Every year, delightful Navrathri (Nine days) dawns upon us with an array of festivities. Joyful smiles welcome the season with camaraderie, reunions, new clothes and jewelry. Spring cleaning of homes, preparations of delicious traditional sweets and savories go hand in hand during this time of the year. The fragrance of incense and the aroma of pure ghee (clarified butter) wafting through in the air, as goodies for the festivities get prepared, typically reminds us that celebrations have indeed begun.
Legendary stories from the Hindu mythology make our revelry more involving and real. The chronicles give us a sneak peek into the lives of our fore fathers, who have left behind cultural ethos of fundamental beliefs and attitudes, influencing customs and practices. The rituals are indeed fascinating and magical.
Interesting episodes form the composition of the deeply valued sacred narratives. Multiple stories are delicately interwoven to give us a broader understanding of Mankind’s connection to the divine. One such narration is that of DHANTERAS which is remarkable in that it celebrates Lord DHANVANTRI, the Vaidya (a practitioner of Ayurvedic medicine) of the Gods.
Divine physician, Lord DHANVANTRI is believed to have surfaced from the milky ocean carrying the sacred text of Ayurveda in the one hand, while his other hand carried the pot (Kalasha) of Amrit (nectar), an Ayurvedic herbal mix that would be the saving grace conferring immortality to the Gods during the churning of the ocean (Samudra Manthan). As the Asuras and the Gods fought for control over the Universe, the Gods were visibly losing their strengths having been cursed by sage Durvasa. Lord Dhanvantri’s pot of nectar is believed to have invigorated the Gods and soon the asuras were defeated in the battle.
According to Hindu calendar, DHANTERAS falls on the 13th lunar day of Krishna Paksha (dark fortnight) in the month of Ashwin. DHAN means wealth and TERAS means the13th day.
DHANTERAS follows the end of Dussherah, encouraging the idea of cleansing and renewal of home spaces to attract DHAN, ie, WEALTH. The essence of this ritual at the onset of DIWALI each year is to usher in goodwill, good health, prosperity and peace into the world. Investments in gold and silver are done on this auspicious day.
Deepams or Oil lamps are kept lit through the Dhanteras night, in reverence of Lord DHANVANTARI, the God of good health and Goddess Lakshmi of wealth. Colonies rejoice in the glow of numerous tiny lamps that decorate their homes, balconies and courtyards. Goddess Mahalaxmi, the Hindu Goddess of wealth and prosperity is ushered into homes by womenfolk devoutly portraying small footprints of the Goddess with rice flour and vermilion powder; yet again a tradition that is wholeheartedly followed even today.
Note: The Indian ministry of Ayurveda, YOGA & Naturopathy, Unani and Homeopathy announced its decision to observe Dhanteras day, as the "National Ayurveda Day", which was first observed on 28 October 2016.