The Mother Divine
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By N.R. Srinivasan

AKSHAYA-TRITEEYA is a significant Hindu festival for fortune seekers and spiritual aspirants as well. It falls on the third day of the bright half (Poornima) of Vaisakha of the Hindu calendar. This year it falls on April 24. To many, this is only known as a day which has no limit for good luck and success as the word Akshaya signifies. Akshaya means imperishable or eternal. Perhaps you are well aware of Akshaya Vatu, the imperishable banyan tree in Allahabad! To the long awaited lovers, this day is an ideal day for marriage without waiting for the sanctions of a family pundit, for this day is considered to have a shubha muhurta (auspicious day) all day long. Firm believers rush to jewellery shops to buy gold on this day to get rich quick. Though the gold price has gone beyond the reach of common man, Hindus still do not stop shopping for gold jewellery, driven by their religious instinct on this day.

Hindus concentrate more on religious rituals and merriments, strongly influenced by the Puranas, though they get offended if someone calls them believers and faith-oriented in their religious pursuits! Many may not even remember this day as a great day of spiritual significance. On this day, King Rishabha broke his yearlong fast with a glass of sugarcane juice offered to him by a kind hearted person, understanding the plight of the king who had renounced the world and turned into a monk. King Rishabha gave up all his luxuries and went into meditation to find his new philosophy. He gave up even cooking for himself and depended on alms for living as a mendicant. People were wondering why a king was approaching them for alms and therefore did not take it seriously. It took almost a year for someone to realize his austere intentions. Followers of his philosophy called him ‘Jina’, the conqueror and they in turn were called Jains. They turned away from the sacrificial and ritualistic practices of Hinduism and looked towards spiritual evolution. But the Puranic influence of Hinduism was so strong that later Jains also absorbed the ritualistic forms of temple worship, building Jain temples. Some Jains attend both Hindu and Jain temples for worship. Some Hindu temples in USA have even consecrated the idol of Vardhamana Mahaveera, the 24th and the last Teerthankara, though this does not find favour with Aagama Shastra and Tantric protagonists.

Buddhism was is another religion which was against the sacrificial and ritualistic forms of worship as founded by the immediate followers of Buddha. To them, the philosophy of Buddha was convincing and they started a new religion called Buddhism named after him. Both Jainism and Buddhism were silent on God like Saankhya philosophers. Buddhism became very strong and even posed a threat to Hinduism. But the Puraanaic influence was formidable as fantasy stories impressed the common people, unlike the spiritual approach. Religious faithfuls, finding a reference in their Puraanas to an avatar of Vishnu called Bauddha, made the historic Buddha an avatar of Vishnu and thus prevented Buddhism from having a stronghold in India though it flourished outside India to become a world religion. Even though Rishabha was also mentioned as an avatar of Vishnu, Puranas did not worry very much as the followings were limited to isolated areas. Jainism was too severe in its austerities. Much later, another spiritual movement started by the followers of Basveswara but that too could not spread its wings much against the Puranic dominated bhakti marga and temple worship. Basveswara’s concept focused on all rivulets of religions ending at the confluence of Koodala Sangama (The Supreme Lord at the Confluence). What could have been a significant day for spiritual advancement, Akshaya Triteeya day ended up as a day of merriment and materialism in the name of religious celebration!

Akshaya Triteeya Day is significant for the following:

*It is the day dedicated to Adinatha, the first Teerthankara and celebrated with sugarcane juice.

*It is the day dedicated to Parasurama (his birthday in Tretayuga) in Kerala and Konkan. Parasurama reclaimed the land from the sea which is the west coast and therefore some portion of it is known as Parasurama Kshetra.

*In Orissa, people start tilling their lands with the plough on this day and dedicate it to Balabhadra whom they reverently call as Haladhar. This is the day people start constructing the chariot (Ratha) for the Ratha Yatra for Lord Jagannath.

*According to Puranasa, Sage Vyasa started dictating Mahabharata to Ganesha who scribed it on tala-patra (palm leaves) on this day.

