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The term purusha literally means a man, holistic human being or a member or representative of a race or generation. This word also represents the soul of the universe.[1] A proper knowledge about all the elements of a particular purusha is very essential for the successful treatment.

Section/Chapter/topic Sharira / Purusha
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 22, 2020
DOI 10.47468/CSNE.2020.e01.s09.005

Etymology and derivation

Purusha is derived from two words. 'Pure shareere' meaning 'inside the body'and 'shete' meaning ' which resides'. So, the word ‘purusha’ means that which resides in body. [amarakosha]


An aggregate of soul, senses, psyche and sense objects can be considered as purusha in general. [Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana 25/04]

Contextual meanings

In Charak samhita the word purusha denotes these following meanings:

  1. Person /individual
  2. Atma, Self , Consciousness alone
  3. One’s actions (deeds) in this life( purushakara)
  4. Corporeal entities (Purushe murtimanto पुरुषे मूर्तिमन्तो)
  5. Holistic human being (Rashipurusha)
  6. Male ( this meaning is used only to denote difference from female gender wherever applicable)


One element

The element of consciousness alone could be considered as purusha. [Cha. Sa.Sharira Sthana 1/16]

Six elements

Purusha comprises of six elements (dhatus), viz. five mahabhuta (in their subtle form) and consciousness. [Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana 1/16] Imperishable Atma and perishable panchabhautik body are the two main constituents of the purusha. They are mentioned in Yajurveda in question-answer manner as “combining and mutually supportive during life and disintegrating and merging with elements of the universe at the time of death.” The same concept is established more clearly as purusha of six constituent(sshad-dhatuka purusha) and combination of five elements(mahabhuta) and consciousness (pancha mahabhuta shareeri samavayah purusha), and merging into mahabhuta (panchatwa prapti) at death by Charaka and Sushruta respectively.[2]

Twenty four elements

Purusha comprises of twenty four constituents(dhatu), i.e. mind, ten sensory and motor organs (indriyas), five objects of sense organs and prakriti (consisting of eight dhatu, viz. five mahabhuta (in their subtle form), ego(ahamkara), intellect(mahan) and primordial element(avyakta) [Cha.Sa. Sharira Sthana 1/17]


The word purusha denotes a holistic human being consisting of soul, senses and psyche. When the soul (atma) enters the physical body made of flesh and blood, it becomes a human being. So, it is the atma which gives life to the physical body. Atma or element of consciousness (chetana dhatu) is important for creation of life. In clinical practice, the physician treats a combination of mind, soul, senses, mahabhuta, intellect and ego. This gives rise to holistic system of medicine.

As per the Indian philosophy, all events in the life of person are due to the effect of his own deeds(karma) in this life or in the previous life. Ayurveda believes that rashipurusha is responsible for all deeds in his life and has to face the consequences of those deeds. It is also responsible for the (creation/gaining) of knowledge, pleasure, sorrow, and joy. Since purusha refers mainly to living human being, his deeds can also be called as purusha or purushakara because it defines that person.

Purusha without a beginning, does not have an end. But the purusha with a beginning is ephemeral.[Cha.Sa. Sharira Sthana 1/59] The eternal purusha can be considered as the absolute soul and that with a beginning and end suggests the combination of soul with other elements.

Importance of Knowledge of Purusha

  • For treating a person, one has to know about the human body as a whole (rashipurusha).
  • The person who knows this rashipurusha in its true sense also understands the whole process of the genesis and destruction of life.
  • Such an intellectual person becomes well aware of chikitsa and nothing else remains for him to be learnt.
  • The life span of all living beings depends on the proper coordination of two factors, namely, daiva (divine/pre-determined/destiny) and purushakara (human effort/karma). Daiva means one’s own deeds in the previous life while purushakara stands for one’s actions (deeds) in this life. So proper knowledge of purusha is essential for understanding lifespan.
  • In order to attain salvation, purusha is to be freed from rajas and tamas. If freed from the influence of rajas and tamas, the purusha is free from its association with the tattva and is said to be liberated.

Current researches

Purusha is considered as Atman (self). Therefore, knowing purusha leads to knowledge about self. It is directly related to spiritual health. World Health Organization included spiritual dimension of health in assessment of quality of life.[3] Some researchers state that purusha is a state of self-existence which is static, undifferentiated and universal. It is a superconscious state which encompasses all other three states of consciousness-the ‘Jagrat’(awake), ‘Swapna’ (dream) and ‘Sushupti’ (deep sleep). There is no object-subject polarity (duality) in this universal state and it is unitary or singular. Thus purusha is merged with the universal consciousness.[4]

More information

  1. Katidhapurusha sharira
  2. Yajjah Purushiya

References from Charak Samhita

The list of references for word purusha in Charak Samhita can be seen here Purusha_table_of_references.pdf

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  1. Monier-Williams, Monier-Williams Sanskrit- English Dictionary, 1st edition; Oxford University Press, Purusha, Page 637
  2. Thakar VJ. Historical development of basic concepts of Ayurveda from Veda up to Samhita. AYU. 2010 Oct-Dec; 31(4): 400–402.
  3. Reddy P S. Spiritual health in Āyurveda: A review through Charaka Samhitᾱ. Yoga Mimamsa 2018;50:37-40
  4. H. R. Aravinda Prabhu, P. S. Bhat. Mind and consciousness in yoga – Vedanta: A comparative analysis with western psychological concepts Indian J Psychiatry. 2013 Jan; 55(Suppl 2): S182–S186.