DHANTERAS, the day for celebrating wealth, as the word'Dhan' literally means wealth and 'Tera' comes from the date 13th (trayodashi in Sanskrit and Teras in Hindi). On Dhanteras, Lakshmi - the Goddess of wealth - is worshiped to provide prosperity and well being. On this day, business premises are renovated and decorated.
In the evening, the lamp is lit and Dhan-Lakshmi is welcomed into the house. Alpana orRangoli designs are drawn on pathways including the goddess' footprints to mark the arrival of Lakshmi (To indicate her long-awaited arrival, small footprints are drawn with rice flour and vermilion powder all over the houses).
Aartis or devotional hymns are sung eulogizing Goddess Lakshmi and sweets and fruits are offered to her. People flock to the jewellers and buy gold or silver jewellery or utensils to venerate the occasion of Dhanteras. Many wear new clothes and wear jewellery as they light the first lamp of Diwali while some engage in a game of gambling.
"Naivedya" of traditional sweets is offered to the Goddess. There is a peculiar custom in Maharashtra to lightly pound dry coriander seeds(Dhane in Marathi for Dhanatrayodashi) with jaggery and offer as Naivedya.
In villages, cattle are adorned and worshiped by farmers as they form the main source of their income. In south India, cows are offered, particularly, a special veneration because they are thought of as incarnations of Goddess Lakshmi.
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.
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 day 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.
According to another popular legend, when the Gods and demons churned the ocean for Amrita 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.
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