The festival of Diwali is actually comprised of five days of rituals in India. We begin the celebration of Diwali 2017 with Govatsa Dwadashi and then the festival of Dhanteras. According to mypanchang.com, Dhanteras 2017 is on October 16 for North America, the West Indies, and South America. For India, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, Dhanteras 2017 falls on October 17.
Vedic astrology, or Jyotish, is a lunar based system. The five day festival of Diwali begins on the 12th 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 second day is known as Dhanteras or Dhana trayodashi or Dhanvantari Jayanti. The word “dhana” means wealth, which is also connoted with the goddess Lakshmi, who is the goddess of prosperity. “Tera” means 13th, the phase of the Moon on Dhanteras. Thus, it is also common to worship your money, especially gold and silver coins, on Dhanteras, so that abundance will continue to come your way. Lakshmi puja is performed so the goddess will bless you.
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. Ayurveda is a sister science to Jyotish. You can take a free quiz to determine the current balance of your doshas in Ayurveda.
I spoke with Shri Vedamurti Vivekshastri Godbole of Shri Krishna Yajurveda Pathashala regarding 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 2017, worship grains and Lord Dhanavatari. You can perform a puja or havan (fire ceremony) to Dhanvantari. Pray to a photo of Dhanwantari. 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 2017. You can also chant to Dhanvantari.”
“We also pray to Annapurna on Dhanteras. Annapurna (alternately spelled Annapoorna) 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, or Govatsa Dwadashi, 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.”
After Dhanteras is Naraka Chaturdashi. Naraka Chaturdashi 2017 is on October 18 worldwide, with the exception of New Zealand and Fiji. It coincides with Diwali 2017 this year in North and South America.