Panchmahabhoota -5 Elements

Panchmahabhoota -5 Elements

The fundamental structural basis of all living beings (including all plants, animals and humans) are 5 elements or ‘Panchmaha bhootas.’ Panch means five; maha means supreme and bhootas means powers. The 5 elements form subtle essence or tanmatra. (Tanmatra is a Sanskrit word which means subtle essence.) These tanmatras embodied the 5 mahabhoots as follows.

The 5 tanmatras are Sound (Shabda), Touch (Sparsha), Vision (Roopa), Taste (Rasa), Smell (Gandha). These tanmatras are related to each sense organ.

These five basic elements include

Ether or Universal Space (Aakash) –

Akash means space i.e. having space/ freedom to move. The qualities of the ether element include- light, subtle, and immeasurable and are related to actions such as expansion, vibration, non-resistance. The ear is the sensory organ related to ether element. The tanmatra of the ether element is Sound or Shabda.

Air (Vayu) –

Air element is related to movement or a sense of constant motion. The qualities of air element include sensitivity, motion, cool and subtle presence. Skin is the sensory organ related to air element. The tanmatra of the air element is Touch or Sparsha.


Divine Fire (Agni) –

The air element performs movements and whenever there is movement, it causes friction and this leads to the formation of fire. The qualities of fire element are related to various functions such as penetration, digestion of food, conversion of thoughts, intellect and perception of light. The tanmatra of the fire element is Vision or Rupa.

Water (Jala) –

The water element qualities include liquidity or fluidity. Water imparts the vital quality of binding – e.g. when we add water to soil, then only we can easily mould the mud into a shape we desire like mud pot or balls etc. Thus, this important element is constructive in nature and exhibits qualities such as adhesion, cooling, binding and liquidity. The tanmatra of the water element is Taste or Rasa.

Earth (Pruthvi) –

This earth element is solid, gross, hard and dense. Earth element gives form, shape, structure and strength. For e.g. teeth, nails, bones and muscles. Nose is the sense organ related to the earth element. The tanmatra of the Earth element is Smell or Gandha.

These panchmahabhoota imbalance create “tridoshas.” Every individual’s constitution is created by these three doshas at the time of fertilization during garbhdharana (when the embryo is formed.) The proportions of these 3 doshas’ are determined at this time and remain unchanged during his/her life. These doshas together determine our prakruti (body organization).

 These panchmahabhoota imbalance create “tridoshas

  • ‘tri’ means three
  • ‘doshas’ means basic components which constitute every human body.

Each human being is either of

  1. Vaat prakruti (prakruti dominated by vaat dosh) or
  2.  Pitta prakruti (prakruti dominated by pitta dosh) or
  3.  Kafa prakruti (prakruti dominated by kafa dosh)


Vaat dosh is formed by Aakash (Universal Space) and Vayu (air) elements; Pitta dosh is caused by Agni (Divine Fire) elements and Kafa dosh is produced by Jala (Water) and Pruthvi (Earth) elements.

Every human body is a well-adjusted mixture of the vaat, pitta and kafa. These doshas when in an ideal balance state gives healthy status to the individual. But when there is an imbalanced, it results in disease. Pivotal is our attitude and behaviour that help in upholding health or conversely, bring on an array of diseases.

Thus, the balanced sattvic diet or food intake, regular yoga exercise and timely medication (which changes according to the dominant dosh) are advocated to avoid health problems.

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