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Principles of Ayurveda


About Ayurveda

Salient Features of Ayurveda

Astanga Ayurveda

Basic Principles of Ayurveda

--The PanchaMahabhutas

--The TriGunas

--The TriDosas

--The SaptaDhatus

--The TriMalas

--The TrayodosaAgni

















Ayurveda (the science of life) is one of the branches of vedas. It is regarded as upaveda of rigveda or atharva-veda but,really speaking,it is a stream of the knowledge coming down from generation to generation since eternity parallel to the vedic literature that is why its emergence has been said to be from the creator (Brahma) himself prior to the creation.It is called eternal because nobody knows when it was not there. All this shows its long tradition and deep attachment to the Indian culture.

About Ayurveda

Ayurveda ‘the Science of Life’ is a holistic system of medicine from India, which evolved from Brahma sages of Ancient India some 3000-5000 years ago.The principles and philosophy of Ayurveda view man as a complex whole, including our external and internal environments.The principles are derived from universal laws of nature that have changed little through time. With subjective, objective, and intuitive approaches to gaining knowledge, incorporated with a deep understanding of the unseen intelligence of the universe.The practices of Ayurveda have withstood the test of time.

Ayurveda defines life ‘Ayuh’ as the intelligent coordination of our four parts, the soul,the mind, the senses, and the body, with the totality of nature and the cosmos.Health is not just a state of the body. We interact with the seasons, planetary changes of the earth, and moon, other planets, as well as orbiting relationships within our lives, our loved ones and friends, co-workers etc. We affect and are affected by every other animate and inanimate thing in existence. Bringing all of this into balance is the key to living healthy.

In Ayurveda the whole life’s journey is considered to be sacred.

Definition of Ayurveda

Ayurasmin vidyate----------------------------------------------------------. [S.S.-I/15]

Ayurveda is that which deals with Ayuh(life) or promotes life-span

Ayurveda is that which deals with good, bad, happy and unhappy life, its promoters and non-promoters, span and nature

Sarirendriyasatvatmasamyogo dhari jivitam------------------------------------------------. [C.S.-I/42]

Definition of Ayuh(Life)

Satvamatma sariram ca trayamaitattridandavat-----------------------------.[C.S.-I/46]

Mind, self and body – these three make a tripod on which the living world stands.That(living body)is Purusa(person),sentient and its location is Ayurveda.

Definition of Sarira(Body)

The science of Ayurveda has simplified the organizational layout of the human body into three basic components, Dosa(Body Humours), Dhatu (Tissue) and Mala (Impurities).

Dosadhatumalamulam hi sariram----------------------------------------.[S.S.-XV/3]

Body is originally composed of dosas, dhatus and malas and as such try to comprehend their characters being delivered hereafter.

Pancamahabhootasaririsamayah-------------------------------------. [S.S.-I/22]In this scripture , Purusa is defined as combination of the five great elements and consciousness.

The Ayurvedic philosophy says that an individual is bundle of 'spirit',desirous of expressing itself,uses subjective consciousness or Satva to manifest sense organs and a mind. Spirit and mind then project themselves into a physical body,created from the five(Panca) great (maha) eternal elements (bhutas) together called thePancamahabhutas –which arise from Tamas.The entire science of Ayurveda is based on the “five great elements” (Pancamahabhuta) theory.The sense organs then using Rajas to project from the body into the external world to experience their objects. The body becoming the vehicle of mind, for gratification of senses.

The Bhutas combine into 'tridosas' or bioenergetic forces that govern and determine our health or physical condition. While the three gunas (Rajas; or activity, Tamas or inertia and Satva , which balances the first two) or psychic forces determine our mental and spiritual health.Ayurveda is thus a holistic system of health care that teaches us to balance these energies in order to achieve optimum health and well being.

Definition of Health

Samadosah samagnisca samadhatumalakriyah --------------------------------.[S. S.-XV/ 41]

One whose Dosas, Agni and function of Dhatu and Malas are in the state of equilibrium and who has cheerful mind, intellect and sense organs is termed as “Svastha” (Healthy).

