Dhanteras ushers in Diwali, India's celebrated festival of lights. Marking the first day of the five day Diwali festivities; it is a harbinger of good fortune. Dhanteras also known as Dhantrayodashi or Dhanwantari Triodashi falls on the auspicious thirteenth lunar day of Krishna Paksha in the Hindu month of Kartik (October/November). Dhan in Dhanteras stands for wealth and teras means the thirteenth. On Dhanteras the 'Owl' form of Goddess Laxmi is worshipped for prosperity and well being.
It is celebrated in honour of Dhanavantri, the physician of the gods and an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
Dhanteras is celebrated with joyous abandon all over India. particularly significant for the business community due to customary purchase of precious metals on this day.
Lakshmi-Puja is performed in the evening with tiny diyas of clay being lighted to ward off evil spirits. Bhajans or devotional songs are sung in praise of Goddess Laxmi and Naivedya of traditional sweets is offered to the Goddess. In villages cattle supposed to be incarnations of the Goddess, are adorned and worshipped by farmers as they form the main source of their income.
God Yama is worshipped on this day to herald prosperity and well being.
Colourful Rangoli welcomes the Goddess of wealth and prosperity in homes and offices decorated with great fanfare. Indicative of Goddess Laxmi's long-awaited arrival, small footprints are drawn with rice flour and vermilion powder all over the house. Lamps keep burning through the night.
In the new millennium, exchange of Dhanteras gifts is overly popular. The festival is also considered auspicious for setting up new business, commencing new projects, for housewarming, fixing wedding dates and buying cars.
The Significance of White:
The Hindu community awaits Dhanteras fervently as it heralds prosperity in the form of Goddess Lakshmi. The colour white is associated with the Goddess and advocated for auspicious reasons. In accordance with lifestyles of the new generation, platinum, the naturally white metal, was introduced in Hindu culture as an offering to Goddess Lakshmi.
Incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi
Emergence of Dhanavantri
According to a popular legend when the gods and demons churned the ocean for amrit or nectar, Dhanavantri,physician of the gods and an incarnation of Vishnu, emerged carrying a jar of elixir on Dhanteras.
Vishnu Rescued Lakshmi
Lord Vishnu, in his fifth incarnation as Vaman Avatara, rescued Lakshmi from the prison of King Bali, providing another reason for worshipping Ma Lakshmi on Diwali.
Krishna Killed Narakasura
On the eve of Diwali, Lord Krishna killed the demon King Narakasura and rescued 16,000 women from his captivity. To celebrate the triumph festivities were in full swing for two days including Diwali.
The Return of the Pandavas
The great epic 'Mahabharata' reveals that when Pandavas returned after 12 years of banishment, it was on a Kartik Amavasya night. The subjects adoring the Pandavas celebrated with joyous abandon, by lighting earthen lamps.
The Victory of Rama
Coronation of Vikramaditya
Vikramaditya, one of the greatest Hindu Kings, was coronated on Diwali, a chronologically significant historical event.
A very interesting story about Dhanteras reveals that once the sixteen year old son of King Hima was doomed to die by a snake bite on the fourth day of his marriage as per his horoscope. On that particular day his young wife did not allow him to sleep. She heaped all the ornaments, gold and silver coins at the entrance of her husband's chamber and lighted innumerable lamps all over the place; narrating stories and singing songs.
And as Sunday , 26th Oct was Pradosh or Lord Shiva's day also :----
Pradosh means dusk or evening time. This fast is observed in the evening twilight, and thus called Pradosh Vrata. It is kept on the 13th day of each lunar fortnight for propitiating Lord Shiva. With his blessings all desires are fulfilled and one attains spiritual enlightenment. Devotees who practice it with implicit faith and dedicated devotion are invariably delighted with joyous abandon.
It is said that on this day all gods and goddesses assemble at Mount Kailash to worship Lord Shiva. Deities descend from heaven to attend the propitiation, bestowing abundant wealth and comforts to the sadhaka or devotee; adding immensely to the sanctity of the worship.
If a shrine is not within reach, one can communicate with the Deity through visualization. The Vedas endorse that propitiating Lord Vishnu in the morning and Lord Shiva in the evening particularly during Pradosha is highly beneficial to the sadhaka; when dwadashi or the 12th tithi of the Krishna Paksha or Shukla Paksha ends before midnight.
