Akshaya Tritiya is a day when all that glitters is gold; it is believed in India that any venture started on this day will bring wealth. For the economy as well as for personal practice, this has meant different things throughout history. In recent years, clever marketing has not only made this day propitious to buy gold, it has also convinced superstitious people that they HAVE to buy gold on Akshaya Tritiya if they want their year to be successful. As a result, every year, on Akshaya Tritiya, shopping centers and jewelry shops see a mad rush when people compete with each other to buy anything from small trinkets to entire shops. May 2nd, 2014, was Akshaya Tritiya in India this year and market promotions for the day started almost a month back.
The word Akshaya means everlasting and Tritiya is the term used for the third day in the Lunar calendar. In the Mahabharata, there is a tale of how the Pandavas were suffering without enough to eat in the forests when Lord Krishna gifted Lady Draupadi, the wife of Pandavas, with an Akshaya Patra, a bowl which kept replenishing itself with food. Following this concept, Akshaya Tritiya is believed to be a day when wealth comes in multiples without diminishing.
Until a decade or two back, this was considered an auspicious day to make donations, to start new businesses or educational ventures and more importantly, to worship God. While a few people who were planning to buy jewelry made their purchases on this day because of its religious significance, it was not considered mandatory to buy gold on Akshaya Tritiya. White, believed to be the color of purity, is the color theme of this festival, so milk-based kheer, jasmine flowers and white kolam are important aspects of this day.
A few years back, marketers hit on the idea of appealing to the religious sentiments of people to make them favor another color: gold. As a result, the rush to buy gold on this day is astounding. Since jewelry shopping is already a craze among Indians, the frenzy to buy gold and platinum has increased every year since the campaigns started. Now, no matter what the state of economy is, jewelry shops get heavily crowded on this day and the scene is usually chaotic.
Shop owners too, have interesting ways to attract and handle crowds. While there are the usual discounts and offers, some innovative merchants offer pre-booking facilities, chit schemes, valet parking and recreation rooms for children while parents shop. This year, a renowned jeweler in my city even offered free cab services to customers since getting a parking spot in the market sector could be very difficult. Shops open as early as 7.30 AM and are usually filled with buyers by 8 in the morning; shopping goes on till midnight.
Apart from jewels, gold traded funds, real estate and new vehicles are popular buys on this day. Whether you’re planning to buy jewels or not, which by the way, is not a bad idea because Indian jewelry is known for its aesthetic appeal, Akshaya Tritiya is a good day to be out shopping and watch people go crazy over the yellow metal.