It is to be said that:

Prayojanam casya svasthasya svasthyaraksanamatursya vikaraprasamanam ca….[C.S.-XXX/26]

Aim of Ayurveda

The objective of Ayurveda is to protect health of the body and to alleviate disorders in the diseased.


Disease-free condition is the best source of virtue, wealth, gratification and emancipation while the disease is destroyer of this source , welfare and life itself

Subject Matter of Ayurveda

Hetulingaousadhgyanam svasthaturaparayanam-------------------------------------------.[C.S.-I/24]

Ayurveda provides knowledge of aetiology,symptomatology and therapeutics, best way for both the healthy and the sick,tri-aphormismic, continuing since time immemorial and virtuous which was first known to Brahma the creator.

Hitahitam sukham dukhamayustasya hitahitam-------------------------------------------.[C.S.-I/41]

‘Ayuh’ means the conjunction of body , sense organs, mind and self and is known by the synonyms dhari, jivita, nityaga and anubandha.

Salient Features of Ayurveda

There are several aspects of this system of medicine which distinguish it from other approaches to health care:

1.Ayurveda describes three fundamental universal energies which regulate all natural processes on both the macrocosmic and microcosmic levels.That is, the same energies which produce effects in the various galaxies and star systems are operating at the level of the human physiology--in our own physiology. These three universal energies are known as the Tridosa.

2.Ayurveda is a complete medical system which recognizes that ultimately all intelligence and wisdom flows from one Absolute source (Paramatma).Health manifests by the grace of the Absolute, acting through the laws of Nature (Prakriti).Ayurveda assists Nature by promoting harmony between the individual and Nature by living a life of balance according to her laws.

3.It focuses on establishing and maintaining balance of the life energies within us,rather than focusing on individual symptoms.

4.It recognizes the unique constitutional differences of all individuals and therefore recommends different regimens for different types of people. Although two people may appear to have the same outward symptoms, their energetic constitutions may be very different and therefore call for very different remedies.

5.Finally, the ancient Ayurvedic physicians realized the need for preserving the alliance of the mind and body and offers mankind tools for remembering and nurturing the subtler aspects of our humanity. Ayurveda seeks to heal the fragmentation and disorder of the mind-body complex and restore wholeness and harmony to all people.

6.To balance the elements and the doshas of the body and the senses, there are many treatments, therapies, and exercises available. To balance the elements of the mind, meditations, mantra, and exercises are often used. Massage and rasayana treatments, along with visualization, pranic breathing, and other practices,allow personal access to intuition, and the innate knowledge of the soul.

7.Ayurveda believes five basic elements Pancamahabhutas (space,air,fire,water and earth) manifest in the human body as three basic humours known as tridosas(Vata,Pitta and Kapha). These three govern creation,maintenance and destruction of bodily tissues as well as the assimilation and elimination.Each person is born with a unique combination of these dosas which decides their basic constitution called Prakruti.Understanding of each person's Prakruti for deciding their personal diet and exercise pattern, supplements and medicinal herbs,cleansing and rebuilding therapies that is right for them are among the chief methods, Ayurveda employs for the maintenance and restoration of health.

Astanga Ayurveda

Ayurveda has Eight divisions such as-

Tasyayurvedasyaanyastauh ------------------------------------------------.[C. S.-XXX/28 ]

Kayacikitsa(Medicine),Salakya(dealing with disease of supra-clavicular region- ENT. & Optha.),Salyapahartrka(dealing with extraction of foreign bodies- Surgery) ,Visa- gara–vairodhika-prasaman(dealing with alleviation of poison, artificial poison and toxic symptoms due to in take of antagonistic substance – Toxicology ),Bhuta Vidhya(dealing with spririt or organisms- Psychiatry Medicine ),Kaumarabhrtya (Pediatrics ),Rasayana(dealing with promotive measures – Rejuvenates ) and Vajikarana ( dealing with aphrodisiacs-Aphrodisiac)


1.Kayacikitsa (Medicine)

2.Salakya (Ent. &Optha.)

