Last night I cast a glance over at the local India market and wondered when they would be putting out the little clay lamps to be filled with ghee for Diwali. So, too, this morning, as I started out on my morning walk, I noticed the thin sliver of the waning crescent moon, golden and like a smile, and thought it significant. Lastly, I walked by my Hindu neighbor’s house and thought surely lights would grace his house soon. This morning I decided to look around on the internet and discovered that the festival of Diwali begins today, with Dhanteras (actual Diwali is on Wednesday, October 26).
The first day of Diwali is Dhanteras. It is also known as Dhantrayodashi or Dhanvantari Triodasi and sometimes spelled Dhan Teras. The name originates from Dhan which translates to Wealth. The day of Dhanteras is considered an auspicious day in Hinduism. It is a day for buying precious metals such as gold or silver for good luck, a day for worshiping Laxmi (the Goddess of wealth) with Lakshmi Pujas and diyas of clay. It is also the beginning of a new accounting year for many businesses.
Dhanteras falls on the 13th day of the Lunar month of Ashvin in the Hindu calendar on the dark fortnight (Krishna Paksha Ashvin). Houses and business properties are being decorated with Rangolis. Lamps are kept burning during the night in adoration to God Yama (the God of Death) who did not manage to take the life of King Hima. He was doomed to die by a snakebite according to the legend. That’s why this day is also called Yamadeepdaan.
Also, Dhanvantari (the physician of the Gods, an incarnation of Vishnu) is said to be born on this day during Samudra manthan, the churning of the ocean by the gods and demons. Hence people also celebrate his Birth Anniversary (Jayanti) on Dhanteras.
This is for me yet another marker that another year has gone by. It was nearly a year ago, during Diwali, that I took a workshop with Desirée Rumbaugh, incidentally a teacher of many of my teachers, in some ways one of my teacher’s teacher’s teacher. It was in many ways a watershed time for me in my practice and in my personal life.
I have always had an interest in Hinduism, which I am more free to explore as a Unitarian Universalist, and because so many of the old stories appear in the asanas and in the philosophy of yoga, this piques my curiosity even further. This festival aligns with natural cycles, and I have been more keenly attuned to them. Lastly, I like to converse with the religious “other” so to learn what may be learned from them.
May this day bring you prosperity and wealth.