The term bhutagni (also spelled as ‘bhootagni’) is derived from two words: bhuta and agni and the word bhuta indicates five fundamental elements (mahabhuta). Agni means the factors responsible for digestion and metabolism. The human body is formed from five primordial elements. It naturally needs food for all these elements growth and development. Each of these elements needs bhutagni for their digestion and absorption. For example food containing parthiva part (earth element) is digested by parthivagni (bhutagni, which outlines prithvi elements of the food). Bhutagni is present in the gastrointestinal tract at the level of tissues in respective channels. [Cha.Sa.Chikitsa Sthana 15/12-14]
Bhutagni is present in a fundamental element (mahabhuta). Each cell (dhatu paramanu) consists of these five fundamental elements (panchamahabhuta). All the nutrients we eat also consist of the same five elements with their respective agni. Five bhutagni digest their part of the element present in the food materials. After the digestion of food by bhutagni, digested materials containing elements and qualities similar to each bhuta nourish its bhautika element of the body. This article describes the actions of bhutagni, its role in digestion and metabolism.
|Section/Chapter/topic||Concepts / Agni/ Bhutagni|
|Authors||Bhojani M.K.1, Durga Rani1|
1 Department of Kriya Sharira, All India Institute of Ayurveda, New Delhi, India.
2 Rheumatologist, Orlando, Florida, U.S.A.3Department of Kayachikitsa, G.J. Patel Institute of Ayurvedic Studies and Research, New Vallabh Vidyanagar, Anand, Gujarat, India
|Correspondence firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com|
|Publisher||Charak Samhita Research, Training and Development Centre, I.T.R.A., Jamnagar, India|
|Date of first publication:||September 30, 2022|
Concept of bhutagni
The initial digestion of food by jatharagni results in its breakdown into five distinct elemental groups: viz parthiva. apya, tejasa, vayavya and nabhasa. This classification is based upon specific physico-chemical properties or qualities of each mahabhuta. Jatharagni stimulates the agni present in each of the five elements .This agni digests and metabolizes the substance of that group. It assimilates and makes the food components adaptable to corresponding dhatu. The same portion is then subjected to the action of dhatvagni for further assimilation in the body. [Cha.Sa.Chikitsa Sthana 15/13] [A.H.Sutra Sthana 9/6-8]
All the organisms are composed of five mahabhuta, and the food of a living being, necessarily partakes the qualities of its human components. The food, which consists of five mahabhuta is digested by the five bhutagni. Each principle proceeds to augment its homolog in the human organism. [Su.Sa.Sutra Sthana 46/526]
These events occur after the ingested food has been suitably dealt with in digestive fire (jatharagnipaka), reducing the basic foodstuff into their elemental forms.[Chakrapani on Cha.Sa.Chikitsa Sthana 15/13]
The processes of digestion and metabolism by bhutagni (bhutagnipaka) take place in the liver (yakrit). The liver (yakrit) is functionally and anatomically related to the gut (antahkoshtha). Liver is the site of most of those reactions which involves alteration of foreign compounds which can be mobilized. Hence it can be stated that the bhutagni is located and works mainly in these parts. [A.S. Sharira Sthana 6/59-60], [A.H. Sharira Sthana 3/59-61]
Process / stages of bhutagnipaka
Ahara represents six tastes (shadrasa) in proper proportion (balanced diet).
Stage 1: Madhura bhava - (Urdhava amashaya or stomach in the fundus – starch digestion)
Stage 2: Amla bhava - (Urdhava amashaya in the body or pylorus of the stomach - protein digestion - formation of the peptones and acidified chyme)
Pachakagni (jatharagni) acts upon it. Passage of the gastric digest (acidified chyme) to adha amasaya (ksudranta) resulting in the discharge, in this place of acchapitta and its action on chyme. This results in the separation as Sara and Kitta. Sara representing the ultimate elemental forms of the food ingested. Described on the basis of their physicochemical qualities (vijatiya). Formation of Kitta happens in pakvashaya where separation of substances meant to be eliminated through urine (mutra), stools (purisha) take place. Formation of mala rupa vayu with pungent and disagreable odour and the production of substances required for the five vayus (pindikarana)
Mode of action of bhutagni
All sense and motor organs (indriya) and mind (manas) are evolved from panchamahabhuta. The bhutagni is responsible for digestion and replenishing their corresponding substances with the attributes of smell, taste, radiance, touch, and sound, respectively. Thus bhutagni acts on nourishment of their corresponding indriya, too. Bhutagni, nourishes its respective guna in the body. The smell, taste, sound, touch, and feeling of the food nourishes repective indriya in the purusha.