*This is the birthday of Basaveswara, incarnation of Nandi, celebrated by all his followers called Lingayats or Veerasaivasa in Karnataka.

*This is the day dedicated to Ganesha and Lakshmi in Bengal and celebrated as Halkhataa Day.

*This is the day on which Mother Ganges descended from the heavens onto the earth.

* This is the day on which the Sun and the Moon are in their exalted brightness.

*This is the day Maharashtrians dedicate their Rangoli art sacred (chitranga subhachinha).

* This is the auspicious marriage day for all communities, irrespective of their janmakundali (horoscope readings) called Umbhooja Muhurat Day.

* This is an auspicious farming day for the Jat farming community in north India, particularly Haryana.

* Some believe this is the day on which Krita Yuga was born.

* This is the day on which Draupadi got the Akshaya patra from her mentor, Lord Krishna, to feed all guests without any reservation, whatever their numbers may be, to fulfil their desires.

*Lord Krishna entertained his boyhood days’ friend Kuchela, a poor Brahmin.

* This day is called ‘Athiti Devo Bhava’ day — Treat your guest as God. This is the memorable day when Lord Krishna received his boyhood day's friend and was pleased with a handful of pounded rice and jaggery, a poor man's delight. In turn, Lord Krishna blessed his friend with immense riches.

*This Day happens to be Parasurama Jayanthi.

*Goddess Annapurna incarnated on this day.

*Chardham temples open on this day.

The presiding deity of the famous pilgrim center, Simhaachala in Andhra Pradesh is Varaaha-Narasimha. The temple houses a natural rock, the top portion of which resembles the head of the wild boar and the rest of the boulder suggests a human torso with two arms. This is a co-joint representation of Varaaha and Narasimha, assumed to kill the twin brothers Hiranyaaksha and Hiranyakasipu. The deity here is always seen covered with a thick coat of sandal paste all around the year. It is removed only for a day on Akshaya Triteeya day when the original form of the deity becomes visible. This is a sacred day to visit the temple for a special worship and to have full darshan (reverential view) of the deity.

This day also happens to be the Aradhana of Sri Vijayadhwaja Teertha of Pejawar Mutt. He lived in the 15th century and wrote a commentary on the Bhagavatham, sitting under a peepal tree in Kanva theertha. His Vrindavan is erected at this place. A special festival is arranged in Sri Krishna Mutt on this day. The akshaya patra given by Sri Madhwa is offered a special worship.

The Chandana Yatra in Puri starts on this day and continues for twenty days (as ordained by Lord Jagannatha to King Indradyumna). Sandalwood paste is applied all over the body of Lord Jagannatha, leaving only his two eyes visible. The processional deities are taken out in procession and placed in a boat in the temple pond.

Akshaya means never diminishing and the day is believed to bring in prosperity. This day is considered very auspicious for buying long term assets like property and silver, gold, diamond and other precious stones, since it is believed that any move on this day will continue to grow. It is not just material prosperity that one should seek. One should develop an eternal longing to acquire Brahmajnanam (knowledge of Brahman) and strive for undiminished (akshaya) faith and devotion to the Lord. This is the best form of wealth worthy of possessing eternally. Akshaya Triteeya, in conjunction with the Rohini star is considered even more auspicious. Scriptures say that knowledge gained or charity done on this day is very fruitful. The Lakshmi Tantram says that even Kubera prays to goddess Lakshmi. On this day, a day-long Kubera-Lakshmi Puja is performed with the Lakshmi idol and the Sudarsana-Kubera yantra.

Another religious day of special worship in the month of Kartik is also called Akshaya Navami, known for its plentitude. It falls on Suklapaksha Navami and is also called Parikrama Divas in the north. Strangely, Akshaya Triteeya and Akshaya Navami both fall on Suklapaksha. Probably the waxing moon shows prosperity and happiness. It is believed that Surya worshiped Goddess Durga on this day and was rewarded plentiful properties to rule over. In Bengal, Goddess Jagadhatree is worshiped on this day. This significant religious day may not be as popular as Akshaya Triteeya.


