Akshaya Tritiya, as you many of you may know, falls in the month of Vaishaka on the third day after amavasya i.e. in the phase of the growing or waxing moon.
Over the last couple of decades, Akshaya Tritiya, has come to be associated with the purchase of gold or some consumer durables for the house or investments in properties.
But was this day always about accumulating wealth and riches? Maybe not!
The name of this auspicious day itself probably holds a clue. Akshaya means perpetual or undiminishing, that which does not become less. And Tritiya refers to the third lunar day that falls either after the new moon or amavasya or after the full moon or the Purnima.
But what significance does the tritiya tithi have?
On pratama tithi of the growing moon, or the day that follows Amavasya, the moon is not visible to us. On Dwitiya tithi or the second day after Amavasya, the moon is visible as a slender sliver for a very short time in the sky, making it difficult to spot it. The tritiya tithi, or the third day after the Amavasya is when the moon can be spotted easily and it remains visible in the sky for a fairly long period of time.
So it is really on the tritiya tithi that the moon starts to display its steady phase of growth. From this day, one can see the moon grow and grow till the Purnima tithi or the day of the full moon. The growing moon phase was always considered auspicious which explains why our festivals fall in this Shukla paksha, the phase of the growing moon and very rarely in Krishna paksha or the phase of the waning moon.
Tritiya tithi is thus believed to have the ability to bestow strength and is hence referred to as ‘bala prada’.
But Tritiya tithi of the Shukla paksha or the growing moon phase occurs once every month. So, what makes Akshaya Tritiya special?
For that we need to look at other astrological aspects of this day.
To get there, first we need to understand the concept of the tropical zodiac.
You may remember what I had shared on Nakshatra in my last blog post. To recapitulate, Nakshatras are basically segments of star constellations that fall in the moon’s orbit around the earth. The constellations through which the moon is seen to transit have been divided into 27 segments, each of which is denoted by a prominent star in that constellation.
Similarly, the sun’s orbit, as seen from the earth, is divided into 12 segments called the tropical Zodiac or the Rashis. The Sun’s transit through each of these 12 segments makes up for a month in the solar calendar.
Each of these 12 Rashis is denoted by a name such as Mesha or Aries, Rishabha or Taurus, Mithuna or Gemini, Kataka or Cancer and so on in that order.
Now, what makes Akshaya Tritiya more special is that the positions of the sun and the moon in these zodiacs are the best positions they can ever be in. Let me explain.
We all know there are nine planets or grahas in Indian astrology. All these nine planets or grahas are believed to have heightened powers when they are in a particular zodiac. The zodiac where a celestial body’s powers are heightened is called its position of exaltation.
The Sun is exalted in the zodiac of Mesha or Aries, which marks the onset of summer, the period from which the sun’s intensity is set to continuously increase. At the same time, the moon is also exalted in the zodiac of the Rishabha or Taurus.
And it is this combination of exaltation of both the sun and the moon achieved on the Tritiya tithi of the month of Vaishaka, which makes the day especially auspicious. For this reason, it is one of those rare days in a year when every second of the day is considered auspicious, which makes it a full ‘muhurat’ day.
Of course, as with many of our festivals, Akshaya Tritiya too is related to the crop cycle. In Odisha for instance, farmers start cultivation of their lands on this day. It is also the day when work starts on the construction of the chariot for Puri Jagannath’s Rath Yatra. In some other regions, this day is considered appropriate to donate money and give away charity. Some people observe fasts on this day. Of course, it was also considered a good day to start new ventures and buy valuables.
And it is this last aspect that the gold vendors in our country have capitalised well and made a fortune for themselves!
But for the astronomers and astrologers of ancient India, this day was considered an astrologically significant event when the first signs of the growing visible moon of Vaiskaha was seen in Taurus, the zodiac of its exhaltation, along with an exalted Sun in Aries.
And this celestial phenomenon is what made Askhaya Tritiya special for them!