Dhanteras is the festival which brings happiness, prosperity, good luck and dazzling lights in the form of five days long festivities. It is the day from which the worship and shopping begins for the coming festive days. According to the Indian astrology, Dhanteras is celebrated two days before the festival of Diwali. From this day, people start cleaning, and decorating their houses by making rangolis, using decorative lights, colourful papers, paper lanterns, candles, earthen lamps, etc. The significance of lights during this time is to keep the darkness away from the home and to give a warm welcome to Goddess Lakshmi who brings wealth, peace, prosperity and fame to the people. On Dhanteras, people buy new clothes, gold, silver, utensils, etc. and also exchange gifts with their near and dear ones.
This day holds great significance as according to the Indian mythology this was the day on which the son of King Hima was predicted to die. It was said, that he will die on the fourth day after his marriage by a snake bite. His wife, however, did not allow him to sleep on that day and started worshipping the God of Death, Lord Yama, by chanting the hymns, offering the prayers, along with the gold ornaments and silver coins. She also lit earthen lamps everywhere in the room. When Lord Yama came in the disguise of a serpent, to take the life of the prince, his eyes were blinded by the lighting of the lamps and he could not enter the room of the prince. The serpent spent the whole night by sitting on the heap of the ornaments and coins, and listened to the hymns and prayers offered by the wife of the prince. In the morning he quietly left the palace and in this way the life of the prince was saved. Thus, from that time this day came to be known as the day of Yamadeepdaan and this is why, for the whole night, the lamps are kept burning in the honour of Lord Yama.
Another legend related with this auspicious day says that when gods and demons, engaged in the cosmic battle for taking the amrita or the divine nectar, churned the ocean, there appeared the physician of the gods called Dhanvantari, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. He was holding a pot of this elixir and hence, the word Dhanteras emerged from the name of the divine physician, Dhanvantari.
In 2016, the festival of Dhanteras will be celebrated on 28th October, Friday.