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The term ‘Ayu’ (also spelled as aayu) means lifespan. It is generally considered age, but it has broader aspects in ancient texts. Ayu is defined as span of life or the continuation of consciousness. Ayu starts with the union of sperm (shukra) and ovum (shonita) during fertilization and ends with the departure of consciousness (prana) from the body. In Ayurveda, Ayu (life) is defined as the combination of body, sense organs, mind and soul. [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 1/42] Their combination leads to genesis of life or consciousness, and the loss of this combination leads to the loss of Ayu or death. The definition of Ayu and its classification into Hitayu, Ahitayu, Sukhayu and Dukhayu in Ayurveda is quoted in a way that covers both the individual and social aspects of life. The ancient holistic science of life - Ayurveda is principally the means of attaining knowledge about Ayu. [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 30/23] Infact, Ayurveda is defined as the science which comprises knowledge of life span and perception of the status of the living body. [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 1/41] According to Acharya Sushrut, Ayu is therein and attained thereby, thus it is called Ayurveda. [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 1/23] Knowledge of Ayu is important because it helps assess the life span of a healthy person, residual life span of a person suffering from severe illness, and the rate of mortality.

Section/Chapter/topic Concepts / Ayu
Authors Bhojani M.K.1, Yadav Vandana1
Reviewer Basisht G.2Khandel S.K.3
Editor Basisht G.2,Deole Y.S.4

1 Department of Kriya Sharira, A.I.I.A. , New Delhi, India

2 Rheumatologist, Orlando, Florida, U.S.A. 3Arogyalaxmi Ayurveda Consultancy, Jaipur, India

4Department of Kayachikitsa, G.J. Patel Institute of Ayurvedic Studies and Research, New Vallabh Vidyanagar, Anand, Gujarat, India
Correspondence email meera.samhita@aiia.gov.in, carakasamhita@gmail.com
Publisher Charak Samhita Research, Training and Development Centre, I.T.R.A., Jamnagar, India
Date of first publication: August 07, 2022
DOI 10.47468/CSNE.2022.e01.s09.105

Etymology and derivation

  • The word Ayu is derived from prefix aa (आ) upasarga and yujiryoge (युजिर्योगे) dhatu. Thus the etymology of ayu आसमन्तात्चेतनयायुनक्तिइतिआयुः| means ayu is the one that connects to consciousness from beginning to end.
  • तत्रायुश्चेतनानुवृत्ति| means from zygote formation till death, the soul stays tuned with the body, and it is Ayu.[Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 30/22]


  1. Dhari: the one that prevents the body from decay.
  2. Jivita: which keeps alive.
  3. Nityaga: which serves as permanent substratum of the body.
  4. Anubandha: which transmigrates from one body to the other.[Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 1/42]
  5. Chetnanuvritti: continuity of consciousness. [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 30/22]


Ayu can be divided into four types: [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 1/41]

  1. Hitayu: A kind of life that benefits the self and society.
  2. Ahitayu: A kind of human life that is not beneficial for the self or the society.
  3. Sukhayu: Happy, ailment-free life; a life pleasant for self and society.
  4. Dukhayu: A kind of life full of sorrow; unhappy life, unpleasant social life.

Although sukhayu and hitakar ayu seem the same, but these are different entities. Sukhayu means instant pleasure, whereas hitayu may or may not be pleasurable at the instant but is pleasurable for self and the society in the future. Sukhayu (pleasurable life) and dukhayu (unpleasurable life) may be either beneficial (hitakar) or nonbeneficial (ahitakar). For example, drinking alcohol may provide pleasure for a short time, but its consumption for a long time is not beneficial. Here living a life that comprises regular consumption of alcohol is sukhayu, but is ahitayu. Similarly, exercise may be unpleasurable, but making exercise a routine is beneficial in the long run. So life that comprises regular exercise may be dukhayu, but is hitayu.

Features of hitakar and ahitakar Ayu

Life is said to be beneficial if the person’s life shows the following features:

  • well-wisher of all the creatures
  • abstains from taking other’s possession
  • the person is truth-speaking, calm, devoted to attaining knowledge, understanding and serenity of mind
  • steps after examining the situation
  • free from carelessness
  • observing the three categories (virtue, wealth, and enjoyment) without their mutual conflict
  • worshipping the worthy persons
  • keeping company of elderly persons
  • the person has controlled well the impulses of attachment, aversion, envy, intoxication, and conceit
  • the person is engaged in various types of donations, constantly devoted to penance, knowledge, and peace
  • has knowledge of and devotion to metaphysics
  • keeping an eye on both the worlds and is endowed with memory and intelligence. [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 30/24]

Contrary to these features, the person's life is known as non beneficial.

