Illustration by DV Gorrick
1:30 min. read
Medicine, through the eyes of the divine
Dhanvantari is the Hindu God of medicine and an avatar of Vishnu (one of Hindu religion’s main deities). He appears in the Puranas (ancient Hindu texts) as the god of Ayurveda. He is usually depicted with four arms holding the pot of Amrita (the divine nectar of immortality), a leech (traditionally used for blood-letting), and, sometimes, a scripture.
Legend has it that Dhanvantari emerged from the Ocean of Milk (one of the oceans from the origins of Hindu cosmology) with the pot of Amrita. The pot was then stolen, but Vishnu foretold that Dhanvantari would reappear to teach The Science of Ayurveda to humans. The King Dirghatamas of Kashi prayed to Dhanvantari and asked him to grant him a son. The King asked the god to have him born as human as his own son, and Dhanvantari acceded. This is how Dhanvantari eventually became King and taught Ayurveda to the Sages and Rishis and was passed down through oral tradition. Dhanvantari’s teachings are preserved in Agni Purana, one of the eighteenth major Puranas.
His birthday is celebrated every year on Dhanteras (the first day that marks the coming of Diwali), two days before Diwali, or the Hindu Festival of Lights. Dhanteras is also known as National Ayurveda Day in India and is a celebration that Ayurveda practitioners have observed worldwide.
There are several Mantras (or sacred utterances) attributed to Dhanvantari and are claimed to be very powerful for healing.
Through the popularity that Ayurveda has been gaining extensively, Hinduism philosophy has also been brought to light outside India. And with it, the names and celebrations of many deities. Although Hinduism’s initial belief is that there is only one energy without form or name, there are many representations of this higher power in Hindu deities’ great pantheon.
As an Ayurvedic practitioner, you may not observe all Hindu celebrations. Still, you should learn about its history and rejoice in the depth and beauty of its traditions, for this is only one of multiple gifts that Ayurveda has given to the world. Remember that during this year´s preparations for Diwali, whether you participate or not, the most important thing is that you feel amazing in your own skin.
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