Diwali festival in India is a 5-day celebration starting from Dhanteras with every single day having its own significance. Out of this, on the Dhanteras day people worship Mother Lakshmi devi and seek Her blessings, especially in form of wealth. The word “dhan” means wealth. This makes them think that Dhanteras is only for worshiping Lakshmi devi, the goddess of fortune. However, this is not a complete understanding. Dhan-teras, or Dhan triodashi, is also the day when Lord Dhanvantari appeared. This is why it is also known as Dhanvantari triodashi, which is the thirteenth lunar day of Krishna paksha.
Lord Dhanvantari is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu who appeared, during the great churning of the cosmic milk ocean, with nectar pot, and who later gave the knowledge of medical science known as Ayurveda to mankind billions of years ago.
Yes, billions, and it is all recorded in India’s great ancient literature called the Puranas. We have to remember, however, that Lord Dhanvantari appeared twice during this kalpa (a kalpa is one day of Lord Brahma, which is equivalent to 4.32 billion Earthly years). First He appeared during the churning of Milk ocean and again during the reign of the current Manu in the second Dwapara yuga.
The First Appearance of Lord Dhanvantari:
“In this epoch (kalpa), He first appeared during the great churning of the cosmic milk ocean to deliver nectar for the nourishment of the demigods. The churning of the milk ocean is one of the most famous episodes in Puranic history and is celebrated in major way every twelve years in the festival known as Kumbha Mela. The story is related in the Srimad Bhagavatam, a major work that describes the avataras in great detail. Here is what happened:
The great leader of the demigods Indra was riding on his elephant, when he came across Durvasa Muni. Seeing the great demigod, Durvasa offered him a special garland (mala). Indra accepted this garland and put it on the trunk of the elephant. The elephant threw the garland onto the floor, thus enraging Durvasa Muni. In a fit of anger, the sage explained that the garland was the dwelling of Sri (fortune) and was therefore to be treated as prasada (Visnu Purana 3.10.12). Therefore he cursed Indra and all the demigods to be bereft of all strength, energy, and fortune.
In the ensuing battles, the demigods were defeated in battle and the demons headed by Bali gained control of the universe. The demigods sought out the help of Lord Vishnu, who instructed them in the art of diplomacy. The demigods then entered into an alliance with the demons to jointly churn the ocean for the nectar of immortality and to share it among them. Of course, the demigods were told by Vishnu that He would arrange for them alone to obtain the nectar, which would empower them to defeat the demons.
All kinds of herbs were cast into the milk ocean and using Mandara mountain as the churning rod and Vasuki as the cord, they proceeded to churn the ocean. This churning was so arduous that Lord Vishnu Himself interceded in so many ways to aid the demigods: He was present as Lord Ajita pulling on the side of the gods, as Lord Kurma who supported the great Mandara mountain which was in danger of sinking, and Lord Vishnu Himself sat atop the Mountain infusing the demigods and the serpent Vasuki with energy. Many great beings and objects were produced from the ocean and were accepted by various demigods as offerings. Laksmi devi, the goddess of fortune, appeared from the ocean and Vishnu and Her were reunited as husband and wife after having been separated for many ages.
Then as they continued churning, a very wonderful male person appeared. The Srimad Bhagavatam (8.8.32) tells us, “He was strongly built; His arms were very long, stout and strong; His eyes were reddish, and His complexion was black. He was very young, He was garlanded with flowers, and His entire body was fully decorated with various ornaments.”
Lord Dhanvantari was “dressed in yellow garments and wore brightly polished earrings made of pearl. The tips of His hair were anointed with oil and His chest was very broad. His body had all good features, and He was stout and strong as a lion. In His hand, He carried a jug of nectar.”
The demons stole the jug of nectar and Lord Vishnu appeared as Mohini, a beautiful woman, who fascinated the demons and recovered the nectar from them. The demigods took the nectar and drank it and were invigorated with energy. Thereafter, the demigods fought the demons and were victorious. They greatly rejoiced and worshipped Lord Vishnu and Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune, and resumed their position in the heavens.”
Second Appearance of Lord Dhanvantari
(The story of the second appearance is told with details in the Brahmanda-purana 184.108.40.206-24, and Bhava-prakasa, purva-khanda, 1, a minor Ayurvedic text)
“The second appearance occurred at the beginning of the reign of the current Manu in the second Dvapara-yuga, two billion years ago. Lord Vishnu foretold at the time of the churning that Dhanvantari would appear again in the human society and be offered sacrifices and worshiped by human beings. He would also teach them the science of Ayurveda. Dhanvantari at that time was residing in the heavens and Lord Indra seeing the misery of human beings afflicted by disease on earth, requested the Lord to teach Ayurveda to the human race.
At the same time, the King Dirghatamas of Kasi was performing penance, desiring a son. The king desired to propitiate Lord Dhanvantari for the sake of a son. Thereupon, Dhanvantari appeared to him and urged the king to choose a boon as he pleased. The king said, “O Lord, if You are pleased with me, be my son, bestower of my goal.” The Lord replied, “So be it,” and He vanished.
Lord Dhanvantari then appeared in the royal household of Kashi. He developed ascetic tendencies even as a young boy and performed severe austerities. Lord Brahma with great difficulty persuaded Him to accept lordship over the city of Kashi and since then He became known as Kasi-raja. As a king He prepared the samhitas on Ayurveda in eight divisions for the benefit of humanity.
Lord Dhanvantari’s teachings are recorded in the Agni Purana 279-289 as well as through the teachings of His disciple Susrutha. The Srimad Bhagavatam states “smrta-matrarti-nasanah” One who remembers the name of Dhanvantari can be released from all disease.” Source: http://www.salagram.net/Dhanvantari.html
On Dhanteras day, in India, at dusk, a lamp pointing towards the North by North-East is lit at the doorstep of the house to welcome Lord Dhanvantari. Devotees seek Lord’s blessings on this day for good health, prosperity, and happiness in life. Lord Dhanvantari destroys negativity and gives all auspiciousness to His devotees.
Two days after Dhanteras is Diwali, which is the day when Lord Sri Rama chandra returned to Ayodhya along with Mother Sita devi, brother Lakshman, His great devotee Hanuman and other participants in His pastimes of wining over Ravana.
Brahma-samhita (5.39) states:
ramadi-murtishu kala-niyamena tishthan
nanavataram akarod bhuvaneshu kintu
krishnah svayam samabhavat paramaḥ puman yo
govindam adi-purusham tam aham bhajami
“I worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Govinda, who is always situated in various incarnations such as Rama, Nrsimha and many subincarnations as well, but who is the original Personality of Godhead known as Krishna and who incarnates personally also.”
Today, when the world, bewildered by the most complicated medical science, is turning back to Ayurveda, the infallible medical science that Lord Vishnu in the form of Lord Dhanvantari mercifully gave to human beings, we pray for the blessings from the Lord for everyone’s good health and purified consciousness.
May the light of Diwali enlighten our consciousness towards the lotus feet of Lord Sri Rama chandra. Srila Prabhupada explains that Krishna, who is vishnu-tattva, has expanded Himself in many Vishnu forms, of which Lord Rama chandra is one. All glories to Lord Dhanvantari! All glories to Their Lrdships Sri Sri Sita Ram!a chandra Hare Krishna.