3.Salya (Surgery)

4.Visa Vigyan (Toxicology)

5.Bhuta Vidya (Psychiatry Medicine)


7.Rasayana (Rejuvenates)

8.Vajikarana (Aphrodisiac)

These can be classified as follows :
Promoting Health Curatives / Treatment of diseases
Rasayana Kaya cikitsa
Vajikarana Salya
A number of treatise were composed on each branch making all of them full fledged specialities, but at the same time keeping room for inter-disciplinary approach and coordination. Two specialities developed to greater extent making two distinct schools. One, the school of medicine and the other the school of surgery.The former was known as Kaya Cikitsa, Atreya or Punarvasu sampradaya.The latter as Salya or Dhanvantari sampradaya. Although all the eight branches of ayurveda have been described in each Brahatrai (three big compendiums) , each emphasizes on one or two specialities:
Kaya-cikitsa Caraka samhita, Astanga Hridaya Astanga samgrha, Susruta uttara tantra.
Shalya tantra Susruta samhita, Astanga Samgrha
Shalakya tantra Susruta samhita, Astanga samgrha, Nimitantra
Kaumarbhritya Kasyapa samhita, Astanga samgrha, caraka samhita, susruta samhita
Rasayana Caraka samhita, susruta samhita, Astanga samgrha
Vajikarana Caraka samhita, susruta samhita, Astanga samgrha
Agada Tantra susruta samhita, caraka samhita
Bhuta Vidya Astanga samgrha, Kasyapa Samhita, caraka samhita

Basic Principles of Ayurveda

Basic Principles of Ayurveda comprise of :

1.The TriGunas-

Three Fundamental universal energies : viz - Satva ,Rajas and Tamas

2.The PancaMahabhutas -

Five basic elements viz.-Akasha (Space),Vayu (Air),Teja or Agni(Fire),Jala(Water) and Prithvi (Earth)

3.The TriDosas -

Three Body Humours viz.-Vata,Pitta and Kapha

4.The SaptaDhatus -

Seven types of body tissues :viz.- Rasa (fluid) Dhatu, Rakta(blood)Dhatu, Mamsa Dhatu,Meda(fat)Dhatu,Asthi Dhatu,Majja Dhatu and Sukra Dhatu

5.The TrayodosaAgni -

Thirteen types of digestive fires : viz.-Jatharagni (gastric fire), SaptaDhatvagni and PancaBhutagni

6.The TriMalas -

Three types of Body Wastes :viz.-Purisa (faeces),Mutra (urine) and Sveda (sweat)

--The PanchaMahabhutas

“Mahabhutani kham vayuragnirapah ksitistatha !

sabdah sparsasca rupam ca raso gandhasca tadgunah !!”[C.SA.- I/27]

The five mahabhutas are Akasa,Vayu, Agni,Ap or jala and Prthivi . viz – Sound,Touch,Vision, Taste,and Smell are their properties respectively .

According to Ayurveda everything in Universe is composed of the PancamahabhutasAkasa Space), Vayu (Air), Teja or Agni(Fire),Jala(Water)and Prithvi (Earth).Omnipresent,they are mixed in an infinite variety of relative proportions such that each form of matter is distinctly unique. Although each element has a range of attributes, only some get evident in particular situations. Constantly changing and interacting with each other, they create a situation of dynamic flux that keeps the world going.

In a simple,single living cell for example the earth element predominates by giving structure to the cell.The water element is present in the cytoplasm or the liquid within the cell membrane.The fire element regulates the metabolic processes regulating the cell.While the air element predominates the gases therein. The space occupied by the cell denoting the Akasa.

In the case of a complex, multi-cellular organism as a human being for instance,akasa corresponds to spaces within the body (mouth, nostrils, abdomen etc.); vayu denotes the movement (essentially muscular also nervous system ); agni controls the functioning of enzymes (intelligence, digestive system, metabolism); jala is in all body fluids (as plasma, saliva, digestive juices); and prithvi manifests itself in the solid structure of the body (bones, teeth, flesh, hair et al)

The Pancamahabhutas therefore 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.

