What is Dhanteras and why do Indians buy gold to celebrate?

The first day of Diwali is considered auspicious to buy gold and is associated with good luck and positivity

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Every year, jewellery purchases across Asia soar in the run-up to Diwali, a holiday period when buying gold is considered auspicious. In India, where the festival of lights is widely celebrated, employees often receive bonuses and special gifts, while sales of gold coins and bars surge ahead of Dhanteras, the first day of Diwali.

A predominantly Hindu festival, although Jains and Sikhs also celebrate, buying jewellery for Diwali is meant to appease Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity.

Scroll through the gallery above for pictures of Diwali 2021 preparations across India.

According to data from the World Gold Council, Indians bought 194.3 tonnes of gold in 2019’s October-December festival period, and 186.2 tonnes during the same period in 2020, with sales affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Symbolising the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness, Diwali usually falls in the early autumn, coinciding with the new moon, deemed the darkest night of the Hindu lunar calendar. This is why dates change every year.

This year, celebrations will begin on Tuesday with Dhanteras, with the "main Diwali" falling on the third day, on Thursday, an official holiday in many countries.

What is Dhanteras?

Customers shopping at a jewellery store in Ahmedabad, India. Reuters

A combination of the words "dhan", which means wealth in Sanskrit, and "teras", which means 13, the day falls on the 13th day of the Hindu lunar calendar, marking the first day of the five-day Diwali festival. Hindus consider it an auspicious day to make new purchases, especially jewellery, as well as new utensils, appliances and even vehicles.

Homes are cleansed for the occasion and Dhanvantari, the god of health and Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of medicine, is worshipped.

Lamps lit in homes are meant to welcome Lakshmi, and jewellery purchases are dedicated to the goddess, to usher in more wealth. Dhanteras is also associated with good luck and positivity.

Not only the bling

While sales of jewellery spike during Diwali, the week-long celebration is also traditionally considered the biggest shopping period of the year in India. And this year, much of the buying is happening online.

Online sales during the festival should leap 42 per cent to $9.2 billion this season, according to an estimate by Forrester Research.

Both Amazon and Flipkart, the Indian shopping portal owned by Walmart, expect to break Diwali records, helped by consumers getting more comfortable with online shopping during the pandemic.

“This is a big Diwali for online retail,” Manish Tiwary, vice president of Amazon India, told Bloomberg.

How to wish somebody on Dhanteras

While Diwali is a celebration of all things bright and new, it is also marked by prayers of hopes for a bright future.

Apart from the succinct "Happy Dhanteras" wishes and messages usually focus on new beginnings and blessings, with emphasis on wealth and prosperity, often summoning Lakshmi.

Variations include "May goddess Lakshmi shower you [and your family] with blessings" as well as "I hope this festival brings you more good fortune and prosperity."

If sending wishes to business associates or clients, wishing them "success" in their endeavour will bode well.

Or you can just say "Shubh Dhanteras", which literally translates to "Auspicious Dhanteras".

Updated: November 02, 2021, 8:11 AM