Dhanteras, also known as Dantrayodashi is one of the most important Hindu religious festivals celebrated in India. It falls on the thirteenth lunar day of Krishna Paksha in the Hindu month of Karthik. Falling on October 28, this year, people pray for prosperity, good luck, health and happiness on this day.
Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, Yama the god of death, Kubera, the god of wealth and assets and Dhanawantri — the deity of health and knowledge, who is an incarnation of Vishnu, are remembered and prayed to on this day.
People consider this day highly auspicious to invest in gold and silver, and in addition, buy utensils for their home too. Dhanteras signifies the first day of the five-day Diwali celebrations. One of the most popular mythologies that tell us why Dhanteras is celebrated is about King Hima’s 16-year-old son. It was predicted that the prince will die on the fourth night of his marriage as a result of snake bite. To save his life, his wife collected all her gold ornaments and gold coins in a heap. She then proceeds to sing songs and narrate stories to her husband so he doesn’t fall asleep. When Yamaraj, the god of death, 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, in a tradition called Yamadeepdan, people light diyas on this day throughout the night to worship Yamaraj and ward off evil.
An important part of the day-long celebrations is Lakshmi puja in the evening, when devotees sing praises to goddess Lakshmi. Cereals including wheat, urad dal, moong dal, gram, barley and masoor dal are used along with marigold flowers while performing puja. Small footprints using vermillion and rice flour are made on the entrances to show the joyous arrival of the long-awaited Lakshmi.
In addition, they draw intricate rangoli designs at the entrances of workplaces and houses to welcome the goddess. Traditional sweets, called ‘naivedyam’ made by mixing dry coriander seeds with jaggery, cow’s milk and saffron are prepared on this day.
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Different regions celebrate the festival differently. For instance, in south India, people worship the cows, because they are believed to be the incarnation of goddess Lakshmi. In rural areas, farmers show reverence to their cattle because they are their main source of income.