Dhanteras: The Ayurveda Day

Yoga relates to Patanjali in a similar way as Ayurveda relates to Dhanvantari.

Deity Dhanvantari is the physician of the divine beings. He is the God of Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of medicine. His birthing anniversary, on 25 October 2019, is celebrated in the form of a festival known as ‘Dhanteras’. The festival is the first of the five-day long festivities of Diwali, the most important festival in India.

Diwali festival lasts for five days with the main celebrations happening on the middle, that is, the third day. The details are given below.

  1. Dhanteras: The Ayurveda Day
  2. Nark Chaturdashi: Lamp & Ablutions to Keep Death-God Away
  3. Badi Diwali: Invocations on No-Moon to Lakshmi for Prosperity
  4. Govardhan: Lifting a Mountain Like a Mole-Hill
  5. Bhaiya Dooj: Brothers’ Day

Dhanteras festival

The word Dhanteras is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Dhan-trayodashi’. Teras in Hindi and Trayodashi in Sanskrit means ‘thirteenth’. It is celebrated on the 13th day of the ‘Krishna Pahksh’ fortnight of the month named ‘Kartik’ named after Kartihkeya, the son of Shiva.

The word ‘Dhan’ relates to Dhanvantari Kumar. Dhanteras is also known as ‘Dhanvantari Jayanti’ or the birth anniversary of Dhanvantari.

Samudra Manthan: Churning the Oceans

It was on this day that God Dhanvantari emerged as the 14th and the final outcome of a unique endeavour that witnessed a rare collaboration amongst the divines and the demons.

(Video above: A temple in Haridwar shows animated scenes of ocean-churning)

It is inherent in the process of excellence-creation that some outcomes will be poor, most mediocre, and some excellent. It follows a binomial distribution. When milk is churned, a little butter is extracted after leaving behind a lot of milk poor in contents. In the Silicon Valley, many new ventures are launched every day; only some survive, and some thrive, rest are failures.




(Images above: This temple in Haridwar has scores of art-works / murals entirely made using  coloured glass and mirrors. Left – Front view depicting a scene from Samudra Manthan. Right top – Divines are to the right pulling the tail. Right bottom – Demons are to the left holding the hood of the snake.)

Ksheer Sagar is the ocean where Vishnu resides. Ksheer is also the name of the liquidish pudding made of thickened milk, rice, and spiked with cardamom. Mountain Mandara was used as axis, snake Vasuki of Shiva was used as the rope, and Kurma, the tortoise acted as the base of the axis and the churning began in right earnest.

Neelkanth above Haridwar

The first outcome of the churning was ‘ha-la-ha-la’ the most potent poison and a hazardous material that nobody knew how to dispose of. Lord Shiva agreed to attend to it by drinking it rendering his throat blue in colour. That’s why one of the thousands of names of Shiva is ‘Neel-kanth’ Sanskrit for ‘Blue-throat’. A beautiful blue winged woodpecker bird commonly seen in and around Haridwar is also known as ‘Neel-kanth’. There is a Neel-kanth temple about 30 km further up Haridwar.

Kumbha Mela at Haridwar

There were more outcomes of the mighty churning. The 14th and the final out come was appearance of Dhanvantari holding a Kumbha (earthen pitcher) in one of his hands. The pitcher contained life giving nectar or ambrosia. A drop from the Kumbha spilt in to the Har-ki-paidi at Haridwar. It is for this reason that Har-ki-paidi is the most auspicious spot upon the entire Ganges. The once-in-twelve-years festival named ‘Kumbha Mela’ is held here in Haridwar.

Temples of Dhanvantari

There are no temples anymore dedicated to Dhanvantari in north India. However, there are several of them in south India. Ayurveda was accepted and developed well in south India also. Two different locations in Haridwar have statues of Dhanvantari and there are two in Delhi as well.

Ferguson (1888) writes, “In India, Sri Lanka and Burma, Corypha umbraculifera and Borassus flabellifer have been used for writing. In India the history of writing on palm leaves dates from the famous Sanskrit scholar Paniny-rishee, who lived in the year 790 of ‘kaliyuga,’ i.e., approximately 4161 years ago, on the banks of the river Ganga a Arrittuwarum (now Haridwarum)” A lot of ancient and historical manuscripts were written in Malayalam and Tamil, the languages of Kerala and Tamilnadu, two of the southern most states of India.