Features of sukhayu and dukhayu

Life is said to be happy, if the person is not afflicted with any somatic or psychic disorder. He is particularly youthful, capable with strength, energy, reputation, manliness and prowess. He is possessing knowledge of self, specific knowledge of scientific scripts and strong sense organs and sense objects. He has immense wealth, various favourable enjoyments, and has achieved desired results of all actions and freely moves about where he likes. [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 30/24]

Contrary to these features is an unhappy life.

Directions for measuring span of life in Ayurveda

  1. The age of a healthy human being to be around is one hundred years. [A.Sa.Sharira Sthana 8/26][1]
  2. Due to the deeds of human beings, one year of life span is lost after every hundred years.[1]
  3. The lifespan depends on the constitution of the person. Kapha predominant person lives a longer life, [Cha.Sa.Vimana Sthana 8/96] while vata prakriti individual has a shorter life span. [Cha.Sa.Vimana Sthana 8/98]
  4. Short life span can be predicted by sudden abnormal changes in sense organs, their receptions, and interpretations of objects. [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 30/25]
  5. A grave prognostic sign (arishta) in the body and constitution indicates a person's decreasing lifespan and approach toward death. [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 30/25]
  6. The deeds of past life/destiny (daiva) and deeds of present life (paurush) decide the Ayu of the person.[Cha.Sa.Vimana Sthana 3/29] The excellent blend of these leads to a long and healthy life span, while their inferior combination leads to a short and agonizing life span.[Cha.Sa.Vimana Sthana 3/34]

Assessment criteria

Ancient scientists described the criteria to assess the age and lifespan of a person. The life span assessment should be done before treatment commencement. If the person has residual life span, then only treatment should be started after considering disease, season, digestive power, age, body build, mind, conducive factors, constitution, drug, and habitat. These examinations help in planning the management to obtain desirable results. Along with these criteria, the life span also depends on a person's lifestyle.[Cha.Sa.Vimana Sthana 3/38]

Features of the person expected to have a long life span or ayu:

A person is known to have a long lifespan who has hidden (well covered & nourished) joints, blood vessels and ligaments, compact body parts, firm sense organs, and successively better physical areas. [Su.Sa.Sutra Sthana 35/5-6][2] A person who did not suffer from any disorders during intra-uterine life and who grew with appropriate physical and mental faculties is expected to have long life span.

Features of the person expected to have a medium life span or ayu:

A person is known to have a medium lifespan, in whom two, three, or more distinct and extensive marks are present below clavicles, whose feet and ears are fleshy; tip of the nose raised, and streaks in the upper portion of the back. Such a person has a lifespan of around seventy years. [Su.Sa.Sutra Sthana 35/7-8][2]

The above features indicate such disorders in childhood may reduce lifespan. Any child who suffered clavicle fracture or dislocated shoulder during labour, or was born with thoracic outlet syndrome is likely to have marks below clavicles. Child with Winkler’s disease or polychondritis have fleshy ear; and plantar fibromas, dyshidrotic eczema, plantar warts, bursitis, cysts, synovial sarcoma or Haglund’s deformity may cause fleshy feet. The nasal polyps or sinusitis may cause the raising of the tip of the nose.

Features of the person expected to have a short life span or ayu:

A person is known to have a short life-span, if his phalanges are short, penis enormously big, crisscross hairs on chest, back is not broad enough, ears positioned upwards from its normal place, nose higher and gums visible while laughing or talking and looks bewildered. Such a person lives a short life span of around twenty-five years. [Su.Sa.Sutra Sthana 35/9-11][2]

The signs indicate that a child who is physically or mentally compromised, immune-suppressed, and suffering from severe metabolic or genetic disorders is expected to die early. Symbrachydactly may cause short phalanges. Hypospadias or varicocele may cause enlargement of the genitals. Kyphosis, Lordosis, and spinal or bone disorders may cause back deformation. Visible gums may cause gingivitis and other buccal or respiratory conditions in the future.

Quality of Life Scale by World Health Organization (WHO-QOL)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has developed a quality of life instrument, the WHOQOL, which captures many subjective aspects of quality of life). The abbreviated version of this scale is known as WHOQOL-BREF. It is applicable for cross-cultural comparisons of quality of life and is available in more than 40 languages. The WHOQOL-BREF is a 26-item instrument consisting of four domains: physical health (7 items), psychological health (6 items), social relationships (3 items), and environmental health (8 items); it also contains QOL and general health items.[3],[4]Currently this scale can be applied in research related to Ayu.

Importance of concept

In current times, ayu is regarded as age and deals only with the physical entity, the body. The age ranges from birth to death and depends on the vitality of cells and tissues of the body. But a deeper understanding of ayu reveals that life surpasses the limits of the complexity of cells and tissues. Aspiration to seek hitakar ayu aids in developing human personality and helps him achieve the highest order of harmony in life. It flourishes the psychological and spiritual aspects of well-being, and then the human becomes healthy in the true sense.

