(Last Updated on : 07/06/2013)
Panchamahabhuta in Ayurveda
serves as the foundation for all of Ayurveda`s diagnostic and treatment modalities. This theory has allowed the Ayurvedic physicians for thousands of years to successfully to detect and treat imbalances in human life. The basic premise of the Panchamahabhuta theory is that every particle in physical creation is composed of five fundamental building blocks of nature called the elements. All living and nonliving elements in the universe are made up of five fundamental elements that are called Panchamahabhuta (Pancha literally means five and Bhuta means elements). The five fundamental elements of the universe are Earth
and Space. This view is further supported by the ancient science of Ayurveda. The main objective of Ayurveda is to achieve and maintain good health. Ayurveda believes in creating ultimate harmony with nature and in generating natural rhythms. According to Ayurveda, the Panchamahabhuta condenses in the living bodies to form three basic principles or Doshas called Vata
Vata dosha represents the principle of movement and activation, Pitta Dosha is for the transformation and production principle of energy and heat, while the Kapha dosha represents the cohesion and structure.
Ayurveda opines that each individual has a unique doshic constitution called Prakruti. The Prakruti depends on the ratio of the combination of three doshas. When doshas are in the state of dynamic balance health is maintained but when doshas are imbalanced disease occurs. There are various signs and symptoms that indicate that the dosha imbalance has taken place. Since each individual has uniqueness in their body constitution and the kind of food consumed, the activities to maintain health should also be unique. The food consumed, its quality and quantity all affects the fine dynamic balance of doshas. When the balance is lost, treatment is done to regain the balance. The five fundamental elements combine in infinite possible combinations to give rise to variety of individuals. The human physiology is entirely governed by three doshas- Vata, Pitta and Kapha. When the three doshas are balanced, they produce health otherwise their imbalance cause disease. According to Asthanga Ayurveda
, "Vata, Pitta, Kapha are the three Dosha, they support the body and destroy it, when they are balanced or unbalanced respectively". The main purpose of Ayurveda is to maintain the three humours in a good balance so that good health is maintained.
According to Ayurveda, what exists in the Universe also exists in the internal body of every individual. The Panchamahabhuta or the five fundamental elements take origin from this doshas or the immaterial qualities. The Akash or space is the container. Vayu or air is the force, which helps in movement to galaxies and electrons. The Agni or fire is energy that controls transformation, metabolism, hormonal and enzymatic activity. Jala or water is the cohesive force for the bodies, molecules and atoms. Prithvi or earth is the inorganic and organic solid substance. Because of their abstract and invisible nature, these laws of nature are really difficult to be objectified. According to Ayurveda, the universal organizing principles are known as mahabhutas or cosmic elements. They are the inherent intelligence or essence within each bhuta or element that allows it to function with the specific qualities and characteristics that are unique. The mahabhutas have no dimension, no physical properties and no states.
The first element to come into physical existence is akash or space in Ayurveda
. Out of the five elements, akash has the most expansive and least concrete value. The next element to manifest is vayu that is commonly referred to as air. This particular element has more tangible quality than akash but not as much as Agni, which is the fire element. The last two elements to manifest in the sequence are Jala or water and finally the prithvi or the earth element. These elements are comparatively more concrete or materialistic than their predecessors. Human life develops under the influence of these five very essential elements. In fact, the influence of these mahabhutas is really tremendous. It also denotes that sound can not exist without space and lack of resistance, important qualities of akash. Touch depends on vibration or movement, the main aspects of vayu. Sight occurs because of light and heat, the major characteristics of Agni. Taste can not function without liquid, which is the cohesive nature of Jala. Lastly, smell needs solidity and form, which are the main features of prithvi.
The concept of Panchamahabhuta, which is the five element theory of the Ayurveda, gives a theoretical framework for understanding the sharira (the body). The theory of Tridosha is intimately associated with the theory of five elements. Ayurveda states that without the concept of Panchamahabhuta, a proper comprehension of the interdependent nature of the mind, soul, body and the senses would remain incomplete. These elements are considered as the most fundamental properties of physical creation.