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HomeAyurveda HistoryShri Dhanvantari | Avatar of Vishnu | धन्वन्तरि | Dhanteras

Shri Dhanvantari | Avatar of Vishnu | धन्वन्तरि | Dhanteras

Dhanwantari, known as the Physician of the Gods, emerged at the end of the “Churning of the Ocean” with the sacred nectar of immortality, Amrit. He is considered an integral part of the origin of Ayurveda as he was instructed to bring knowledge to the human realm. In his incarnation as Divodasa, King of Kashi, he taught Ayurveda to sages and spread the teachings received from Lord Indra. He was particularly skilled in Shalya Chikitsa (surgery) and Sushruta was one of his famous disciples.

Dhanwantari is also credited with dividing Ayurveda into eight categories, including

  • Shalya
  • Shalakya
  • Kaya Chikitsa
  • Bhutavidya
  • Kaumarabhritya
  • Agada Tantra
  • Rasayana Tantra, and
  • Vajikarana TTantra.

What is Meaning of Dhanvantri?

“The word ‘Dhanus’ is only a reference, indicating the science of surgery. The one who has attained mastery of it is Dhanvantari. The word ‘Dhanvan’ means ‘desert’. There is a verse in the Vedas that states, ‘Dhanvan iva prapaasi’, meaning ‘O Lord! You are like the oasis in the desert of worldly existence. Thus, Dhanvantari, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, holding the pot of nectar in his hand, is like an oasis in the desert of worldly existence.”

It is believed that when the ocean was churned by the Gods and Demons (Sagar Manthan) in search of the elixir of life (Amrit), Dhanvantari came out of it holding a bowl of nectar in his hands.

Dhanwantri and Ayurveda

Lord Dhanvantari is Considered as Father of Ayurveda, known as the Physician of the gods, and an expert surgeon. In Hinduism, he is revered and worshipped for his ability to provide sound healing. According to the ancient texts, in his incarnation as King Divodasa of Kashi, a group of sages, including the famous surgeon Susruta, approached him and requested to learn the science of Ayurveda. Dhanvantari explained that Brahma had composed Ayurveda even before the creation of mankind in the form of one of the Upangasof the Atharvavedain 100,000 verses arranged in 1,000 chapters, which would be difficult for mortals to learn in their short life spans. In response to the sages’ request, Dhanvantari recast Brahma’s Ayurveda into 8 divisions: Shalya, Shalakya, Kayachikitsa, Bhutavidya, Kaumarabhrtya, Agadatantra, Rasayanatantra, Vajikaranatantraand began teaching using the method of Pratyaksa (perception), Agama (authoritative scripture), Anumana (inference) and Upamana (analogy).

Dhanvantari is considered the god of Ayurveda and is believed to have established the practice of Ayurveda. According to the Charaka Samhita, the knowledge of Ayurveda is eternal and is revealed in each of the cycles of creation of the universe, and Lord Vishnu himself is believed to incarnate as Dhanvantari to reestablish the tradition of Ayurveda in the world to help relieve some of humanity’s suffering.

Lord Dhanvantari is admired as the father of Ayurveda, as he is believed to be the first divine being to impart knowledge of the practice to humans. Dhanvantari first appeared during the Samudra Manthan also called Amrit Manthan, (Churning of Sea), where he delivered Amrit, or The Divine nectar, to the Demigods. The churning of the ocean of milk is a significant episode in Indian History, symbolizing the spiritual journey of achieving self-realization through mental concentration, sense withdrawal, desire control, and ascetic practices. This event is celebrated in India every twelve years during the Kumbha Mela festival. The story of Dhanvantari and the churning of the ocean of milk is found in Srimad Bhagavatam (Bhagvat Purana).

Indra, the leader of the demigods, was out riding on his elephant when he came across the Rishi Durvasa Muni. Durvasa offered Indra a special garland that had been blessed by Sri Laxmi (Goddess of Abundance). However, Indra accepted the garland carelessly and placed it on the trunk of his elephant, who tossed it to the ground. Durvasa Muni was deeply offended by this display of disrespect and in anger cursed Indra and all the demigods to lose their strength, energy, and fortune immediately.

