Yesterday, that is May 3rd was an incredibly auspicious day in the Indian calendar. The Hindus across the length and breadth of the country celebrated Parashuram Jayanti and Akshaya Tritiya. However, not many know the history or the significance behind these pious Hindu festivals. So, we at TFI have taken the onus upon ourselves to give you all a little 101 of Sanatan festivals.
As the name suggests, this Parshuram Jayanti is marked to celebrate the birth anniversary of Lord Parshuram – regarded as the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. As per the Hindu calendar, Parashurama Jayanti falls on the Tritiya (third day) of Shukla paksha in Vaisakh. According to the Gregorian calendar, the day occurs in April or May.
Long before revolting against the government was seen as cool in JNU circles, India had a hero who single-handedly fell a generation of corrupt ruling class for their excesses. The purpose of the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu is to relieve the Earth’s burden by exterminating the sinful, destructive and irreligious monarchs that pillaged its resources and neglected their duties as kings.
On this day, devotees take a holy bath before sunrise and wear clean traditional clothes at the start of the day. A fast is observed on this day which starts the night before. It is also believed that Parshuram is still alive and present on Earth – meaning he is immortal.
According to Kalki Purana, the 10th and final avatar of Lord Vishnu is Kalki and Lord Parshuram is the martial teacher of Kalki. It is also said that Parshuram was a great warrior and was the guru of Bhishma, Karna and Dronacharya. He even attended the betrothal ceremony of Sita and Lord Rama and met the 7th Avatar of Lord Vishnu i.e Bhagwan Rama.
According to the Hindu calendar, Akshaya Tritiya falls on the third tithi (lunar day) of Shukla Paksha in the Vaishakha month or if you are a greenhorn, according to the Gregorian calendar, it occurs between April and May. A simply sandhi-vicched suggests that Akshaya means ‘immortal or never ending’ while “Tritiya” refers to the third day of Vaishakha month’s illuminated half.
It is believed that the Treta Yuga, the second of the four yugas, began on Akshaya Tritiya, when Lord Vishnu’s sixth avatar, Parshuram, was born. Moreover, another iteration of the origins of the festival states that the revered Maharishi Ved Vyasa — the author of the Mahabharata began narrating the epic to Lord Ganesh on this day.
In the state of Chhattisgarh, the occasion is celebrated by the name Akti. In the western states of Gujarat and Rajasthan, the festival is called Akha Teej.
People in India purchase gold, precious jewelry and make monetary investments on Akshaya Tritiya for the same belief. The beginning of new business ventures, partnerships and jobs on Akshay Tritiya is also deemed very lucky.
Every year one witnesses the huge chariots, completely chiselled by sheer human skill and craftmanship in Odisha’s Puri. The three huge Raths are part of the Rath Yatra and dedicated to Lord Jagannath, his elder brother Lord Balabhadra and his sister Goddess Subhadra. The Rath Yatra celebrates the annual journey of Lord Jagannath and his two siblings from the 12th-century Jagannath Temple to Gundicha Temple, 2.5km away.
The chariot leaves the Jagannath Dham of Puri and travels to Gundicha Bari where Lord Jagannath rests for 7 days and then returns home on the date of Ekadashi. It is believed that the devotee who pulls the chariot with reverence, gets the results equivalent to that of hundred sacrifices.
Jagannath represents an integration of all important Hindu cultures which flourished in India, namely, the Vedic, the Puranic, the Tantric, the Smarta and the Vaisnava. Jagannatha Mahaprabhu is worshipped as Narayan or Vishnu when he is on the Ratnavedi (dias) in the sanctum sanctorum, as Ganesha when on the, Snanavedi during the SnanaPurnima, as Rudra (an expression of Shiva) during the Nava- Kalevara ceremony, as Durga in the Sayana festival and as the Sun when on the Ratha during the Ratha Yatra.
According to the Hindu calendar, on the ninth day of the Kartik month, the Shukla Paksha or Lunar fortnight phase is known as Akshaya Navami. On this day, people fast and also worship the Amla tree. The day is an indicator of good luck and prosperity. Moreover, according to the larger Hindu sentiment, Akshaya Navami is also known as Satya Yugadi, referring to the time when the Yuga of Gods began.
