said to the worried Devas: "This is the Vaisakha month, dear to Vishnu. All tithis in this lunar month are meritorious. Of them, Akshaya Tritiya is specially noteworthy for obtaining freedom from sins by performing ritual bath, danam etc. If Indra performs the prescribed dharmas with faith, he will regain all that he has lost. Devas led by Brihaspati accordingly got Indra to perform the dharmas on the Akshaya Tritiya day. Indra, freed from the grave sin of violation of another's wife, regained his brilliance and shone like moon freed from the clutches of Rahu. He defeated Asuras and got hold of Swarga again. Devas got their share of Havis from yagnas; Pitrus their share of Pindas as before. Rishis were all happy. From that time Akshaya Tritiya became famous for bestowal of fame here and Liberation hereafter.
Darshan of Vishnu- Moksha attained
Another story from Skanda Puranam recounts how Vishnu appeared in person before a devotee on Akshaya Tritiya day. There was a king called Puruyasas in Panchala country. He ruled his kingdom with complete adherence to dharma. All people were virtuous and prosperous. After some time, famine struck the country all of a sudden. Birds and animals perished. Humans did not have food to eat. The royal treasury became empty. Enemies of the king attacked and captured the kingdom taking advantage of the king's weakness. Puruyasas took refuge along with his wife in a mountain cave. He failed to understand how he and his kingdom were reduced to such penury in spite of his scrupulous devotion to virtue. Two Rishis, Yaja and Upayaja, came and unveiled the truth saying that his present misery was due to his merciless killing of animals, birds and even humans as a hunter over a long period of ten previous births. They advised: "This is the holy month of Vaisakha. On Akshaya Tritiya day, give an expectant cow to a brahmana; your treasury will become full again. Give umbrella in danam; you will regain the kingdom. Take ritual bath, worship Vishnu and give the idol of Vishnu in danam; you will succeed in everything. Establish a public water distribution centre for the benefit of all beings; you will get sons equal to you. Observe all dharmas of Vaisakha month; all the worlds will come under your control. If you do dharmas without desire for fruit in Vaisakha month, you will get direct darshan of Vishnu.
King Puruyasas performed all dharmas as instructed and worshipped Vishnu. He regained his strength and defeated all his enemies alone. The royal treasury overflowed. Panchala country became very prosperous. The king got five sons. He observed Vaisakha dharmas scrupulously and with no desire for fruit. Lord Vishnu appeared before him on Akshaya Tritiya day in all his splendour, along with Lakshmi, mounted on Garuda. Puruyasas was beyond himself with bliss. He worshipped the Lord and burst out in a hymn of praise, matchless in beauty and philosophical content. He said: "Those devotees of yours, who are totally desireless, reach your holy feet by merely remembering you. It s only satsangha, association with the virtuous that can raise devotion towards you in the hearts of men, ever obsessed with worries born of worldly attachments. It is that devotion which will ultimately help cross the ocean of samsara. I only pray that my thoughts should always be at your holy lotus feet and that my attachment to wife, sons, wealth and servants shall go away in entirety." The Lord blessed Puruyasas with long life and limitless wealth, unswerving devotion and finally with Liberation. He added: "This Akshaya Tritiya day, the day on which I came in person to share my happiness with you, shall become famous on earth. Those who observe ritual bath, danam etc. on this holy day even by pretence will reach my deathless state. Those who perform sraadha ceremonies for Pitrus on this day will find their karmas to have limitless power. There is no tithi equal to or greater than Akshaya Tritiya on earth. Even a little dharma done on this day will bring inexhaustible fruit. One who gives a cow in danam to a brahmana with family will enjoy all pleasures here and Liberation hereafter. One who gives bull will enjoy long life. I remove the fear of death, old age and rebirth and sins of those who observe Vaisakha dharmas. Vaisakha is the month dearest to me. Those who observe Vaisakha dharmas reach that Supreme state, difficult to reach even by austerities, yagas and Gnanayoga. Pleased with your observance of Vaisakha dharmas as instructed by your Gurus, I have appeared in person before you." Puruyasas continued to observe all dharmas, specially Vaisakha dharmas with devotion and faith. After enjoying a long life on earth, he merged with the Supreme state of Vishnu.