Jala mahabhuta

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The word ‘jala’ literally means ‘water’ or ‘any fluid’.[1] It is also known as ‘ap mahabhuta’. The word ‘ap’ also means ‘water’.[2] It is one among the panchamahabhuta [Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana 01/27]. The fluid content inside and out of the cell corresponds to the jala mahabhuta in the human body.

Section/Chapter/topic Sharira / Pachamahabhuta / Jala
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: dryogeshdeole@gmail.com, carakasamhita@gmail.com
Publisher Charak Samhita Research, Training and Development Centre, I.T.R.A., Jamnagar, India
Date of first publication: April 20, 2020
DOI 10.47468/CSNE.2020.e01.s09.010

Etymology and definition

That which have the sensations of vision (rupa), taste(rasa), touch (sparsha), sliminess (snigdha) and is in the form of liquid (drava) is called ‘ap’ [Vaisheshika sutra].[3] It is cold on touch [Tarkasangraha].[4]


Ap, jala, ambu, toya, udaka, soma

Contextual meanings

The term ap denotes the following meanings

  1. Jala mahabhuta
  2. Water present in the external world
  3. Water/aqueous content in the body (udaka)


In the sequence of evolution, it is formed from agni mahabhuta. Shabda, sparsha and rupa tanmatra unifies with rasa tanmatra to form jala mahabhuta. [Su.Sa.Sha 1/4]


Ap is present in two forms:[5]

  1. Nitya (eternal)
  2. Anitya (ephemeral)

The minute/subtle (paramanu) form of apmahabhuta is eternal(nitya). The secondary forms by combination of these paramanu are ephemeral (anitya).

General characteristics

A substance with predominance of jala mahabhuta possess the following characteristics[Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 26/11]

  • Fluid (drava)
  • Unctuous (snigdha)
  • Cold (sheeta)
  • Slow (manda)
  • Soft (mrudu)
  • Slimy (pichchila)
  • Rasa (taste)dominance.
  • Sound(shabda), touch(sparsha) and vision(rupa)[Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana 1/28]

Specific character (lakshana)

Fluidity (dravatva) is the characteristic feature of jalamahabhuta[Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana 1/29]. Among the three fundamental qualities (tri gunas), sattva and tamas guna are predominant in jalamahabhuta. [Su.Sa.Sha.1/20]


Jala is one of the six basic constituents of holistic human being or purusha [Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana 05/04]. In the person, ap is represented in the form of moisture (kleda)[Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana 5/5]

Functions during embryogenesis and human body

  • Shukra (seminal fluid) has predominance of apmahabhuta. Hence it is termed as ‘saumya’ (originated from soma) [Su.Sa.Sha.3/3].
  • During embryogenesis, the jala mahabhuta maintains the moisture in fetus. It prevents dryness due to action of vayu and agni mahabhuta [Su.Sa.Sha.5/3].
  • In the fetus,jala mahabhuta is responsible for the development of functions like taste, coldness, softness, unctuousness and sliminess[Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana4/12]. All these functions are carried out in postnatal life too [Su.Sa.Sha.1/19].
  • The gustatory system including tongue and taste buds have predominance of jala mahabhuta [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 8/14].
  • In the eyeball the whitish part represents the jala mahabhuta [Su.Sa.Ut.1/11].

Role in formation of dhatu

  • The liquidity and fluidity of blood (rakta) is a result of apmahabhuta [Su.Sa.Su.14/9].
  • Jala mahabhuta also maintains fluidity, unctuousness and flexibility in body components like plasma and lymph(rasa), adipose tissue(meda), bone marrow(majja), shukra, urine (mutra), sweat (sweda) and breast milk(stanya) [Su.Sa.Su 15/10].

Role in determining the complexion

  • Tejo dhatu, jala and akasha bhuta results in fair(gaura/avadata varna) complexion [Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana 8/15].
  • An equilibrium of all the five mahabhuta result in shyama varna i.e. sky-like bluish complexion[Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana 8/15].

