Dhanteras or Dhanatrayodashi, is one of the most important Hindu religious festivals celebrated in India. ‘Dhan’ means wealth and ‘teras’ means the thirteenth day of the moon cycle. It falls on the thirteenth lunar day of Karthik Krishna Paksha in the Hindu month of Karthik. This year Dhanteras falls on October 28, two days before Diwali will be celebrated.
The day-long festival is considered an auspicious occasion to invest in gold and silver, and it is believed that doing so will bring prosperity, good luck and happiness in the family and its business ventures. People worship Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and Yama, the god of death, on this day. Lord Kubera, the god of wealth and assets, is also worshipped on this day along with Dhanawantri, the deity of health, medicine and the spirit of knowledge and an incarnation of Vishnu. By worshipping all these gods together, it’s – in a way – making sure one’s life, wealth, health and knowledge is all taken care of. And there is Ganesha, of course. The remover of all obstacles and the god who is always worshipped first, according to Hindu mythology.
Dhanteras also signifies the first day of the five-day-long Diwali celebrations. Interesting mythological stories tell us why Dhanteras is celebrated during Diwali. One such story is how King Hima’s son was predicted to die as a result of snake-bite on the fourth night of his marriage. On getting to know about this, the prince’s wife collected all the gold ornaments and gold coins in a heap. She then started singing songs and narrating stories to her husband to keep him from falling asleep. When Yamaraj came in the form of a serpent to take the prince’s life, he was blinded by the shine of the gold and sat enchanted listening to the melodious music and stories. Since then, this day is observed as Dhanteras and people light little diyas in the house throughout the night on this day to worship Yamaraj and ward off evils.
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And because on Dhanteras, people buy new clothes, utensils, home products and jewellery, it sets the festive tone for the next four-days, connecting it with the larger Diwali celebrations.
The following day came to be called Naraka Chaturdashi because, according to mythologies, Krishna and Kali killed Narakasura on this day, because of his ill-treatment of women. Since it is the night before Diwali, it is also called choti Diwali.
Lakshmi puja in the evening is an important part of the celebrations and devotees sing praises to goddess Lakshmi. Along with marigold flowers, cereals including wheat, urad dal, moong dal, gram, barley and masoor dal are used while performing puja. They draw intricate rangoli designs at the entrances of workplaces and houses welcoming goddess Lakshmi. Traditional sweets, called ‘naivedyam’ made by mixing dry coriander seeds with jaggery, cow’s milk and saffron are prepared on this day.