Every year, two days before the Diwali festival of lights, India celebrates the birthday of God Dhanvantari. His birthday is celebrated not only by the practicing Ayurveda doctors, but also is celebrated as the National Day of Ayurveda.
Who is Dhanvantari?
According to the Indian mythology, Dhanvantari is worshiped as God of the Ayurveda medicine.
Dhanvantari helps the sick, weak and suffering people. It is believed that thanks to him on Earth came the valuable knowledge of Ayirveda medicine. The first surgeries are also associated with him, also the herbal treatment, healthy living with the help of balanced nutrition, treatment of mental illnesses and disorders. He is the guardian of the Universe, god of the traditional Ayurveda medicine and protector of the doctors practicing Ayurveda.
The believers worship passionately god Dhanvantari and they pray for healing and salvation from all evil, as the doctors pray to give them strength to make the proper diagnosis and to heal the sick people who trust in them.
The belief in the god of the Ayurveda medicine is so strong that, by entering the temple or praying before his statue, the believers repeat: „Whoever remembers the name of Dhanvantari will be free of all diseases” and they say mantras that sound like this:
„We pray to God, known as Dhanvantari, who holds the pot with the nectar of immortality. God Dhavantari eliminates all fears and diseases, because he is merciful and he is the guardian of the three worlds, as well as the god Vishnu who has the merci and power to heal the soul. We honor you.”
Legend of the heavenly Healer Dhanvantari?
According to the ancient mythological stories called the Puranas, Dhanvantari was born from the waters of the Milky Ocean.
The legend tells that in the beginning of the creation of the world the gods were bright, wise and immortal, and the demons obeyed them and didn’t cause problems. Because of the indignation of god Indra, however, everything has changed…
Once, Indra strolled comfortably on his elephant and passed the house of the hermit Durvasa Muni, who gave him a wreath of flowers.
Instead of accepting it with gratitude, Indra took it and placed it on the top of his elephant’s trunk. The strong fragrances of the flowers irritated the elephant and he threw the flowers on the ground and trampled it.
The hermit was very offended by the thoughtless action of Indra and in his anger he cursed all gods to lose their immortality.
The loss of the power of the gods was used by the demons who managed to take in their own hands the control of the Universe.
Sad because of the loss, the gods (Devi) gathered together and decided to offer the demons (Asuras) temporarily to unite their forces to break the Great Ocean of Milk and share all treasures that come out of it. Since in the Great Ocean of Milk was also the elixir of immortality Amrita that had the power to give eternal youth, the demons decided to accept the offer of the gods.
In order to break the milky ocean, they used the Mandara Mountain, which was used as a rod, and the snake Vasiku was used as a rope.
During the breakdown of the Milky Ocean, from the waters initially came out halahala (deadly poison), which only god Shiva could swallow without being poisoned. Shiva, of course, swallowed up all the poison, but it got stuck in his throat and its neck became blue. Since then he is called also „the one with the blue neck” (Nilakanta).
After the poison wasn’t dangerous anymore, many great objects and creatures started coming out of the ocean, such as the cow Kamadhenu who makes the wishes come true, Lakshmi – the goddess of happiness and prosperity, nymphs of the dawn, Varuni – goddess of wine, the White elephant Airavata, white divine horse Uchchaihshravas, Kaustubamani – the biggest and rarest diamond, and finally came out the god of medicine Dhanvantari.
He was very young, extremely handsome, with graceful gait, and his face was lit by light. He was dressed in interwoven with gold robe, he had shiny pearl earrings on his ears, his hands held healing herbs, leeches, shells and pot with the divine nectar Amrita-kalasha.
According to the interpreters of the legend, breaking of the Great milky ocean symbolizes the efforts that one makes to achieve self-realization. This requires awareness, control of desires, looking inside yourself, stick to abstention, even to asceticism.
The objects hold by the god of medicine Ayurveda Dhanvantari, symbolize the victory over illnesses, suction of negative energy, victory over the evil and the infinity of knowledge.
After Dhanvantari brought out the nectar of immortality, the asuras (demons) started arguing who will drink of it first. While arguing, god Vishnu took the form of a beautiful girl and outsmarted them by managing to take the nectar. Thus the devi (gods) gained back their power and defeated the asuras.
In the pot remained little of the elixir, and in order to protect the sacred drink, the gods hid it in a secret place, guided by poisonous snakes, and around the nectar burned eternal fire.
The bird Garuda, however, managed to overcome all obstacles and has stolen the elixir. On its way back, while flying above four places in India, a few drops of the priceless nectar dropped – in Jadyn Prayag, Allahabad, Nashik Hardivar and Nashik.
Nowadays, in these four places, every 12 years, there is a festival called Kumbh Mela, during which the believers bath in the waters of the rivers that are believed to have been formed from the sacred drops that have fallen from the stealing bird Garuda.
Anyone who seeks healing or forgiveness of sins believes that if he baths in the rivers during the festival, the god of the Ayurveda medicine will help him get back his health and achieve peace.
The Hindu people also believe that when needed, the DIVINE is embodied in god Dhanvantari, who returns to Earth in order to revive the Ayurvedic tradition and to relieve people from suffering.
Reincarnation of Dhanvantari on Earth
The reincarnation of the god of Ayurveda medicine Dhanvantari was predetermined before its birth in our world. According to the legends, god Indra saw the suffering of people and asked Dhanvantari to come down to Earth and share his Ayurveda knowledge with the people, so they won’t deviate from their true nature and karmic laws and be able to deal with the illnesses.
The heavenly healer agreed and was born in the sacred city Benares, in a royal family, called Divolda.