Taking advantage of this situation, the Asuras (demons) attacked the demigods, killing many of them and slowly gaining control of the universe. In need of help, Indra and the other demigods sought the advice of Brahma, who suggested they bring their predicament to Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu advised them to seek an alliance with the Asuras and Samudra Manthan (churn the ocean of milk(DugdhSagar)) together in search of the nectar of immortality. Despite their reluctance, the demigods agreed to the plan only because Lord Vishnu promised that he would ensure that they alone would obtain the nectar and regain their strength and power to defeat the demons.

The demigods and demons joined forces for Samundra Manthan (churn the ocean of milk) using the mountain Mandara as the churning rod and Vasuki, the serpent, as the churning cord. They threw various herbs into the ocean to aid in the process. The churning was extremely difficult and Lord Vishnu intervened by appearing in various forms to assist and ensure its success. He even assumed the form of Lord Vishnu himself and sat on top of the mountain to give energy to Indra and the other demigods.

The process of Samudra Manthan led to the emergence of HalaHal (a dangerous poison) Hala Hala. Lord Shiva, being the only one who could consume it without being harmed, swallowed it. However, his consort Parvati held his throat while he was swallowing to prevent the poison from reaching his stomach. This caused the HalaHal to remain in Lord Shiva’s throat and turned his neck blue due to its potency. Therefore, Lord Shiva is also known as Neelakantha, meaning blue-necked.

As the Samudra Manthan continued, Lord Dhanvantari emerged. He was described as being young, with a broad chest, bluish-black complexion, strong arms, and reddish eyes. He moved with the grace of a lion and was dressed in bright yellow clothes. His hair was oiled and he wore shining pearl earrings. He held a conch, leeches, healing herbs, a chakra (one of the divine weapons of Lord Vishnu), and the coveted pot of ambrosia. The asuras, who were greedy for all things, immediately recognized the container was full of nectar and snatched it from Lord Dhanvantari.

The fight started amongst Demons to Consume the Nector first, Snatching the Pot of Nector from one another. Considering this as an Opportunity Lord Vishnu took Mohini’s Avatar (A Extremely Beautiful woman) to trick demons into recovering  the Nector and distributing them only amongst the demigods

Again filled with greed and pride, the demons started quarreling about which of them would drink the nectar first, grabbing the pot from one another and behaving like thieves. Seeing how busy they were fighting with each other, Lord Vishnu didn’t miss the opportunity to trick them. He appeared as Mohini, a beautiful woman who fascinated the demons, recovered the nectar from them and distributed it only amongst the demigods. As soon as the demigods drank the nectar, they were rejuvenated with energy and defeated the demons. Afterward, they worshiped Lord Vishnu and Shri Laxmi before returning to their positions in the heavens.

According to Lord Vishnu’s prophecy, Lord Dhanvantari would come back to the world to teach Ayurveda. As predicted, Lord Dhanvantari did so after Lord Indra, seeing the suffering of humanity from pain and disease, begged him to come to the earth and teach the science of Ayurveda to human beings. It is said in Hindu scriptures that anyone who remembers the name of Dhanvantari can be freed from all illnesses. Lord Dhanvantari is revered all over India as the god of medicine and is worshiped by many. Lord Indra, after seeing humanity so afflicted by pain and disease, pleaded with Lord Dhanvantari to descend into the material world and teach Ayurveda to the human race. Dhanvantari, one of the many avatars (divine incarnations) of Lord Vishnu, is known as Adi-Dhanvantari.

King Dirghatamas of Kashi (Benares) was performing intense spiritual practices and offering them to Lord Dhanvantari in the hope that he would be pleased and grant him a son. Lord Dhanvantari was pleased with the King’s devotion and a son was born in the royal household of Kashi. The son, Lord Dhanvantari, taught Ayurveda orally to the sages and rishis who became his disciples. His teachings are recorded in the Agni Purana and through the teachings of his disciples such as Susruta, Pauskalavata, Aurabha, Vaitarana, and others.



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