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Concept Of Pancha Bhutas (Five Elements) And Human Body

Abstract

The five elements (panchmahabhutas) are akasha (space), vayu (air), agni (fire), jal (water) and prithvi (earth). These five elements are all together called panchamahabhutas. These elements are composed in both living and non-living materials. Science of Ayurveda understands the basic concepts of the spirit, mind and body in a similar manner. These five elements have different attributes and give rise to special objects. Every cell of the living organism is composed of these five elements. The prithvi mahabhuta (earth) made the main structure of the body cells. The aapamahabhut (water) made the cytoplasm of the body cell. The agnimahabhut (fire) controls the metabolism of the cells. The space residing in the body cell is controlled by the aakash (space) mahabhuta. The transportation of nutrients and waste material is governed by the vayu (air) mahabhuta. So today we will read about the concept of five elements and the human body in brief in this article.

Pancha Bhutas, Five Elements, Human Body, Panchabhutas, Panchamahabhuta

Introduction

Panch means five and mahabhut means physical elements. These five elements are space (akash), air (vayu), earth (prithvi), water (jal) and fire (agni). These five components play an important role in the human body. These all the components are composed in every substance of the universe.  According to the panchmahabhuta concept, all the peoples are differentiated into three types: vata, pitta and kapha with special characteristics. The people with vata dosha have air (vayu) and space (akash) related characteristics. The people with pitta dosha have fire (agni) related characteristics. The people with kapha dosha have water (jal) and earth (prithvi) related characteristics. The panchamahabhuta controls the structures and functioning of the human body.

Characteristics Of Panchmahabhuta

  1. Space (Aakash):- It is located in the empty or hollow cavities in the body and vacant places of the transmitted sound, cosmos, smooth or frictionless, non-resistance to substance, soft, subtle, abundant. Any food, herbs or diet with the same properties will raise the space (aakash) element in the body.
  2. Air (Vayu):- The characteristics of air are dry, light, mobile, rough, subtle and transparent. Air (vayu) is the main factor that is responsible for dryness, and movement in the body. Any food items, herbs and exercise which have similar properties will raise vata or air (vayu) components in the human body.
  3. Fire (Agni):- The characteristics of fire are intense, sharp, light, hot and dry. Fire emits heat and light. Any diet, food items and medicines which have the same property will raise the fire element in the body like ginger, peppers, chilies and garlic.
  4. Water (Jal):- Water (jal) is cool, moist, sticky or cohesive, oily and soft. Many food items contain water components and our body also contains water elements. Consumption of water is very beneficial in various diseases which are caused by pitta and vata such as skin problems, dryness, constipation, acidity, and excessive accumulation of toxins. It works as a detoxifying element.
  5. Earth (Prithvi):- The properties of earth are dense, hard, slow, solid, stable, heavy, and dull. This element forms the solid structure in the human body and universe. Any exercise, herbs, and food items which contain the same properties will provide support, nutrition and heaviness in the human body. This element also improves the stability and strength of the body.

Properties Of The Panchamahabhuta

महाभूतानि खं वायुरग्निराप: क्षितिस्तथा।
शब्द: स्पर्शश्च रूपं च रसो गन्धश्च तद्गुणा:।।

(C.Sarirsthana 1/27)

According to the above shloka each element has their specific property. Akash, Vayu, Agni, Jala, and Prithvi are known as five Bhutas and they are manifested. The attributes Sabda, Sparsh, Rupa, Rasa and Gandha exist in Akash, Vayu, Agni, Jala and Prithvi respectively. Based on these attributes the knowledge of the Bhutas can be had. These attributes are present in these Bhutas only. Hence they are known as Naisargika gunas.

  1. Akash- Sound (Shabad):- The akash attribute is sound which is perceived and received by the sense organ that is ears (Srotendriye) is known as shabda (sound quality). Shabda (sound) is the characteristic feature of a space element.
  2. Vayu- Touch (Sparsh):- The vayu attribute is touch which is perceived and received by the skin (Twakendiye) is known as touch quality. The skin is formed from air elements. Touch is the special property of the air element.
  3. Agni- Vision (Rupa):- The agni has the property of vision which is perceived and received by the eyes (Chakshuendriye) is known as vision quality. Eyesight is the property of the fire element. Fire is predominantly situated in the eyes.
  4. Jal- Taste (Rasa):- The jal has the property of taste that is perceived and received by the tongue (Rasendriye) is known as taste quality. The water is predominantly present in the tongue. The taste is of six types : sweet, salt, sour, bitter, pungent and astringent.
  5. Prithvi- Smell (Gandha):- The prithvi has the property of smell that is perceived and received by the nose (Ghranendriye) is known as smell quality.

Out of them, the first one has only one property and there is addition of one more property in each of the latter bhutas. Thus the former bhuta along with its property is associated with the latter one. Coarseness, liquidity, mobility, hotness and non-interruption are the specific characteristics of prithvi, jal, vayu, tejas and akasa respectively. All these characters are perceivable by the tactile sense organ because touch along with its absence is known by the tactile sense organ.

The Attributes Satva, Raja And Tama Of Mahabhutas

According to Acharya Sushruta:- Though the attributes satva, raja and tama are available in panchamahabhutas, each attribute is predominant in one particular Bhuta. Satva guna is predominant in Akasa, while raja in Vayu, satva rajo in Tejo Bhuta, satva tamo in Jala Bhuta and tamo in Prithvi Bhuta. Due to the predominance of Satva guna, Akash is the cause for prakasakatva. The abundance of Raja in Vayu is the cause for mobility. The Satva Raja guna in agni is responsible for prakasakatva, gurutva, concealing. As such, the predominance of Tama guna in Prithvi cause for concealing. In such a way all the Bhutas contain Satva and other attributes except Akash.