The relationship Pancamahabhutas with Sense organs, its Properties and Actions are as follows :-

Panca Mahabhutas

Sense Organs

Sensory Faculty






*Creates natural void in the body ,* No distinct taste

*Produces softness,lightness and porosity




*Light, clear and dry.*Governs inhalation, exhalation,opening and closing of eyelids, extension and contraction of joints, locomotion and other motor functions.

*slightly bitter taste

*Creates dryness,lightness and emaciation.




*Rough & bright,*Controls temperature and luster of body colour.*Pungent taste.

*Helps in digestion ,maturation,improves eye sight




*Cold, heavy fluid,*Slimy, fat and sweat by nature *Sweet & astringent,sour & saline taste.

*Imparts glossiness.*Enhances fluid content & purgative

*Acts as nutrient, emollient and purgative.




*Heavy, immobile, compact & rough.*Controls organs as teeth, nails, flesh,skin, tendons & muscles.*Sweet taste.

*Increases firmness & strength of the body nutrient,emollient and purgative

--The TriGunas

The three gunas Satva,Rajas and Tamas- are the three essential components or energies of the mind.Ayurveda provides a distinct description of people on the basis of their Manasa (psychological) Prakriti (constitution). Genetically determined, these psychological characteristics are dependent on the relative dominance of the three gunas.

Trividham khalu satvam-suddham, rajasam,tamsamiti----------------------.[C.SA.-IV/36]

The psyche is of three types –Pure or Satva, Rajas and Tamasa

While all individuals have mixed amounts of the three, the predominant guna determines an individual's mansa prakriti.In equilibrium, the three gunas preserve the mind (and indirectly the body), maintaining it in a healthy state. Any disturbance in this equilibrium results in various types of mental disorders.

Satva characterised by lightness,consciousness, pleasure and clarity, is pure, free from disease and cannot be disturbed in any way. It activates the senses and is responsible for the perception of knowledge.Rajas ,the most active of the gunas,has motion and stimulation as its characteristics.All desires,wishes,ambitions and fickle-mindedness are a result of the same.While Tamas is characterised by heaviness and resistance.It produces disturbances in the process of perception and activities of the mind.Delusion,false knowledge,laziness,apathy, sleep and drowsiness are due to it.

Rajas and Tamas as with the dosas, can be unbalanced by stress and negative desires as kama (lust),irshya (malice),moha (delusion and hallucination),lobha (greed),cinta (anxiety),bhaya (fear) and krodha(anger).Each of these three properties is also comprised of sub-types and the particular sub-type to which one belongs to determine the qualities of that individual.

Satvika individuals are usually noble and spiritual in character, their nature determined as much by body type as their star constellation, having an element of kapha in their constitution.:-

Satvika Subtype Qualities


Free from passion, anger, greed, ignorance or jealousy,possessing knowledge and the power of discrimination.

star constellation

body type


Excellent memory, purity,love and self-control,excellent intellectual frame of mind,free from pride, ego, ignorance, greed or anger.Possessing the power of understanding and retention.


Devotion to sacred books, study rituals and oblations.Devotion to virtuous acts,far- sightedness and courage. Authoritative behaviour and speech.Able to perform sacred rituals.


Free from mean and conflicting desires and acts.Having initiative, excellent memory and leadership. Free from emotional binds,hatred,ignorance and envy.The capacity for timely action.


Free from mean acts. Exhibition of emotion in proper place. Observance of religious rights.


Courage, patience, and hatred of impure thoughts.Liking for virtuous acts and purity. Pleasure in recreation.


Possession of wealth, attendants and luxuries. Expertise in poetry,stories and epics.Fondness for dancing singing and music.Takes pleasure in perfumes, garlands and flowers.Full of passion.

