Commonly worshipped as the Hindu God of Medicine, the Master of Universal Knowledge, Physician of Gods and the Guardian Deity of Hospitals, DHANVANTARI is regarded as the original exponent of Indian medical tradition called AYURVEDA, the ‘eternal science of life.’ This tradition is now accepted as the oldest, most original and unbroken medical system of the world.
The First DHANVANTARI
Gods, repeatedly defeated and killed by their more powerful cousins, the demons, approached Lord VISHNU, seeking the boon of rejuvenation and the gift of immortality.
He then directed them to churn the primeval ocean in which were hidden the secrets of life and death.
The Gods sought the help of the demons, to whom they promised part of the spoil. With VASUKI as the rope and Mount MANDARA as the churning rod, they churned the ocean till it yielded several valuable things such as desire-yielding trees, a cow, the flying horse, the white elephant and nymphs, Moon and LAKSHMI. Finally came DHANVANTARI the divine physician, holding the pitcher of AMRITA the elixir of life that could bestow immortality.
DHANVANTARI has many myths and legends woven around him. Normally shown as clad in bright yellow silk, He is depicted with four hands- the upper pair of hands carrying sankha and chakra, and the lower pair, a (golden) leech (jalookaa-medical term Hirudo Medicinalis) and kamandalu (pitcher) (sometimes shown as a blood letting bowl). Sometimes he is shown with the text of the upaveda, AYURVEDA and medicinal herbs. Sometime he is shown with a tulasi-seed garland around his neck and a plant-wreath halo. His complexion is blue, making Him another incarnation of VISHNU. Interestingly, the leech was part of the doctor’s kit in olden days since it was used to suck out impure blood from the patient‘s body. Even now, extract from its saliva is used to prevent clotting.
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