The festival of Dhanteras falls in the month of Kartik (Oct-Nov) on the thirteenth day of the dark fortnight. This auspicious day is celebrated two days before the festival of lights, Diwali.

How to Celebrate Dhanteras

On Dhanteras, Lakshmi – the Goddess of wealth – is worshiped to provide prosperity and well being. It is also the day for celebrating wealth, as the word ‘Dhan’ literally means wealth and ‘Tera’ comes from the date 13th. In the evening, the lamp is lit and Dhan-Lakshmi is welcomed into the house. Alpana or Rangoli designs are drawn on pathways including the goddess’ footprints to mark the arrival of Lakshmi. Aartis or devotional hymns are sung eulogizing Goddess Lakshmi and sweets and fruits are offered to her. Hindus also worship Lord Kuber as the treasurer of wealth and bestower of riches, along with Goddess Lakshmi on Dhanteras. This custom of worshiping Lakshmi and Kuber together is in prospect of doubling the benefits of such prayers. People flock to the jewelers and buy gold or silver jewelry or utensils to venerate the occasion of Dhanteras. Many wear new clothes and wear jewelry as they light the first lamp of Diwali while some engage in a game of gambling.

Diwali Shopping is Completed

Dhanteras is observed differently by different communities. It is considered to be highly auspicious day to do new purchases and investment. Most people complete the Diwali shopping on the day. The first lamps of Diwali are lit on the day. People hang up paper lanterns with festoons and sends out the message of the arrival of Diwali.

Get-Together of All Family Members

Dhanteras is not all about material wealth it is also a time to develop spiritual wealth and family bonding. All family members arrive at ancestral home on the day. Grand Parents and Parents wait for the day as sons, daughters and grand children arrive from distant places.

Welcoming Goddess Lakshmi

Goddess Lakshmi is welcomed into the house on Dhanteras day in many regions in the evening. Rangoli is drawn on doorways and tiny footprints of Lakshmi are drawn in vermilion to symbolize her arrival. Devotional songs dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi are sung in the evening. Sweets are offered to the Goddess on the day.

Goddess Lakshmi Puja for Three Days

In some regions Goddess Lakshmi Puja is performed for three days – Dhanteras, Choti Diwali and Diwali. On the first day, Dhanteras day, all family members especially men and women bathe after applying fragrance, medicinal herbs or preparation and fragrant oils. Murti – painting or idol or picture – of Goddess Lakshmi is washed with water and worshipped for three days commencing from Dhanteras.

Buying Gold – Silver or Utensil

Dhanteras – Dhan means ‘wealth’ and theras indicates ‘the thirteenth day’. In most places in North India, Gujarat and Maharashtra, Dhanteras is an auspicious day to buy precious metals like gold, platinum and silver. Women shop for gold or silver or at least one or two new utensils on the day. Precious metal bought on the day is seen as a sign of good luck.

Earthern Diyas in the Evening

Earthern diyas are lit on Dhanteras day in the evening to banish the evil spirits.

Legend behind the Dhanteras and Naraka Chaturdashi:

An ancient legend ascribes the occasion to an interesting story about the 16 year old son of King Hima. His horoscope predicted his death by snake-bite on the fourth day of his marriage. On that particular day, his newly-wed wife did not allow him to sleep. She laid out all her ornaments and lots of gold and silver coins in a heap at the entrance of the sleeping chamber and lit lamps all over the place.

Then she narrated stories and sang songs to keep her husband from falling asleep. The next day, when Yama, the god of Death, arrived at the prince’s doorstep in the guise of a Serpent, his eyes were dazzled and blinded by the brilliance of the lamps and the jewelry. Yam could not enter the Prince’s chamber, so he climbed on top of the heap of gold coins and sat there the entire night listening to the stories and songs. In the morning, he silently went away.

Thus, the young prince was saved from the clutches of death by the cleverness of his new bride, and the day came to be celebrated as Dhanteras. And the following days came to be called Naraka Chaturdashi (‘Naraka’ means hell and Chaturdashi means 14th). It is also know as ‘Yamadeepdaan’ as the ladies of the house light earthen lamps or ‘deep’ and these are kept burning throughout the night glorifying Yama, the god of Death. Since this is the night before Diwali, it is also called ‘Chhhoti Diwali’ or Diwali minor.

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