Dhanteras is celebrated just two days prior to Diwali, the festival of lights. It is an auspicious occasion as it is in the beginning of the major festival of India, that is Diwali. Dhanteras takes place on the dark fortnight day’s thirteenth day in the month of Kartik. Dhan stands for wealth. It is of much importance to the business community.
History of Dhanteras
This festival is meant to bring in good fortune for eternity. The festival is celebrated to honor the Dhanavanthri, the god of physicians, who is an incarnation of Vishnu.
Legends of Dhanteras
The legend holds that the sixteen year old son of King Hima was to die due to a snake on the fourth day of his marriage as per his horoscope. On that particular fourth day of the marriage the husband was not allowed by his young wife to sleep. She placed all the gold ornaments and coins on the front side of the boudoir of her husband and lightened several lamps all around. She kept telling stories and singing songs. When Yama arrived he was dazzled by the brilliant lights and could not enter the chamber of the Prince. He climbed on the heap of the ornaments and coins and just sat there the entire night listening to the songs. In the morning he went away. Thus, the young wife was able to evade the death of her husband. Since that day Dhanteras has been referred to as “Yamadeepdaan” and the lamps are kept lit throughout the night in reverence of Yama, the God of Death.
The other popular legend is that when the Gods and demons were churning the oceans for Amrit (nectar), Dhanavantri ( the physician of Gods and incarnation of Vishnu), came out of the elixir on Dhanteras.
Celebrations of Dhanteras
In the evening “Laxmi-puja” is performed. Small diyas are lighted to get rid of the evil spirits. Devotional songs known as “Bhajans” are sung in praise of Goddess Laxmi and traditional sweets are offered in the form of “Naivedya” to the Goddess. In Maharashtra dry coriander seeds are pounded lightly with jaggery and offered as Naivedya.
In the villages cattle are decorated and worshipped by the farmers as they happen to be a source of income.
Rituals of Dhanteras
Houses and business premises are decorated and renovated. Rangoli designs are laid out in front of entrances in order to welcome the Goddess of Prosperity and Wealth. To welcome her long-expected arrival, rice flour and vermillion powder are used to draw small footprints all over the houses. Lamps remain lit all throughout the night. Hindus feel it is auspicious to purchase gold and sliver and 1 or 2 utensils. These precious metals or new Dhan is supposed to bring in good luck. Bhajans and songs are sung in praise of Goddess Laxmi.
Dhanteras ushers in Diwali and is celebrated with much fervor. Goddess Laxmi is invoked and the lighting of small lamps to get rid of evil spirits makes it an auspicious occasion.