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How to celebrate Dhanteras? - What to do on Dhanteras?

Dhanteras or Dhantrayodashi is observed two days before Diwali in North India, Maharashtra and Gujarat. The day is dedicated to Dhanvantari, the physician of the gods. Lakshmi Puja in the evening is an important ritual on the day. There is no straightforward answer to what to do on Dhanteras or how to observe Dhanteras, as the rituals and celebrations vary from region to region. Here is a general idea of what people do on Dhanteras.

Diwali Shopping is Completed
Dhanteras is observed differently by different communities. It is considered to be highly auspicious day to do new purchases and investment. Most people complete the Diwali shopping on the day. The first lamps of Diwali are lit on the day. People hang up paper lanterns with festoons and sends out the message of the arrival of Diwali.

Get-Together of All Family Members
Dhanteras is not all about material wealth it is also a time to develop spiritual wealth and family bonding. All family members arrive at ancestral home on the day. Grandparents and Parents wait for the day as sons, daughters and grandchildren arrive from distant places.

Water in Copper Kalash with Tulsi Leaves
In some regions, people fill copper kalash, or small pot, with water. Tulsi leaves are immersed in it. The water is given to family members and those present in morning and evening puja. 

Welcoming Goddess Lakshmi
Goddess Lakshmi is welcomed into the house on Dhanteras day in many regions in the evening. Rangoli is drawn on doorways and tiny footprints of Lakshmi are drawn in vermilion to symbolize her arrival. Devotional songs dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi are sung in the evening. Sweets are offered to the Goddess on the day.

Goddess Lakshmi Puja for Three Days
In some regions Goddess Lakshmi Puja is performed for three days – Dhanteras, Choti Diwali and Diwali. On the first day, Dhanteras day, all family members especially men and women bathe after applying fragrance, medicinal herbs or preparation and fragrant oils. Murti – painting or idol or picture – of Goddess Lakshmi is washed with water and worshipped for three days commencing from Dhanteras.

Buying Gold - Silver or Utensil
Dhanteras – Dhan means ‘wealth’ and theras indicates ‘the thirteenth day’. In most places in North India, Gujarat and Maharashtra, Dhanteras is an auspicious day to buy precious metals like gold, platinum and silver. Women shop for gold or silver or at least one or two new utensils on the day. Precious metal bought on the day is seen as a sign of good luck.

Earthen Diyas in the Evening
Earthen diyas are lit on Dhanteras day in the evening to banish the evil spirits.

Coriander seeds and Jaggery
Lightly pound dry coriander seeds with jaggery is offered as Prasad to gods during puja on the day. It is then distributed among family members, neighbors and friends. This mixture is mainly prepared in Maharashtra.

Worship of Domestic Animals
Cows are worshipped on the day in many regions. They are given proper washing. Fresh food items are provide. It is believed that cows usher in prosperity.

A Rare Fasting in Some Regions For Ancestors
In some regions, people wake up early in the morning, take bathe, and wear new clothes. Fasting is observed from sunrise to sunset and is broken after lighting an earthen-lamp in front of the door of the house.

Floating of Lamps
Deepdaan is an important ritual observed on Dhanteras day in many regions. Lamps are lit in the name of all family members and ancestors and they are floated in a river or pond.

Dhanteras is also observed as Yamadeepdaan by many communities. It is lighting of 13 lamps dedicated to Lord Yama. You can get details on how to perform Yam Deep Daan Puja here.

Dhanvantri Puja
The day is also dedicated to Dhanvantri, the divine physician, and therefore special Dhanvantari Puja is held on the day by some communities.

Collecting Water for Holy Bath or Abhyanga Snan on Narak Chaturdashi
On the Dhanteras day, the main water containers in homes are scrubbed and given a shiny and neat look. They are then decorated with marigold flowers or garland and vermilion paste is applied on it.  Water stored in the container symbolically represents water from Holy Ganga. This water is used to take bath on the next day morning – on Narak Chaturdashi day. This early morning bathing is known as Abhyanga Snan.

Lakshmi Puja in Western Parts of India (Very Limited)
Lakshmi Puja is done on the Dhanteras day by many communities. It must be noted here that majority of people observe Lakshmi Puja on Diwali day. Lakshmi Puja on Dhanteras is more popular in Gujarat. A simple guide on how to observe Lakshmi Puja can be found here.

Preparation of Panchamrit
In some regions, panchamrit is prepared on the day. It is a mixture of equal parts of honey, sugar, ghee, yogurt and milk. It is consumed and shared after offering to Gods.

Sweets made from suji like sheera or halwa are offered to Gods as Prasad. Almonds, other nuts, milk and sugar are also offered as Prasad. In some regions sweet preparation of banana or carrots are also made.