Today is Akshaya Tritiya – a day that Hindus and Jains consider most auspicious, in the calendar. It comes in the period of the waxing moon – Shukla Paksha of the month Vaishakha. The entire day from sunrise to sunset is auspicious. Hence one does not require a special muhurta, time duration to undertake anything. There are many stories associated with this day.
The river Ganga manifested on earth on this day thousands of years ago in response to Bhagiratha’s prayer to Brahma ji. That is why Ganga is also called Bhagirathi. Another important story is that it is the day the sixth avatara of Vishnu, Parshurama was born. He is credited to have destroyed all the kshatriya warlords and war-mongering kings from the face of the earth. Another story is related to an incident of when the Pandavas were in the forest. Known for their hospitality Draupadi bemoaned the fact that they could not be that hospitable.
Therefore Yuddhishtira prayed to Surya Devata who gave them the gift of a special vessel to Draupadi. This vessel ensured that there would be food for anyone and everyone that she wanted to serve, provided she would be the last one to eat. Akshaya is never-ending and means not subject to kshaya, decline. So the vessel was called Akshaya Patra, a vessel with never-ending goodies. Like these stories, there are a few more stories related to the day of Akshaya Tritiya.
When the day became about buying gold, is not very clear. Perhaps a jeweller or trader in gold tried to influence the festival and influenced people into buying gold so much so that it has become a custom now. If one is able to buy gold today then the belief might be that one can buy gold whenever you want, indicating never-ending prosperity. Overall, the day is meant to remember Bhagavan and invoke his endless grace into our lives.
(The writer is the founder of Aarsha Vidya Foundation. You can write to him @firstname.lastname@example.org)