Friday, April 12, 2024

Controversy Over: “Dhanwantari” in New NMC’s Logo

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The National Medical Commission (NMC) recently updated its official logo, adding a coloured image of Dhanwantari, the Hindu god of medicine and healing. It has substituted “Bharat” in place of “India” This move has sparked controversy, with many people opposing it on social media.

Introduction –

It is important to note here that, the previous logo used by NMC also featured an image of Dhanwantari but in black and white form. It has only been slightly coloured now. However, the people in India, especially of medical profession have been using the Greek logo which depicts – “two snakes intertwined around a rod with wings” on their medical coats and prescriptions without knowing its relevance and meaning. Interestingly, premier health organizations and regulatory bodies such as the World Health Organization and the Medical Council of India use a different symbol-that is, the rod of Asclepius in their logo.

Who is Asclepius and who is Dhanwantari?

Before getting into who said what discussion, let’s understand about Dhanwantari and Asclepius. As per Puranas, Dhanwantari is said to have appeared during Samudra Manthan as the physician of all gods and is believed to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and the father of Ayurveda. He was born at a time when the whole earth was suffering with diseases and the Devtas and the Asurs were seeking Amrit (elixir) from the churning of the ocean. That’s when he was born, holding a beautifully adorned pot containing the Amrit in one hand, precious medicinal herbs in another, a book and a conch in another hand to save humanity and to preserve the earth.

Asclepius as per Greek mythology, is the god of Healing and the son of the Greek god Apollo. He is depicted holding a staff called as the rod of Asclepius. The origins of which is unclear. As per one hypothesis, Mosses carried a bronze staff around which a serpent was wound. When a person was bitten by a snake, in order to be healed of its venom, he only needed to take a glance at the staff. This Rod of Asclepius is the logo of the World Health Organization and the symbol of the American Medical Association.

Comparing Iconography –

Dhanwantari, has been depicted with four hands holding a book of knowledge, that is, Ayurveda in one hand, Amrit (the elixir of immortality) in another, medicinal herbs, jalauka (leech) and conch, that is, Shankha in another hand.

The leech is considered to have played an important role in ancient medical practices of bloodletting (symbolising the removal of impurities), and the conch represents –creation, the healing and rejuvenation which takes place when the Kundalini rises.

As per the Varuna Purana, before all auspicious beginnings a Shankh is blown, as the sound it emits is similar to the sound of OM and the sound which the kundalini makes while rising above. This sound resonates more with the Sanskrit language which is said to be the language of deities in Hinduism. Thus, it invokes gods and seeks their blessings while at the same time cleanses our inner system and fills the environment with positive energy. Also Shankh Bhasma is an Ayurveda remedy used in medical treatments.

Now interestingly, we in India have been mindlessly using the rod of Caduceus instead of the rod of Asclepius which is allegedly the actually logo of medicine. There’s a big difference between the two of them. The Rod of Asclepius combines a single snake with a rod. On the other hand, the Caduceus symbol consisted of a rod with two snakes coiled around it. This rod contains two wings on the top and two snakes.

The rod we are using is- the “rod of Caduceus” which is the symbol of Greek god Hermes who is the patron of thieves, merchants and travellers. It symbolizes diligence and prudence, which are two important characteristics needed in trading activities. The rod of Asclepius on the other hand symbolizes rebirth and healing.

Inference –

On comparing the concept and the iconography in both the cases, it would be foolishness to first of all continue fighting over the rod of Caduceus which clearly is not associated with medicine but with commerce. If the vision is to earn money of medical practice, then one can surely go ahead with it. If medicine is still to be considered as a “Service” to the public, a noble profession then this logo is not in alignment.

Some people on social media have been crying over secularism being in danger but this secularism and modernity isn’t threatened as long as the state uses symbols associated with Greek gods and Christianity? Are Christian and Greek symbols more scientific? or is it just colonial mind-set! Besides the whole idea of science versus god is a western ideology.

In Hinduism, the concept of god is closely tied to the existence of oneself even the line in our scripture “Satyameva Jayate” spirals around “search for truth” therefore we have never been at war with science or god. Science and spirituality has co-existed here. Another point is that we as Bharatiyas, have in our medical practices of Ayurveda have considered spirituality, physicality, mental and emotional wellbeing in a holistic manner while making diagnosis, that is why, many of the diseases which do not have cure in allopathy have cure in Ayurveda. Keeping this holistic approach, the spirit of service in mind Dhanwantari logo is apt.

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