Dhanteras Trayodashi, the thirteen day of the waning Moon of the months of Kartik (October/Nov), marks the beginning of one of the most important Festivals in the Vedic tradition: : Diwali. Today is called Dhanteras, a day of great importance to the trading class. In fact during Dhanteras people flock to the jewelers and buy gold or silver jewelry or utensils to venerate the occasion of Dhanteras. Many wear new clothes and wear jewelry as they light the first lamp of Diwali.
The name Dhanteras comes from the word ‘Dhan’ literally means wealth and ‘Tera’ comes from the date 13th.
Diwali or Deepawali “Festival of Lights and Wealth” (marks the astronomical turn of season from Autumn to Winter) is celebrated over five days and peaks on day three , New Moon, with Laskhmi puja, offerings to the Goddess of Abundance.
Through the mythology narrated in the Puranas we will try to understand why this Festival of Light comes at this time of year.
There are various stories that revolve around Dhanteras. The most important are briefly outlined here.
Samudra Manthan. The churning of the Milky Ocean.
One is the Churning of the milky ocean of which i have already spoken in my article about Shivaratri.
Two opponent groups, demigods and asura / demons were joining forces in order to reveal the famous Kumb ( pot) of Nectar of immortality / Amrita from the bottom of the Milky Ocean.
From the famous churning ( called Samudra Manthan) a number of different powerful objects/ animals and divine beings emerged . First came a lethal poison, which to the relief of everyone, Shiva drank. Other celestial beings, like a wish granting cow, horse and nymphs appeared.
From the midst of the sea, seated on a Lotus and wearing a garland, emerged Goddess Lakshmi, Goddess of Proseprity, Beauty and Harmony and at last emerged Dhanvantari, God of Ayurveda that came about to grant humanity with the precious gift of Health carrying ambrosia or the nectar in a jar. So, according to this mythological tale, the word Dhanteras comes from the name Dhanavantri, the divine doctor.
Legend of Yamadeepan. The light that blinded Yama.
Another legend is called Yamadeepan that revolves around the story of King Hima’s sixteen-year-old son. It was prophesied that a snake would bite him on the fourth day of his marriage. On that particular day, his wife kept him awake the whole night to prevent him from the snakebite.
She laid out all her ornaments and gold and silver coins at the entrance of her bedroom. She lightened the room with lamps and did not allow her husband to leave the room. She sang the whole night and narrated stories to keep him awake.When Lord Yama, the God of Death, arrived in the guise of a serpent his eyes were blinded by the dazzle of the coins and the lights. He sat on the heap of coin, listened to the songs, and left peacefully the next morning. Thus, the young wife was successful in saving his husband from the jaws of death. Dhanteras is also known as Yamadeepan and the lamps are kept burning the whole night to keep away darkness from the homes.
Both legends refer to the victory of Light over darkness.
In the churning of the Ocean Vishnu stepped in, tricked the demons, and gave the nectar to the demigods. So cosmic order was restored.
In the Yamadeepan again the wife of the young son of king Hima managed to use her brightness to win over the claws of Lord Yama.
In the symbolism of these two stories there is indeed some deeper meaning. At this time of year Winter Solstice is only 6 weeks away and the peak of Darkness is fast approaching. In the past the colder months would have been a time for intelligent management of resources as those in lack of food and shelter would not make it through the harshness of this season. In turn those with good resources ( a plentiful harvest) would give thanks for that abundance that would let them navigate safely through Winter.
Darkness is often associated with fear and death, release and end of a cycle. Thus the intelligent use of the Light of Awareness is the compass that we can use to transition safely form Darkness to Light and from Winter to Spring season.
In terms of Modern times Sadhana/Yoga practices, we are not bound any longer to fear of perishing in Winter season. We live in times of incredible Abundance. In fact we have so much that we cannot possibly understand scarcity. We shamelessly throw away food, we have forgotten what it is to give thanks and we have all turned a bit arrogant and disconnected from the generosity of Nature.
Therefore Gratitude , inner bowing and giving thanks for our present condition, is of paramount importance.
The jewels emerging from the churning of the ocean of Consciousness are Dhanvantari (that represents Health of Mind/ Body and Soul) and Maha Lakshmi ( that embodies Abundance).
All humans look for Happiness and Abundance.
But how can we reach a steady state of Joy and fulfilment in our overly complicated daily lives?
Abundance is primarily found in our Health: mental health , emotional health and physical health.
There is no gold that will be able to fill an empty heart, a confused mind or a sick body.
True richness is the inner Ligth that can guide us through difficulties and harshness.
True Abundance emerges from the understanding of what is truly important:
– family , friends, relationships will enrich us on the emotional level.
– guides, teachers, saints and sages will guide us and illumine our intellect.
– a healthy lifestyle , grounded in simplicity and gratefulness will give us a strong and vibrant body.
A grateful attitude will make you realise how Lakshmi, the goddess of Abundance, is probably already gracing your life with all of the above. And so is Dhanvantari, the divine doctor.
Abundance is the very fabric of creation.
Practice Gratefulness in your daily Sadhana , and especially at the close of the year.
By bowing to the richness that is all around us we allow this Intelligent force to flow in our life.
May your intuitive heart open to receive this enriching Light.
Happy Dhanteras, “Festival of Wealth” and Happy Diwali “Festival go Lights”.
Namaskar to pacify the Ahamkara and cultivate a Grateful Heart!