Diwali is indeed the biggest and the incandescent festival of India. It is known as the festival of lights that’s marked by a four day celebration. Each day of this celebration has its own legend, tale and mythological history attached to it. The festival of Dhanteras also known as Dhantrayodashi, is the first big day of Diwali celebration. According to the Hindu calendar, Dhanteras falls on the thirteenth day of the dark fortnight in the month of Kartik (Oct-Nov) every year. The word ‘Dhan’ means wealth and ‘Tera’ stands for the date 13th.
This auspicious day is celebrated in honour of Dhanavantri, teacher of all physicians and an incarnation of Vishnu. Although over the years, Dhanteras has become associated more with wealth with people buying gold or silver jewellery and utensils on this day, Dhanvantari, who is a provider of good health rather than wealth has no association with either wealth or gold.
Significance Of Dhanteras
It is believed that on the day of Dhantrayodashi Goddess Lakshmi came out from the ocean of milk during the churning of the Sea. Hence, Goddess Lakshmi, along with Lord Kuber is worshiped on the day of Trayodashi.
Legends behind Dhanteras :
1. The Tale of King Hima
An ancient legend lay the occasion to an interesting story about the 16-year-old son of King Hima. His horoscope predicted his death on the fourth day of his marriage by snake-bite. On that day, his newly-wed wife did not allow him to sleep. She laid out all her jewellery 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 started narrating stories and sang songs to keep him up from falling asleep.
The next day, when Yama, the god of Death arrived in the guise of a snake at the prince’s doorstep, his eyes were dazzled and blinded by the brilliance of the lamps and the ornaments. He 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. Next 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.
The following day came to be called Naraka Chaturdashi (‘Naraka’ means hell and Chaturdashi means 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.
2. The Myth of Dhanavantri
According to another popular legend, when the Gods and demons churned the ocean for Amrit or nectar, Dhanvantari (the physician of the Gods and an incarnation of Vishnu) emerged carrying a jar of the elixir on the day of Dhanteras.