Akshaya Triteeya day, besides being the birthday of Basaveswara, is also an important day of remembrance of Lord Rishabadeva celebrated on April 24 this year. The Veerasaiva (Lingayat) philosophic Movement which was established around 800 years ago was named after Basveswara. Two days later, the birthdays of Adi Sankara and Ramanuja are celebrated, both falling on the same day, on Vaisakha Sukla Panchmi, the fifth day in the fortnight. Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, as well as his demise are all celebrated on Buddha Poornima Day which falls on May 5 this year, which is also a National Holiday in India. The bright fortnight of the Hindu calendar month of Vaisaakha (Vaisaakha Sukla Paksha) can be called the Hindu Philosophers’ Fortnight (April 21 to May 5, 2012).

Akshaya in Sanskrit, as explained before, means that which is imperishable or eternal. Therefore, the celebration of this festival signifies everlasting peace and prosperity which is Eternal Bliss. This can be attained only by following the great teachings of the philosophers mentioned above and others who focused all their lives on the Supreme principle whom Sankara called Atman, Ramanuja called Sriman Narayana and Basaveswara called Koodala Sangama. The ignorant many think that Akshaya Triteeya means material prosperity and so rush to buy gold on this day and many don’t even remember Basveswara or Rishabha. The Bhagawad Gita stresses on sreyas (Eternal Bliss) in preference to preyas (material happiness). We should all aim at permanent bliss as the goal of our present life.

Lord Rishabhadeva also known as Adinatha, is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu according to the Hindu scriptures, who began his teachings by turning into a monk. Akshaya Triteeya day is dedicated to Adinatha and the Jains celebrate this significant day with sugarcane juice. Adinatha’s teachings were on Ahimsa (non-violence); Inter-dependence (parasparoepagraha jeevanam); The Doctrine of Manifold Aspects (anekaantavaada); Equanimity (samyaktva); and Compassion (jeeva dayaa). The five fundamental teachings of Jainism are deeply rooted in their living impressions in the unbroken continuity across the centuries. They offer today the world a time-tested anchor for historic environmental protection, peace and harmony in the universe. That is why Adinatha and his successors were called Teerthankaras. A Teerthankara is a ford-maker. Teerthakara in Jainism signifies a survivor who has succeeded in crossing over life’s stream of births and has made a path for others to follow. The Tamil word ‘Kadavul’, meaning God, has a similar significance and a deeper meaning when we say somebody is Kadavul.

Basaveswara’s philosophy brought about new solutions to outstanding human problems that confront present day thinkers and social reformers. He was a revolutionary social reformer, an architect of a new classless and casteless society based on equality and social justice. He was an emancipator of Indian womanhood and saviour of the down-trodden. Basaveswara was the originator of a new economic order with Kaayaka -- pure and honest work as its corner stone.

Sankara was a brilliant flash of lightning that eradicated many areas of darkness in the life of man. An interesting episode in his life tells how Sankara, the learned Brahmin, bowed to the superior wisdom of a low outcaste and accepted him as his Guru. Manu says in his Dharma Shastra that he who possesses faith may receive learning even from a man of a lower caste, the highest law even from the lowest and excellent wife from a base family. We have here the examples of Satyavati, Vidura, Dharmavyada, Nammaazhwaar, Ravidas and Dr. Ambedkar. He established several Maths (monasteries) to spread his philosophy. The teachings of Sankara who believed in the One Undivided Self, reinforce a sense of unity among humanity, which Swami Vivekananda reiterated before the World Religious Forum, saying “Vedanta is the Religion of the Future”. He is considered as an incarnation of Siva. No discussion on Hindu Philosophy can start without a reference to Sankara. It is therefore worth recalling his sayings below:

*Just as a piece of rope is imagined to be a snake in the darkness, so Atman (soul) is imagined to be the body by an ignorant person.

*Neither by yoga, nor philosophy, nor by work, nor by learning but by realization of one’s identity with the Supreme Principle (Brahman) is liberation possible, and by no other means.

