Sharira

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The word ‘Sharira’ means ‘physical body’. Ayurveda describes sharira as the seat of consciousness, composed of the aggregate of the products of five mahabhutas and carrying on in the state of equilibrium. [Cha. Sa. Sharira Sthana 6/4] Soul is assumed to be the cause of consciousness. Thus, Ayurveda considers that sharira is a living body constituted by the association of the panchamahabhutas and the soul. The physical body is formed by amalgamation of pachamahabhutas in variable quantities. The physical body is active but unconscious. The soul is inactive and conscious in the living being. They both coexist together inside the sharira. The physical body works as per the direction of the soul. The association between body and soul can be related to a lame person sitting on the shoulders of a blind person and moves on the directions of blind person. Sharira is one of the tripods of life along with mind and soul. When these three factors unite, the body survives and possesses all essentials of life [Cha.Sa. Sutra Sthana 1/46]. The importance of knowledge of sharira can be understood by observing a separate section named ‘sharira sthana’ in each classical ayurveda text. The knowledge of sharira is mandatory for the clinical diagnosis, treatment of diseases, and maintenance of a healthy life. Current researches show that knowledge of sharira is necessary to decide the ingredients of drugs, understand the mode of action of therapy, and evaluation of anthropometric data.

Sharira
Section/Chapter/topic Concepts / Sharira
Authors Bhojani M.K.1, Yadav Vandana 1
Reviewer Basisht G.2
Editor Deole Y.S.3
Affiliations

1 Department of Kriya Sharira, All India Institute of Ayurveda, New Delhi, India

2 Rheumatologist, Orlando, Florida, U.S.A.

3Department 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: September 30, 2022
DOI 10.47468/CSNE.2022.e01.s09.108

Etymology and definition

The word sharira is derived from shree (श्री) dhatu. The meaning of word sharira is shrayante (श्रयन्ते) ( meaning shelter). The sharira is shelter to chetana (consciousness), dosha, dhatu and mala.

Synonyms

  1. Sharira: Sheeryate tad shariram (शीर्यते तद् शरीरम् |)
  2. The one that continuously deteriorates or undergoes catabolic changes is known as sharira.
  3. Deha: Dih upachaye (दिह उपचये |)[1]
  4. The one which continuously gets nourished or constantly undergoes anabolic changes is known as ‘deha’.
  5. Kaya: Cheeyate annadibhihi (चीयते अन्नादिभिः |)[2]
  6. The one which continuously gets replenished by the metabolism of food is known as ‘kaya’.
  7. Purusha: Puri vasati iti purushah (पुरि वसति इति पुरुषः |)[3]
  8. The shelter of puri (soul) is known as ‘purusha’.
  9. Tanu: Tanoti vistarayati kulam iti tanu (तनोति विस्तारयति कुलं इत तनुः |)[4]
  10. The one which expands (in context to reproductive function) is known as 'tanu’. Above synonyms expresses catabolic, anabolic, metabolic and reproductive aspects of sharira. Other synonyms of Sharira mentioned in Amarkosha are Gatra, Vapu, Samhanan, Varnma, Vigraha, and Murti.[5]

Classification

  1. Sukshma or linga sharira (soul with subtle body): The word sukshma or linga sharira is basically used for atma (soul). According to classical Indian literature, when a person dies, his body formed of panchamahabhuta gets dissolved and vanishes in panchamahabhuta of the nature. The sukshma sharira leaves the dead body and enters a new body. Thus sukshma sharira is immortal.
  2. Sthula sharira (emperical soul): This is the physical body that is perceptible through sense organs. This body performs all the good and evil deeds and also suffers the results of the deeds. When a person becomes ill, medical treatment is done on the physical body; hence, this body is called ‘chikitsya purusha’ (person whose treatment is done). Sthula sharira is mortal.

Sub-division

Ayurveda scholars and modern anatomists divided the human body into six regions for descriptive and dissection purposes. They named it ‘Shadangam’ (six body parts) so that each body part can be studied precisely [Cha.Sa. Sharira Sthana 7/5] [Su.Sa. Sharira Sthana 5/3]

Table 1. Shadangam (six body parts)
Body parts Number
Upper limbs/extremities 2
Lower limbs /extremities 2
Head and Neck 1
Trunk 1

Kosha and sharira

Ancient scholars subdivided the sharira into five coverings. The coverings seems to cover atman (self or consciousness). These are as below:

  1. Annamaya kosha: This is the first cover of the persona. It is directly perceived in living beings. Since this layer is made and grows due to the essence of food (annarasa), it is named annamaya kosha.
  2. Pranamaya kosha: Prana means energy. All the activities of the body are governed by energy. The physiological system that gives energy backup is pranamaya kosha. All activities of body cease when prana leaves the body.
  3. Manomaya kosha: Manomaya kosha is the cover denoting the mind.
  4. Vijnanamaya kosha: This denotes the intellect and sense faculties of the person.
  5. Anandmaya kosha: This denotes the attitude and aptitude component of our personality. [6]

Ayurveda practices intend to nourish all these components and maintain equilibrium to preserve health.

Examination and assessment methods

  • Inspection
  • Palpation
  • Percussion
  • Auscultation
  • Endoscopic examination
  • Radiographic Anatomy
  • Isotopic methods
  • Computed Tomography
  • Dissection
  • Anatomical assessment of sharira is done in ‘Rachana Sharira’ (Anatomy), while physiological assessment is done in ‘Kriya Sharira’ (Physiology).
  • Charak described ten-fold investigations for assessment and examination of sharira of patients. [Cha. Sa. Vimana Sthana 8/94]
  • Prakriti pariksha (Assessment of somatic and psychological constitution)
  1. Vikriti pariksha (Assessment of abnormalities or pathological investigation)
  2. Sara pariksha (Assessment of quality of body components)
  3. Samhanana pariksha (Assessment of compactness of the body)
  4. Pramana pariksha (Assessment of proportionate relation of different organs)
  5. Satmya pariksha (Assessment of compatibility)
  6. Sattva pariksha (Assessment of mental strength)
  7. Aahara pariksha (Assessment of intake and digestive capacity)
  8. Vyayama pariksha (Assessment of the working ability of the body)
  9. Vaya pariksha (Assessment of age)
  • Assessment of sharira is carried out through anthropometric measurements. Anthropometric measurements are noninvasive quantitative measurements of the body. Anthropometry provides a valuable assessment of nutritional status in children and adults. The core elements of anthropometry are height, weight, head circumference, body mass index (BMI), body circumferences to assess for adiposity (waist, hip, and limbs), and skinfold thickness.

Importance of sharira

  • Any imbalance in dosha, dhatu (body components) and mala (metabolic biproducts); or any anatomical or physiological anomaly leads to pathogenesis and disease manifestation of the body. For example, decreased hemoglobin level can be observed as pallor on skin and conjunctiva on sharira. The body thus portrays the state of dosha, dhatu, and mala. Consequently, the imbalance of dosha, dhatu, and mala are balanced and brought to equilibrium by the administration of aahara (food), vihara (daily or seasonal regimen), and aushadha (medicine and therapy) to sharira.
  • The sharira is the base of dosha, dhatu, and mala. [Su.Sa. Sutra Sthana 15/3] To successfully treat a patient, understanding functional entities, anatomical entities and metabolic by-products is necessary. Hence the knowledge of sharira is mandatory in healthcare systems. A physician who is well versed in the understanding of sharira becomes admirable in the field of science of life. [Cha.Sa. Sharira Sthana 6/3]
  • Basic knowledge of the anatomical aspect of sharira is necessary for surgical procedures. Ayurveda believes that one can be considered an expert shalya chikitsak (surgeon) only when he is well versed in practical anatomy and the knowledge of classical literature. Therefore, one should start the procedures (of surgery) after clearing away the doubts by actually seeing (the surgical anatomy concerned) and consulting (the appropriate literature). [Su.Sa. Sharira Sthana 5/63]
  • In medical jurisprudence, the anatomical study of sharira is vital to find out the cause of death, gender, age, sex, etc.
  • Though sharira is mainly assumed as a physical body, sharira also demonstrates the status of the psyche and mental faculty. For example, stressed mental status causes the release of hormones like catecholamines. These hormones manifest in raised blood pressure and increased heart activity in sharira. The relation between sharira and manas (psyche) is highlighted in Charak Samhita by quoting that body follows psyche and vice versa. [Cha.Sa. Sharira Sthana 4/36]
  • Sharira is an important component in yoga shastra. The term ‘yoga’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Yuja’, which means ‘to combine. Yoga combines the mind (mana) and the body (sharira). Yoga helps attain voluntary control over Autonomic Nervous System by establishing equilibrium between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Practicing yoga, pranayama reduces body metabolism by lowering oxygen consumption, and improving lung ventilation, thus influencing the respiratory system. Yoga exercises improve cardio-vascular endurance. Thus indicate its relation with cardio-vascular system. Yoga practices have a significant impact on body physiology and sharira.