Marma (vital points) and its Jala mahabhuta constitution

  • The injury to kalantara pranahara marma (vital points) leads to death after some time, because dominance of jala mahabhuta with agni. The quality of jala mahabhuta pacifies actions of agni for some time.
  • Vaikalyakara marma possesses jala mahabhuta predominance. Due to the stability and cold nature of water, it helps to sustain the life. [Su.Sa.Sha.6/16]

Importance in clinical practice

Application in diagnosis

The moisture, unctuousness, softness and delightfulness in the body are decided by the jala mahabhuta [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana26/11]. Abnormalities in these functions are observed to assess the varying proportions of jala mahabhuta in the body. The increase or decrease in kaphadosha and other body components with above properties depend upon jala mahabhuta. Hence, it is observed. For e.g. Depletion of rasa dhatu may result due to reduction of ap mahabhuta and vice versa in the body. It leads to thirst (trishna) and other features of depletion of rasa (rasa kshaya) [Cha.Sa.Chikitsa Sthana 22/16].

Application in treatment

  • The qualities of jala mahabhuta are applied in specific treatments. Moisture is applied in dryness created due to agni and vayu. Fluidity is applied to improve volume of depleted body components. It is also applied to cleanse channels. Coldness is applied to reduce heat. Softness is applied to reduce roughness. The sharp actions of agni mahabhuta are pacified by soft and slow properties of jala mahabhuta. Delightfulness is applied to reduce anger and grief.
  • Udaka form is the best for production of soothing effect/refreshing agent (ashwasakara) [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 25/40]. It is used in the treatment of psycho-neurological disorders like anxiety neurosis.
  • Jala is best in producing astringent effect. Hence it is used for creating bonds or as binding agent [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 25/40].
  • The substances which are heavy (guru) to digest have predominance of prithvi and jala mahabhuta. Their overuse affects digestion and metabolism (agni)[Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 5/6]. The quantity of food is determined by inherent nature of food (light or heavy to digest) based upon fundamental panchabhautik composition and digestive capacity of an individual.
  • In the manifestation and differentiation of taste (rasa), jalamahabhuta is one among the fundamental source[Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 1/64]. Among the six types of tastes (rasa), sweet (madhura) and salt (lavana) have predominance of jala mahabhuta [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 26/40].These rasa are able to pacify vatadosha and aggravate kaphadosha. Hence, they are applied in treatment of vitiation of vatadosha and depletion of kaphadosha in the body.
  • Medicines for therapeutic purgation (virechana) have predominance of jala and prithvi mahabhuta. Since both of these mahabhuta have heaviness as their property, it carries the dosha in downward direction [Su.Sa.Su.41/6] and thus it helps in expelling the dosha through rectal route [Cha.Sa.Kalpa Sthana 1/5].
  • Drugs predominant of qualities of prithvi and ambu mahabhutas are nourishing/stoutening (brimhana) in nature [Su.Sa.Su.41/6].
  • The panchabhutika composition of kaphadosha is jala and prithvimahabhutas[AS.Su.20/2]. The substances possessing jalamahabhuta mitigates the vata and pittadosha and cause increase in kaphadosha [Su.Sa.Su.41/7-9].
  • The treatment of kaphadosha aggravated condition can be done by avoiding diet and lifestyle measures with jala mahabhuta predominance.
  • In conditions of vata and pitta dosha aggravation, jalamahabhuta dominant regimen shall be indicated.
  • The apbhutagni selectively carries out digestion and metabolism of food substances having dominance of jala mahabhuta. It nourishes the respective constituents in the body [AH.Sha.3/59-60]. Therefore in case of any abnormality or disequilibrium of water components in the body, this agni needs to be corrected.

