Dhanteras is also known as “Dhanatrayodashi” or “Dhanvantari Trayodashi”. It is celebrated on the thirteenth lunar day of Krishna paksha (dark fortnight) in the Vikram Sambat Hindu Calendar month of Aaswayuja in the Amaavasyanta Luni-Solar Calendar. Dhanteras marks the first day of five-days-long Diwali Festival. On Dhanteras Goddess Lakshmi is worshiped to provide prosperity and well being. Dhanteras holds a lot more significance for the business community, although it is celebrated by one and all in our country.
Silver idols of Lakshmi and Ganesha ; Gold or silver ornaments; any utensil etc are purchased on this day, as a sign of good luck and for symbolic prosperity. The belief is that buying utensils or silver increases their count by 13 times.
As our Indian culture is rich with stories and legends behind every festival and occasion, so is Dhanteras. These legends are traditional stories which provide background of celebrating the festival of Dhanteras during Diwali festivities. These legends are passed through generation after generation and often mentioned in Hindu religious texts. The various legends behind Dhanteras are as follows:-
Story of Goddess Lakshmi and the Farmer
Once, Goddess Lakshmi insisted Lord Vishnu to accompany Him during one of his visits to the Earth. Lord Vishnu agreed but on the condition that she would not fall for earthly temptations and would not look in the south direction. Goddess Lakshmi agreed to this condition of Lord Vishnu.
However, during their visit to the Earth, Goddess Lakshmi got tempted to look in the south direction. When Goddess Lakshmi was unable to resist her urge to look in the south direction, she broke her pledge and started moving towards south. As soon as Goddess Lakshmi started moving in southern direction, she was mesmerized with the beauty of yellow mustard flowers and sugarcane fields on the Earth. Finally, the Goddess Lakshmi fell for the earthly temptations and decorated herself with the mustard flowers and started enjoying sugarcane juice.
When Lord Vishnu saw that Goddess Lakshmi has broken her pledge, he got annoyed and asked her to spend the next twelve years on the earth as a penance, serving at the field of the poor farmer who has cultivated mustard and sugarcane in the field.With the arrival of Goddess Lakshmi, the poor farmer became prosperous and wealthy overnight. Gradually, twelve years passed and the time for Goddess Lakshmi to return back to Vaikuntha had come.
When Lord Vishnu came to the Earth in disguise of an ordinary man to take Goddess Lakshmi back, the farmer refused to relieve Goddess Lakshmi from his services.When all attempts by Lord Vishnu failed and the farmer didn’t agree to relieve Goddess Lakshmi from his services, Goddess Lakshmi revealed her true identity to the farmer and told him that she could not stay any longer on the Earth and need to go back to Vaikuntha. However, Goddess Lakshmi promised the farmer that she would visit him every year during the night of Krishna Trayodashi before Diwali.
As the legend goes, the farmer started cleaning his home every year to welcome Goddess Lakshmi on the day of Krishna Trayodashi before Diwali. He also started lighting an earthen lamp full of Ghee throughout the night to welcome Goddess Lakshmi. These rituals to appease Goddess Lakshmi made the farmer rich and prosperous year after year.
People who came to know about this incident also started worshipping Goddess Lakshmi on the night of Krishna Trayodashi before Diwali. This is how devotees started worshipping Goddess Lakshmi along with Lord Kubera on the day of Dhanteras which is also known as Dhantrayodashi.
Story of son of King Hima & Lord Yama
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 jewellery. Yama 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.
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 lamp 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 ‘Chhoti Diwali’ or Minor Diwali.
Story of Samudra Manthan
The most popular legend behind the Dhanteras is the story of the Dhanvantri emerging from the sea during Samudra Manthan.
Lord Indra, the king of all devtaas, was once going on his elephant, when he encountered a sage named Durvasa, who gave him a garland, a prasad of Sri (fortune). Lord Indra accepted the garland, but to prove that he was an egoistic God, he made his elephant wear it. The elephant, knowing how egoistic Lord Indra really was flipped thel garland to the ground. This angered Durvasa and he cursed Lord Indra that Lakshmi (the Goddess of fortune, wealth, energy and bravery) will leave him because owning all this had gotten to his head and he had become very egoistic. Because of this curse, Goddess Lakshmi left Indra and this made him very unhappy.
On seeing this opportunity, the asuras, led by the demon King Bali, got into a battle and defeated Lord Indra and the devtaas. The devtaas had to give up their kingdom as a result and were left with no powers. Bali triumphed and became the rulers of the universe.
In hopes of finding a solution, the devtaas approached Lord Vishnu for help and the only way to solve this situation was to churn the Sea of Milk for Amrita – the nectar of immortality. On having the nectar, the Gods will be powerful again and will be able to defeat the demons. But because it was an enormous task, Lord Vishnu suggested they get the help of the demons but handle them diplomatically and he would make sure that it was only the gods who would obtain the nectar in the end.
The devtaas approached the asuras and told them about the nectar, and that they would share it equally with them. The demigods and the demons formed and alliance, Mountain Mandara was used as the churning rod, while Vasuki – the king of the serpents, was used as the churning rope. The demigods on one side and the demons on the other, holding onto both ends of Vasuki, churned the sea alternatively. This came to be known as Samudra Manthan.
During the manthan, a number of different things came out of the sea and were alternately claimed by the demigods and the demons. First came a lethal poison, which to the relief of everyone, Shiv drank. Other celestial beings, like a wish granting cow, horse, apsaras (fairy beings). After a lot of encouragement from Vishnu, thy continued churning, and suddenly, from the midst of the sea, seated on a Lotus and wearing a garland, emerged Goddess Lakshmi., and at last emerged Dhanvantri, carrying ambrosia or the nectar in a jar. The demigods and demons were arguing about who will get it first, and Vishnu stepped in, tricked the demons, and gave the nectar to the demigods. The purpose of the Manthan was solved, Goddess Lakshmi had reappeared, and the demigods were powerful and immortal again.
Team Readxp wishes all you readers a very happy Dhanteras!!