Dhanteras marks the first day of five-days-long Diwali Festival. Dhanteras Festival is also known as “Dhantrayodashi” or “Dhanwantari Triodasi” or “Dhanvantari Triodasi”, falls on the auspicious thirteenth lunar day of Krishna Paksha in the Hindu month of Ashwin / Kartik (October / November). On this day, Lord Dhanwantari came out of the ocean with Ayurvedic for mankind. This day marks the beginning of Diwali celebrations.
In the word Dhanteras, “Dhan” stands for wealth and “teras”, means thirteenth. Here thirteenth is meant to indicate the day 'Trayodashi', i.e. the thirteenth day of the month on which Dhanteras falls.
To mark the auspicious day, houses and business premises are cleaned. This day of Dhanteras is meant to be the day of renovating and decorating of the houses and the business premises. Some household and business renovate and decorate their house and offices. Entrances are made colorful with lovely traditional motifs of Rangoli designs to welcome the Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of Wealth and Prosperity.
To indicate her long-awaited arrival, small footprints are drawn with rice flour and vermilion powder all over the houses. Lamps are kept burning all through the nights. This day is also regarded to be auspicious for women to buy some gold or silver or some utensil. Buying some dhan or some form of precious metal on Dhanteras is regarded to be a sign of good luck. In the evening 'Lakshmi Puja' is performed and diyas are lighted to drive away the shadows of the evil spirit.
People bathe early in the morning and observe a fast, which is broken only after sunset with sweetmeats, puri and other delicacies. On this day at sunset, Hindus should bathe and offer a lighted diya - 'Yama-Diya' with Prasad (sweets offered at worship time) to Yamaraj, the Lord of Death and pray for prosperity, well being and protection from untimely death. This offering should be made near a Tulsi tree, the Holy Basil or any other sacred tree that one might have in their yard.
Dhanteras is celebrated with gusto and enthusiasm. "Lakshmi-Puja" is performed in the evenings when tiny diyas of clay are lighted to drive away the shadows of evil spirits. Bhajans or devotional songs- in praise of Goddess Lakshmi are sung and "Naivedya" of traditional sweets is offered to the Goddess. There is a peculiar custom in Maharashtra to lightly pound dry coriander seeds 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 cows are offered special veneration as they are supposed to be the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi and therefore they are adorned and worshiped on this day.
On Dhanteras, new kitchen utensils are bought and kept at the place of worship. Dhanteras is the festival of wealth. So it means inaugurations and new purchases of expensive possessions. Many Indians set up their businesses, launch new projects, hold housewarming, and buy cars or jewellery on this auspicious day. Most families spent this day by finishing their shopping for the festival.
On Dhanteras, the "Owl" form of the Goddess Lakshmi is worshiped to provide prosperity and well being. "Lakshmi-Puja" is performed in the evenings when tiny Diyas of clay are lighted to drive away the shadows of evil spirits. "Bhajans"-devotional songs- in praise of Goddess Lakshmi are also sung.
Dhanteras holds special significance for the Hindu community due to customary purchases of precious metals on this day. People purchase new utensil, silver or gold coin or some other precious metal as a sign of good luck on the day of Dhanteras. On Dhanteras Hindus consider it auspicious to purchase gold or silver articles or at least one or two new utensils. It is believed that new “Dhan” or some form of precious metal is a sign of good luck.
The day of Dhanteras has great importance for the mercantile community of Western India. In Maharashtra, there is a peculiar custom to lightly pound dry coriander seeds with jaggery and offer as Naivedya. In the rural areas the cultivators worship their cattle because they form the main source of their income and livelihood.