The festivities of Diwali have just begun. These 5 days of celebrations come with great excitement and joy. People start prepping a month before for this festival. They paint their houses, bring in new decoration pieces, put up lights, buy new clothes, plan and buy gifts and whatnot. People often plan the Diwali Break and book tickets for flights and train months in advance just to be with their family on Diwali. As the festival approaches, people clean their houses, lay on the new bedcovers and sofa covers, make lots of lots of sweets and just wear the best of their new outfits.
Though we all know the age-old basic story behind the celebration of Diwali about Shri Ram returning to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile, have you ever wondered why do we celebrate the other 4 days? What’s their importance and why are certain rituals followed on these festivals? If you want to know the reasons for these celebrations, look no further because for the next 5 days we are going to tell you about the importance of all these days.
When is it celebrated?
The celebration of Diwali starts with Dhanteras or Dhanatrayodashi. It is celebrated on the thirteenth lunar day of Krishna Paksha (dark fortnight) in the Hindu calendar month of Kartik.
An ancient legend ascribes the occasion to an interesting story about the 16-year-old son of King Hima. His horoscope predicted his death by snake-bite on the fourth day of his marriage. On that particular day, his newly-wed wife did not allow him to sleep. She laid out all her ornaments and many gold and silver coins in a heap at the entrance of the sleeping chamber and lit many lamps.
Then she narrated stories and sang songs to keep her husband from falling the next day, when Yama, the god of Death arrived at the prince’s doorstep in the guise of a serpent, his eyes were dazzled and blinded by the brilliance of the lamps and the jewelry. Yama could not enter the Prince’s chamber, so he climbed on top of the heap of gold coins and sat there the entire night listening to the stories and songs. In the morning, he silently went away.
Thus, the young prince was saved from the clutches of death by the cleverness of his new bride, and the day came to be celebrated as Dhanteras.
On the day of Dhantrayodashi, Goddess Lakshmi came out from the ocean of milk during the churning of the Sea. Hence, Goddess Lakshmi is worshiped on the day of Trayodashi.
According to a popular legend, when the devas and asuras performed the Samudra Manthan for Amrita, Dhanvantari (the physician of the Gods and an incarnation of Vishnu) emerged carrying a jar of the elixir on the day of Dhanteras.
Modern Day Importance
Dhanvantari (the Hindu god of medicine and an avatar of Lord Vishnu), who is also worshipped on the occasion of Dhanteras, is considered the God of Ayurveda who imparted the wisdom of Ayurveda for the betterment of mankind and to help rid it of the suffering of disease. The Indian ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy, announced its decision to observe Dhanteras, as the “National Ayurveda Day”, which was first observed on 28 October 2016.
Dhanteras is the worship of Lord Dhanvantari. Lord Dhanvantari, according to Hindu Mythology, emerged during Samudra Manthan, holding a Kalasha full of Amrit in one hand and the sacred text about Ayurveda in the other hand. He is considered to be the Vaidya of Gods.
The festival is celebrated as Lakshmi Puja which is performed in the evenings when Diyas are lit. Bhajans, devotional songs in praise of Goddess Lakshmi, are sung and Naivedhya of traditional sweets is offered to the Goddess. A peculiar custom in Maharashtra exists where people lightly pound dried coriander seeds with jaggery and offer the mixture as Naivedhya.
On Dhanteras, homes that have not yet been cleaned in preparation for Diwali are thoroughly cleaned and whitewashed, and Lord Dhanvantari, the god of health and Ayurveda, is worshiped in the evening. The main entrance is decorated with colorful lanterns, holiday lights and traditional motifs of Rangoli designs that are made to welcome the Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity. To indicate her long-awaited arrival, small footprints are drawn with rice flour and vermilion powder all over the house. On the night of Dhanteras, diyas are ritually kept burning all through the night in honor of Lakshmi and Dhanvantari.
Hindus consider this an extremely auspicious day for making new purchases, especially of gold or silver articles and new utensils. It is believed that new “Dhan” or some item made of precious metal is a sign of good luck. In modern times, Dhanteras has come to be known as the most auspicious occasion for buying gold, silver, and other metals, especially kitchenware. The day also sees heavy purchases of appliances and automobiles.
On this night, the lights are set out every night both in the sky lamps and as offerings at the base of a Tulsi plant and also in the form of diyas, which are placed in front of the doorways of homes. This light is an offering to Yama, the Host of Death, to avert untimely death during the time of the Diwali festival. This day is a celebration aimed at increasing wealth and prosperity. Dhanteras engages themes of cleansing, renewal, and the securing of auspiciousness as embodied by Lakshmi.
In the villages, cattle are adorned and worshiped by farmers as their main source of income.
In South India (especially Tamil Nadu), Brahmin women make ‘Marundhu’ which translates as ‘medicine’ on the eve of Naraka Chaturdasi that is Dhanvantri Trayodashi. The Marundhu is offered during the prayer and eaten in the early morning on Naraka Chaturdasi before sunrise. In fact, many families hand over the recipes of Marundhu to their daughters and daughters-in-law. The Marundhu is consumed to eliminate the imbalance of tridoshas in the body.
By Lipakshi Seedhar (Feature Writer)