After ingestion, the food material is first dealt by jatharagni. After this process, reduction of the foodstuff to elemental substances is carried out. Based on their physiochemical properties, the substances are classed under panchabhautika groups i.e. parthiva, apya, agneya, vayavya, and nabhasa. Agni present in the molecules of each group, the parthivagni in parthiva group the apyaagni in apya group and so forth, digests the entire molecules leading to complete changes in its qualities. [Chakrapani on Cha.Sa.Chikitsa Sthana 15/12-13] [Su.Sa. Sutra Sthana 46/526]
|S.No.||Bhautic groups||Bhutagni||Corresponding element|
|1.||Parthiva||Parthivagni||structral constituents of body i.e. proteins, muscles (peshi), vessels (sira), ligaments (snayu), tendons (kandara), bones and cartilages.|
|2.||Apya||Apyagni||Body fluids like plasma, tissue fluids, lymph, adipose tissue & other lipid-containing structures like globulin and lipoproteins. Yellow & red bone marrow, male and female reproductive elements.|
|3.||Tejas||Agneyagni||Elements constituting R.B.C., enzymes; metals and minerals like fe, cu, Co, Mg, Ca, K, Na, Cl, I etc. & many energy locked substances, eg. phosphorus linked sugars, vitamins (coenzymes), some hormones like thyroxin, bones & cartilages|
|4.||Vayu||Vayavyagni||Constituents required for the synthesis of neural structures and certain hormones like acetyl choline and sympathin etc., bones & cartilages,|
|5.||Akasha||Nabhasagni||Empty spaces and cavities required for physiological processes|
- Digestion and metabolism of corresponding elements of food substance
- Nourishment of indriya
- For replenishment of guna in the body
Bhutagni is required for the third stage of digestion, which forms unique material for the sense organs. Five bhutagni exist for taking the five elements portion of the digested food mass and converting them into nourishing substances for the five sense organs. Some of these specialized materials are the rods and cones responsible for photosensitivity in the eye, special liquids around the taste buds on the tongue, the mucus membrane material inside the nose that aids in smell, and special cartilage forming the architecture of the ear. Such substances specific to each sense organ are prepared by bhutagni. [Cha.Sa.Chikitsa Sthana 15/3-4, 12-14]
Bhutagnipaka functions start immediately after absorption i.e. portal circulation to liver. It ends before assimilation by delivering transient nourishing components (asthayidhatwamasha) into the circulation through hepatic vein. So, bhutagni functions are carried in the portal, liver, and vascular systems. Nutrient fluid (ahara rasa) is circulated in the body to nourish the body components (dhatu). Hence liver is considered the center of action of bhutagni (bhutagnivyapara).
- J.S. Tripathi and R.H. Singh (1994) researched ‘possible correlates of free radicals and free radical mediated disorders in Ayurveda with special references to bhutagnivyapara and ama at molecular level. It concludes that agni operating at the level of mahabhuta is comparable to molecular metabolism. It is believed that deficiency of the higher dimensions of agni might result in such metabolism, which should be identified at the most subtle and paranormal levels of life processes. In the present era of scientific advancements, we have free radicals as a causative factor of disease, which may be identified as ama at the level of bhutagni i.e. at the molecular level.
- J S R Prasad (October 2014) published an article on “A deep insight in to bhutagnipaka in ayurveda”. It concludes that bhutagni ignited by jatharagni transforms the heterolgous foods (vijateeyaannarasa) into homologous nutrient foods (sajaatiyaposhaka dhatus). After completion of bhutagnipaka only, the formation of nutrient fluid (ahara rasa) is completed and it is circulated for further process (rasa shoshana). Bhutagni function starts immediately after absorption i.e. portal circulation to the liver end before assimilation by delivering unstable body components (asthayidhatwamsha) into the circulation through hepatic vein. So ,the bhutagni functions are carried in the portal system, liver and, vascular system through which nutrient fluid (annarasa) is circulated in the body for nourishing the seven body components (sapta dhatus).
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