Current views and researches

The subtle (tanmatra) form of all mahabhuta is considered as eternal. After the formation of heat and light radiations due to collisions, the forces further may produce viscous attractions towards each other, which results in condensations. The thus formed condensation with potential of taste and viscous attractions may be considered as rasa tanmatra of ap mahabhuta.[6]

In quantum physics, the spin- ½ matter field (one among the five quantum mechanical spin types of a unified quantum field theory) can be correlated with the elementary fermion particles.[7] Dr John Hagelin, leading physicist in the area of unified quantum field theory, correlates jalamahabhuta with the spin - ½ matter field.[8]

A single cell of living organism has combination of five mahabhuta. The cytoplasm of the cell is formed out of jalamahabhuta.[9] It also comprises the intra and extracellular fluids which is responsible for cell’s nourishment.[10]

The cellular integration, adhesion between the cells in the fetus and lubrication is provided by apmahabhuta.[11]

List of theses done

  1. Upendra D. Dixit (1995). Concept of Panchmahabhuta& it’s utility in Chikitsa .
  2. Dr. Bishnupriya Mohanty (2004 Ph.D.) Biotransformation of Panchmahabhuta& it’s interpretation in terms of cell injury.
  3. Dwivedi L.D. (1969-M.D. and 1975-PhD).A study of concept of Panchmahabhutas
  4. Srivastav L. P. (1988).Concept of Panchmahabhutas in the light of Samkhya, Yoga & Ayurveda.

More information

Vatakalakaliya Adhyaya * Indriyopakramaniya Adhyaya * Katidhapurusha Sharira

Related articles

The list of references for Jala in Charak Samhita can be seen here Table_of_references_Jala.pdf

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  1. Monier-Williams, Monier-Williams Sanskrit- English Dictionary, 1st edition; Oxford University Press, jala, Page 414
  2. Monier-Williams, Monier-Williams Sanskrit- English Dictionary, 1st edition; Oxford University Press, ap, Page 47
  3. Dr K P Sreekumari Amma,editor. Padartha Vijnanam. Trivandrum:Ayurveda college Trivandrum; 2001.chapter 2,Jala nirupana;p.18.
  4. Dr K P Sreekumari Amma,editor. Padartha Vijnanam. Trivandrum:Ayurveda college Trivandrum; 2001.chapter 2,Jala nirupana;p.19.
  5. Dingari lakshmanachary. Acharya’s Ayurvedeeya padartha vigyana. Delhi: Chaukhamba Sanskrit pratisthan;2012.Chapter08, Jala nirupana;p.57.
  6. Nalage D H. A study of Samskara and its role in alteration of Pancha-Bhautika composition of Dravya [MD Dissertation]. Jamnagar: Gujarat Ayurved University; 2004
  7. Sharma H. Correlation of physiological principles of Ayurveda with spin types of quantum physics. Annals Ayurvedic Med [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2020 Apr 03];7(3-4):72-74. Available from: https://www.aamjournal.in/fulltext/70-1531160335.pdf
  8. Hagelin.J. S. Is Consciousness the Unified Field? A Field Theorist’s Perspective. Modem Science and Vedic Science [Internet]. 1987 [cited 2020 Apr 03];7(1):29-87. Available from:https://www.psychicstudent.com/wp-content/uploads/hagelin.pdf
  9. Dr Kusum Malik, Dr Brijesh Mishra. Panchamahabhuta- Aadharbhut Siddhant and their application in Chikitsa. J Ayurveda Integr Med Sci 2018;5:146-150. http://dx.doi.org/10.21760/jaims.v3i5.13833
  10. Kamath Nagaraj, Kulkarni Pratibha. Critical analysis of panchabhautik organization at cellular level. International Ayurvedic Medical Journal [Internet]. 2014 [cited 2020 Apr 08]; Available from: http://www.iamj.in/posts/images/upload/364_367.pdf
  11. Dr Raghuram YS, Panchamahabhutas- Application, areas of utility in ayurvedic treatment [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2020 Apr 09]. Available from: https://www.easyayurveda.com/2016/05/24/understanding-concept-panchamahabhuta-application-areas-utility-ayurveda-treatment/