Dhanteras ushers in Diwali, India’s celebrated festival of lights. Marking the first day of the five day Diwali festivities; it is a harbinger of good fortune. Dhanteras also known as Dhantrayodashi or Dhanwantari Triodashi falls on the auspicious thirteenth lunar day of Krishna Paksha in the Hindu month of Kartik (October/November). Dhan in Dhanteras stands for wealth and teras means the thirteenth. On Dhanteras the ‘Owl’ form of Goddess Laxmi is worshipped for prosperity and well being.
It is celebrated in honour of Dhanavantri, the physician of the gods and an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
Dhanteras is celebrated with joyous abandon all over India. particularly significant for the business community due to customary purchase of precious metals on this day.
Lakshmi-Puja is performed in the evening with tiny diyas of clay being lighted to ward off evil spirits. Bhajans or devotional songs are sung in praise of Goddess Laxmi and Naivedya of traditional sweets is offered to the Goddess. In villages cattle supposed to be incarnations of the Goddess, are adorned and worshipped by farmers as they form the main source of their income.
God Yama is worshipped on this day to herald prosperity and well being.
Colourful Rangoli welcomes the Goddess of wealth and prosperity in homes and offices decorated with great fanfare. Indicative of Goddess Laxmi’s long-awaited arrival, small footprints are drawn with rice flour and vermilion powder all over the house. Lamps keep burning through the night.
Dhanteras is particularly significant for the business community due to customary purchase of precious metals like gold, platinum and silver as jewellery or coins for good luck. Believing this day to be propitious, women buy gold, silver or some utensils since acquiring new dhan is said to herald good fortune.
In the new millennium, exchange of Dhanteras gifts is overly popular. The festival is also considered auspicious for setting up new business, commencing new projects, for housewarming, fixing wedding dates and buying cars.
The Significance of White:
The Hindu community awaits Dhanteras fervently as it heralds prosperity in the form of Goddess Lakshmi. The colour white is associated with the Goddess and advocated for auspicious reasons. In accordance with lifestyles of the new generation, platinum, the naturally white metal, was introduced in Hindu culture as an offering to Goddess Lakshmi.
- White is symbolic of purity, sunshine and moonlight, often related to eternity, love and romance.
- Besides, it is considered a sustaining force that is eternal like the Sun, Moon and Stars.
- Sukra (Venus), the planet most sought after for luck, glory, fame and name is epitomized by white, the colour of purity and love.
- Love and romance are also denoted by white.
Legends of Dhanteras
Incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi
The association of Diwali and Lakshmi arises from the legend that Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth, was incarnated on the new moon day or amavasya of the Kartik month during the churning of the ocean or samudra-manthan.
Emergence of Dhanavantri
According to a popular legend when the gods and demons churned the ocean for amrit or nectar, Dhanavantri,physician of the gods and an incarnation of Vishnu, emerged carrying a jar of elixir on Dhanteras.
Vishnu Rescued Lakshmi
Lord Vishnu, in his fifth incarnation as Vaman Avatara, rescued Lakshmi from the prison of King Bali, providing another reason for worshipping Ma Lakshmi on Diwali.
Krishna Killed Narakasura
On the eve of Diwali, Lord Krishna killed the demon King Narakasura and rescued 16,000 women from his captivity. To celebrate the triumph festivities were in full swing for two days including Diwali.
The Return of the Pandavas
The great epic 'Mahabharata' reveals that when Pandavas returned after 12 years of banishment, it was on a Kartik Amavasya night. The subjects adoring the Pandavas celebrated with joyous abandon, by lighting earthen lamps.
The Victory of Rama
According to the epic 'Ramayana', it was on the new moon day of Kartik that Lord Ram, Sita and Lakshman returned to Ayodhya after triumphing over Ravana and conquering Lanka. The denizens of Ayodhya festooned the entire city with earthen lamps and illuminated it splendidly.
Coronation of Vikramaditya
Vikramaditya, one of the greatest Hindu Kings, was coronated on Diwali, a chronologically significant historical event.
A very interesting story about Dhanteras reveals that once the sixteen year old son of King Hima was doomed to die by a snake bite on the fourth day of his marriage as per his horoscope. On that particular day his young wife did not allow him to sleep. She heaped all the ornaments, gold and silver coins at the entrance of her husband's chamber and lighted innumerable lamps all over the place; narrating stories and singing songs.
When Yama, the God of Death arrived in the guise of a serpent his eyes were blinded by dazzling lights and he could not enter the chamber. So seated on top of the heaped ornaments, the entire night he sat listening to the melodious songs. In the morning, he quietly slithered away. Thus the young wife saved her husband from the clutches of death. Since then Dhanteras came to be known as the day of ‘Yamadeepdaan’ and lamps are kept burning throughout the night in reverential adoration of Yama, the God of Death.