Ayurveda believes that freedom from cycle of life and death (moksha) can be achieved only if a person lives healthy life. He can achieve eternal duties (dharma), wealth (artha), and desire (kama) to ultimately achieve moksha. Ayu is required to achieve dharma, artha, and kama. Indian philosophy believes that every person has to pay off the debt to three people (sages, god, and parents) before dying by giving birth to a child. The birth of the person in the world is for paying off debts which the service of society can do. For this purpose, the person will have to maintain a healthy body. To pay the debts, a person needs a long life span, and hence the knowledge of ayu.

Knowledge of ayu teaches that life's moto is not to attain instant pleasure. Instant pleasure is not real happiness.

Ayu vis-à-vis Vaya:

In Ayurveda texts, in different contexts, the terms Ayu and Vaya have been referred. The word ‘Ayu’ denotes the life remaining, and the word ‘Vaya’ denotes the age passed. Thus, ‘Ayu’ is a positive notion of the futuristic life, signifying the scope of furtherance of health and happiness.

Ayu vis-à-vis Panchakosha:

The concept of Ayu resembles and incorporates the Panchakosha Theory (Five interconnecting sheaths) of Yogic sciences’. The Annamaya and Pranamaya Kosha, which are the outermost represents the body component of ayu (sthula sharira), the Manomaya and Vijnanamaya Kosha represents the indriya and mana component of ayu (sukshama sharira) and Anandamaya Kosha represents the Atma component of ayu (karana sharira). Thus, the concept and components of ayu are comprehensive in all health aspects.

Significance of every component of Ayu

As per the health definition by acharya Sushruta, all four components of life should be healthy. As per this definition, health is the equilibrium of body components and a blissful state of body, mind, sensory-motor organs, and soul. This classification of the Ayu or life into four components might also have a specific implication. It signifies that not only is each of the components important, but each has its peculiar pathology as well. These components have their nourishment. Considering the wider understanding of the word ‘Ahara’, each of these has different ahara, as requirement of each is diverse. Although the food we take nourishes body, senses and mind, but specifically and precisely, the body (sharira) needs to breathe, food and water (prana, anna and udaka), and the senses (indriya) require a balance of the sensory inputs (samyoga of indriyaartha), mind (mana) needs proper subjects to ponder upon (samyoga of chintyadiartha) and the soul (atma) needs peace and bliss (bhutdaya, karuna, kshama, akrodha, sattvikbhava, lokakalyana etc.)

Contemporary approach

Before starting the patient's treatment, the clinician must determine his life expectancy. Nature of disease, season, digestive power, age, general health, psyche, favourable diets and habits, constitution, medicines, and geographical locality should be assessed in a patient with good life expectancy.

Current researches

Importance of ayu pareeksha for the management of diseases

The difference between Ayu (span of life) and vaya (age) is defined. Vaya is defined as the state of body corresponding to the length of the time since birth. Characteristic features of the lifespan are presented in detail in the article. The dhatus are in the developing stage during childhood, develop during middle age and start degenerating during old age. Kapha dosha remains predominant during childhood, pitta during adulthood and vata dosha dominates during old age. The treatment of different age groups must be planned to keep the dhatus and dosha in equilibrium. Time factor (kalayoga) is the ideal time for the proper growth of the child in the uterus. Factors responsible for longevity include excellence of diet, absence of opposite factors of dhatu, practicing exercise, cheerful frame of mind, equilibrium of doshas and dhatus, hereditary factors, immunity, etc.[5]

Symbiohealth – Need of the hour

A symbiotic relationship between Allopathy and Ayurveda is fundamental in creating a health care system that is more effective than either system used alone, less expensive, less toxic and more likely to create a healthier society. Maintaining the health of self and creating a healthier society is one of the aspects of Hitakar Ayu, whiche imphasizes the role of Symbiohealth in Ayu. The human body is not like a machine but rather an ecosystem that is formed by Ashtanga Yoga at the upper level, diet rejuvenation and detoxification at the middle level, and Kayachikitsa and modern medicine at lower level. Maintaining this human ecosystem via symbiohealth is required to acquire Hitakar ayu and Sukhayu.[6]

Utility of Vaya and Ayu pariksha according to Ayurveda

The classification of vaya according to different opinions has been presented in the article. Vaya pariksha is an essential factor for ascertaining proper diagnosis, the prognosis of the disease, and also for the appropriate treatment. Fixation of dosage is dependent on age and body mass.[7]

Rasayana effect of Guduchi powder (churna) on the life span of Drosophilla melanogaster

Regular food media mixed with Guduchi churna in different concentrations (0.25g/100ml, 0.50g/100ml and 0.70g/100ml) were exposed to Drosophila melanogaster for 30 days and increase in life span was observed in both parent and F-1 generation.[8]

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