If there was one festival that is universally loved and most looked forward to it has to be Diwali. The festival of lights is symbolic in more ways than one and most importantly signifies the importance of light, wellbeing and happiness. The five day festivities see many celebrations and traditions and one of the most important days is Dhanteras also called Dhantrayodashi or Dhanvantri Jayanti (the God of Ayurveda). Dhana means wealth and Teras means thirteenth day and this festival falls in the month of Kartik on the 13th lunar day of Krishna Paksha or dark fortnight and is usually celebrated two days before Diwali. This year Dhanteras falls on 17th October.
The legend behind celebrating Dhanteras is traced to King Hima’s 16 year old son who was forecasted to die through a snake bite on the fourth day of his marriage. His wife devised a plan to save her husband’s life by collecting her ornaments and gold and silver coins which she placed in a heap at the door and lit lamps and started reciting stories to keep her husband awake. When the God of Death, Yama arrived in the form of a serpent, his eyes dazzled at the lights and jewellery and he could not enter the room and later he immersed himself in the stories the wife was narrating. Soon after it was morning and Yama had to return empty handed. Likewise when the ocean was churned by Gods and demons to get nectar, Dhanvantari a form of Lord Vishnu emerged out with the same and this same day is celebrated as the Dhanteras.
Ode to Wealth
Dhanteras is associated with wealth and prosperity and on this day it is considered auspicious to buy precious metals especially gold and silver. Naturally, jewellery stores are in overdrive mode to entice customers with offers that are hard to resist. This day is an important one for people who do business community and all the new purchases are dedicated to both Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Kubera, who are associated with wealth. Markets are abuzz with hectic shopping and crowds mainly throng jewellery stores in the hope of getting a slice of wealth that hopefully multiplies through the year. In fact the lure of gold is quite high among the average Indian and the festival becomes one more excuse to buy gold. In fact to keep the appeal of the festival current, there are trading in gold bonds as an option too! Incidentally, the commodity exchange, MCX is all set to launch trading in gold options on the day of Dhanteras and the Bombay Stock Exchange will extend the trading session for gold exchange traded funds (ETF) and Sovereign Gold Bond as well on the day!
Celebrating the day
Naturally Dhanteras is a day when prayers are most important and usually a puja is performed in the evening where lamps are lit and placed at the entrance to welcome goddess Lakshmi. Parts of South India also have a tradition where cattle are worshiped by the farmers. In Maharashtra people lightly pound dry coriander seeds (Dhane in Marathi) with jaggery and offers it to Goddess Lakshmi. Some other parts of India see the worship of seven cereals (urad, moong, wheat, gram, barley, masoor) during the puja. Bhajans dedicated to the Goddess are also sung and the idea is to dispel any kind of darkness by lighting up the entire home. However the true spirit lies in the fact that this is the day when people make an effort to declutter their lives and usher in a sense of positivity that is bound to hold them in good stead all year round.
This story appeared in Deccan Herald’s special supplement on Oct 14, 2017 here: