Pancha mahabhuta

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The word panchamahabhuta is made up of three words: ‘pancha’, ‘maha’ and ‘bhuta’. ‘Pancha’ means five, ‘maha’ means great and ‘bhuta’ means that which exists. All the living and non-living objects in the universe are made up of panchamahabhuta.[Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 26/10].Therefore, panchamahabhuta are the five fundamental elements responsible for creation of the universe, including humans. Each individual has a unique panchabhautik constitution. This constitution remains in state of equilibrium in health and any imbalance results in disease. It is crucial for healthcare provider to identify panchabhautik imbalance and should have the capability to restore equilibrium.

Section/Chapter/topic Sharira / Pachamahabhuta
Authors Aneesh E.G., Deole Y.S.
Reviewed by Basisht G.
Affiliations Charak Samhita Research, Training and Development Centre, I.P.G.T.& R.A., Jamnagar
Correspondence email:,
Publisher Charak Samhita Research, Training and Development Centre, I.T.R.A., Jamnagar, India
Date of first publication: March 25, 2020
DOI 10.47468/CSNE.2020.e01.s09.006

Etymology and derivation

The word ‘bhuta’ is derived from “Bhu” dhatu(Sanskrit root) and “Kta”pratyaya(suffix). It means existence in the universe.[1] That which can be perceived through the external sense organs is called Bhuta.[2]

Five fundamental elements

The five fundamental elements are [Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana 1/27]

  1. Akasha mahabhuta
  2. Vayu mahabhuta
  3. Agni mahabhuta
  4. Jala mahabhuta
  5. Prithvi mahabhuta

Each of these elements possesses inherent physical properties.

Importance of panchamahabhuta

  • Panchamahabhuta are important factors in the creation of the universe. They evolve from the union of tejas (sattva dominant) and bhutadi (tamas dominant) ahamkara. The following diagram shows the evolution and development of the universe.
Image 1: Evolution process

Evolution of panchamahabhuta

The mahabhuta are evolved from dominance of these specific fundamental constituents of universe as below.

  • Akasha: Sattva dominant
  • Vayu: Rajas dominant
  • Agni: Sattva and Rajas dominant
  • Aap: Sattva and Tamas dominant
  • Prithvi: Tamas dominant

Relation with human being

The purusha holistic human being is formed by unification of panchamahabhuta and consciousness (chetana). [Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana 1/16]

Properties of panchamahabhuta

Each mahabhuta has dominant inherent functions related to the sense organs. The mahabhuta can perceive enhanced other senses due to addition of subtle elements of other mahabhuta as given below. [Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana 1/26-28]

Mahabhuta Dominant inherent function Additional general functions due to fundamental composition
Akasha Sound(shabda) -
Vayu Touch (sparsa) Sound(shabda)
Agni Vision(rupa) Sound(shabda),Touch (sparsa)
Jala Taste (rasa) Sound(shabda),Touch (sparsa),Vision(rupa)
Prithvi Smell (Gandha) Sound(shabda),Touch (sparsa),Vision(rupa),Taste (rasa)

The mahabhuta provide abode for corresponding sense organs to perform their sensory functions.[Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana.8/14]. These sense organs are tools to know panchabhautik matter in the universe. [3]

Characteristics of panchamahabhuta

Each mahabhuta can be assessed by following characteristic feature

Mahabhuta Characteristics
Akasha Free flow/unobstructability (Apratighatata)
Vayu Mobility (Chalatva)
Agni Heat (Ushnatva)
Jala Liquidity (Dravatva)
Prithvi Roughness (Kharatva)

Above mentioned criteria are applied to assess fundamental composition of any element. The signs of increase or decrease of these features in body is observed and applied in diagnosis and therapeutics. For example, if the roughness is increased, then increase in prithvi mahabhuta is known.

Influence of panchamahabhuta in embryogenesis

Mahabhuta play basic functions during embryogenesis. After formation of foetus(garbha), vayu performs function of cell division/multiplication (vibhajana); agni carries function of metabolism(pachana); jala carries function of moisture or fluid(kledana); prithvi carries function of compactness or formation of mass(samhanana); and akasha carries function of enlargement of size(vivardhana). If these functions are carried out in normal proportion, the normal structure of body (shareera) is formed [Su.Sa.Sha.5/3]. In the third month of pregnancy, following body constituents are formed and relative functions begin from mahabhuta.[Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana.04/12]

Mahabhuta Body constituents and functions
Akasha Sound, auditory sensation, lightness, fineness and space
Vayu Tangibility, sense of touch, roughness, impulsion, structuring of body tissues and maintaining of movements of the body and dosha
Agni Visible form, vision, brightness, digestion and heat
Jala Taste, sense of taste, coldness, softness, unctuousness and moisture
Prithvi Odor, sensation of smell, heaviness, steadiness and material form

Role of bhutagni in digestion and metabolism

In the process of digestion and metabolism, the food passes through three levels of action of agni. At first it is acted upon by jatharagni for gross digestion. Then it is acted upon by bhutagni. At this level the agni component of each mahabhuta carries out selective digestion process of their respective component of food. The parthiva agni digests and metabolizes the prithvi component of ingested food. Further the body constituents are formed by selective process of dhatvagni. [Cha.Sa.Chikitsa Sthana 15/12-14] Body is formed of panchamahabhuta and so is food. When food is ingested, the relevant mahabhuta and body component is increased [Su.Sa.Su.46/526].

Fundamental composition of dosha

Doshas are constituted by specific mahabhuta [AS.Su.20/2] as below:

Dosha Panchamahabhuta constitution
Vata Vayu, akasha
Pitta Agni
Kapha Jala, prithvi

Based on this composition, mahabhuta play vital role in determining basic constitution (prakriti) of human being. [Cha.Sa.Vimana Sthana 8/95] This principle is applied in therapeutics. In case of decrease in vata dosha in body, the regimen which increases vayu and akasha mahabhuta is prescribed. Accordingly the regimens which increase corresponding dosha are prescribed.

Classification of marma (vital points) based on panchamahabhuta predominance

The marma or vital points/organs in body are classified in five categories on the basis of their harmful effect on body. The harmful effect depends upon their fundamental composition of mahabhuta [Su.Sa.Sha. 6/16] as below.

Type of marma Panchamahabhuta constitution
Sadyapranahara (that which cause immediate death) Agni
Kaalantarapranahara (that which cause death after some time) Jala, agni
Vishalyaghna (that which cause death by removal of foreign body) Vayu
Vaikalyakara (that which cause disability or deformities) Jala
Rujakara (that which cause pain) Agni, vayu

Thus, mahabhuta have impact on vital force.

Taste (rasa) and its panchamahabhuta predominance

Panchamahabhuta composition determine specific taste of a substance. Accordingly the rasa or tastes perform relevant biological activities and effects [Su.Sa.Su 42/03], [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 26/40]. These are applied for therapeutic purpose.

Rasa Mahabhuta Physiological effect on dosha
Sweet (madhura) Prithvi, jala Pacification of Vata, Pitta
Sour (amla) Prithvi, agni Pacification of Vata
Salty (lavana) Jala, agni Pacification of Vata
Spicy (katu) Vayu, agni Pacification of Kapha
Bitter (tikta) Vayu, akasha Pacification of Kapha,Pitta
Astringent (kashaya) Prithvi, vayu Pacification of Kapha,Pitta

Application of panchamahabhuta in therapeutics

Apart from the therapeutic uses mentioned above, the medicines having dominance of specific mahabhuta are administered in therapeutic procedures. This corresponds to relevant properties and effect of mahabhuta [Su.Sa.Su.41/6-9].

In Purification therapy(shodhana chikitsa)

Treatment Bhuta predominance
Emesis (Vamana)drug Agni and vayu
Purgation (Virechana)drug Prithvi and jala

In pacification therapy (shamana chikitsa)

Treatment Bhuta predominance
Alleviation (Shamana)drug Akasha
Constipative (Grahi) drug Vayu
Digestive stimulant (Deepana) drug Agni
Scarifiying (Lekhana) drug Vayu and agni
Nourishing (Brihmana) drug Prithvi and jala

Application of panchamahabhuta in diagnostic views

The characteristics of panchamahabhuta are applied in diagnosis as below:

Mahabhuta Diagnostic points
Akasha Free flow of body constituents in hollow cavities, various sounds produced inside body
Vayu Various conduction and transmission activities, transportation processes
Agni Digestive, transformation and metabolism processes, heat production
Aap Fluid balance, maintaining moisture and coldness
Prithvi Body mass, odour

The abnormalities in physiological functions are observed to assess proportion of mahabhuta.

Application of panchmahabhuta in disease management

Panchamahabhuta theory is applied in the management of diseases. The panchabhautik constitution of basic causative factors and pathogenesis of disease is observed. Then the medicines having opposite panchabhautik constitutions are administered to restore equilibrium in the body.

For example, in Jwara, undigested food (ama) leads to vitiation of nutrient fluids (rasa dhatu). The digestion and metabolism are slowed down. Thus, prithvi and jala mahabhuta are increased and cause the disease state. The treatment of jwara includes langhana, swedana, pachana and medicines with bitter taste (tikta). The treatment has agni, vayu and akasha dominancy. The herbs like Cyperus rotundus(musta), Zingiber officinale(shunthi) having dominancy of the same mahabhuta are administered in the management. This can be applied in various other diseases too.[4] Thus panchamahabhuta theory is important in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases.