Iceland, Thailand, Nepal, Cambodia etc

The Norske (Iceland and Germanic myths) Hymiskviða (Hymir’s poem) collected in the Poetic Edda tells a similar story of ocean churning withk a snake.




(Images above – Left – postage stamp of Nepal showing a classical imagery of Dhanvantari. The bottom two lines are Sanskrit texts meaning ‘Ayurveda Promulgator God Dhanvantari’. Right – postage stamp of Cambodia showing demons holding the snake during ocean-churning.)

Angkor-wat (Sanskrit – nagar-vata – city-enclosure) a Vishnu temple in Cambodia is the largest religious structure  monument of any kind. It has several bas-reliefs depicting Samudra Manthan scenes exquisitely carved in stone. Thailand also has temples relating to Dhanvantari. Ayurveda is in common every-day practice in Sri Lanka.




(Four images above: Left to right – A flag commonly seen atop most temples in India, Flag of Nepal, Old flag of Cambodia, Present-day flag of Cambodia showing Angkor-wat at the centre.)


Ayur-veda (Sanskrit: life knowledge) is the ancient Indian system of medicine. The four Vedas are the highest scriptures. Ayur-veda is an ‘upveda’ or minor Veda.

Eight components: Ayurveda has eight components or ‘ashta-angyam’ viz. 1. Kaaya-chikitsaa (general medicine) 2. Kaumaara-bhritya(Pediatrics) 3. Shalya-tantra (Surgery) 4. Shaalaakya-tantra (ENT) 5. Bhoota-vidyaa (Exorcism) 6. Agada-tantra (Toxicology) 7. Rasaayan-tantra (Rejuvenation) 8. Vaajeekaran-tantra (Aphrodisiacs for transposing of sexual energy into spiritual energy).

Seven tissues: Ayurveda provides for seven basic tissues (dhaatu). Incidentally, ‘dhaatu’ also means metal that has a strong relevance to the festival of Dhanteras. These are – 1. plasma (rasa) 2. blood (rakta) 3. muscles (maamsa) 4. fat (meda) 5. bone (asthi) 6. marrow (majja), and 7. semen (shukra). When a person dies, after the funeral, all are reduced to asthi.

Five elements: The panch-bhoota are – 1. Fire 2. Air 3. Ether 4. Earth 5. Water

Twenty qualities: There are twenty gunas (qualities) inherent in all matter. These are ten pairs – heavy/light, cold/hot, unctuous/dry, dull/sharp, stable/mobile, soft/hard, non-slimy/slimy, smooth/coarse, minute/gross, and viscous/liquid.

Three doshas: Ayurveda provides for three doshas – 1. Vaata 2. Pitta, and 3. Kapha. Every person has a unique combination of these three creating a balance. Diseases can be prevented by doing things that maintain this balance. An imbalance creates a disorder and disease. It is treated and cured by recovering the balance.

Patanjali and Dhanvantari

Yoga relates to Patanjali in a similar way as Ayurveda relates to Dhanvantari. Deity Dhanvantri is the physician of the divine beings just like sage Narada is the messenger among the divines and Guru Brihaspati (Jupiter) is the guru amongst the divines. But being a form of Vishnu, Dhanvantri is at a level higher than the two. And the two are higher than Guru Patanjali. Patanjali is most commonly related to ‘Yoga-sutra’. there have also been others named as Patanjali. there was another one who wrote ‘Patanjala-tantra’, a treatise on Ayurveda.




(Two images above – Left – Patanjali, Right – Dhanvantari. Both at Haridwar)

Sushruta, the disciple of Dhanvantari

Sushruta Samhita (Sanskrit: Sushruta’s Compendium) (1300 BC) is the first codified book detailing various aspects of medicine and plants and herbs. Sushruta writes that he was one of the direct students of Dhanvantari, God of Medicine, who had incarnated himself as a king near the Ganges. Sushruta is also known as the first plastic-surgeon of the world. Sushruta was performing surgeries on human body 1,000 years before Hippocrates and 2,000 years before European stalwarts like Celsius and Galen were born.




