The third day of the Shukla Paksha in the Hindu month of Vaisakha is known as Akshaya Tritiya. The word 'Akshaya' means something that lasts long and never diminishes. This day holds profound significance in our spiritual, mythological and cultural context.

Vyasa Maharishi is believed to have begun dictating the Mahabharata to Lord Ganesha on Akshaya Tritiya. Akshaya Tritiya is also the day Lord Vishnu manifested in his sixth avatar as Parasurama.

There are few other legends surrounding this auspicious day, commonly linked together with the most basic need of all living beings - food.

It is believed that Devi Parvati manifested as Annapurna in Kashi (Varanasi) on Akshaya Tritiya to end the hunger and drought in the holy city. Annapurna Devi is the goddess who blesses all living beings with food.

When Lord Shiva said that everything in the material world, including food, was an illusion, Parvati left the place challenging that she wanted to see how the world would go on without food. The absence of Parvati, who represented worldly experiences, meant the entire world losing its beauty and strength. Trees withered, crops failed and lands became barren, leading to the lack of food and starvation.

When the gods and people prayed fervently for food, she could no longer bear to see her children suffering. Parvati manifested as Annapurna in Kashi and began distributing food. Meanwhile, Shiva's Ganas and the other gods begged him for food. He left to Kashi with his followers as that was the only place where food was available. He found his wife, in the form of Annapurna, serving food to people. Shiva realised that while he had surpassed material needs like hunger, his followers were yet to attain that state. 

This day also marks the meeting between Lord Krishna and his childhood friend Sudama. Sudama went to Dwaraka to meet Krishna at his wife's behest to request financial aid. Awestruck by his friend's palace and riches, he drew back from asking Krishna for help. The all-knowing Lord asked Sudama to share some of the puffed rice that the latter had brought with him. He happily partook of the rice fondly recalling his Vrindavan days. When Sudama returned home, he found his hut replaced by a splendid palace and his family decked in fine clothes. It didn't take him long to realise that Lord Krishna had blessed him with abundant prosperity.

In the Mahabharata, Lord Surya had blessed Yudhishthir with the Akshaya Patra. It was a divine vessel that provided unlimited food for the Pandavas and the guests who called on them during their exile.

The idea of buying gold and silver on Akshaya Tritiya day is a fairly recent practice that started about 20-25 years ago. The most significant aspect of this day is making charitable causes. The Bhavishya Purana indicates that this is a day to perform good deeds and donate rice, pulses and food items to the needy.

This year, Akshaya Tritiya is celebrated on 22 April, 2023.

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