The festival of Diwali is actually comprised of five days of rituals in India. Given the varying time zones and the solar eclipse, there has been some confusion about what is happening and when. We begin the celebration of Diwali 2014 with the festival of Dhanteras. According to mypanchang.com, Dhanteras 2014 is on October 20 for North America, the West Indies, and South America. For Europe, India, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries east of Europe, Dhanteras 2014 is on October 21.
Vedic astrology, or Jyotish, is a lunar based system. The five day festival of Diwali begins on the 13th phase of the waning Moon in the Vedic month of Ashvina and ends on the second phase of the waxing Moon in the month of Kartika. The first day is known as Dhanteras or Dhana trayodashi and Lakshmi puja is performed. The word “dhana” means wealth, which is also connoted with the goddess Lakshmi. “Tera” means 13th, the phase of the Moon on Dhanteras. Another association of Dhanteras is with Dhanvantari, the Vedic physician of the Gods. Dhanteras is Lord Dhanvantari’s birthday. Dhanvantari holds the amrita, or the nectar of immortality. Dhanvantari and the amrita arose as gems from the samudra manthan, or the churning of the ocean of consciousness. He is the patron deity of Ayurveda. You can take a free quiz to determine the current balance of your doshas in Ayurveda.
I spoke with Vedamurti Vivek Shastri Godbole of Shri Krishna Yajurveda Pathashala regarding Dhanteras. What follows is his explanation of Dhanteras. Real dhana is health. You can pray for good health on this day. On Dhanteras we celebrate (vegetarian) food, particularly grains. You should have plenty of food in the kitchen on Dhanteras. Then you will have a lot of food throughout the year. Offer food to others on this day.
On Dhanteras 2014, worship grains and Lord Dhanavatari. You can perform a puja or havan (fire ceremony) to Dhanvantari. Pray to a photo of Dhanvantari. The mantra for Dhanvantari is: Om Dhanvanatarayae Namah. By repeating this mantra, you can attain good health. Particularly Ayurvedic practitioners or vaidyas (doctors) can worship Shri Dhanvantari in their clinics and their offices on Dhanteras 2014.
We also pray to Annapurna on Dhanteras. Annapurna is the goddess of food, cooking, and nourishment. Then you will have plenty of food and grains for the year. The Annapurna stotram is also recited on Dhanteras.
On the day before Dhanteras, we worship cows and baby calves. We can worship them as well anytime during Diwali. Cows give us milk and because of cows, our children are growing. The day after Dhanteras is Kali Chaudas or Naraka Chaturdashi. It falls on October 21 or 22, depending on your location.
Mypanchang.com has listed the muhurta (auspicious timing for Dhanteras 2014 puja for North America and times for India, Europe and the rest of the world. If you would like a Dhanteras or Diwali puja performed for you, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.