Rajasikas are vulnerable to temptations, are very human in their character and approach to life.:-

Rajasika Subtype Qualities


Indulgence in self-praise, bravery, cruelty,envy and ruthlessness. Terrifying appearance.


body type


Excessive sleep and indolence.Envious disposition.Constant anger, intolerance,and cruel behaviour.Gluttonous habits.


Unclean habits.Cowardly,with a terrifying disposition.Gluttonous habits.Fondness for the opposite sex.Abnormal diet and regimen.


Sharp reactions. Excessive indolence.Frequent fearful disposition.Brave or cowardly attitude depending on situations.


Excessive desire for food.Envious character.Excessive greediness and actions without discrimination.


Full of passion. Unsteadiness, ruthlessness,and excessive attitude for food.

A dominant Vata ensures that Tamasika individuals are the most down to earth,concerned about fundamental questions of practical existence, specially when confronted by more spiritual and less physical issues.:-

Tamasika Subtype Qualities


Lack of intelligence, forbidding dispositions, envious nature.Excessive sexual indulgence and sleep.

Life enjoyable body type


Unsteadiness, constant passion, and cowardice. Excessive desire for water intake.


Indolence.Excessive indulgence in food.Deficiency of intellectual faculties.

--The TriDosas

“Vayuh pittam kaphasceti trayo dosah samasatah !!”[A.S.-I/11]

Vata, Pitta and Kapha are three name of tridosas -Vata(air),Pitta(bile)and Kapha(Phlegm) means more than literal.Dosas are basically three different forms of energy.

The Tridosas (tri meaning three and dosas being the basic physical energies) are the primary and essential factors of the human body that govern our entire physical structure and function. Derived from the Pancamahabhutas, each dosa which like the elements cannot be detected with our senses but their qualities can be – is a combination of any two of the five bhutas with the predominance of one.Called Vata, Pitta and Kapha in Sanskrit, these three are responsible for all the physiological and psychological processes within the body and mind – dynamic forces that determine growth and decay. Every physical characteristic, mental capacity and the emotional tendency of a human being can therefore be explained in terms of the tridosas.

Most of the physical phenomena ascribed to the nervous system by modern physiology for example,can be identified with Vata.Just as the entire chemical process operating in the human body can be attributed to Pitta, including enzymes, hormones and the complete nutritional system. And the activities of the skeletal and the anabolic system, actually the entire physical volume of an organism, can be considered as Kapha.

The relation between Tri-Dosas and Panca-Mahabhutas with respect to their Guna and Karma(Properties and Functions) as follows :

Vata (Vayu and Akash)

Pitta (Agni and Jal)

Kapha (Jal and Prithvi)































--The SaptaDhatus

Nourishment of these seven body tisuues takes place in sequential manner with original material provided by digested food material.

Rasa provides contentment and saturation and nourishes blood, blood generates clarity in complexion,nourish muscles and sustains life ; muscles strengthen the body and nourishes medas( fat),medas gives rise to unctuous materials , sweat and firmness and nourishes asthi (bones),asthi support the body and nourish marrow; provides function,strength,nourishes semen and fills up bones; semen provides valour,discharge , pleasure, physical strength ,exhilaration and is meant for reproduction or seed .

The Sapta(seven) Dhatus (tissues) elements form the pillars of the body that form the means of nourishment and growth while providing support to the body as well as the mind.

Rasa (fluid)Dhatu –Derived from the digested food, it nourishes each and every tissue and cell of the body and is analogous to the plasma.

Rakta (blood) Dhatu - Regarded as the basis of life, it is analogous to the circulating blood cells. It not only nourishes the body tissues, but provides physical strength and colour to the body.

Mamsa Dhatu – The muscle tissue, its main function is to provide physical strength and support for the meda dhatu.

Meda (fat)Dhatu – Consists of adipose tissue providing support to asthi dhatu.It also lubricates the body.

Asthi Dhatu – Comprising of bone tissues, including cartilages, its main function is to give nourishment to the majja dhatu and provide support to the mamsa dhatu.

Majja Dhatu– Denoting the yellow and red bone marrow tissue, its main function is to fill up the asthi and to oleate the body.