Even in very early childhood, Dhanvantari had a modest lifestyle. Later on he completely left the social life and had a hard, disciplined and ascetic life, that he postponed only to teach the wise men the knowledge that formed Ayurveda.
The Dhanvantari’s teaching was recorded by his students Му Sushruta, Pauskalavatoy, Aurabhoy in Agni Purana 279 – 289.
Basis of Ayurveda
Dhanvantari divided the medicine into eight branches, because he believed that thus people more easily will understand how to heal and overcome illnesses. His followers, also called dhanvantarii contributed to the „science of life”, by adding their own postulates and canons.
One of the best disciples of Dhanvantari wrote the treatise „Suśruta Saṃhitā”, which nowadays is considered as one of the most important treatises in Ayurveda. In this work Sursuta describes more than 1000 illnesses (including injuries, mental illnesses and diseases related to old age), nearly 70 mineral, 57 animal and 700 plant sources for healing of various diseases.
The ways to extract the curative properties of minerals and plants and the ways according to which they have to be applied are described in details. The treatise is also considered a textbook of anatomy and surgery, because it contains a description of more than 300 types of surgeries and over 120 surgical instruments.
As treatment methods are described the acupuncture, treatment with leeches and others, but what is most surprising is that the book describes in details the human anatomy and gives us explanation of the origin of diseases.
The knowledge provided by Dhanvantari, which was described and added by Sursuta had turned the treatise into a medical textbook of Ayurveda doctors for centuries.
Only a few years ago the modern medicine officially recognized that centuries ago the ayurvedic healers were able to perform complex surgeries using unique instruments. It turns out that thousands of years before our era, the Ayurveda practitioners were able to eliminate cataract, to make caesarean section, to make plastic surgeries in order to remove deformities of the body.
We mentioned that Dhanvantari divided the medicine into eight branches and each one he has described in details. Thanks to the knowledge given by the god of medicine Ayurveda, people have learned to heal not only the body but also their soul.
The eight branches of Ayurveda medicine
- Kayachicitsa – this branch refers to prevention, research, prognosis and search for a way to deal with diseases.
- Balachikitsa (pediatrics) – this branch deals with future mothers, prenatal and postnatal care. Care for the baby and the mother.
- Grahachikitsa (psychiatry) – this branch deals with the treatment of mental illnesses.
- Shalya Tantra (surgery) – the branch refers to all diseases that require surgical intervention (including plastic surgeries).
- Agada Tantra (toxicology) – the branch deal with the treatment of similar diseases by cleansing with herbs, minerals and other healing products.
- Uravanga Chikitsa (ears, nose, throat, eyes) – the branch deal with the treatment of diseases of all these organs. This happens in different ways depending on the disease – with therapies, surgical interventions or other.
- Rasayana (rejuvenation) – this branch deals with various rejuvenating therapies, encourages the healthy lifestyle, maintains good health.
- Wadzikarana (science of aphrodisiac) – this branch is directed towards increase of the sexual power and reproduction.
Principles and philosophy of Ayurveda
According to Ayurveda, everything in the Universe is interconnected. Our bodies are a microcosm and we are one with everything in the Universe. When the balance inside or outside of us is disturbed, then we feel bad mentally or spiritually.
As a science of life, Ayurveda assumes that everything in the Universe consists of 5 main elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether. The balance of these five elements maintains and guarantees the life of every being in the Universe.
The essence of these elements varies in every person and thus are formed the universal energies that regulate and influence the life and health of every individual. These energies are called doshas and the predominant one is determined since the birth of the person.
There are three main doshas – Kapha, Pitta and Vata and each one of them has its characteristics, according to which it can be determined by the ayurvedic practitioners. Depending on the predominant dosha the ayurveda specialist can find out the imbalance and prescribe the proper treatment.
Apart from the three doshas, however, every person has its own constitution type (prakriti). Prakriti remains unchanged during the entire life of the person, and it regulates his physical and mental abilities.
Having this knowledge given by the god of medicine Dhanvantari and his followers, Ayurveda aims to recover the balance of the energies in the body, to repair the connection between the body and mind, to restore the disturbed balance and harmony between human and Universe, human and society and human and his internal being.
Worshiping god Dhanvantari
In the Hindu religion god Dhanvantari is honored as one of the greatest deities because he has given people the priceless knowledge of the Ayurveda medicine.
The heavenly healer is most often portrayed as Vishnu with four hands, holding healing plants, leeches, pot of elixir and shell. (Sometimes the leeches can be replaced with the Ayurveda writ). He is dressed in beautiful golden – yellowish clothes, on his neck he has a wreath of fresh flowers and herbs.
Throughout India there are many temples devoted to Dhanvantari, which every day are overflowed by many followers.
Two of the largest temples are located in Southern India in the cities Kerala and Tamil Nadu, where Ayurveda is practiced the most.
During the Diwali, when the heavenly healer’s birthday is celebrated, in India (as elsewhere in the world where Ayurveda is practiced) on the stairs of the houses and on the ground are placed small gas lamps welcoming the existence of Dhanvantari on Earth an the victory of the good over evil.
Prayer to Dhanvantari
To the present day there is a tradition in India people to pray to Dhanvantari when they need to maintain their connection to the heavenly healer of all illnesses. The prayers that are being said are many but one of the most popular sounds like this:
„Greeting to Dhanvantari who holds with his four hands a shell, herbs, leeches and Amrita. In whose heart shines the most pure, most delicate, blessed light. This light shines around his head and around his lotus eyes. He who, only with one look destroys all illnesses like a huge forest fire”.