Dhanteras, also known as “Dhanatrayodashi” or “Dhanvantari Trayodashi” falls in the month of Kartik on the 13th day of the dark fortnight. Dhanteras is the first day of the Indian Diwali and Nepalese Tihar Festival. This festival of wealth is celebrated two days before the festival of lights, Diwali. ‘Dhan’ literally, means wealth and ‘Tera’ comes from the date 13th.
On this auspicious day Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth is worshiped. The lamp is lit and Dhan-Lakshmi is welcomed into the house in the evening. Alpana or Rangoli designs are drawn on pathways including the goddess’ footprints to mark the arrival of Goddess Lakshmi. Aartis, Sweets, and fruits are offered to Goddess Lakshmi.
Hindus also worship Lord Kubera as the treasurer of wealth and bestower of riches, along with Goddess Lakshmi on Dhanteras. This custom of worshiping Lakshmi and Kubera together is in the prospect of doubling the benefits of such prayers.
People visit jewelers and buy gold or silver jewelry or utensils to venerate the occasion of Dhanteras. Many wear new jewelry as they light the first lamp of Diwali.
The Legend Behind the Dhanteras and Naraka Chaturdashi
There is 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. His newly-wed wife did not allow him to sleep on that particular day. 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. To stop her husband from falling asleep, she narrated many stories and sang songs all night.
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 mean 14th). It is also known 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 ‘Choti Diwali’ or Diwali minor.