Vayu mahabhuta

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The word ‘vayu’ literally means ‘wind’ or ‘air’ or ‘vital air’.[1] It is one among the panchamahabhuta.[Cha.Sa.Sharira sthana 1/27] In Ayurveda, it is applied to denote mahabhuta and dosha in body.
There are two forms of vayu: subtle (sukshma) and gross (sthula). The subtle form is present as vital force(‘prana’) in sheath of vital force (pranamaya kosha). Gross (sthula) vayu is present in the body as mahabhuta and dosha in sheath formed by food (annamaya kosha).[2] This article deals with sthoola vayu in the form of mahabhuta. The concept and practice about vata dosha is dealt separately.

Section/Chapter/topic Sharira / Pachamahabhuta / Vayu
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: April 12, 2020
DOI 10.47468/CSNE.2020.e01.s09.008

Etymology and definition

The word ‘vayu’ originates from the ‘va’ dhatu(Sanskrit root), which means ‘movement’. The word Vayu is derived from the word ‘vagatigandanayoho’, which means it exerts motility and pressure[Su.Sa.Su.21/5].[3]Vayu possesses specific property of touch. It doesn’t have any shape.[Tarksangraha][3]


Vata, pavana, sadagati, anila, sameerana, maruta

Contextual meanings

The term vayu denotes the following meanings

  1. Vayu mahabhuta
  2. Wind
  3. Vatadosha
  4. Factor responsible for transformation(digestion, assimilation and metabolism) of food[Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana 06/14]


In the sequence of evolution, vayu evolves from the akasha mahabhuta. The subtle (tanmatra) forms of shabda and sparsha unify to form vayumahabhuta[Su.Sa.Sha.1/4].Vayu shows autonomy in its functions[Su.Sa.Ni.1/5].

General characteristics

The substance with the predominance of vayumahabhuta possesses the following properties [Su.Sa.Su.41/4(4)].

  • Light (laghu)
  • Dry (ruksha)
  • Rough (khara)
  • Clear (vishada)
  • Subtle/minute (sukshma)
  • Touch (sparsha) dominantly [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 26/11]
  • Sound (shabda) [Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana 1/27]

Specific characteristics

Movement (chalatva) is the characteristic feature of vayumahabhuta[Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana 1/29]. It can move in all directions. That may be the reason for considering ‘tiryakgamana’(movement in all directions) as a property of vayu(Chakrapani on [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana11/12). Among the three fundamental qualities (triguna), vayu mahabhuta is rajas guna dominant[Su.Sa.Sha.1/20].


Vayu is represented as vital force (prana) in purusha. It is also responsible for initiation of any movement(utsaha )[Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana 5/5]. Therefore, vayu is directly responsible for vitality and all functions in an individual.

Functions in embryogenesis and human body

  • During embryogenesis, Vayu mahabhuta is responsible for the functions of development of touch sensation and its perception, roughness, impulsion, structure and functions of body tissues and all types of movements, transportation in channels[Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana 4/12].
  • Vayu mahabhuta is also responsible for the dominancy of vatadosha in prakriti of an individual[Cha.Sa.Vimana Sthana8/95].
  • Vayu mahabhuta carries out the function of division or separation of fetus (garbha) into dosha, dhatu, mala, different body parts etc.[Su.Sa.Sha.5/3].
  • All these functions are carried out in postnatal life too.

Role in determining the complexion

Mahabhutas contribute in determining colour and complexion.

  • Prithvi and vayu are responsible for black complexion
  • An equilibrium of all the five mahabhutas result in sky-like bluish complexion(shyamavarna)[Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana 8/15]

Role of vayubhutaagni in digestion of food

  • In the process of digestion and metabolism, the food passes through three levels of action of digestive fire (agni). During the action by bhutagni, the vayu dominant agni acts upon vayu dominant components of food. It further nourishes vayu dominant body components[Cha.Sa.Chikitsa Sthana 15/12-14].

Vital points (Marma) and its Vayu mahabhuta constituation

  • Vishalyaghna marma (vital points affected by foreign body) have predominance of vayu mahabhuta. The individual survives as long as vayu remains inside as obstructed by the foreign body.
  • Rujakaramarma(painful vital points) have dominance of agni and vayu. Pain is caused as a result of these two mahabhuta [Su.Sa.Sharira Sthana 6/16].

Importance in clinical practice

Application in diagnosis

Movement is the property attributed to vayu. Therefore, it is responsible for all physiological functions related to transport and movements inside and outside body. Vayu mahabhuta carries out basic function of nourishment of its own components as in skin and touch sensation. Apart from this, lightness (loss of weight and volume), dryness, roughness, fatigue, disintegration are observed[Cha.Sa.Sutra sthana 26/11]. Abnormalities in these functions and features can be diagnosed and treated.

Application in treatment

  • The vatadosha is constituted from vayu and akasha mahabhuta [AS.Su.20/2]. In vata prakriti individual, the dominance of properties of vayumahabhuta is observed.
  • Similarly, in conditions of vatadosha aggravation, vayumahabhuta predominance is observed. The treatment of such conditions is done by avoiding diet and lifestyle measures with vayu predominance.
  • On the other side, the vayumahabhuta dominant regimen is indicated in conditions of kaphadosha aggravation[Su.Sa.Su.41/7-8].
  • The substances which are pungent, bitter and astringent in taste have dominancy of vayu and akasha mahabhuta[Su.Sa.Su.42/3]. By wisely prescribing the drugs having the above said tastes, one can treat various conditions of doshas.
  • Medicines for therapeutic emesis (vamana) have agni and vayu mahabhuta dominance. Since both of these mahabhutas have lightness as their property, it carries the dosha in upward direction and thus it helps in expelling the doshas through mouth[Su.Sa.Su.41/6].
  • The drugs having predominance of vayumahabhuta cause withholding (sangrahi) effect in body, since vayu does absorption of fluid (shoshana)[Su.Sa.Su.41/6].
  • To attain the scarifiying (lekhana) effect, drugs having more vayu and agniguna predominance are selected[Su.Sa.Su.41/6].

Current views and researches

The tanmatra form of all mahabhuta is considered as eternal. During the evolution the ‘indistinct’ (avyakta) acts as a seat for mass and energy. Due to the potential difference in the energy, elementary forces come into action to produce vibrations. These vibrations produce the sound potential first or shabdha tanmatra. The vibrations further increase compelling the elementary forces to act vigorously and thus produce the touch potential or sparsha tanmatra of vayumahabhuta.[4] In view of quantum mechanics, the vayumahabhuta corroborates to spin 3/2 i.e. gravitino (graviton) and superfield gravity[5]. In the body, it corresponds with the air elements, conduction and transportation functions.

List of theses done

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

More information

Related articles

List of references

The list of references for Vayu in Charak Samhita can be seen here Table_of_reference_Vayu.pdf

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  1. Monier-Williams, Monier-Williams Sanskrit- English Dictionary, 1st edition; Oxford University Press, vayu, Page 942
  2. Joshi Prama. Vayu viveka available from
  3. 3.0 3.1 Dingarilakshmanachary.Acharya’sAyurvedeeyapadarthavigyana. Delhi: Chaukhamba Sanskrit pratisthan;2012.Chapter 10,Vayu nirupana;p.62.
  4. 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
  5. Sharma Hari,Christopher Clark. Contemporary Ayurveda: Medicine and Research in Maharishi Ayur-Veda.Churchill Livingstone; 1 edition;1997,36-37.