Dhanteras is the first day of the five-day Diwali Festival as celebrated in India. The festival is also known as “Dhanatrayodashi” or “Dhanvantari Trayodashi” as in different parts of India. The word Dhan means wealth and Teras means 13th day as per Hindu calendar. It is celebrated on the thirteenth lunar day of Krishna paksha (dark fortnight) in the Hindu calendar month of Ashwin.
On the occasion of Dhanteras, Goddess Lakshmi is worshiped to provide prosperity and wellbeing and wealth. Dhanteras holds special significance for the business community due to the customary purchases of precious metals on this day.
On the occasion of Dhanteras, Lakshmi – the Goddess of wealth – is worshiped to provide prosperity, well being and wealth to the household/ business. In the evening, many oil lamps are lit and Dhan-Lakshmi is formally welcomed into the house. Alpana or Rangoli designs are drawn on pathways including the goddess’ footprints to mark the arrival of Lakshmi. Aartis or devotional hymns are sung praising Goddess Lakshmi and sweets and fruits are offered to her to please her.
People buy gold or silver jewelry or utensils to celebrate the occasion of Dhanteras.
People generally wear new clothes and wear jewelry as they light the first lamps of Diwali while some engage in a game of gambling.
Story of Dhanteras
An ancient legend attributes the occasion to on interesting story about the 16 year old son of King Hima. His horoscope predicted his death by snake-bite on the fourth day of his marriage. On that particular day, his newly-wed wife did not allow him to sleep. She laid out all her ornaments and lots of gold and silver coins in a heap at the entrance of the sleeping chamber and lit lamps all over the place. Then she narrated stories and sang songs to keep her husband from falling asleep. The next day, when Yama, the god of Death, arrived at the prince’s doorstep in the guise of a Serpent, his eyes were dazzled and blinded by the brilliance of the lamps and the jewelry. Yama could not enter the Prince’s chamber, so he climbed on top of the heap of gold coins and sat there the entire night listening to the stories and songs. In the morning, he silently went away. Thus, the young prince was saved from the clutches of death by the cleverness of his new bride, and the day came to be celebrated as Dhanteras. The following day came to be called as ‘Yamadeepdaan’ as the ladies of the house light earthen lamps or ‘deep’ and these are kept burning throughout the night glorifying Yama, the God of Death. Since this is the night before actual Diwali, it is also called as ‘Chhoti Diwali‘ or Diwali minor.
According to another popular legend, when the Gods and demons churned the ocean for Amrita or nectar, Dhanvantari (the physician of the Gods and an incarnation of Vishnu) emerged from the ocean floor carrying a jar of the elixir on the day of Dhanteras.