Significance of Dhanvantari Jayanti

published on October 30, 2010

V.N. Gopalakrishnan

Dhanvantari Jayanthi, the birthday of Lord Dhanvantari is being observed on November 3. This day is known as Dhanteras (or Dhanwantari Triodasi) and is celebrated on the thirteenth day before Amavasya in the month of Ashwin. Lord Dhanwantari is believed to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Lord Dhanwantari is portrayed as Lord Vishnu with four hands, holding medical herbs, pot of ambrosia (Amrita), Shankha (Conch) and Chakra (one of the divine weapons of Lord Vishnu). Lord Dhanvantari is believed to have taken birth to protect all living beings from diseases, untimely death, as well as sorrorws. Dhanvantari Jayanti is also celebrated by the practitioners of Ayurveda, the Indian traditional medicine. Devotees visit Lord Dhanvantari temples to seek blessings.

Lord Dhanvantari is known as the father of Ayurveda which is believed to be a branch of the Vedas.  The Vedas are the treasure house of knowledge and Atharva Veda is one of the four Vedas that has a Sub-Veda known as Ayurveda, which represents the remedial measures to get rid of diseases. It is a stream of knowledge passed down from generation to generation, much in the same way as the Vedic literature and the Vedic scriptures. Dhanu symbolizes sorrows and hence Dhanvantari means the destroyer of sorrows.

According to Charaka Samhita, the knowledge of Ayurveda is eternal and is revealed in each of the cycles of creation of the universe. When needed, Lord Vishnu himself incarnates as Lord Dhanvantari and reestablishes the tradition of Ayurveda in the world to help relieve some of humanity’s sufferings. It is believed that the knowledge of Ayurveda was created by Brahma, the Creator, who gave it to Prajapati, and who passed it to Ashwini Kumars (the celestial twin physicians), who in turn passed it down to Indra, and so on.

People who worship Lord Dhanvantari by lighting the earthen lamps (Diya) on the threshold of their houses are believed to be blessed with good health and are protected against untimely death. It is believed that worshipping the Lord on Dhanvantari Jayanti would bless the people with good health.

According to legend, the gods and the demons sought the elixir Amrita (ambrosia) by churning the cosmic milky ocean (Samudra Manthan), and Dhanvantari rose out of the waters bearing a pot filled with the elixir. During the churning, many divine objects and beings emerged from the ocean, including Kamadhenu (the wish fulfilling cow), Ucchaisrava (the white horse), Airavata (the white elephant), Kaustubhamani (a rare diamond), Kalpavriksha (the wish fulfilling tree), and Laxmi, the Goddess of Wealth. The birthdays of the Goddess and Lord Dhanwantari are celebrated on the same day. The churning of the ocean of milk is a famous episode in the Puranas that represents the spiritual endeavor of a person to achieve self-realization through concentration of mind, withdrawal of the senses, and control of all desires, austerities and asceticism.

At the time of the churning the milky ocean, Lord Vishnu foretold that Lord Dhanvantari would appear in the world to teach men the science of Ayurveda. After Lord Indra, seeing humanity afflicted by pain and diseases, pleaded with Lord Dhanvantari to descend into the world and as the churning continued, Lord Dhanvantari appeared. He was strongly built, his chest was very broad and his complexion bluish black. He had strong arms, reddish eyes, and moved like a lion. He was clad in bright yellow, his curly hair was anointed with oil and he wore shining earrings made of pearl.

Lord Dhanvantari is worshipped all over India as the God of Medicine. Even today, two days before Diwali, the Festival of Lights, people remember and honor him. At dusk, a lamp pointing toward North by North-East is lit at the doorstep of the house to welcome Lord Dhanvantari for health and happiness in life. In South India, mainly in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, some temples are dedicated to Lord Dhanvantari. In these temples, Dhanvantari Jayanti is celebrated with utmost devotion. It is written in the scriptures that, “One who remembers the name of Dhanvantari can be released from all disease.”

(Author is a freelance journalist and Social Activist. He is Director, Indo-Gulf Consulting and can be contacted on [email protected])

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