Dhanteras: Marking the beginning of the Diwali festival
The diwali festival is a five day festival, starting from dhanteras. Dhanteras also known as Dhanvantari Triodasi or Dhanatrayodashi or Yamadeepdaan or Asweyuja Bahula Thrayodasi / Dhantheran comes two days before the main deepavali. It falls on the auspicious thirteenth lunar day of Krishna Paksha in the Hindu month of Ashwin (October/November). Marking the beginning of the festival of lights, on dhanteras people worship goddess Laxmi. The word "Dhan" means wealth. On this day, the "Owl" form of the Goddess Laxmi is worshiped to provide wealth, prosperity and well being. This festival holds special significance for the business community due to customary purchases of precious metals on this day. Buy anything metal on dhanteras.
Legends of DhanterasA very interesting story about this festival is that the sixteen year old son of King Hima was destined to die on the fourth day of his marriage by snake bite according to his horoscope. On that fateful night, his wife did not allow him to sleep the whole night. At the entrance of her husband's room, she laid all her ornaments, gold and silver coins and lighted innumerable lamps all over the place. And she went on telling stories and singing songs to keep her husband awake. Yama, the god of Death arrived there in the guise of a Serpent. His eyes got blinded by that dazzle of those brilliant lights and he could not enter the Prince's chamber. So Yama climbed the heap of the coins and ornaments and sat there the whole night listening to the harmonious songs. In the early morning he went out quickly. In this way, the young wife saved her husband life. Since then this day of Dhanteras came to be known as the day of "YAMADEEPDAAN. " and lamps are kept burning throughout the night in reverential adoration to Yama, the god of death.
Another popular legend was that during "Samudramanthan" that is when the gods and demons churned the ocean for Amrit or nectar, Dhanavantri (the physician of the gods and an incarnation of Vishnu) emerged carrying a jar of the elixir (ambrosia) on the day of Dhanteras. Both the demons and the devas wanted the ambrosia, but finally Vishnu managed to give the immortal nectar to the gods and the asuras were defeated. Thus the churning of the ocean resulted in the immortality of the devas and was the reason for Lakshmi's emergence.
Traditions on Dhanteras
Like any other Hindu festival, many rituals and customs are related with dhanteras also. On Dhanteras, it is considered auspicious to purchase gold or silver items. Many buy gold jewelry on this day. Silver and gold coins are also purchased. For those who cannot purchase gold or silver items, at least one or two new utensils or any metal objects like a diya, or a candle stand can be purchased . It is believed that new “Dhan” or wealth in some form of precious metal is a sign of good luck. People believe that prosperity come to their homes with any new utensil or metal item purchased on this day. Some people also feel that dhanteras is the best day for setting new business, starting new projects, fixing wedding dates, buying new cars.
Significance of Dhanteras
This day is considered highly auspicious by the business community. In Maharashtra there is a unique custom of lightly pound dry coriander seeds with jaggery and offering this mixture as "naivedya". In villages, farmers adorn and worship their cattle as cattles are the main source of their income. In south India, cows are decorated, given a special feed and worshipped as it is believed that goddess Lakshmi comes in the guise of cows. In some parts of India, people ignite "Yuma-diya" and worship the god of death for long lives. "Laxmi-Puja" is performed in the evenings. Diyas are lighted to drive away the evil spirits. "Bhajans"-devotional songs- in praise of Goddess Laxmi are also sung. To celebrate the auspicious day, houses and business premises are renovated and decorated. Entrances are decorated with Rangolis and Torans. To welcome Goddess Laksmi, small footprints are drawn with rice flour and vermilion powder all over the houses. Lamps are kept burning all through the nights to welcome the goddess Lakshmi and pray her to bless them with the mightiest blessings.