Dhanteras… the first day of Diwali!


Hindu festivals are mostly grounded in mythology. So is Deepavali. Diwali or Divali. Diwali is celebrated in the north over five days.

The first day of Diwali is called Dhanteras or Dhantryaodashi, (dhan- wealth and theras-thrayodashi-13). It is the thirteenth day of the waning lunar cycle in the month of Ashwin or Aippasi (Tamizh month). This day is important for businesses, traders and merchants in North India, Maharashtra and Gujerat.

The Story behind the festival

The legend associated with Dhanteras is about the sixteen-year-old son of King Hima who according to his horoscope, was doomed to die on the fourth day after his marriage by snakebite. On that day, his anxious young bride lit many lamps all over the place and did not allow her husband to sleep. She took out all her gold and precious  ornaments studded with precious gems, gold and silver coins and piled them in a heap at the entrance of her husband’s room. She told stories and sang songs throughout the night.

When Yama-the god of death, arrived as a serpent, the bright dazzle of the brilliant lights blinded his eyes and he could not enter the prince’s chamber. He climbed on to the heap of ornaments and coins and sat there the whole night listening to the melodious songs. In the morning he went away quietly and thus the intelligent wife had saved her husband from Yama’s noose. So Dhanteras is also known as ‘Yamadeepdaan’ day and lamps are left burning throughout the night as a form of reverence to Yama. It is also the night when people light lamps and float them down a river in

memory of their ancestors.

According to another legend, when the Gods and demons churned the milky ocean for Amrita or nectar that would give them immortality, Dhanvantari, the physician of the Gods and an

incarnation of Lord Vishnu emerged from the ocean carrying a kalash or pot of Amrith on the day of Dhanteras. Dhanvantarai is always depicted with the amrith kalash in his hand.

Getting ready

The day is celebrated by renovating and decorating houses and business premises. Entrances and doorways are decorated with colourful designs of Rangoli/kolams to welcome Lakshmi, Goddess of Wellbeing, Wealth and Prosperity. To help her find her way into the premises and to show how eagerly the family is awaiting her arrival, small footprints are drawn with rice flour and vermilion powder. Lamps are kept burning all through the night.


Prayers are offered to Goddess Lakshmi on Dhanteras in her form as an owl to provide prosperity

and well being. According to custom, precious metals like gold and silver are bought on this day.

In modern times many people buy a new cooking vessel as well for Annam (food) is also Lakshmi

representing well-being. The metals are an augury of good luck.

Diwali purchases are often done only on this day. The first lamps are lit and paper lanterns with festoons are strung up to announce the arrival of Diwali. All family members arrive at ancestral homes.


Lakshmi Puja is performed in the evening. Tiny earthen diyas are lit to drive away shadows of evil spirits. Bhajans/devotional songs in praise of Goddess Lakshmi are sung in chorus to welcome her.

Naivedya of traditional sweets like kheer/payasam, laddus, jalebis and pedas are offered to the Goddess.

In Maharashtra, dry coriander seeds are lightly pounded and mixed with jaggery and offered to Lakshmi.

In villages, cattle is adorned and worshiped by farmers, their main source of income. In south India, cows, considered to be an incarnation of Lakshmi, are decorated and offered special prasadam. In Brahmin families, the son-in-law is invited for a special feast of onion sambhar and potato roast!

Crackers, candles, diyas, clay figures of Lord Ganesha and Goddess Lakshmi, earthenware katoris and kulris (cups and tumblers), toys and other objects needed to celebrate Diwali are purchased on Dhanteras.

Business people buy and keep ready new account books for the Lakshmi puja that will be performed on Diwali, their New Year’s day. A girl child born on Dhanteras day is considered to be the arrival of Goddess Lakshmi into the home and considered very lucky in North India.

Dhanteras is not only about praying for material wealth and prosperity. It is a time to develop spiritual equanimity and family bonding.

About padmum

You could call me Dame Quixote! I tilt at windmills. I have an opinion on most matters. What I don't have, my husband Raju has in plenty. Writer and story teller, columnist and contributer of articles, blogs, poems, travelogues and essays to Chennai newspapers, national magazines and websites, I review and edit books for publishers and have specialized as a Culinary Editor and contributed content, edited and collaborated on Cookbooks. My other major interest used to be acting on Tamil and English stage, Indian cinema and TV. I am a wordsmith, a voracious reader, crossword buff and write about India's heritage, culture and traditions. I am interested in Vedanta nowadays. I am now an Armchair traveller/opinionator/busybody!
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1 Response to Dhanteras… the first day of Diwali!

  1. rajat k says:

    People believe buying Gold, Silver, Utesil or pen is auspicious in Dhanteras day. Prefer to buy the product in evening. Dhanteras is the starting of the diwali, a light Festival. The Diwali night we do Lakshmi puja who brings Wealth, Joy and peace in our family. Though we got tensed when we don’t see the prist not coming for puja although the solution is there if you have Cycle lakshmi Puja Pack which have everything from Puja vidhi to the Puja Mantra. So Lets enjoy the Diwali with Fire creackers and Lighting candle. Happy Diwali and Dhanteras to all.


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