Dhanvantari (Sanskrit: धन्वन्तरि) is an Avatar of Vishnu from the Hindu tradition. He appears in the Vedas and Puranas as the physician of the gods (devas), and the god of Ayurvedic medicine. It is common practice in Hinduism for worshipers to pray to Dhanvantari seeking his blessings for sound health for themselves and/or others, especially on Dhanteras.
Dhanvantari is depicted as Vishnu with four hands, holding Shankh , Sudarshan Chakra, Jalouka (Leech ) and a pot containing rejuvenating nectar called amrita in another. He is often shown with a leech in his hand rather than the scriptures. Bhagavapurana states that Dhanavantari emerged from the Ocean of Milk and appeared with the pot of nectar during the story of the Samudra or Sagar manthan whilst the ocean was being churned by the devas and asuras, using the Mandara mountain and the serpent Vasuki. The pot of Amrita was snatched by the Asuras or Demons, and after this event another avatar, Mohini, appears and takes the nectar back from the Asuras. It is also believed that Dhanvantari promulgated the medical science of Ayurveda
According to ancient Sanskrit work Vishnudharamottara Dhanvantari is a handsome individual and should usually be depicted with four hands, with one of them carrying Amrita, the ambrosia of god. Since he is considered Vishnu himself, two of his hands are depicted carrying regular Vishnu symbols the Chakra and the Conch.
His birthday is celebrated by the practitioners of Ayurveda every year, on Dhanteras, two days before Deepavali, the Hindu festival of Lights. In the Samudra manthan, Dhanvantari appears with Amrita, Shankha, Chakra and Jalauka (leech), in each of his four hands.
In Northern India no permanent temple is established for Dhanvantari. The reason is not yet known, but in Varanaseya Sanskrit Vishwavidyalaya, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh state, one statue of Dhanvantari is present in the University museum. Two statues are at the headquarters of the Central Council for Research in Ayurveda and Siddha at New Delhi. There is another statue inside the Ayurveda Maha Sammelan office, Dhanawantari Bhawan at New Delhi and one statue of Dhanvantari is present at Mohyal Ashram in Haridwar.
Vaid clan of Mohyal community is considered as Descendant of Dhanvantari. Bengali Vaid Brahmins of Dhanvantari gotra are also considered Dhanvantari's (or his incarnation Rishi Kakshivan's) descendants.
There are a few dedicated temples to Dhanvantari in South India especially in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, where Ayurvedic medicine is highly practised and patronised.
In Tamil Nadu, in the courtyard of Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple (Srirangam), there is a Dhanvantari shrine where daily worshiping of the deity is performed. In front of this temple there is an engraved stone believed to be from the 12th century. According to the writings on the stone, Garuda Vahana Bhattar, a great ayurvedic physician, established the statue inside the temple. As a 'Prasada' or 'Teertha', a herbal decoction is given to the visitors. The shrine is the oldest Dhanvantari shrine in the state. Another Dhanvantari shrine is found in the second precinct of Varadaraja Perumal Temple in Kanchipuram.
Another Dhanvantari temple in Tamil Nadu is located at The Ayurvedic Trust campus, Coimbatore.