Come autumn with its lavish harvest and cool breezes, and for the people of India, its time to revel in various festivities. One of these festivals is the Dhanteras, also known as ‘Dhantrayodashi’ or ‘Dhanvantari Triodasi’ dedicated to the celebration of Goddess Laxmi. The festival, observed two days before Diwali is considered to herald the onset of the festival of lights. Hence, it can also be called Diwali eve. The festival usually comes every year in the thirteenth lunar day of Krishna Paksha in the Hindu month of Ashwin (October / November).
The Dhanteras has special significance to the business community of India, as they pray to Laxmi, the goddess of wealth for good fortune and success in life. Amongst the business community the jewelers specially celebrate this festival in the most pompous manner in the gold market areas.
The festival is marked by colorful decorations and renovations in individual houses and business places to welcome Laxmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. Women make colorful rangolis, alpana or floor patterns with small footprints of the goddess to symbolize her entry into their houses and business establishments. Some people light diyas, or traditional lamps throughout the night to ward off evil spirits. Doors remain open and neighbors or communities get together to share sweets and tiny lamps.
For additional luck and wealth, people also purchase gold and silver articles, new jewelry, car, and homes during this festival. Jewelers’ shops remain open late into the night and are crowded throughout the day. A few devouts even fix dates for marriages on this day.
In south India, on Dhanteras evening, preparations are made for a sacred bath to be taken early next day – on Narakchaturdashi. Water pots are cleaned, venerated, decorated with marigolds and mango leaves and filled with water. They are heated next morning and the hot water is used for ritualistic baths for the destruction of sin and ignorance. Traditional sweets like laddus, chaklis, sakkaparas, and badam halwa are very much a part of the revelry.
There is an interesting legend related to this festival. The sixteen year old son of a certain king Hima was predestined to die by a snake bite on the fourth day of his marriage. But on that day, his wife kept him awake and laid all her ornaments at the entrance and went on telling stories and singing songs. As it was destined, god of death ‘Yama’ disguised as a snake tried to enter the Prince’s chamber but was bedazzled by the lights of ornaments climbed the heap of ornaments and sat there listening the songs and next morning he went away without completing his mission. This day is hence celebrated as Yamandeepdaan and a diya is kept burning whole night on Dhanteras in the name of Yama.
Apart from fun, revelry and shopping, this festival is also the best occasion for buying and gifting exclusive Dhanteras gifts. Apart from gold and silver jewelry, other items like silver coins, pooja accessories, brass, metallic, fiber or wooden idols of gods and goddesses can be given out to near and dear ones. The business class forming a huge chunk of the expatriates from India sends Dhanteras gifts to India, to their acquaintances. Sending Dhanteras sweets to relatives and acquaintances is another way to celebrate this festival.
Nowadays, some financial institutions and corporate houses have also come up with the novel idea of corporate gifting to their employees and clients on the occasion of Dhanteras.