Dhanteras : Meaning and Significance
Dhanteras literally means ‘wealth’ (Dhan) and ’13th’ (tera) – that’s because it is a day celebrating wealth and is marked on the 13th day of the month of Kartik.
Traditionally Hindus buy gold and silver jewelry or utensils on Dhanteras as well as starting new business ventures, buying new clothes, wearing jewelry and lighting the first lamp of Diwali to keep away Yama, the God of Death. Sometimes men gamble too, hoping that their prayers to Lakshmi will be answered.
Dhanteras, sometimes called as Dhantrayodashi falls on the thirteenth day of the month of Ashwin. ‘Dhan’ in Hindi means wealth. This day is specially devoted to worship Goddess Lakshmi. While the preparations for Diwali celebrations are on their full swing, Dhanteras appends a new dimension to it.
There is a very interesting story that backs this Hindu festival. The son of King Hema was doomed to die as soon as he completes his sixteenth year. The king and queen wanted their son to enjoy all goodness of life and therefor he got him married. The fourth day of his marriage was that dreadful day.
His wife didn’t let him sleep and placed around him lots of gold & silver coins. The entry gate was also jammed with the same. Moreover big lamps were lightened all around the palace. She kept telling her husband various stories and sung songs so as to keep him awakened. As Yama, the God of death came, in the guise of a serpent, he couldn’t enter the room of the Prince as his eyes were bedazzled by the flash of gold and silver. Yama had to turn back to his world. This way the girl saved her husband’s life.
Because of the above told story, the day is also called ‘Yamadeepdaan’. Lamps are kept burning throughout the night in the honor of Yama. Another amazing legendary story associated with Dhanteras is that of ‘ Samudra Manthan ‘. When Lord Indra along with a team of demons churned the sea to nullify the curse of Sage Durvasa, Goddess Lakshmi emerged from the sea.
The rituals of Dhanteras incorporates elements of both the stories. On the one hand, people invite Goddess of Wealth, Lakshmi to their houses (symbolically) with different kinds of rituals. All the houses are beautified with lights and colors. Specially the entrance is decorated with torans on the doors and Rangoli on the floor.
Dhanteras is also considered a very auspicious day to buy gold, silver and household items, especially, utensils. The natives of Maharashtra follow a very unique custom. They mix dry coriander leaves with jaggery and offer it as Naivedya. With the kind of fervor Hindus show for Dhanteras, it certainly sets a mood for the celebrations of the festival of Diwali.
(Story from the Internet)
Personally, I consider this story far fetched to merit any consideration. However, most gold smiths would tell and retell this story in a hundred different ways, to make the gullible females visit their shops and invest in gold jewelry. My understanding of the significance of dhanteras is be charitable on this day, if not on any other day. Instead of buying gold and other fineries help the downtrodden. Perhaps, you will be more than compensated in your lives and bring joy to others as well as to yourselves.