Current researches

  1. Concept of sharira in panchakarma
  2. Knowledge of sharira is essential to perform panchakarma procedures. Dosha movement and evacuation are significant in deciding the purification procedure. For example, in nasya (nasal administration), it is crucial to know the pathways through which the medicines are pharmacologically active in the head and nasal region. Composition of ingredients of drugs of nasya, specific procedure of poorvakarma (set of actions that are taken ahead of a panchakarma therapy) before nasya, etc. depend on the characteristics of sharira of region above the clavicle (urdhwajatrugata). Poorvakarma with snehana and swedana dilates blood vessels of respiratory mucosa. The drugs are prepared to become lipophilic, so they can quickly enter these blood vessels and cross blood-brain barrier (BBB). Nasya is very effective in diseases occurring in regions above the clavicle (urdhwajatrugata vikara). Nasya couldn’t have been performed without knowledge of sharira. [7]
  3. Significance of anguli pramana in ayurveda: a critical review
  4. Importance of anatomical knowledge of sharira about anguli pramana (measurement with fingers) is elaborated. Anguli pramana is significant in determining age, status of immunity, economic quality, life span, therapy dosage, treatment selection, forensic medicine, textile industry, etc.[8]
  5. Review on shadanga sharira
  6. Formation and development of shadanga, division of body structures, and their external appearance (bahya pratyanga) is elaborated in Sushruta samhita. Knowledge of anatomical structure is the base for understanding functions and pathological changes. It is highly important while performing surgery as well as post-surgery.[9]
  7. Fundamentals of rachana sharira (anatomy) in treatise Sushruta Samhita
  8. Sushruta, the first surgeon, has detailed the anatomical aspects and surgical procedures in Sushruta Samhita. Elucidating the concept of sharira, Sushruta described the anatomical situations of various structures. He has also given a detailed description of the evolution of universe, cellular system to the development of multiple tissues and organs, beginning from the intrauterine life.[10]
    The details of sharira in Sharira sthana of Sushruta Samhita are described after observation, examination, and cadaveric study. Practical observation by cadaveric dissection is elaborately discussed.[11]
  9. An insight into Charaka Samhita Sharira sthana- in light of today’s medical practices and national policies
  10. All aspects of sharira are described in Sharira sthana of Charak Samhita. This section is structured in a very logical manner. The topics include law of formation of universe and human life, microscopic to macroscopic transformation, consciousness, salvation, importance of non-consanguineous marriage and purification of parents before conception (beeja shuddhi), to prevent genetic diseases and syndromes, principles of genetics, formation and month wise growth and development of embryo, organogenesis, teratogenicity potentials, anatomy of foetus and nutrition of foetus, daily regime for pregnant lady, garbhini paricharya (antenatal care), prasoota and sutika paricharya (post-partum care), jatamatra paricharya (new born care). Scientific and step-wise description in eight chapters is found to be time tested with today’s medical practices and national health policies. [12]
  11. Critical approach towards rachana sharira w.s.r. to shadanga sharira [13]
  12. Rachana Sharira is a specialty subject dealing with the knowledge of sharira. The human body is formed of six parts called ‘angas’. Hence it is known as Shadang Sharira. shadangas and pratyangas are the first ever anatomical landmarks explained in medical science. The six parts of shadangas have definite peculiarities, like shakha help in daily activities and locomotion. Shira is the control center of body activities. Sharira Madhya (middle portion of the body, trunk) comprises of many organs related to important life processes. Vaksha is composed of vital organs of circulation and ventilation. Concept of the interrelationship between manas (psyche) & sharira (soma) w.s.r. to Ayurvedic Treatment
    Sharira & manas are related to each other through their fundamental functional forces viz. the tridosha & triguna. Sharirika dosha vata, pitta, and kapha are related to rajas, sattva & tamas, respectively. The interrelationship at this level is of a quantitative type. After comparing the normal functions of both dosha and observing them, it is observed that vata has an affinity with rajas & tamas, while kapha with sattva.[14]

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References

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  11. Dr. Ankit Tyagi, Dr. Bhoomi Soni Tyagi, Dr. Kanika Jain. A Critical Review of Importance of Sharir Sthan by Acharya Sushuruta. World Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences 2019; 8(9), 207-211
  12. Swapnil C Raskar, Rajagopala S. An Insight into Charaka Samhita Sharira Sthana- In Light of Today’s Medical Practices and National Policies. ayush [Internet]. 2019Apr.22 [cited 2022Aug.13];6(1):2028-33.
  13. Dr. Archana Purushottam Shende, Dr. Rajshri Tulshidas Shilimkar, Dr. Atul Dwarkadas Birla; Critical Approach towards Rachana Sharir w.s.r. to Shadanga Sharir. World Journal of Pharmaceutical and Medical Research 2021,7(8), 330 – 332.
  14. Dhimdhime R.S, Pawar K.B, Kodape D.T, Dhimdhime S.R, Prashant Baghel. Concept of Interrelationship Between Manas (Psyche) & Sharira (Soma) w.s.r. to Ayurvedic Treatment International Journal of Ayurveda and Pharma Research. 2017;5(1):70-73.