Dhanteras or Dhan Teras marks the beginning of Diwali and is observed two days before Diwali. It is the thirteenth day of the dark fortnight of Kartik Month and is also known as Dhantra Yodashi. In 2011, Dhanteras is on October 24. The importance of Dhanteras is that a new utensil or gold or silver is bought for the house. The day is dedicated to Dhanavantri, the physician of the gods.
According to Hindu legend, when devas and asuras were churning the ocean for ‘amrit’ – the nectar of immortality – Dhanvantri emerged from the ocean with the jar of amrit on this day.
On this day, Hindus purchase gold, silver and other utensils. Many people begin the purchase for Diwali celebrations on this day. Crackers, candles, diyas, hatri, clays idols of Lord Ganesh and Goddess Lakshmi, earthen katoris, kulris, chaugaras, toys and whole lot of other items needed for Diwali are purchased on this day.
For those doing business, Dhanteras is the day when new account books are bought and kept ready for the Lakshmi puja on Diwali.
Interestingly, a girl child born on Dhanteras day is considered as the arrival of Goddess Lakshmi into the house and is considered lucky by certain communities in North India. When girls born on Dhanteras get married and leave for her husband’s home, she leaves her footprints on a plate covered with ‘kumkum’ (red powder used in Hindu puja), this is to ensure that Goddess Lakshmi does not leave the house.