Panchamahabhuta: the five basic elements of nature
Ayurveda describes five basic elements “Panchamahabhuta” of Air “Vayu”, Water “Jal” , Fire “Agni”, Earth “Bhumi”, and Space/Ether “Aakash”. The Panchamahabhuta mix together in multiple ways and proportions to create unique and distinct forms of matter.
In the human body, the correspondence of the presence of Panchamahabhuta is as follows:
- Space represents the voids within the body such as mouth, nostrils, abdomen
- Air denotes the movement of the muscular and nervous system
- Fire controls the functioning of enzymes and corresponds to intelligence, functioning of digestive system and metabolism
- Water is in all bodily fluids such as plasma, saliva, digestive juices
- Earth manifests itself in the solid structure of the body such as bones, teeth, flesh, and hair etc.
The Panchamahabhuta therefore serve as the foundation of all diagnosis & treatment modalities in Ayurveda and has served as a most valuable theory for physicians to detect and treat illness of the body and mind successfully.
Tridosha – Ayurvedic principles that define the physical state
The Panchamahabhuta work together in different ways to create physical energies, termed as “dosha” in individuals. These three govern creation, maintenance and destruction of bodily tissues (“dhatus”) as well as the assimilation and elimination functions.
- Earth + Water → “Kapha” corresponding to structure and all of the oily factors of our body such as, fat tissue, lubricating fluids like synovial fluid in joints, the mucous secretions in the digestive system and respiratory system. Qualities – heaviness, slow movement, oiliness, liquidity, thickness and density.
- Air + Fire → “Pitta” corresponding to digestion, bio transformation of the digested food, and the factors responsible for our metabolism. The seats of Pitta are in the digestive system, skin, eyes, brain, lymph, liver, spleen and blood. Presence of Pitta is evident through our body temperature. Qualities – hotness, sharpness, lightness, liquidity, sourness, oiliness and fast spreading nature.
- Air + Space → “Vata” corresponding to movements of our body and inside our body. These include movements of the muscles, movement of food through our digestive tract and movement of the blood through the blood vessels. Qualities – dryness, roughness, coldness, mobility, clarity and astringent taste.
Prakruti and dosha
Each person is born with a unique combination of these doshas which decides their temperament or body type and is termed as “prakruti”. Understanding of each person’s prakruti for deciding their personal diet and exercise pattern, supplements and medicinal herbs, cleansing and rebuilding therapies that is right for them are among the chief methods that Ayurveda employs for the maintenance and restoration of health.
Physical features of an individual can also be utilized to understand the prakruti of the person, as shown below:
This article has been contributed to LWP by www.medhyaherbals.in where it was first published.