Prithvi mahabhuta

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The word ‘Prithvi’ literally means ‘the earth’. It also represents the earth in its elemental form.[1] It is one among the panchamahabhuta [Cha.Sa. Sharira Sthana 01/27). It also represents an area or spot or the ground. The matter originated from prithvi is terms as ‘parthiva’ (of earthen origin). This article deals with prithvi in its elemental form or prithvi mahabhuta and its role in medical science.

Section/Chapter/topic Sharira / Pachamahabhuta / Prithvi
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: May 20, 2020
DOI 10.47468/CSNE.2020.e01.s09.011

Etymology and definition

Prithvi has been derived from the word ‘pruthu’, which means ‘possessing sthula guna (property of bulkiness or thickness)’.[2] Prath also means pervasive, which spreads. Another meaning is particles. Prithvi is the one which is composed of several particles.[3] That which have gandha (smell), rasa (taste), rupa (vision) and sparsha (touch) is called prithvi.[4]


Prithvi, Kshma, kshiti, bhumi, bhu, dhara, dharati, dharitri, dharani, vasudha, vasundhara, urvi, achala, avani, avanee, jagat.[5]

Contextual meanings

The term prithvi/bhumi denotes the following meanings:

  • Prithvi mahabhuta
  • The earth/ground
  • Place/spot/area [Cha. Sa. Chikitsa Sthana 25/118]


In the sequence of evolution, prithvi mahabhuta is formed from jala mahabhuta. Shabda, sparsha, rupa and rasa tanmatra combines with gandha tanmatra to form prithvi mahabhuta. [Su.Sa. Sharira sthana 01/04]


Prithvi mahabhuta exists in two forms: 1)Nitya (eternal) and 2) Anitya (ephemeral).[6] The paramanu(minute/subtle) form of prithvi mahabhuta is nitya(eternal). The secondary forms by combination of these paramanu are anitya (ephemeral).

General characteristics

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

  • Heavy (guru)
  • Rough (khara)
  • Hard (kathina)
  • Slow (manda)
  • Stable (sthira)
  • Clear/Non slimy (vishada)
  • Dense (sandra)
  • Gross (sthula)
  • Smell (gandha) dominance
  • Shabda (sound), sparsha(touch), rupa(vision) and rasa (taste) [Cha.Sa. Sharira Sthana 01/28]

Specific characteristics (lakshana)

Kharatva (roughness) is the characteristic feature of prithvi mahabhuta [Cha.Sa. Sharira Sthana 01/29]. Among the three fundamental qualities (tri gunas), prithvi mahabhuta is predominant in tamas guna. [Su.Sa.Sharira Sthana 01/20]


Prithvi is one of the six basic constituents of holistic human being or purusha. [Cha.Sa. Sharira Sthana 05/04] In the person, prithvi is represented in the form of solid structures (murthi) [Cha.Sa. Sharira Sthana 05/05]. Prithvi mahabhuta is abode for all plants and medicinal herbs.[7]

Functions during embryogenesis and in human body

  • Prithvi is one among important components of the fundamental constitution of garbha(fetus). [Su.Sa.Sharira Sthana 03/03]
  • During embryogenesis, prithvi mahabhuta is responsible for solid structures or body mass of the embryo. [Su.Sa.Sharira Sthana 05/03] It is also responsible for the functions like development and sensation of smell, heaviness, firmness, steadiness and material form. [Cha.Sa. Sharira Sthana 04/12]
  • The strong, big stature and forgiveness in an individual are due to the predominance of prithvi mahabhuta. [Su.Sa.Sharira Sthana 04/80]
  • The olfactory system including nose and olfactory pathway has predominance of prithvi mahabhuta. [Cha.Sa. Sutra Sthana 08/14]
  • In the eyeball, the muscles represent prithvi mahabhuta. [Su.Sa.Uttar Tantra 01/11]

Role in formation of dhatu:

  • The peculiar raw or musty smell of blood is due to prithvi mahabhuta. [Su.Sa.Uttar Tantra 46/09] [Su.Sa.Sutra Sthana 14/09]
  • Prithvi mahabhuta maintains proper composition, binding, heaviness, compactness and stability in body components.[Cha.Sa. Sutra Sthana 26/11].
  • It is one of the fundamental constituent in the formation of asthi dhatu (bone) [Cha.Sa. Chikitsa Sthana 15/30]. In addition, it is constituent of mamsa (muscle) and meda (adipose tissue) dhatu. [Dalhana on Su.Sa. Sutra Sthana 15/10]

