Hindu, Jain: Observe ‘never diminishing’ Akshaya Tritiya

FRIDAY, APRIL 28: It’s an auspicious day for Hindus and Jains today: It’s “the never diminishing” Akshaya Tritiya. The most common ways to celebrate? Buy a bit of gold or make an investment to celebrate in the Hindu manner. Or, sip a cool cup of sugarcane juice to appreciate Jain traditions.

As its Sanskrit translation indicates, Akshaya Tritiya is a day traditionally believed to bring success to anyone who begins a new venture, performs a work of service or makes an investment. Although both Hindus and Jains observe Akshaya Tritiya, their reasons for marking the holy day are different. (Wikipedia has details.)

For Hindus, a variety of legends surround this sacred day. Many turn to the god Vishnu on Akshaya Tritiya, as it’s believed Parashurama—the sixth Avatar, or incarnation, of Vishnu—was born. Another Hindu tradition holds that the river Ganges descended to Earth from heaven today, and so a dip in the most sacred Indian river is common. Still others believe Akshaya Tritiya is the day Veda Vyasa began declaring the epic Mahabharata to Lord Ganesha.

How seriously is this tradition held in Indian communities? Answer: Pretty seriously. The Times of India recently reported that the real-estate market in the Mumbai area is expecting a boom around the holiday. Meanwhile, Business Standard reports that sales of gold jewelry will rise.

Jains call to mind the first Tirthankara, or enlightened spiritual leader, named Rishabhadeva. Jains believe the first Tirthankara gave up his kingship in Ayodhya to become a Jain monk, but that as he traveled the countryside, he became hungry because the people offered their former king gold, jewels and expensive garments instead of food. Finally, Rishabhadeva’s grandson understood his need and gave him sugar cane juice. On Akshaya Tritiya, it’s common for Jains to break a fast with sugar cane juice, too.

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