Like any Sanatan festival, there is a rich story behind the origin of it – with Goddess Lakshmi playing a pivotal part in one of the iterations. It is believed that Maa Lakshmi descended upon on Earth while expressing a strong desire to worship Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva together.
After some contemplation regarding how to worship both gods together, Maa Lakshmi had an epiphany that a tree, which has the virtues of both a tulsi plant and vine, would help her in worshipping both Gods together. She prayed to an Amla tree and the Gods were impressed by her devotion. They appeared in front of Goddess Lakshmi and it is believed that she cooked food for them which they ate heartily.
Srimad Bhagwat Gita Jayanti
As the name suggests, on Srimad Bhagwat Gita Jayanti, the devotees across the world celebrate the anniversary of the Bhagavad Gita, the holy and sacred book that was introduced to Arjuna by Lord Krishna during the Mahabharata War in Kurukshetra. Lord Krishna is known as the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu and celebrating this day, devotees keep a day-long fast and observe the Vaikuntha Ekadashi Vrat.
It is also referred to as Mokshada or Vaikuntha Ekadashi. It is said that the doors to Vaikuntha (Lord Vishnu’s heavenly abode) remain open on this day. The auspicious day is marked on the Shukla Ekadashi falling on the 11th day of the waxing moon, also known as Margashirsha month as per Hindu calendar.
Simply put, the Bhagwat Gita Jayanti is a day to celebrate the book which has possibly shaped the Sanatan dharma through its teachings that have stood the test of time. It is the guidebook which helps Sanatani’s decide between Dharma and Adharma. The Gita contains 700 verses and is a part of the great Indian Epic Mahabharata’s Bhishma Parva.
Vishwakarma (Sanskrit for “all-accomplishing, maker of all, all-doer”) finds first mention in the oldest Veda – Rig Veda and is the personification of the consciousness driving the creative force. Vishwakarma is visualised as Ultimate reality (later developed as viswa Brahman) in the Rig Veda, from whose navel the Hiranyagarbha emanates. Hiranyagarbha refers to our universe and the literal translation is – The Golden womb.
Thus the festival is celebrated to mark the birth of Lord Vishwakarma. The festival takes place every year in September or October on the day when the sun god leaves the Simha rashi (Leo) and enters Kanya rashi (Virgo), hence the day is also known as Kanya Sankranti Diwas.
It is believed that Vishwakarma built ‘Swarnalanka’ or Golden Lanka for Shiva and Parvati, which later landed up with Kubera and finally with Ravana when he overthrew Kubera during the threta yuga. He built a vajra or thunderbolt weapon with Sage Dadhichi’s bones for Indra to fight with Vrata, the cosmic serpant that wanted to constrict the universe by pulling it inwards. Indra succeeded in defeating Vrata using the thunderbolt weapon. He is also said to have built Krishna’s city of Dwarika in a day. He is also credited for building the famous Jagannath temple, as mentioned earlier, in Puri.
Vat Savitri vrat
Vat Savitri Vrat or Vrat Purnima Vrat is the Hindu fasting day for married women who pray to the banyan tree in honour of Goddess Gauri and Satyavan-Savitri for fortune, well-being, long life and prosperity of their husbands and peaceful married life. The idea behind worshipping a Banyan tree is that it represents the ‘Trimurtis’ – Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. Therefore, devotees are said to be blessed with good fortune.
The holy festival is dedicated to Devi Savitri, who was a brave woman and compelled Yama Raj (the Lord of Death) to give a new lease of life to her dead husband, Satyawan. The festival is celebrated twice, according to the Hindu Lunar calendars – Amanta and Purnimanta. While northern states follow the Purnimanta calendar, southern states mark the day according to Amanta, but both the days are celebrated in the month of Jyeshtha.
If you want to know the history and significance of other pious Hindu festivals celebrated across the country, please do leave a comment and let us know. Perhaps, we might come up with a second part. Please like and share to illuminate Sanatanis about our pious Hindu festivals.