Dhanteras (Dhantryaodashi)

Autumn is the most favourite seasons of Indians. This is the time when the summer is over and they get relief from the scorching heat. It is the time to enjoy the fruits of all the labour work put into producing agricultural products. Besides the harvest and the pleasant atmosphere, autumn also brings with it the ranges of festivals that are special for Indians. Among those festivals, Dhanteras is one that falls on the eve of Deewali. It is also called as 'Dhantrayodashi' or 'Dhanvantari Triodasai.' It is usually dedicated to Goddess Laxmi, but there are few other legends that tells the importance of this festival from a different angle.

The thirteenth day of the Krishna Paksha of the Asvin month is reserved for the celebration of Dhanteras. This day generally occurs in the month of October or November. It is a flagship festival since it marks the beginning of five most-awaited festivals of the year. First Dhanteras, then Narak Chaturdashi (Choti Diwali), Diwali, Govardhan Puja, and the Bhai Dooj or Bhaiya Dhoj. Like all the festivals that are celebrated in India, Dhanteras too has some mythological connection with it.

Dhantryaodashi Festival

At the mythological age, Lord Dhanvantri was the healer of all physical ailments. He was known as the father of Ayurveda. In this favourable and fortunate day, He appeared with a pot of amrit (nectar) in his hand. It was believed that whoever drink a sip of nectar from that pot will lead a healthy life and the person will suffer no medical problems throughout his/her life. Hence, this day is also celebrated for receiving the gift of good health and longer life.

Legend of Dhanteras:

Since Lord Dhanvantari brought the divine drink and medical science in the form of Ayurveda to the people, he instigated healthy and prosperity in their lives. They were able to sustain all kinds of hardship necessary to meet the ends. Besides good health, Dhantryaodashi is also known as the festival of lights. There is another interesting story about the importance of lights on this day.

The story starts with King Hema. When his queen gave birth to a baby boy, there was no limit to his happiness. But after celebrating the arrival of the baby, he also got a shock of his life. The jolt came through a horoscope which states that his son would die on the fourth day of his marriage. Hearing the news of son's death is a horrifying for any father. However, since marriage was a customary and there was also a need of an heir to take forward the legacy, he gets his son married in spite of knowing what is destined. When his daughter-in-law comes to know about the prediction, she takes up the challenge of saving her husband and proving the horoscope wrong.

On the day when her husband is supposed to die, she lit up the entire room with candles and diyas from inside out. After the lighting, she places down all her jewelry made of gold and silver on the door from where the death was destined to enter. As the time of the death was midnight or early morning, she decides to keep her husband awake by reciting mantras, singing religious songs and telling stories. When Yamraj turns himself into a snake and tries to enter the room, he finds it difficult to get in because of the jewelry heaped at the door. Also, he could not see clearly due to the excess light that keeps shining in his eyes. He then decides to wait till the morning and sit at the door listening to the story narrated by the princess and enjoying the songs. This way, the entire night passes away and the snake turns back in the morning without killing the prince. This shows how with the determination, devotion and true love a wife can send back even the lord of death, Yamraj. Therefore, lighting candles and diyas are customary during Dhanteras and Diwali

Dhanteras Celebration:

This is the time to welcome harvest, health and prosperity. People start the celebration by dusting and coloring their houses. Even offices and shops are decorated. Women prepare decorative designs of various shapes and objects likes flowers, pot, and diyas with rangoli (sawdust that comes in various colours). They draw the footprints which symbolize the footprint of Goddess Laxmi. It feels as though Maa Laxmi is entering into the house. Traditional lamps, lanterns, candles and diyas are lighted outside and inside the house. The extra lights help in warding off evil spirits. The doors are kept open for the most part of the day and late till the night. Most people who can afford also purchase gold, silver and household utensils. However, the most important thing they don't forget to purchase is the broom. Pujas are performed on the right muhurat. Many even finalize their date of marriage because of the sanctity of the day and easy remembrance.

Doctors who practice Ayurveda celebrate Dhanteras in a unique way. They clean up their clinics, and hospitals. They call pandit or bhatji to perform puja and homan on this day. It is also considered favourable for the sick to worship the lord of medicine on this day. The lighting of lamps and candles is to respect Yamraj and keep the death away from falling on any member of the house.