Shukra Dhatu – The main aim of this reproductive tissue is to help reproduction and strengthen the body.

Since the dhatus support and derive energy from each other, affecting one can influence others. For instance, interference in the manufacture of the plasma affects the quality of the blood, which in turn effects the muscle. Each tissue type has its own agni,which determines metabolic changes in the tissues and forms by-products,which are either used in the body or excreted. Menstural periods for example are a by-product of rasa.The tissues are also governed by the three dosas,and any imbalance in them also causes imbalances in dhatus.Heavy periods therefore can also be caused by the effects of the excess of Kapha on plasma.

--The TriMalas

Mala mutra sakrtsvedadayo api ca--------------------------------------------.[A.S.-I/20]

Malas are the various waste products of food and the dhatus produced during the normal digestive and metabolical process.The three primary malas being Purisa(faeces),Mutra (urine) and Sveda (sweat).Ayurveda clearly states that only a balanced condition of dosas, dhatus and malas is arogya (good health or disease free condition) and their imbalance is the cause of ill health or disease.

Purisa is the waste left back after nutrients of digested food have been absorbed in the small intestine. While water and salt are absorbed in the large intestine,the residue now converted into solid faeces,leaves the body.The consistency of the faeces depends both on gastrointestinal mobility and nature of diet.

The tridosas must be in balance to ensure normal evacuation.Pitta and kapha help digestion and vata governs the mobility throughout the process. Any discrepancy or imbalance between these can lead to various symptoms of abdominal heaviness or pain, flatulence, constipation or diarrohea. It may also give rise to diseases as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, low-back pain, asthma, bronchitis as well as stomach ulcers and irritable bowels.

Mutra is derived during the course of biological processes within the human body. The first stage of urine formation begins in the large intestine where fluids are absorbed into the system. The entire urinary system (kidneys, uterus, bladder and urethra) takes part in the formation and elimination of urine, regulating the fluid balance in our body and also maintaining blood pressure. Any imbalance of increased or decreased urine,may result in disorders such as kidney stones urinary infections, cystitis, abdominal pain and bladder disorders.

Sveda is the third primary mala, and it occurs as a waste product during the synthesis of meda dhatu (fatty tissue). Eliminated through skin pores, it controls body temperature and helps to regulate the electrolytic balance. The channels responsible for bringing the sweat to skin surface are known as sveda vaha srotas.It is essential that normal formation and flow of sweat takes place as otherwise it may lead to skin infections,itching/burning sensation over the body, loss of fluid balance and reduced body temperature.

--The TrayodosaAgni

The biological fire that governs metabolism,agni encompasses all the changes in the body and mind from the dense to the more subtle. Such changes include the digestion and absorption of food,cellular transformations, assimilation of sensory perceptions and mental and emotional experiences.Agni therefore covers whole sequences of chemical interactions and changes in the body and mind. Digestive abilities being related to the strength of agni

Agni and pitta are closely connected. While both are hot and light,agni is subtle and dry.The heat energy to help digestion contained by pitta is agni.Pitta is therefore the container and agni the content.Agni is acidic in nature and stimulates digestion.It is subtly related to the movement of vata.In every tissue and cell agni is present and is necessary for maintaining the nutrition and auto-immune mechanism. By destroying micro-organisms, foreign bacteria and toxins in the stomach and the intestines.

A balanced agni therefore is vital for health. The strength of the body to resist disease and also its physical strength are directly related to its heat energy determining the metabolic processes of the body. Disturbances of Agni are usually the chief causes of disease.

As per Ayurveda there are thirteen types of Agni in the body. The most important of them is the Jatharagni,the gastric fire, responsible for digestion of food eaten by correlating hydrochloric acid in the stomach and the digestive enzymes and juices secreted into the stomach, duodenum and the small intestines. If digestive agni is low and the capacity is impaired, one may experience pain, discomfort, feeling of heaviness or gases gurgling, constipation or loose stools.

Other Agni are:

SaptaDhatvagni and PancaBhutagni

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