The auspicious day of Dhanteras is the first festival celebrated in the five-day festivities of Diwali. The term 'Dhanteras' has been derived from the amalgamation of two distinct words - 'Dhan' and 'Teras', which stand for 'Wealth' and 'Thirteenth', respectively. The festival is also known as Dhanvantari Trayodashi, since it is celebrated in the month of Kartik, on the thirteenth lunar day of Krishna Paksha, according to the Hindu calendar. This date usually falls in the month October or November, as per the Georgian Calendar. Thus, every year, this propitious day is celebrated two days before the grand festival of Deepavali. This festival holds deep rooted importance for the people related with trade and commerce, as this day is considered highly auspicious for new purchases and other commercial transactions.
Legends of Dhanteras
Like most other festivals celebrated in this enchanting country enveloped with mystic aura of spiritualism and faith, the origins of Dhanteras can also be traced back to various interesting and intriguing legends. According to one such Hindu mythological legend, it was on the day of Dhanteras, while the ocean was being churned by deities and demons to obtain ambrosia, Lord Dhanvantari appeared from the ocean. He is believed to be the god, physician and inventor of Ayurvedic medicine. Therefore, this day is celebrated to honor him and his humanitarian quest to heal all of mankind.
Whereas another remarkable legend related to this day narrates the tale of King Hima's son and his clever as well as dedicated wife. As per his son's horoscope, he was destined to die on the fourth day after his marriage due to a snake bite. This was known to his intelligent wife. Therefore, on the fourth day of their marriage, she did not let her husband catch a wink of sleep, instead piled numerous gold as well as silver ornaments and coins at the entrance of their bedroom. She then lit innumerable lamps around the room and started relating various thrilling stories along with soulful songs.
When deep in the night, Lord Yama (God of death) arrived at the room in the form of a snake, he was bedazzled and dazed by the extremely bright lights of the lamps reflected upon the various precious metals. Since he could not find his way into the room, he sat on the pile of ornaments the entire night charmed by various stories and songs orated by his would-be victim's wife. The night passed and he could not catch a whiff of his victim; hence, he left quietly. In this way, the intelligent wife saved her husband's life. Therefore, Dhanteras also came to be known as 'Yamadeepdaan'. Since then, it became a tradition to light a lamp and keep it aflame throughout the night on this day in order to appease Lord Yama.
Celebration of Dhanteras
On the day of Dhanteras, houses as well as workplaces are kept skip and spam. Many people get their premises renovated and repainted well in advance before the Diwali festivities begin. People decorate their houses with light bulbs and diyas and draw rangolis at the gateway of the houses. Besides this, people worship Lord Yamraj and light a 'Yama-Diya' at night so that the God of Death is always benevolent towards them. It is also considered highly auspicious to buy new utensils on this day, made of steel, copper etc.
People also invest in precious metals on this day and purchase gold and silver ornaments as well as coins as a mark of prosperity. Dhanteras is one of the most important festivals for the business community in western India. As per a peculiar custom, in Maharashtra, lightly pound dry coriander seeds, mixed with jaggery, are offered as Naivedya (food offered to gods). In rural regions, farmers worship their cattle since these animals are the main source of sustenance for them.