Origin Of Panchamahabhutas And Their Intermingling

The mahabhutas which have distinct characters and attributes are of mulaprakriti prakrtimaya. The mahabhutas are the transformation of mula prakrti. As in the transformation of mahan and ahankara, satva, raja and tama guna exist in other Panchamahabhutas also. Universe has been created by the Panchamahabhutas. The specific characters and attributes are present in Panchamahabhutas as per the abundance of the satva, raja and tama. The gurutva (Dense), sthiratva (Stable), usnatva (Hot), dravatva (Liquid), etc gunas are present in the inanimate and animate dravyas also. In the evolution process of mahabhutas, the later bhuta is produced from the former bhuta. Hence the attributes of the former bhutas are passed through or entered into the later bhuta. According to this principle in the evolution process akash is created itself in the beginning. It is nitya and vibhu. Sabda is the property of akash. Hence the sabda is also nitya or permanent, when akash is only present, sabda also exists in it. Vayu bhuta is developed out of akash and it contains the attribute of sparsh. Sabda also passes into vayu bhuta. Agni bhuta is developed out of vayu bhuta. Hence in agni bhuta contains attributes of rupa along with sabda, sparsh of former bhutas. Jala bhuta is formed from agni and it contains rasa guna along with agni attributes. Prithvi is developed from jala and contains gandha guna along with jala attributes.

Importance Of Panchamahabhuta In Ayurveda

1. Body Prakriti Formation And Panchamahabhuta

In the body constitution panchamahabhuta provides physical appearance (Bhutika prakriti). In Vatadi dosha there is predominance of Vayu, Agni and Jala mahabhuta. Acharya Charaka described 4 reasons in prakriti formation: sukrashonit prakriti, kalagarbhashya prakriti, maturahara vihara prakriti and mahabhuta vikara prakriti. In above mentioned reasons Panchamahabhuta is also described as the main reason. In these panchamahabhuta the mahabhuta which is predominant, likewise the doshas does creation of nature predominance.

2. Shadrasa (Six Taste) And Panchamahabhuta

  • Madhur (Sweet) rasa:- Prithvi and Jala predominance
  • Amla (Sour) rasa:- Prithvi and Agni predominance
  • Lavana (Salty) rasa:- Jala and Agni predominance
  • Tikta (Bitter) rasa:- Vayu and Akash predominance
  • Katu (Pungent) rasa:- Vayu and Agni predominance
  • Kashaya (Astringent) rasa:- Vayu and Prithvi predominance

3. Bhutagni And Panchamahabhuta

Consumed food is passed through the action of the Agni during metabolism and digestion process. For full digestion firstly jatharagni is acted on food and then acted by bhutagni. Agni elements of each Mahabhuta bring out the process of selective digestion. Parthiva Agni metabolizes and digests the Prithvi component of consumed food. Further your body elements are made by the selective process of Dhatu Agni. The body is made of Panchamahabhuta and food too.

4. Tridosha And Panchamahabhuta

The formation of dosha, panchamahabhuta plays a vital role. 

  • Vata:- Akash and Vayu predominance
  • Pitta:- Agni and Jala predominance
  • Kapha:- Prithvi and Jala predominance

5. Panchamahabhuta And Ayurvedic Treatment

  • Virechana (Purgative) dravya :- Prithvi and Jala mahabhuta predominance
  • Vamana dravya (Emetic):- Agni and Vayu mahabhuta predominance
  • Sanshaman dravya:- Akash mahabhuta predominance
  • Grahi (Absorbent) dravya:- Vayu mahabhuta predominance
  • Dipana (Carminative) dravya:- Agni mahabhuta predominance
  • Lekhan (anti-obesity) dravya:- Vayu and Agni mahabhuta predominance
  • Brihana (Nourishing) dravya:- Prithvi and Jala mahabhuta predominance

6. Body's Tissue And Organ Constitution

The tissues and organs of the body are made up of Panchamahabhuta. Diminished and elevated amounts of bhuta lead to differing anatomical structure and function of the tissues.

7. Panchamahabhuta In Indriya (Sense Organ)

In Ayurveda, indriya is described as Panchabhutik. Each indriya specially has one-one mahabhuta predominance. That is the reason each indriya has acknowledged their respective subject.

8. Marma (Vital Point)

According to panchamahabhuta marma is described as:-

  • Sadh pranahar marma:- Agni mahabhuta
  • Kalantar pranahar marma:- Jala and Agni mahabhuta
  • Vishalyaghan pranahar marma:- Vayu mahabhuta
  • Vaikalyakar marma:- Jala mahabhuta
  • Rujakar marma:- Agni and Vayu mahabhuta

Conclusion

The concept of the five elements and the human body are closely related to each other. Every material is made up of these five elements in this universe. Even our body is made up of these five elements that are akash (space), vayu (air), agni (fire), jal (water) and Prithvi (earth). Panchamahabhuta is directly related to our body tissues, tridosha, marma, sense organs, taste, etc.

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Author Bio:

Best Ayurvedic Doctor - Dr. Meenakshi Chauhan

Dr. Meenakshi Chauhan

MD (ALT. MEDICINE)

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Reviewed By:

Best Ayurvedic Doctor in Mohali - Dr. Vikram Chauhan

Dr. Vikram Chauhan

MD (AYURVEDA)

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