Sushruta-Samhita - a page

(Three images above: Left – Statue of Sage Sushruta at Haridwar. (c) Voron Zova. Right – Sushruta Statue at Royal Australasian College of Surgery, Melbourne, Australia. (c) RACS. Bottom – A page from the manuscript ‘Sushruta Samhita’)

Ayurveda in the present day Haridwar

The Sanskrit / Hindi term for ‘medical sciences’ is Ayur-Vigyan, so called with similarity of the word ‘medical’ or ‘life’ with Ayur-Veda. AIIMS, the premier medical university and hospital of India, an Ivy League equivalent, is situated about 10 miles from Haridwar. Rishikul Ayurveda University is the oldest Ayurveda institution in Haridwar. AZIMVTH Ashram is located inside Arya Nagar seeded by the 110 year old Gurukul Kangri University in Haridwar. There are several more institutions of higher learning teaching Sanskrit, Ayurveda and Astrology.

There are a very large number of Ayurveda practitioners, pharmacies, and retailers.

AYUSH – Greece and Germany

Ayurveda is supported by the central government of India under the ‘Ministry of AYUSH’ which is an acronym for Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, and Homeopathy.

Dhanteras celebrations

In the present times, people make major purchases like cars on the day of Dhanteras. Gold jewelry is also bought. It is customary to buy metal objects, at the very least, a steel spoon. Prayers to Dhanvantari and chanting a specific mantra are done by8 some. There is also a yantra for Lord Dhanvantari and a very few who known the process do a sadhana / meditation upon it.

Innovative ways to celebrate

Those who are not familiar with any of these may think of innovative ways; some examples are given below.

  1. Pledge to take control of your health. Make a resolution.
  2. Eat lot of food containing iron. A large number of women have deficiency of iron. The above-shown one-minute-long video exhorts women to make it a habit to eat food rich in iron rather than buying gold this Dhanteras.
  3. Visit an Ayurveda store and buy something for yourself. Alternatively, cook/prepare something Ayurvedic by yourself.
  4. Send the following free e-greeting card to friends to make  them aware of the benefits of practicing Ayurveda.
  5. Participate with a free online programme on Ayurveda & Fine Arts.

Happy Ayurveda Day & Dhanteras - AZIMVTH Ashram

Ayurveda & Fine Arts: Free Online Course of 8 Weeks

Dates: This is a free online course lasting 6 (plus 2 optional) weeks. Registration will open on 25th October 2019, the Ayurveda Day, and close on 2nd November 2019. The course starts on 4th November 2019.

Eligibility: Those who have undergone some sort of training in Yoga, meditation, Ayurveda, healing, astrology, or a related discipline are eligible to apply for the course. Additionally, an applicant should have an interest, but not necessarily a training or past experience, in visual arts like drawing, sketching, doodling, painting, etc. or creative writing or a any other creative form of expression.

Participation: Though a lot of inputs, chiefly short videos, will be provided to the accepted participants, the course is largely self-directed and will require adaptation and creative thinking and visualisations. After each input, like a video, it is expected that each participant thinks about it and responds by writing a short comment or doodling / making a visual art or any other creative work which will be shared with others.

Topics: The six topics for the first six weeks are – 1. Heart 2. Healing 3. Brain & Mind 4. Reproduction 5. Lunacy, and 6. Death.

Project-work: At the end of 4 weeks, a participant should start developing ideas on converting this experience into a mini project of creating at least 2 artworks or writing pieces. The inputs will end in 6 weeks. There are 2 additional and optional weeks afterwards. Week 7 is for completing individual projects and Week 8, the last one, is for sharing and mutual learning.

More details: By completing the following application form, one can receive more details. Some of the eligible applicants will be invited to participate. After that a potential applicant may decide to accept (or not) to proceed further. Mere completing the following form does not ensure participation. Applications should utilise the opportunity of this form to articulate keenness of their interests. Vague or evasive applications that just consider the form as a formality will not be entertained.

Application Form for the Course ‘Ayurveda & Fine Arts’.




The application process will close on 02 November 2019.

Intake: Not more than nine participants are expected to complete the full 8 weeks and intake of participants will be made accordingly.

Recommendation: Preference will be given to applicants who can make a credible reference or recommendation. Field number 10. will determine that. Please be as specific (name of a person, social media, facebook group, any other group etc.) as possible.

Happy Ayurveda Day!