*When the mind is purified like a clear mirror, wisdom is revealed in it. Care should therefore be taken to purify the mind.

* The world is filled with attachments and aversions and is changing like a dream; it appears to be real as long as one is ignorant, but becomes unreal when one is awakened to his consciousness.

*Atman is the ruler of the body (physical matter) and is internal; the physical body is the one that is ruled, and is external; and yet we see these two as one! What else can be called ignorance if not this?

*There are good souls, calm and magnanimous, who do well to others as does the spring, and, who having themselves crossed this difficult ocean of birth and death, help others also to cross the same without any motive whatsoever.

*A father has got his sons and others to free him from his debts, but he has got none but himself to remove his bondage and seek liberation.

*Be not blindly attached to friend or foe, to son or kinsman, to peace or war. If you aspire for Vishnu’s (Govinda’s) realm, look upon all things as of equal worth or opportunity.

Ramanuja upheld bhakti (loving surrender to God) as the sole path to the realization of God. In his life and teachings, Ramanuja upheld that all humans are born equal and that caste has no role in determining one’s relationship with God. A particular section of his orthodox followers, taking pride in their birth, did not follow his preachings or practice it in life and got into trouble later. He accepted Kanchipurna, who was not a Brahmin, as his Guru. One of his most worthy disciples, Dhanurdasa, was from a lower caste. For Ramanuja, a vaishnava (man of omnipresent God, Vishnu) is worthy of respect: but he defined as a true vaishnava who has an abundant love for God. He is considered to be an incarnation of Adisesha or Lakshmana as his name suggests.

His philosophy can be briefly summarized as follows:

*Supreme Principle, Narayana (Parmatman) alone is independent. Soul (Chit) and matter (Achit) are dependent on him.

*Souls are initially divine by nature but they are eternally under the bondage of maya (constituting Sattva, Rajas and Tamas gunas). This bondage can be terminated by understanding the Divine Truth.

*Renounce all attachments to the world and dwell in selfless devotion to the Supreme Personality of God.

*Enter the Divine abode of our beloved God with His Grace.

He elaborately draws support from The Bhagawad Geeta and the Upanishads (Manduka and Katha) for his philosophy of Visishtaadvaita.

Historically, Siddhartha who became to be known as Buddha is too well known for his philosophy of Ahimsa (non-violence). The Hinduism that Siddhartha saw had lost much of its primal energy (dharma) and its pristine purity. Like Basaveswara, he refused to subscribe to the caste system which had by then ceased to be kula (society) dharma to keep harmony and peace but had become a tool of oppression. He questioned the authority of Vedas. He was convinced that penance and meditation as mere rituals without sincerity and contemplation on God were futile. He set out alone to seek the ultimate truth. On attaining enlightenment, he returned to preach what he had experienced and he did this out of compassion for his fellow beings. “All sufferings and pain, fear and hatred, come from desire; the man who is free from all desire, need not worry”, he preached to all. He taught them eight-fold path of duty. He never wanted to start a new religion but his followers did. Realizing the popularity and revolutionary trend, Buddha was absorbed into the more orthodox and conventional pantheon of Vishnu as ninth Avatar. We are now said to be living in the dispensation of this incarnation of Vishnu called Bauddhaavataar, though orthodox vaishnavas do not agree. He is known as Saakhya Muni (ascetic) and his philosophy is well embedded in the Sankhya philosophy glorified in The Bhagawad Gita.

His birthday falls on Vaisaakha Sukla Poornima which is the end of this bright fortnight. Buddha Poornima is a national holiday in India though there are very few Buddhists in India. The four lions of the Ashoka Pillar and the wheel of Dharma, edicts from Buddhism are the national symbols of India, seen in all currencies of India with the inscription ‘Satyameva Jayate’.

Let us celebrate this bright fortnight dedicating it to these great philosophers, reciting the mantras from Maha Narayana Upanishad given below!

