(Last Updated on : 16/02/2009)
Dhanvantari is the god of medicine and the divine physician. He is said to be the incarnation of Vishnu. Dhanvantari is respected very much by the Vaishnavas and is still worshipped by various people of South India.
The people suffering from unrecoverable ailments seek for the blessings of the deity Dhanvantari. There are two major and the oldest Dhanvantari shrines can be found in Tamil Nadu. One of these ancient shrines is dedicated to Sri Ranganatha Swami at Srirangam temple in Tiruchirapalli district and the other is situated in Sri Varadaraja Swami temple in Kanchipuram of Kanchipuram district.
The most respected and the well-known shrine of the Dhanvantari deity is at Srirangam temple. This shrine is located in the fourth enclosed space (prakara) of this temple to the west of the tank named Chandra Pushkarini. This shrine is of medium size, which has the main sanctum (garbhajgriha), two 'Mandapasin' front and a verandah. The image of the deity Dhanvantari enshrined here is about five feet in height with four arms. The symbols of Vishnu namely the 'shankha' (conch) and the 'chakra' (discus) can be seen on the upper two arms. The lower right hand holds the pot of nectar (amrita kalasba) and the lower left hand is in the form of offering boons (varadana).
The contributions of various kings towards these shrines are recorded in the inscriptions engraved near this shrine. According to one such interesting inscription, it is said that a hospital in this temple was under the care of a person called Garudavahana Pandita who was a physician. Another inscription informs that a descendent of his made arrangements for offerings and worship to Dhanvantari and for supplying medicinal decoction to Lord Ranganatha.
The Varadaraja Swami temple's shrine is much smaller. It is situated in the second 'Prakara' near the main shrine of Lord Varadaraja. Here also, the deity Dhanvantari is shown holding a vessel of nectar.