According to the Hindu calendar, Dhanteras is celebrated on the 13th day of the month Aswin. The month falls between October and November. ‘Dhan’ means wealth and the word ‘Dhanteras’ refers to the offering of prayers to the goddess of wealth, Laxmi, on the thirteenth days of the month.
Legend behind the celebration
According to mythology, King Hima was supposed to die on the 4th day after his wedding. His wife was desperate to save him and so she spread all the ornaments, coins and other items made of gold and silver at the entrance of this king’s room. She lit several lamps in the room and the dazzle of the light reflecting on the gold and silver items prevented Yama (god of death) from entering the room and taking her husband’s life. Thus King Hima was saved.
In the evening puja is offered to Dhanlaxmi. People draw alpanas or rangolis which are designs made of various colours. These are also used to draw the footprints of goddess Laxmi to mark her entrance into the house. Fruits and sweets are offered to the goddess and songs and hymns are sung praising the goddess.
As this occasion is about prosperity and wealth, people make it a point to purchase jewellery items or utensils for the house. It believed that this purchase brings good luck to the inmates of the household.
Ladies light ‘deep’ or earthen lamps throughout the night. It is believed that the lights ward off evil spirits just as Yama was kept away in the legend. In Maharashtra, Naivedya is being offered to goddess Laxmi on this occasion. Naivedya is a traditional sweet which is made by mixing jaggery and coriander seeds. In southern parts of India, cows are worshipped because they are regarded as the reincarnation of Laxmi. Cows are decorated with ornaments before being worshipped.