Na karmanaa na prajayaa dhanena tyaageneike amritatvam-aanasahu | Parena naakam nihitam guhaayaam vibhraajate yad yatayoe visanti || (M N Upanishad)
(That immortality which the sages attain and that immortality which is stationed in Parama Vyoman, which is above heaven, is neither attainable by rites, nor by progeny, nor by wealth; but it is attained by some only through renunciation or self-surrender.)

Vedaanta-vijnaana-sunischita-arthaah sanyaasa-yogaad yatayas-suddha-satvaah | Tey brahmaloke tu para-anta-kaale para-amritaat parim-uchyanti sarve || (M N Upanishad)

(The sages (recluses) who are endowed with the decisive knowledge (tattva, hita and purushartha) that is derived from the Upanishads, whose minds are purified on account of undergoing self-surrender (prapatti) at the feet of the Lord, become freed from all bondage, by attaining Supreme Principle (Parmaatman) in his abode (Parmapada), after discarding the physical body. (This mantra is also found in Mundaka Up. 3-2-6 expressing the same thoughts.)

Immortality or liberation is not attained by rites performed for gaining various results. It is neither gained by progeny which may satisfy the ancestors nor gained by attaining wealth. Even the bhakti marga should focus on self-surrender to the Supreme Principle called Nyaasa or Sharanaagati. The hermits are of two kinds. One kind of hermit perfects the bhakti marga and enters into the Supreme abode of Paramaatman at the end of his birth. The other kind strives by yogic practice to attain decisive knowledge of the Upanishads (Vedanta-vijnaana) which would lead him to the Supreme abode.

Whatever deity we may worship as Ishta devata on special days of worship like this, our focus should be on Supreme Principle. Let us make this day a day for spiritual progress and prosperity meditating on the Supreme Principle, thus at the end of all celebrations:

Om tad Brahma | Om tad Vaayuh | Om tad Aatmaa| Om tat Satyam |Om tat Sarvam| Om tat Purornamah ||
Om is that Brahma (Creator). Om is Air (Vayu). Om is that inner-self (Atma). Om is that Eternal Truth. Om is everything. Om is the primeval cause that existed before creation. So, my obeisance to Pranava!

Om antas-charati bhooteshu guhaayaam viswa-moortishu | Tvam yajnas-tvam vishnuus-tvam vashatkaaras-
tva(ga)m rudras-tvam brahmaa tvam prajaapatih ||
Thou who art called by the symbol OM, move within the cave of the heart of all living beings as the inner- controller. Thou art the Yajna (sacrifice), Vishnu, Vashtkaara, Rudra, Brahma and Prajaapati.

Akshaya Triteeya is also called ‘Akhateej’. The word Akshaya means the immortal. Akshaya Tritiya is celebrated on the third tithi of brighter half in the lunar month Vaishakha. In Indian mythology Akshaya Triteeya has great importance. It is believed that the donations and auspicious ceremonies performed on this day have long lasting effects. This day is considered very auspicious for starting new projects auspicious for performing marriage ceremonies and for purchasing precious things.

In Hindu mythology, this day is considered as a mark of success and well-being. This day is also called the day of sarva siddhi day. This day can be chosen to perform auspicious ceremonies by anybody without consulting any astrologer. It is also believed that if we pray to God with devotion and dedication on this day, the sins done by us, even the sins committed by our ancestors, are forgiven by God. The native who worships God on this day with devotion and dedication is blessed with sattva guna, i.e truthfulness and righteousness.

As per Hindu electional astrology (Muhurta), three lunar days (tithis) are auspicious. These are called Sade-teen Muhurtas also. These tithis are the first tithi of bright half of Chaitra (starting of new year), the tenth tithi of bright half of Ashvina (Vijay Dashmi), the third tithi of bright half of Vaishakha (Akshay Triteeya - Parshu Jyanti) and the first tithi of bright half of Karttika are called Sade-teen (3 ½) Muhurta. The first three tithis are counted as full and the last one as half tithi and constitute Sade-teen Muhurta. The Sun and the moon are astrologically believed to be at their most exalted equal brightness on this day.

Akshaya Triteeya is also called Navanna Parvam.