God of health
In focus Dhanvantri, a temple in East Godavari is an abode for Ayurveda.
Driving past lush-green paddy fields on a breezy morning, from Rajahmundry, we had to slow down every now and then given the scores of coconut-laden bicycles and herds of meandering cattle one commonly encounters in this coastal region.
We were heading to Chintaluru village, in East Godavari district where one finds Andhra Pradesh's earliest dedicated temple to Dhanvantri, the Hindu god of health and specifically Ayurveda. It is also one of the few of its kind in India.
Considering that health is priority for everyone, and that Ayurveda is so widely practised, attracting hordes of health-tourists , and that Indians are so oriented to temple-building, it is surprising that there are so few shrines to this presiding deity of health in the Hindu pantheon.
But that is precisely what makes a visit to this corner of AP all the more rewarding!Reaching Chintaluru, we got off at Alamuruvaari Veedhi (named after a respected village elder, the late Alamuru Sathyanarayana) and made our way to the temple. Built and consecrated in 1942 by well-known and much-awarded Ayurveda expert and author Vaidyaraaj Dwibhashyam Venkateswarlu, the Dhanvantri temple is visited annually by thousands of devotees seeking good health and vigour. Besides the healthy who ask for continued well-being, disease-ridden people also visit praying for a cure.
Temple priest Guduri Venkataramanamurthy narrated Dhanvantri-lore to us. Considered an avatar of Lord Vishnu and the 12th in Narayana's Ekavimshathi order, Dhanvantri was born during Ksheerasagaramadhanam, the puranic episode of churning of the Milk Ocean by the gods and demons.
He emerged from the waters with four hands respectively holding conch, wheel, herbs/leech, and a container of nectar. Using Ayurveda, he restored the health of the heaven-dwelling Devas who were stricken with afflictions because of Sage Durvasa's curse. He also helped spread the knowledge of Ayurveda on earth.The inner walls of this immaculately maintained temple are lined with sculptures of Brahma, Daksha Prajapathi, Ashwini Devas, Indra, Bharadwaja, Vagbhatta, Athreya, Sushruta and Charaka all luminaries of Ayurveda. There is also a depiction of Ksheerasagaramadhanam. Within the temple-precincts are small shrines to Lords Subramanya, Venkateswara with Sridevi and Bhudevi, and Kashi Vishweshwara with Annapurana.
Ekadashi and Saturdays are special days for Dhanvantri. Karthika Bahula Chaturdashi is celebrated annually as the birthday of Lord Dhanvantri whose naivedyam (consecrated food) is made of wheat ravva, sugar, ghee, cow-milk, and nuts/dates, revealed current dharmakartha Dr Dwibhashyam Venkatasreeramamurty, who runs this temple as well as the noted Ayurvedic company Venkateswara Ayurveda Nilayam which his grandfather Venkateswarlu founded.