Dhanvantari is the divine doctor and is the Hindu God of Medicine and is also believed to be the founder of the tradition of Ayurveda. The first reference of Dhanwantri is found the in 8th century BC Hindu scripture titled Kaushika Sutra. Origin of Dhanvantri is traced to the famous Samudramanthan episode, or churning of ocean, mentioned in the Puranas. But there are also numerous other stories associated with his origin. His birthday is observed two days before Diwali and is known as Dhanvantri Jayanti.
The most popular legend associated with Dhanvantari indicates that he came from the ocean draped in pure white with a pot containing amrita or elixir at the end of the churning of ocean. He is considered as a specialist in treating the poison from snake bite and other diseases and the Demigods (Devas) requested him to be their physician.
Srimad Bhagavad Purana indicates that Dhanwantari is the twelfth incarnation of Hindu God Vishnu.
Mahabharata suggests that He was the son of the king of Kashi and was known by the name of Dhanva. He learned all the branches of medicine from sage Bharadwaja and later taught these to his disciples.
There are some texts and scholars who believe that Dhanvantari was one of the nine gems (scholars) of Gupta emperor Vikramaditya. During the period of Vikramaditya a doctor who could prescribe one hundred medicines was a Vaidya; a person who knew two hundred medicines was called a Bhishak or Bhisaguru and a doctor who knew three hundred medicines was called Dhanvantri.
Dhanvantri is credited with a large number of books on Ayurveda of which Dhanvantari Nighantu is most famous – it is one of the oldest medical glossaries in the world.
Bhagavad Purana tells us that Dhanvantri is presented as a handsome young man with long and stout hands, reddish eyes, neck resembling a conch shell and blue in complexion. He wears a yellow cloth and his body is decorated with garlands and holds a pot containing nectar.
Some of the images of Dhanvantri depict him with four hands.
"Om Namo Bhagavate
Amrutha Kalasa Hasthaaya
Sarva Bhaya Vinasaya
Sarva Roka Nivaranaya
Thri Lokya Pathaye
Thri Lokya Nithaye
Sri Maha Vishnu Swarupa
Sri Dhanvantri Swarupa
Sri Sri Sri
Aoushata Chakra Narayana Swaha"
Meaning: We pray to the God, who is known as Sudarshana Vasudev Dhanvantari. He holds the Kalasha full of nectar of immortality. Lord Dhanvantri removes all fears and removes all diseases. He is the well wisher and the preserver of the three worlds. Dhanvantari is like Lord Vishnu, empowered to heal the Jiva souls. We bow to the Lord of Ayurveda.
There are also numerous stories associated with Dhanvantri and some of them are associated with Lord Shiva who helps him to subdue the pride and arrogance of the demigods and nagas (snakes).