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Panchmahabhutas - The Five Great Elements

the five basic elements ayurveda

Everything in this universe, including human body is the product of different combinations of the five basic elements.
The concept of Panchmahabhutas (five elements) is defined scientifically in Ayurveda classics. The Panchmahabhutas serve as the foundation of all diagnosis treatment modalities in Ayurveda and has served as a most valuable theory for physicians to detect and treat illness of the body and mind successfully.
When the state of the body is not in its natural harmony, the body will try to maintain it’s equilibrium by eliminating excess elements and taking in others. All disorders of the body are manifested because of a disturbance in this balance of the body’s components.

The five great elements are:

1. Ether / Aakash
2. Air / Vayu
3. Fire / Agni or Tejas
4. Water / Jala or Apa
5. Earth / Prithvi


Ether element is the very first developed because it is the most subtle one. It refers to space.
It corresponds to spaces within the body (mouth, nostrils, abdomen, blood vessels, pores etc.). Without space in our digestive system food can’t move through our digestive system.
Ether is a part of all other elements. Ether mixing with eternity creates air. As air moves, it creates friction, which creates heat or fire. Heat produces moisture, thus creating water. Finally, water produces the densest form of matter, earth.



This element developed from ether. Air element initiates and directs motion or movement.
It keeps the body in constant motion. It represents every movement including muscular movement, lungs contraction, blood flow, intestines movement and movement in every cell.



Fire evolves from air. All various forms of transformation including digestion of food, transformation of thoughts and perception of light are carried out by fire element.
It controls enzyme functioning, body temperature and regulates metabolism.



Water evolves from fire. Its main actions are cohesiveness and adhesiveness.
In the human body, all fluids are obtaining from the water element. They exist in many forms in the body such as plasma, blood, saliva, nasal secretion, digestive juice, eye secretion, mucus, cytoplasm, cerebrospinal fluid and liquid inside the cell.
Water provides the body with its most basic nourishment.



Earth evolves from water. The earth element is responsible for giving structure, shape, strength and stability to body and mind. Bones, teeth, muscles, fat and the structure of the different organs are derived from the earth element.


These eternal elements manifest in human body as Tridosha - three basic principles or subtle energies: Vata, Pitta and Kapha dosha.
To read more about Tridosha, click here: Functions Of Vata, Pitta And Kapha.

Author: Ayurveda Tutorials

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