Ayurveda Aur Hum

Ayurveda Aur Hum

Panch Mahabhutas – the five basic elements of life

Ayurveda believes in the concept that man is a microcosm (small sample) of the world that he lives in. This means that the basic elements that man is made up of are the same set of elements as the surroundings, but present in different combinations and degrees. The five basic elements of life are called thePanch Mahabhutas - Akasa (sky or ether), Vayu (air), Tejas (fire), Ap (water)and Prithvi (earth) . Ayurveda believes that all living and non-living things on earth, including humans are made up of these five elements in varying degrees, whose constitution remains unchanged and constant throughout life.[i]

These five elements combine with each other to form the three humors of Vata, Pitta and Kapha (also called as the Tridoshas together) which is the cornerstone of Ayurvedic philosophy.1Any change in these tridoshas leads to an imbalance in us causing diseases, and our survival and ability to fight diseases would depend on how easily we adapt to our environment.1

The Element of Akasa (Ether)

In the human body there are many spaces for free movement. For e.g. movement of ingested food from mouth into the stomach happens through the wind pipe. These spaces (Srotas or channels of transport) are a presentation of the Akasa element. They are formed during the development of the baby in the mother’s womb. There srotas or channels of transport are presnt in different systems of the body for example, digestive systems, respiratory system, circulatory systems, Lymphatic system cells etc. which can be considered to be derived from the ether or Akasa element.[ii]

The Element ofVayu (Air)

Air is the second cosmic element, the element of movement. Within the human body, air is present in the larger movements of the muscles, the pulsations of the heart, the expanding and contracting of the lungs and the movements of the stomach wall and intestines. Air is also present in the electrical movements of nerves within our body, and therefore the entire central nervous system is governed by element Air (Vayu mahabhuta).2

The Element ofTejas (Fire)

The third element is Tejas or Fire. In the solar system, the source of fire and light is the sun. In our body, the source of fire is the metabolism and it assists in the digestive system. It also manifests as intelligence in our brain cells. Fire also activates the retina which perceives light. In short, body temperature, digestion, the thinking processes and vision are all functions of bodily Fire.2

The Element of Ap (Water)

Ap or Water is the fourth important element in the body. It manifests in the secretions of the juices in digestive tract and the salivary glands, in the mucus membranes and in plasma and inside the body cells. Water is absolutely vital for the functioning of the tissues, organs and various bodily systems, and is therefore called the Water of Life.2 The sense of taste is perceived by Ap mahabhuta

The Element of Prithvi (Earth)

Prithvi or the Earth is the fifth and last element of the universe that is present in the microcosm of man. Life is possible on this planet because Earth holds all living and nonliving substances to its solid surface. Similarly, in the body, the solid structures - bones, cartilage, muscles, tendons, skin, nails and hair - are derived from Earth.2

The Panch Mahabhutas also manifest in the functioning of the five senses of man – Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth - whichare related to hearing, touch, vision, taste and smell, respectively. Ayurveda regards the human body and its sensory experiences as manifestations of universal energy expressed in the five basic elements. The understanding of these concepts aims to help us bring our body into perfect harmony with its conscious mind.2

Concept of Panchamahabhutas (5 basic elements)


References

[i] Shilpa S, Murthy CV. Understanding personality from Ayurvedic perspective for psychological assessment: A case. Ayu. 2011 Jan;32(1):12.

[ii] Lad V. Ayurveda: The science of self-healing: A practical guide. Lotus press; 1984.