‘Dhan’ means wealth and ‘teras’ means the thirteenth day of the month. Dhanteras is a day better known for the worship of Goddess Lakshami, the goddess of Wealth. Why on this day and what is the significance of this day?
According to the myth of samudra manthan – the churning of the ocean, during the churning many things came out of the belly of the ocean. Among them, one of them was Goddess Lakshami. Since she came out of the ocean on this day, this day is considered to be the birth-anniversary of the goddess. Thus started the practice of worshipping the goddess on this day.
Dhanteras is also known as Dhanwantari Trayodashi. According to the same episode of samudra manthan, amongst other things, this day also saw the appearance of Lord Dhanvantari, the physician of the gods with Ayur Veda, a treatise on medicine for mankind. Dhanwantari Trayodashi is also a celebration of the gift of Ayur Veda to mankind given by Lord Dhanvantari.
Finally, another myth tells us why we light a lamp the whole night on the day of Dhanteras. According to the myth, it was destined that the son of King Hima would die of a snake bite in sleep, on the fourth day of his wedding. His wife who was very intelligent decided to defy destiny. On the fateful day, she collected all her wealth and jewellery and kept it at the entrance of her bedroom. She then lit up the whole room with numerous lamps and started singing songs and telling stories, non-stop to her husband.
In the middle of the night, Lord Yama came in the form of a snake to take away the life of King Hima’s son. But the son was not able to fall asleep due to the non-stop story telling of his wife. Also, the numerous lamps, blinded Yama and he could not enter the bedroom. Yama in the form of the snake then decided to wait, and went and sat on the heap of wealth and jewellery. The night passed and the hour passed off, thus not giving Yama a chance to take the life away. Yama had to leave, thus giving the King’s son a lease of life. Dhanteras is thus also known as a day of Yamadeep-daan a practice from then onwards, to keep a lighted lamp on for the whole night as an act of benevolence towards Yama, the god of death.
It is worth noting that Hinduism is probably the only religion or culture where wealth is worshiped and the same is not looked down upon as crass or overt-indulgence in materialism. To all who say that wealth is to be shunned, can take a back-seat for at least today, as it is only impractical to deny the importance of wealth. A day like this enables one to differentiate between the worship of wealth and the indulgence of wealth. So go ahead and pay your obeisance to the Goddess of Wealth who might be knocking at your doors!