Friday, October 21, 2011

Panchmahabhutas (five elements) in Ayurveda

Ayurveda has accepted the science of the "five elements" — Pṛthvī (earth), Jal (water), Agni (fire), Vāyu (air), and Ākāśa (Sky). These elements compose both — the universe and the human body. They are combined in different proportions in such a way that each form of matter is totally unique. They are also constantly changing and interacting with each other due to which a situation of dynamic flux has been created, resulting in keeping the world going. For e.g. even in a simple cell, the earth element prevails by offering it a particular configuration. The water element is present in the cytoplasm of the cell, the fire element regulates the metabolism inside it, the air element prevails the gases, and the space is occupied by the cell in the form of sky. In multicellular organisms, for e.g. in human beings, Ākāśa resembles the spaces inside the body (mouth, nose, stomach, etc.); Vāyu denotes the movement (that of the muscles); Agni regulates the functioning of different enzymes (thinking, metabolism); Jal is in all body fluids (as plasma, saliva, digestive juices, etc.); and Pṛthvī prevails in the solid configuration of the body (bones, teeth, flesh, hair, etc.).

If we observe the changes going inside our body or in the surrounding, we can find how these five elements dominate at specific times and conditions. For example, at childhood while growth takes place in our body, water and earth elements dominate us, at our adulthood where activity and changes occur, fire elements plays a vital role, and at old age where movement gets reduced and the body starts fading, space and air elements dominate us fully.

Even if we categorize the year into four seasons and see how the five elements govern and regulate them, the role of these elements on the natural process becomes crystal clear. In winter when it is cold and rainy, water and earth elements; spring when new growth is visible in plants and it becomes warmer, water and fire elements; summer when we feel hot and dry, fire and air elements; and autumn when the atmosphere remains windy and cool, air and space elements play major roles.

Thereby, Panchmahabhutas with control over almost every aspect of human body and activities and the surrounding environment have a significant role in Ayurveda. These elements assist significantly as the underpinning of all diagnosis and treatment factors in Ayurveda. For the same reason, Ayurveda has also proved itself as a perfect theory and alternate way of healing to the modern day’s allopathy to identify and treat illnesses of both — the body and mind efficaciously.

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