Dhanteras festival falls in the month of Kartik (October-November) on the thirteenth day of the dark fortnight and is celebrated two days before the festival of lights, Diwali. In Dhanteras, Lakshmi and Kuber, the gods of wealth are worshiped to seek prosperity and welfare. Dhan literally means wealth and Tera comes from the date 13.
Alpana or Rangolis are drawn near doors including footprints with rice flour and vermilion powder. Aartis and devotional hymns are sung praising the Goddess and is also offered sweets and fruits. People flock to jewelers to buy gold or silver jewelry or utensils to venerate the occasion of Dhanteras.
In the evening people light up the small clay diyas, which are kept lit all night. Some people keep fast until sunset and break it ceremoniously with pure and sweet dishes. In northern and western India, the devotees stand for hours in a queue to offer their prayers to Lakshmi and Kuber. In Maharashtra, a cilantro-based jaggery and Naivedya or Prasad is offered.
Another popular tradition is consecrating cows on this day with a bath and ceremonial ornaments. In the villages, it is customary to worship the calves as for farmers, they are the main form of income. In South India, the cows are adorned and worshiped. Gujarat observes the Vaak Baras, where vaak means Vaani. This is also known as Govatsa dwadashi and Guru Dwadashi. On this day the cows and calves are worshiped.
Vaagh also means Tiger in Gujarati. Therefore, it is celebrated by references to Tiger. In some Dhodia villages, some men turn into Vaagh who chases the cattle. Finally, at the end of the sport, the villagers eat food together at a common place and celebrate. This is also known as Govatsa dwadashi and Guru Dwadashi. On this day the cows and calves are worshiped. People start their account books with new ledger after Labh Pancham.
Many wear new clothes and jewelry as they light the first lamp of Diwali.