Role in determining the complexion

  • Prithvi and vayu mahabhuta are responsible for black (krishna) complexion. [Cha.Sa. Sharira Sthana 08/15]
  • An equilibrium of all the five mahabhutas result in shyamavarna i.e. sky-like bluish complexion. [Cha.Sa. Sharira Sthana 08/15]

Importance in clinical practice

Application in diagnosis

  • The development of mass, compactness, binding, heaviness and stability/firmness in the body are decided by prithvi mahabhuta. [Cha.Sa. Sutra Sthana 26/11]. Abnormalities in these functions are used to assess the varying proportions of prithvi mahabhuta in the body.
  • In this view, the flaccidity and spasticity of muscles, osteopenia and osteoporosis, structural deformity of bones are some of the disorders due to abnormal prithvi mahabhuta.

Application in treatment

  • The substances which are heavy (guru) to digest have a predominance of prithvi and jala mahabhuta. Its overuse result in hampering the agni (digestion). [Cha.Sa. Sutra Sthana 05/06] 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 rasa (taste), prithvi mahabhuta is one among the material substance. It is the source or abode for all earthen elements. [Cha.Sa. Sutra Sthana 01/64] Among the six types of tastes (rasa), madhura (sweet), amla (sour) and kashaya (astringent) have predominance of prithvi mahabhuta. [Cha.Sa. Sutra Sthana 26/40] By wisely prescribing the drugs having these rasas, one can treat various abnormal conditions of doshas.
  • Medicines for therapeutic purgation (virechana) have predominance of prithvi mahabhuta with jala mahabhuta. Inherent property of gurutva (heaviness) causes the downward movement of these medicines leading to purgation. [Su.Sa. Sutra Sthana 41/06]. Thus it helps in expelling the doshas through rectal route. [Cha.Sa. Kalpa Sthana 01/05]
  • Drugs predominant in qualities of prithvi and jala mahabhuta are nourishing (brimhana) in nature. [Su.Sa.Sutra Sthana 41/06] Hence they are used in diseases due to under-nutrition.
  • The panchabhautika composition of kapha dosha is jala and prithvi mahabhuta.[8] The substances possessing prithvi mahabhuta pacifies vata and pitta dosha due to its properties. It increases kapha dosha. [Su.Sa.Sutra Sthana 41/07-09] Hence the medicines and diet with prithvi mahabhuta is prescribed in disorders due to vitiation of vata and pitta dosha.
  • The parthiva bhutagni selectively carries out digestion and metabolism of food substances having dominance of prithvi mahabhuta. It nourishes the respective constituents in the body. [Cha.Sa. Chikitsa Sthana 15/13] Therefore in case of any abnormality or disequilibrium of prithvi components in the body, this agni needs to be corrected.

Contemporary views and current researches

The tanmatra form of all mahabhuta is considered as eternal. During the evolution, after the formation of sound, touch, heat and light radiation and taste potential, the viscous attractions and condensations proceed further. Thus quanta with smell potential is formed and it can be correlated to gandha tanmatra of prithvi mahabhuta.[9]

In quantum physics, The spin 0 Higgs filed (one among the five quantum mechanical spin types of a unified quantum field theory) is responsible for giving the particles their mass.[10] Dr. John Hagelin, leading physicist in the area of unified quantum field theory, thus correlates prithvi mahabhuta with the spin 0 Higgs filed.[11] Weight and mass of a substance is attributed to property of heaviness of prithvi mahabhuta.[12]

A single cell of living organism has combination of five mahabhutas. Prithvi mahabhuta is responsible for the structure of the cell.[13] The tough or solidified structures in a cell, including nucleus, plasma membrane are the attributes of prithvi mahabhuta.[14]

The integrity, solidity and shape of body in the fetus is provided by prithvi mahabhuta.[15] The minerals and trace elements present in the body represent prithvi mahabhhuta.[16]

List of theses

  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.

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Abbreviations used in bracket : Cha.= Charaka, Sa.= Samhita, Su.= Sushruta the first number is sequential number of chapter in index. The number after slash (/) is sequential number of verse in that chapter.

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