Dhanteras – A Festival to mark the Prologue to Diwali

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This article by Manisha Sarade

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Dhanteras – A Festival to mark the Prologue to Diwali

Dhanteras festival also known as 'Dhantrayodashi' or 'Dhanvantari Triodasi' is one of the most momentous festivals of India. On this festival Goddess Laxmi is worshiped to bestow her devotees with good fortune and success in life. On the special event of Dhanteras, articles made of Gold or Silver or even a new utensil are purchased as a sign of good luck. The auspicious occasion of Dhanteras holds an important place in Business community of India and celebrated with utmost divinity and enthusiasm. As the festival of Dhanteras is observed two days before Diwali, it also marks the beginning of grand festivity.

52" Large Devi Lakshmi | Lakshmi | Brass Statue | Handmade | Made In India

When is Festival Celebrated?

Dhanteras festival has got its name from two words 'Dhan' meaning wealth and 'Teras' that means thirteenth. Dhanteras or Dhantrayodashi comes every year in the thirteenth lunar day of Krishna Paksha in the Hindu month of Ashwin (October/November). Typically, this festival is celebrated two days prior to Diwali.

How is it Celebrated?

On this day, homes and offices or the places of business are renovated and decorated. Entrances are made colourful with beautiful traditional designs of Rangoli to welcome the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. As a symbol of the arrival of Goddess Laxmi small footprints are drawn with rice flour and vermilion powder all over the houses. Small diyas of clay are lighted through the night to keep the evil spirits away.

Seated Ganesha-Lakshmi Temple

The festival of Dhanteras is considered to be auspicious for purchase of gold, silver and any other new article. On this day devotees buy new jewellery, car, even homes and dates for marriages are also fixed. In the evening "Lakshmi-Puja" is performed singing "Bhajans"-devotional songs- in praise of Goddess Laxmi and "Naivedya" made of traditional sweets is offered to the Goddess. In villages cattles are considered sacred and incarnation of Laxmi therefore on this day Cows are adorned and worshiped with great devotion.

Lakshmi Ganesha Diya Plate

Legends that took the shape of Dhanteras

Legend of King Hima and Yamraj

The son of King Hima was doomed to die on the fourth day of his marriage by snakebite. On that particular fourth day of his marriage his young wife did not allow him to sleep. She laid all the ornaments and lots of gold and silver coins in a big heap at the entrance and lighted lots of lamps all over the place and she went on telling stories and singing songs. When Yamraj, the God of death arrived there in the guise of a serpent, the dazzle of those brilliant lights made his eyes blind and he could not enter the prince's chamber. Since then this day of Dhanteras came to be known as the day of "Yamadeepdaan" and people buy some item of jewellery and keep a lamp lit nearby all night.

Dhanalakshmi Seated on a Lotus Wall Hanging with Frame

The legend of Samudramanthan (Sea Churning) is at the heart of these celebrations. According to this story, when the gods and demons churned the ocean for Amrut or nectar, Dhanavantri, the physician of the gods and an incarnation of Vishnu emerged carrying a jar of the elixir (Amrit)

The festival of Dhanteras is also known by the names of Dhantrayodashi and Dhanvantari Trayodashi (Dhanwantari Trayodashi). It is the festival that marks the beginning of the diwali celebrations and therefore it is considered the first day of five days long festivities of diwali. The term 'dhanteras' consists of two factors 'dhan', which literally means wealth and 'teras', which means thirteenth. Here thirteenth is meant to indicate the day 'Trayodashi', on which dhanteras falls. Dhanvantari Trayodashi (Dhanwantari Trayodashi) is celebrated on the thirteenth lunar day of Krishna Paksha, of the Hindu month of Kartik, that is two days before diwali.

The Legend of Lord Dhanvantari

Legends have it that Lord Dhanvantari who is the physician of the Gods and an incarnation of Lord Vishnu came out of the ocean that was churned by the Gods and the demons on the day of dhanteras. Lord Dhanvantari appeared with Ayurvedic for the welfare of the mankind.

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Another interesting story famous about dhanteras is related to the son of King Hima and his intelligent wife. It was predicted about him that he would die on the fourth day of his marriage. And the reason behind his death would be snakebite. When his wife came to know about such a prediction, she decided not to let her husband die and for this she made a plan. On the fourth day of their marriage, she collected all the jewellery and wealth at the entrance of her husband's boudoir and lighted lamps all around the place. And she started telling stories and singing songs one after another in order to not let her husband sleep. In the mid night Lord Yama, the God of death arrived there in guise of a snake. The bright lights of the lamps lit by the wife of the king's son blinded His eyes and he could not enter their chamber. Therefore, Lord Yama found a place to make himself comfortable on top of the heap of the jewellery and wealth and kept sitting there for the whole night waiting to get a chance to bite the king's son. But as the wife of the king's son kept telling stories and singing songs for the whole night therefore, he could not get any chance and in the morning, he left the place quietly. Thus, the wife saved her husband's life from the cruel clutches of death.

Dhanalakshmi

Since then, the day of dhanteras is also known as the day of 'Yamadeepdaan' and it has become a tradition to light a diya on dhanteras and to keep it burning throughout the night in reverential adoration of Lord Yama, the God of death.

Celebrations surrounding Dhanteras

The people worship Lord Yamaraj, the God of death, on this day and light a 'Yama-Diya' in the night to offer prayers to Him to bless them with prosperity, wellbeing and protection. The people purchase a new utensil, silver or gold coin or some other precious metal as a sign of good luck on the day of dhanteras. This is also a tradition related with celebrations of the festival of Dhanvantari Trayodashi. he day of dhanteras has great importance for the mercantile community of Western India. There is a peculiar custom in Maharashtra to lightly pound dry coriander seeds with jaggery and offer as Naivedya. In the rural areas the cultivators worship their cattle because they form the main source of their income and livelihood. Besides, Dhanteras is also marked as a day to worship Dhanvantrari, the pioneer of Ayurveda. Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homeopathy decided to observe Dhanteras as the National Ayurveda Day. The first National Ayurveda Day was celebrated on 28th October, 2016.

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