Hindu, Jain: Mark the ever-auspicious Akshaya Tritiya


Hindus buy gold in record numbers today. Photo in public domainTUESDAY, APRIL 24: It’s a day of opposites in India today, as both Hindus and Jains commemorate the auspicious Akshaya Tritiya. While Hindus are buying up gold in record numbers—hoping for a prosperous year and fruitful future—Jains honor the Tirthankara who gave up all earthly possessions. Though the reasons differ, one thing is clear: India is a busy country today!

Several Hindu legends are revived today, but the god Vishnu takes the no. 1 spot: It’s the birthday of the Hindu sage Parashurama, the sixth incarnation of Vishnu. Other myths tell that on this day, the sacred river Ganges descended from heaven; it’s also believed the Treta Yuga began today. (Wikipedia has details.) In translation, “Akshaya” means “never diminishing,” and Hindus indulge in expensive purchases today—especially gold. In fact, India was the largest single investment market for gold last year, claiming 25 percent of the world’s total bar and coin demand.

This year, gold prices have soared upward 32 percent, yet experts say Hindus aren’t deterred; contrastingly, jewelers are expecting an increase this Akshaya Tritiya. The World Gold Council—aware of the impact of this day on yearly sales—is offering a 6 percent discount on gold coins, in cooperation with the India Post. The popularity of non-physical gold is also seeing exponential rises. This year, fund managers are expecting a 200 percent increase. (Articles detail this information; check out The Hindu, the Business Standard and the Times of India.)

While promoting gold sales, the central government will be cutting back, too—on child marriages, that is. Authorities report that because of the auspicious beliefs tied with Akshaya Tritiya, thousands of farmers marry off their children today. Child marriage remains illegal, however, and authorities are taking extra measures to crack down on this activity.

Jains focus on the auspiciousness of Akshaya Tritiya, too, although for very different reasons: It’s believed that today, the first Tirthankara broke a lengthy fast. Jain tradition tells that after attaining enlightenment, the Tirthankara gave up all earthly pleasures—including the ability to provide himself with food. The ancient king crossed the countryside, asking only for food, but the people offered him much more: jewels, garments, and horses, just to name a few. No one believed that the man wanted only food, until his grandson understood and gave him sugarcane juice. On Akshaya Tritiya, the Tirthankara broke his fast by drinking sugarcane juice. Today, Jains imitate the fast by resisting food and, finally, ending it with sugarcane juice.

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