Generally people observe Pradosha Vrata on every trayodashi tithi (13th lunar day falling in Krishna and Shukla Pakshas) in the evening or sandhya. (During or after sunset).
The Lord of trayodashi tithi is Kaama Deva whereas the Lord of the succeeding tithi, chaturdashi is Lord Shiva himself. The 14th day of the dark half (Krishna Paksha) of every month – is called Shivaratri. The one in the month of Magh (Feb-Mar) is called Mahashivaratri, being supreme most.
The other instance of Shiva's Greatness: Mahadev Shiva, drank the halahala or poison which surfaced from ksirasagara or the milky ocean when it was churned by the devas and danavas (gods and demons), and thus saved the worlds from destruction.
All the four purushaarthas, dharma or good deeds, artha or wealth, kama or material pleasures and moksha or liberation are attained by a person who keeps vratas, constructs temple and so on.
The Pradosh Vrata is for all humans. The basic guidelines to be followed on this day are:
One may observe this vrata for 24, 14 or 12 years. At the end of this period one must do the udyapana, a final rite for completion of the vow.
Five Types of Pradosh:
1. Nitya Pradosh: The evening on all days, between just 3 ghatis (72 minutes) between sunset and when stars are visible in the sky.
2. Paksha Pradosh: To be observed in the evening or sandhya of Shukla Paksha Chaturthi (4th Lunar day after New Moon) of every month.
3. Maasa Pradosh: During sandhya or the evening of trayodashi (13th Lunar day after full moon) in the Krishna Paksha fortnight of every month.
5. Pralaya Pradosh: The time when the entire universe is annihilated or merged with Lord Shiva. Pradosh Vrat is observed on every 13th lunar day after full and new Moon, by both the wife and husband desirous of being free from miseries or gaining material wealth. Bathing early in the morning, they adulate Lord Shiva, and fast during the day. Soon after a bath in the evening, the two propitiate Lord Shiva and his consort Pravati with offerings of flowers and Naivedyams; then taking their meal. This Vrat is brought to a close at the end of a year.
Guidelines of the Pradosh Vrata:
Bathing an hour before sunset the worshipper performs a preliminary worship of Lord Shiva along with all other members of the divine family, Pravati, Ganesha, Skanda and Nandi.
This is followed by a chanting of the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra 108 times.
AUM TRYAMBAKAM, YAJAAMAHE, SUGANDHIM PUSTIVARDHANAM, URVAARUKAMIVA, BANDHANAAN, MRITYOR, MUKSHEEYA, MAAMRITAAT.
Finally the sacred kalasha water is taken, sacred ash applied to the forehead and the sacred water, used to bathe the Lord, is drunk as prashad.
A gift of a pot, a cloth and an image of god are gifted to a Brahmin or the poor for completion of the sacred rites. Even a single bel leaf offered to the Lord at this exclusively auspicious moment equals a hundred Mahapujas.
Reciting Aum Namah Shivaya with dedicated devotion 108 times during this period will enable the devotees to attain tremendous mental peace and material benefits.
It is customary to have radiant lights festooning the shrine during Pradosh. To light even a single diya, at this time is greatly meritorious and beneficial both materially and spiritually.
The most favorable moment for direct contact with God; by fasting and praying on Pradosh, we minimise bodily functions and easily envision the lord residing in our heart.
Legend of the Pradosh Vrata
The Skanda Purana relates how Sandilya Muni prescribed this Vrata to a Brahmin lady. She came to the sage with two boys, her son, Suchivrata, and an orphan prince, Dharmagupta, whose father was slain in battle and the kingdom overrun by enemies.
Acting upon the advice of the sage, the woman and the boys performed the Pradosh Vrata with dedicated devotion. After four months, on the eighth Pradosha, Suchivrata attained a pot of nectar and drank the divine ambrosia. On the other hand, Prince Dharmagupta married a celestial princess and, as ordered by Lord Siva, he triumphed over his enemies with the kingdom being restored to him. Soon after, Dharmagupta attained the Lord's supreme abode.