Indian history has always placed the importance of health above wealth. Thus, the saying ‘health is wealth’. A festival called Dhanteras is solely dedicated to Lord Dhanvantari. Dhanteras or Dhanatrayodashi is celebrated as the first day of Diwali. Lord Dhanvantari is believed to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Lord Dhanvantari is worshipped to seek good health. 

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Bhagavata Purana mentions that Lord Dhanvantari manifested during the Samudra Mathan, also known as Sager Manthan, along with a pot of Amrit or the nectar of immortality. Samudra Manthan can be roughly translated to the Churning of the Ocean bed. The time of Lord Dhanvantari’s appearance is recorded as Karthik Krishna Trayodashi, commonly known as Dhanteras. It is also believed that Lord Vishnu appeared in this avatar to provide mankind with the knowledge of Ayurveda and medicines. Thus, Lord Dhanvantari is also known as the god of Ayurveda or medicines in the Hindu Scriptures.

Lord Dhanvantari is depicted as a divine form with four hands. One hand holds the Shankh or Conch shell, and the second hand is depicted with a Chakra. Lord Dhanvantari has the knowledge of Aushadhi or medicines in his third hand, and the fourth hand is depicted with the pot of Amrit or the nectar of immortality. 

Lord Vishnu mentioned that Lord Dhanvantari would take birth on Earth to teach humankind the science of Ayurveda. Several years later, the King of Kashi, King Dirghatamas performed severe austerities to appease Lord Dhanvantari. Lord Dhanvantari appeared in front of the King and asked him to ask for a boon. King Dirghatamas requested Lord Dhanvantari to take birth on Earth as his son. 

Lord Dhanvantari would later take birth on Earth as King Dirghatamas’s son and was named Divodasa. The advent of Divodasa is mentioned in the Vayu Purana and Brahmanda Purana. Divodasa would later go on to become the King of Kashi. Lord Dhanvantari would teach the knowledge of Ayurveda and medicines to the Sages or Rishis. The Sages recorded the teachings of Lord Dhanvantari, and the instructions are mentioned in the Agni Purana and various other scriptures.

One of Lord Dhanvantari’s disciples was Sage Susruta, also known as the world’s first surgeon. Sage Sushrutha recorded the teachings of Lord Dhanvantari around 600 B.C, and the teachings recorded by Sage Sushrutha are known as ‘Susruta Samhita.’ Lord Dhanvantari is known to have many disciples. 

Lord Dhanvantari is the part of many interesting stories mentioned in the ancient Hindu Literature. According to one such story, Lord Dhanvantari decided to visit a forest near the Himalayas along with one of his students.  As Lord Dhanvantari was walking, a poisonous snake appeared from the forest floor and tried to bite Lord Dhanvantari. Lord Dhanvantariknew how to control snakes. Thus, Lord Dhanvantari used his knowledge to take control of the sakes and left it aside. Lord Dhanvantari started walking forward, but his student, unfortunately, decided to kill the snake. 

This incident angered the King of serpents, Lord Vasuki. and ordered all the snakes to go and kill all of Lord Dhanvantari’s disciples. The snakes killed all of Lord Dhanvantari’s students. Looking at this, Lord Dhanvantari chanted a few mantras and brought all his disciples back to life. The mantras were so powerful that all the snakes were left without venom; after seeing this, Lord Vasuki prayed to Goddess Manushya Devi, who is also the sister of Lord Sheshnag. Manushya Devi is revered as a mighty goddess of serpents. Manushya Devi immediately brought back the venom of all the snakes. This incident tipped off a fierce battle of mantras between Lord Dhanvantari and Manushya Devi.  Lord Dhanvantari was the bearer of an immense amount of knowledge and started dominating the fight. 

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Goddess Manushya Devi evoked a very powerful weapon of Lord Shiva and unleashed it on Lord Dhanvantari. The weapon started showering fire on Lord Dhanvantari. The intensity of the weapon almost killed Lord Dhanvantari. Sensing the death of Lord Dhanvantari, Lord Shiva appeared in front of Lord Dhanvantari and asked him to surrender and pray to Goddess Manushya Devi. Lord Dhanvantari surrendered and prayed to Goddess Manushya Devi. This brought down the anger of Goddess Manushya Devi. 

The day of Ashwayuja Bahula Trayodashi in the Hindu calendar is celebrated as Lord Dhanvantari Jayanti and is also known as National Ayurveda Day. Lord Dhanvantari is the presiding deity in the ancient Nelluvaya temple located in Kerala. The temple is situated in a village called Nelluvaya. The Nelluvaya temple is a very important pilgrimage center for many Ayurvedic and Allopathic physicians. Millions of patients also visit the temple. Nelluvaya temple celebrates an annual festival that lasts over Thirty-seven days. The annual festival is called Nelluvaya Ekadasi and is celebrated from November to December. On the day of Ekadasi in particular, Ayurvedic and Allopathic doctors from across Kerala visit the Nelluvaya temple to seek the blessings of Lord Dhanvantari. Many devotees also visit the temple on Ekadasi’s day to seek the blessings of good health from Lord Dhanvantari.