After much time spent in penance, King Bhagairathi is overjoyed at the descent of the holy waters of the Ganga from the celestial regions. She would only descend if a suitable place was selected for her. Lord Shiva’s hair coil was the only place strong enough. Today was the day it happened.
Akshaya Tritiya today, the ‘Day for New Beginnings’. Today, it is said, any religious performance will not be compromised by any of the normal astrological considerations that attend such events on other days. According to the lunar calendar there are ‘good times’ and ‘good days’ for doing important things like moving house, starting a business, signing on any kind of dotted line, buying jewellery or getting married.
The tithi is the lunar day, and the muhurta is named according to the portion of the day. One brahmana I consulted told me that the Tritiya actually started yesterday and was over by midday today. Its important to get these things right, specially with weddings. Everyone wants a good start to their marriage and I am often asked to begin within a five minute period just to start at the right time. Today there was none of that, but just the same, the wedding began on time.
Special day today was the turn of Kishor-murti Das and Bhaktin Dhunya Kani to make their vows before assembled family members and well- wishing Vaishnavas. Kishor is from the north of England and Dhunya is from Zagreb in Croatia. Her family came all the way over to celebrate and enthusiastically took part in the ceremonies.
Brilliant sunshine today of course, which always helps. We started with a harinama parade of the groom and his friends and family around the temple, to be welcomed by the main entrance by the brides family. The fathers greet each other and exchange hugs and flower garlands, which always seems to melt everyone and produce a few tears – even before entering the building!
Next the brides father and mother – today Mr. Yadro Kani and his wife Mia – give the groom some ceremonial items of welcome. Today, as a bit of variety, I had arranged for some barley to be presented as today is also the day when, according to tradition, barley was created. Next a pot is broken by the groom’s foot to symbolise the removal of any obstacles from the past, and the beginning of a fresh period in his life.
Once inside, the groom is given Ganges water to sip. Again, this is significant today, as this is the day after massive penance when King Bhagirathi finally managed to bring the Holy Ganges river down to Earth by having the fall of her waters caught in the hair of Lord Shiva.
And so the wedding continued. You can read what else happens at Vedic weddings in, rather appropriately, my ‘Weddings’ pages.
The snowy peaks of the Himalayas from Badarikashram, one of the four holy places many followers of the Vedas wish to visit. Rameshvaram, Jagannath Puri and Dwaraka are the others.
At one stage in the proceedings I asked the father to smear scented sandalwood paste on the head of Lord Narasimha, the groom’s deity. Anyone who gives such chandan to a deity on this day is also blessed, as today is also the beginning of India’s official ‘hot season’ (as if India needed one!) and the paste has a cooling effect and is considered a suitable offering to God at this time. Today the gates of Badarikashram, an ancient temple high up in the glacial Himalayas, are thrown open to thousands of patient pilgrims. They will close again in August when the snows and the extreme cold come back again.
So if you plan to make a new beginning in your life – today still has a few hours left. But there’s always tomorrow!