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.