Panchmahaboots literally means “five elements” According to Ayurveda, everything in this universe including human beings is composed of five elements known as panchamahabhootas.
These five elements are :
Fire (agni or tejas)
Water (jala or apa)
These elements are in a balanced state in the human body. Any kind of imbalance results in various health disorders.
According to Ayurveda these five elements are present in different proportions in each and every matter. The state and the properties of matter depend on the proportions of these elements. The panchamahabhootas can be defined in material as well as subtle sense. These basic elements constantly change and interact with ach other resulting in dynamic situation making the world going.
In case of a complex human body, earth provides structure to the cell as it manifests itself in the solid structure of the body. The element water is present in the liquid within the cell membrane. Water is present in all body fluids such as plasma, saliva, digestive juices and enzymes. Water has the property of flowing and holding the things together. The fire element is the universal force in nature that produces heat and radiates light. Fire is believed to burn or destroy the ignorance and makes the truth shine. It regulates the metabolic processes regulating the cell by controlling the functioning of various enzymes. The element air consists of the gases present in the body. This element sets the universe in motion. It is a transparent and kinetic force that moves the blood through vessels, wastes from the body and thoughts through the mind. It denotes the muscular movements of the body. The space occupied by the cell denotes the last of the elements. It is everywhere and generally touches everything. It corresponds to spaces within the body like mouth, nostrils and abdomen. In the human mind it is the vessel that receives all impressions, the space in heart accepts love.
In brief it can be explained in the following manner.
The element earth provides definite mass to the human body.
The air element provides definite motion to the body.
The element space contains several structures. The element fire provides definite colour, brightness and enhances the process of digestion. The water element is responsible for binding all structures with each other.
In Ayurveda a person is viewed as a unique individual made up of these five elements. Certain elements have an ability to combine with each other to perform various physiological functions. These five elements when joined in different combinations form three biological modes or doshas that forms the nature of an individual known as body’s composition or prakruti.
The combination of air and space forms vatta or the kinetic biological mode. Vatta is responsible for all in and out movements of the system. Pitta is the combination of fire and water or transformative biological mode. It transforms the outer elements into the inner elements of the body. The combination of earth and water forms kapha or structive biological mode. It is responsible for lubrication and providing structure to the body. Each individual is a combination of two modes- one is primary and the other is secondary. In rare cases there are individuals who are a mixture of all three modes.
Ayurveda designs treatment, lifestyle and nutritional guidelines depending on the three modes.
There are around five sense organs in the human body and each of the senses is associated with a specific element.
The sense of touch is associated with air.
The sense of smell is associated with earth.
The sense of hearing is associated to space.
The sense of seeing is associated with fire.
The sense of taste is associated with water.
According to Ayurveda, there are six type of tastes – sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. Each of these is comprised of at least two elements.
Sweet comprises earth and water.
Sour comprises earth and fire.
Salty comprises water and fire.
Pungent comprises fire and air.
Bitter comprises air and space.
Astringent comprises air and earth.
Thus, the panchamahabhootas forms the basis of all diagnosis and treatment procedures in Ayurveda. Balancing these panchamahabhootas is the best way for maintaining health and curing diseases caused by physical, mental or spiritual factors.