The Sanskrit word ‘tanmatra’ literally means subtle elements. It reflects the knowledge of atoms in ancient classics. Ayurveda being the life science has focused on the genesis of life along with the fulfillment of long healthy life. This concept of genesis of life in Ayurveda find its roots in Sankhya philosophy and Vedant Philosophy. This concept of tanmatras is reflected as the influence of Sankhya and Vedant philosophy on Ayurved.
|Authors||Nawkar Madhumati S.1|
1Department of Sanskrit Samhita Siddhanta, R. T. Ayurved Mahavidyalaya, Akola, Maharashtra, India|
2 Rheumatologist, Orlando, Florida, U.S.A.
3Department of Kayachikitsa, G.J.Patel Institute of Ayurvedic Studies and Research, New Vallabh Vidyanagar, Gujarat, India
|Publisher||Charak Samhita Research, Training and Development Centre, I.T.R.A., Jamnagar, India|
|Date of publication:||November 28, 2022|
Types of tanmatras
There are five sense perceptions -hearing, touch, sight, taste and smell and there are five tanmatras corresponding to the five-sense perception 
These are five in number
Concept of Tanmatra as per Sankhya philosophy
|1||Mula prakriti (origin/ creator)||prakriti||01|
|2||Prakriti-vikriti (creator & creation dual nature)||Mahat
|3||Vikar (creation)||Panchamahabhoota (five fundamental elements)
Panchajnanendriya (five sense organs)
Panchakarmendriya (five motor organs)
|4||Na prakriti navikar (neither creator nor creation)||Purusha||01|
According to Sankhyas at the initial stage the two original eternal principles are mula prakriti or avyakta (principal origin) and purusha.
Prakriti is the original state with balanced state of triguna, everything is in a mass and one thing cannot be distinguished from one another. Prakriti with the help of purusha causes the creation. 
The next principle mahat (cosmic intellect) gets originated from avyakta, and this further originates ahankara (ego/ self sense of cosmos). The ahankara is of three types.
- Sattvika: Ahankara with dominance of sattva, also known as vaikarika.
- Rajasika: Ahankara with dominance of rajas, also known as tejas.
- Tamasika: Ahankara with dominance of tamas, also known as bhutadi.
Panchikarana (quintiplication) is the process explained by Vedanta for the formation of gross elements from tanmatras.
Theories of origination of mahabhutas from tanmatras
- Each mahabhuta originates from its own tanmatra. As commented by Shri Gaudapad on Sankhyakarika, akasha originated from shabda tanmatra, vayu from sparsha tanmatra, agni from rupa tanmatra, jala from rasa tanmatra and prithvi from gandha tanmatra respectively.
- Quintiplication (panchikarana):
In Vedant philosophy, it is believed that for formation of each gross element all tanmatras take part in specific proportion. The dominance of concerned tanmatra gives rise to the concerned mahabhoota. That is in each sthulabhuta 50% or ½ portion will show dominance of its own tanmatra and rest four tanmatras will occupy 1/8th portion (12.50%) each. This is known as panchikarana.
For example, akasha mahabhoota is formed by combination of - 50% of shabda tanmatra, 12.5% of sparsha tanmatra, 12.5% of rupa tanmatra, 12.5% of rasa tanmatra and 12.5% of gandha tanmatra.
- Addition of properties (kramotpatti/ bhutantaraanupravesha/ ekottarparivriddhi)
When the gross elements originate from its own tanmatra, the previous element’s tanmatra also plays role in its creation. That means first akash originates from shabdatanmatra. Thereafter, vayu mahabhoota originates from sparsha tanmatra along with shabda tanmatra. So vayu shows two qualities shabda and sparsha, and so on/ The properties of each mahabhuta in sequential formation are shown in table below.
|2||Shabda + Sparsha||Vayu||Shabda, Sparsha|
|3||Shabda + Sparsha + Rupa||Agni||Shabda, Sparsha, Rupa|
|4||Shabda + Sparsha + Rupa + Rasa||Jala||Shabda, Sparsha, Rupa, Rasa|
|5||Shabda + Sparsha + Rupa + Rasa + Gandha||Prithvi||Shabda, Sparsha, Rupa, Rasa, Gandha|
Vaisheshika theory of creation of mahabhuta
Tanmatra and quantum spins
There appears to be a striking correspondence between the five tanmatras and these quantum-mechanical spin types: between the space tanmatra and the gravitational field; between the air tanmatra, which stands as a link between space and the other elements, and the gravitino field; between the fire tanmatra, responsible for chemical transformations and the sense of sight, and the spin-1 forces; and between the water and earth tanmatras and the spin-% and spin-0 matter fields, respectively.
Tanmatra, paramanu and wave particle duality
Tanmatra and elementary particles
Tanmatra is an important concept to understand and build base for Ayurved biology.
Application of tanmatra in health and prevention of diseases
Application of tanmatra in clinical practices
- Formation of foetus: Five elements and soul/conscious (atma) conjugates to form foetus.[Cha.Sa. Sharira Sthana 4/6]
- Prakriti nirmana:Panchabhautiki prakriti is formed. [Su. Sa. Sharira Sthana 4]
- Body elements and panchamahabhutas:
- Shabda(sound), sense of hearing, porous structures in the body are showing dominance of akasha mahabhuta. Touch, skin, pulsations, lightness, and all movements are due to vayu mahabhuta. Vison, eyes, colour, temperature, digestion ,bravery are due to teja mahabhuta. Taste, tongue, coldness, unctuousness, semen and all liquid components of body show dominance of Jala mahabhuta. Sense of smell, nose, and all solid structures are due to prithvi mahabhuta dominance. [Su. Sa.Sharira Sthana 1/19]
- Dosha with specific dominance of panchamahabhuta:
- Digestive capacity (agni):
Bhutagni which are responsible for metabolism of the diet have dominance of relatedmahabhuta .[ Cha. Sa. ShariraSthana 15/13]
- Dravya and panchamahabhuta:
- Among six rasa (taste), each rasa is associated with 2 mahabhuta. [A.Hr. Sutra Sthana10/1]
- Ahara, the foodis also panchabhautika. [Su. Sa. Sutra Sthana 46/ 526]
- All dravya are panchabhautika [A.Hr. Sutra Sthana9/5-10]
- Shodhanadravya(drugs used for elimination of dosha) have predominance of specific mahabhuta. The drugs useful for vamana(therapeutic emesis) have dominance of agni and vayu mahabhuta. Virechana( therapeutic purgation) dravya have dominance of prithvi and jala mahabhuta. [Cha. Sa. KalpaSthana1/5]
Future scope of research
- Akasha mahabhuta
- Vayu mahabhuta
- Agni mahabhuta
- Jala mahabhuta
- Prithvi mahabhuta
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