India celebrates many festivals with full fervor and enthusiasm. As per Indian tradition, the celebration of the five-day Diwali festival begins with an auspicious day called “Dhanteras”. It is a Sanskrit word which is made of two words – “Dhan” which means wealth, and “Teras” means the 13th day. As per the Hindu calendar, the thirteenth lunar day of Karthik month is celebrated as Dhanteras which is also known as Dhanatrayodashi. On the occasion of Dhanteras, devotees worship Lord Dhanvantari, Goddess Lakshmi, and Kubera. On this auspicious day, Hindus love to buy gold, silver, automobile, utensils, property, and other precious goods for a prosperous future.
Significance of Dhanteras: On this day, Hindu devotees worship Goddess Lakshmi and God Dhanvantari to receive their blessings for a healthy, happy and wealthy life. According to the popular legend of Samudra Manthan, on this day of Trayodashi, the consort of Lord Vishnu, Goddess Lakshmi emerged out of the sea. Therefore, Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped on Trayodashi.
Another legend says, during Samudra Manthan, God Dhanvantari, the God of medicine and an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, emerged out of the sea carrying a Kalash (pot) of Amrit (the divine nectar of immortality) in one hand and the sacred textbook about Ayurveda in the other hand. Hindus also worship God Dhanvantari, who is considered to be the Vaidya (healer) of Gods. He had imparted the wisdom of Ayurveda to mankind to live a disease-free life. Thus, Dhanteras is also celebrated as Dhanvantari Jayanti. During the puja, devotees recite the following mantra 108 times to praise the God Dhanvantri and to receive His blessing-
Om Namoh Bhagvatey Vasudevaya, Dhanvantraye Amritkalashaye
Sarvamaya Vinashaye Trilokanathaya, Sri Mahavishnave Swaha.
How to celebrate Dhanteras?
• Since this day is considered extremely auspicious, Indian homes that have not yet been cleaned in preparation for Diwali are thoroughly cleaned and whitewashed. Devotees decorate the main entrance of the house with colorful lanterns and lights.
• Traditional motifs of Rangoli designs are made at the entrance of the house to welcome the God of health and Goddess of Wealth. To welcome goddess Lakshmi, small footprints are drawn with rice flour and vermilion powder all over the house.
• It is believed that Goddess Lakshmi visits every home of her devotees to fulfill their wishes on Dhanteras. People light diyas (lamps) and let them burn all through the divine night of Dhanteras in honor of Lakshmi and Dhanvantari.
• Hindus make new purchases on this auspicious day, especially of gold or silver articles, and new household appliances, as we believe that new form of wealth or some precious metal would bring good fortune. It is a common belief in India that purchasing gold and silver on Dhanteras brings more wealth and prosperity.
• On this night, Hindus decorates their puja room with incense sticks, Diyas (lamps of clay), and flowers to perform Lakshmi Puja. They offer fruits and traditional sweets such as Halwa, made of wheat flour. They sing prayers, bhajans, devotional songs in praise of Goddess Lakshmi and God Dhanvantari.
• Though it is not known to many devotees, some people observe fast on this day from morning to sunset. They first offer Panchamrit made of curd, milk, honey, sugar, and ghee to the Gods, and then the fast is broken by taking it as a prasad. This is done after the Kuber-Lakshmi Puja in the Pradosh Kaal (evening hour). Afterward, they eat sattvic food.
Activities to avoid on this day:
• Do not worship idols made of glass- As per different stories from Puranas, a devotee should worship clay, silver, and gold idols of Lord Ganesha and Goddess Lakshmi. Devotees must avoid buying glass items and glass idols.
• Do not lend/borrow money – As per popular belief, people should not lend or borrow money on this auspicious day of Dhanteras. It may upset Goddess Lakshmi, and She may leave your house and go to some other person.
• Do not keep footwears at the main door of your home - Keep the main entrance of the house neat and clean and remove shoes, slippers, and any kind of dirt or trash from that place. It may upset the Goddess Lakshmi while entering your house and She may turn Her divine feet towards another direction.
Legend: According to an ancient legend, an interesting story begins with a popular king named Hima whose son was predicted to die by snake-bite on the fourth day of his marriage. However, Hima's daughter-in-law saved the life of her husband from dying by preventing the god of death, Yamaraj from entering her chamber.
On that particular D-day, Hima’s daughter-in-law did not allow her husband to sleep. She laid a lot of gold jewelry and many silver coins at the entrance of her room and lit many lamps. Then she narrated stories, sang devotional songs and mantras to keep her husband from falling asleep. When Yamaraj, the god of death arrived at her doorstep in the guise of a serpent, his eyes were dazzled and blinded by the strong light coming from the glittering jewelry along with the lit bright lamps. Yamaraj could not enter inside the Prince's chamber, so he sat outside the chamber for the entire night listening to the stories and mantras. In the morning, he left that place without hurting the young prince. Thus, the young prince got a new life because of the cleverness of his new bride. Since then people celebrate this auspicious festival Dhanteras.
Summary: Dhanteras is a much-awaited festival in India. On this occasion, people like to buy precious metals and kitchenware with a belief that it may enhance their wealth and invite prosperity. As per the tradition, they clean up their homes thoroughly a few days before this festival. They decorate their homes with diyas (lamps), candles, paint, colorful flowers, and myriad other things with a strong belief that Goddess Lakshmi will visit their beautiful homes to fulfill their wishes. During the evening hours, Hindu devotees worship Lord Ganesh, Goddess Lakshmi, God Dhanvantari. and Kubera (the treasurer of entire wealth of the universe) for a happy, healthy, and blissful life.