Current researches

The current understanding of panchamahabhuta can be categorized under two parts:

  1. Panchamahabhuta as important factors for biological processes
  2. Panchamahabhuta involved in the creation of universe i.e. subtle forms of tanmatra

Panchamahabhuta, quantum mechanics and biological processes

Modern physicist, Dr.John Hagelin pointed out that quantum physics derives everything in creation from basic ‘force’ and matter fields. These fields belong to one of five fundamental spin types-most basic concept in particle physics. He correlated the panchamahabhuta with five spin types of modern physics. Extending further, the corroboration of possibility of relation of dosha with corresponding superfield is as shown in table below:

Five mahabhuta Five spin types Dosha Super field Dosha Super field
Akasha Spin 2 = Graviton (gravity) Vata Gravity
Vayu Spin 3/2 = Gravitino Vata Gravity
Tejas Spin 1 =Force fields (electromagnetism) Pitta Gauge
Jala Spin 1/2-= Matter fields Pitta Gauge Kapha Matter
Prithvi Spin 0 = Higgs fields Kapha Matter

This analogy is helpful in current understanding of health. The mahabhutas are further present in body constituents like akasha (space in body, channels); vayu (air in the body gaseous exchange, Oxygen, carbon di oxide etc., breathing); agni (chemical reactions, enzymatic activity, digestion);jala(water, fluids, ionic constituents); and prithvi(earth, solid structures).[5] Body constituents like dosha, dhatu, mala, agni etc. are nothing but biological derivatives of panchamahabhuta and nothing is different than that.[6] Therefore the panchamahabhuta are highly important causal factors that influence biological processes.

Role of panchamahabhuta in creation of universe

In addition to the correlation with five spins in quantum mechanics as mentioned above, the panchamahabhuta are important links in creation of universe. As per the science, the universe is evolved from unmanifest(avyakta) through cosmic intelligence (mahat) and ego(ahamkara). Then the panchatanmatra (subtle forms of panchamahabhuta) are evolved from rajas dominant taijas and tamas dominant bhutadi ahamkara. The panchatanmatras are important links for knowledge that allows scientists a more detailed and quantifiable understanding of how consciousness gives rise to matter.[7] In this regard, the transformation process in the universe becomes a flow of energy.

List of theses

I.P.G.T. &R.A. Jamnagar:

  1. Rao T. Srinivas(1970). Panchbhutik guna (A study w.s.r. to guru & laghu).
  2. Upendra D. Dixit (1995). Concept of Panchmahabhuta & it’s utility in Chikitsa .
  3. Dr. Bishnupriya Mohanty (2004 Ph.D.) Biotransformation of Panchmahabhuta& it’s interpretation in terms of cell injury.
  4. NalageDilip H (2004).A study of Samskara & its role in alteration of Panch-bhutic composition of Dravya .
  5. Gautam Khandeparkar (2007).Critical study of “Bhutebhyohi paramyasmatnastichintachikitsite” w.s.r. to Santarpanotthaprameha& it’s management.
  6. AnuruchiJadoun (2012). Concept of PanchabhautikaArabdhata of Dravyas (conjugation and configuration of mahabhutas) and applied aspect of Samana and Vichitrapratyayarabdhata.
  7. Harshal S Sabale (2013). Applied concept of Panchavidhavata in relation to their Panchabhautika conjugation and configuration .
  8. KamlaMoond(2018). A study on PanchamahabhutaSiddhanta to develop objective parameters for assessment of Prithvi Mahabhuta

Faculty of Ayurveda, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi:

  1. Dwivedi L.D. (1969-M.D. and 1975-PhD).A study of concept of Panchmahabhutas
  2. Srivastav L. P. (1988).Concept of Panchmahabhutas in the light of Samkhya, Yoga & Ayurveda.

Government Ayurved college Nagpur:

  1. Bawisakar Geeta (1989). Sharir mein Panchmahabhuton ki vyapakata.
  2. Mana S. (2000) Vibhinna Panchmahabhuta sanghatanatmaka dravyon ka prani shareera vriddhi par tulanatmaka adhyayana

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List of references

The list of references for Panchamahabhuta in Charak Samhita can be seen here References_for_panchamahabhuta.pdf

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  1. Dingarilakshmanachary.Acharya’sAyurvedeeyapadarthavigyana. Delhi: Chaukhamba Sanskrit pratisthan;2012.Chapter 12,Pancha mahabhuta;page 66
  2. BK Dwivedi.Padarthavijnana. Varanasi: Chowkhambakrishnadas academy;2003.Chapter 2,Dravya vigyana;page49
  3. Gokhale B.V. Ayurvedache Shastra Ayurveda Bhaskar.Marathi book.Mama Gokhale Janma mahotsava samilti. 2003. Pg.128-9.
  4. Bhardwaj Vikas, Sharma Pankaj, and C. Sahana. Panchamahabhuta Siddhanta and Chikitsa-A Bird’s Eye View. Ejbps, 2016; 3(11), 154-159.
  5. Sharma Hari,Christopher Clark. Contemporary Ayurveda: Medicine and Research in Maharishi Ayur-Veda.Churchill Livingstone; 1 edition;1997,36-37.
  6. Singh R.H.Exploring Quantum Logic in Ayurveda with special reference to Srotovijnana of Ayurveda.2009;30(4).360-8
  7. Wallace Kieth, The Structure of Matter. Available from accessed on March 24, 2020.