Ayurveda Five Elements

Submitted by Thiruvelan on Thu, 06/24/2010
Ayurveda Five Elements

Everything in this universe is the product of different combinations of the five basic elements: earth, water, fire, air, and space.

Ayurvedic microcosm macrocosm

The basic premise of Ayurveda is that the entire cosmos or universe is part of one singular absolute. Everything that exists in the vast external universe (macrocosm) also appears in the internal cosmos of the human body (microcosm). In other words, all human beings are a living microcosm of the universe and the universe is a living macrocosm of the human beings.

What is Ayurvedic five-element theory?


The Panchamahabhuta (five basic elements) are Akash (ether), Vayu (air), Agni (fire), Jala (water) and Prithvi (earth). Ayurveda uses the characteristics of the five elements to identify different objects.  If they classify anything as "fire," does not mean literally as fire. It means the object possess the characteristics of fire such as combustion, heat, etc.

Ayurveda views nature (including human) as made up of five basic elements or qualities. These elements are earth, water, fire, air, and space; believed to be composed of both matter and energy. These elements interact and give rise to all that exists. 

  1. Earth (Prthvı) element is dense, heavy, hard and principle of inertia. In the human body, all solid structures and compact tissues are obtaining from the earth element. They exist in various structural parts such as the bones, nails, teeth, muscles, cartilage, tendons, skin, and hair. Sense of earth element is smell, organ nose.
  2. Water (Jal) element is liquid, soft and the principle of cohesion. 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. Sense of water element is taste, organ tongue.
  3. Fire (Agni) element is hot, light and principle of radiance. It controls enzyme functioning. In the human body, it believed to regulate body temperature and responsible for digestion, absorption, assimilation and regulate metabolism. The solar plexus, located in the abdomen is the seat of fire in the body. Fire manifests as the gray matter in the brain allows one to recognize, appreciate, and comprehend the world. Sense of fire element is vision, organ eye.
  4. Air or wind (Vayu) element is cold, mobile, rough and principle of vibration. It is the element of movement, in human body it represents every movement include muscular movement, lungs contraction, intestines movement and movement in every cell. In the cosmos, it is the movement of the earth, wind and air. It governs thought, desire, and will. Sense of air element is touch, organ skin.
  5. Space or Ether (Akasha) element is clear, subtle and principle of pervasiveness. It corresponds to the spaces in the body, which include the mouth, nostrils, thorax, abdomen, respiratory tract, and cells. Space allows the existence of sound in order to travel. Sound does not indicate only audible sounds, it also include subtler vibrations that resonate in our body. Sense of ether element is hearing, organ ear.

These five elements exist in all things including human body. These five elements combine in different ways in the human body to govern mind, body, and spirit. 

Concept of Mahabhoot in Other Civilizations

  • Western Air, Water, Aether, Fire, Earth
  • Chinese (Wu Xing): Water, Metal, Earth, Wood, Fire
  • Japanese (Godai): Earth,, Water, Fire, Air, Wind, Void, Sky, Heaven
  • New Zealand: Air, Water, Flora, Fire, Earth
  • Greek: Fire, Earth, Air, and Water