Dhanteras is an important part of Diwali celebrations. Dhanteras marks the first day of Diwali celebrations. Dhanteras is also called Dhanvantari Trayodashi. It falls on the thirteenth lunar day of Krishna Paksha in the Hindu month of Kartik (October-November). The word 'Dhan' signifies money or wealth. On the day of Dhanteras, people worship the Goddess of Wealth (Goddess Lakshmi). Since Dhanteras is associated with the worship of Goddess Lakshmi, it is a very important celebration in the homes of the mercantile community. In India, houses and market places wear a festive look on the day of Dhanteras and market places are abuzz with people all around.
Legends of Dhanteras
Like most of the Indian festivals, Dhanteras too has some legends
associated with its celebration. Let's have a look at some of the
popular legends that are associated with this Dhantears celebration.
Legend of Dhanwantari
Churning of ocean (Samudramanthan) by Gods and demons forms an
important part of the Hindu mythology. It is believed that during the
churning of ocean by Gods and demons, Lord Dhanvantari (the Physician of
Gods) emerged out with a jar of Amrit (elixir) on the day of Dhanteras.
Thus, the worship of Lord Dhanvantari has become a part of Dhanteras
celebrations in most of the home.
Legend of Yamadeep Daan Ritual
According to this legend, the sixteen-year-old son of King Hima was
doomed to die of snakebite on the fourth day of his marriage. Aware of
the forecast about her husband, the intelligent wife of the young prince
made a plan to save her husband. On the predicted day, the wife made all
arrangements so that her husband did not fall asleep. Bedsides this, she
also put all her silver and gold ornaments at the entrance of the door
and illuminated the whole place with lamps and lights. To insure that
the husband did not sleep, the wife sang and narrated stories all
through the night.
Lord Yama, the mythological God of Death, arrived in the guise of a
serpent but the illumination caused by lights dazzled his eyes and he
was not able to enter the room of the young prince. The legends have it
that the serpent, mesmerized by the melodious songs of the Princess's
wife, sat on the heap of ornaments and spent the night and went away in
the morning. Thus, the Prince was saved by the illumination of the lamps
and devotion of his wife. This legend led to the popularization of the
tradition of 'Yamadeep Daan'. It is due to this reason, lamps and diyas
are kept burning all through the night on Dhanteras.
Rituals and Celebrations of Dhanteras
As Dhanteras is associated with the worship of Goddess Lakshmi, people
draw small footprints with rice flour and vermilion powder throughout
the house right from the entrance (indicating the arrival of Goddess
Lakshmi). As Dhantrayodashi or Dhanteras is considered very auspicious,
people shop for gold, silver and some utensils. To celebrate the
auspicious arrival of Goddess Lakshmi, the homes of people are
illuminated by oil lamps, which are lit throughout the night. Lakshmi
Puja is also an important part of the Dhanteras celebrations. The
Lakshmi-Puja is performed at midnight. Devotional songs, in praise of
Goddess Lakshmi, are sung by the people. Goddess Lakshi is offered
naivedya of sweets, which serve as the auspicious Prasad of the Goddess.
In many parts of South India, there is a tradition of cow worship by the
farmers (on Dhanteras). For farmers, cows signify wealth and are
considered to be the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi.