All materials in the universe whether animate or inanimate are composed of the five basic elements or Pancha Mahabhoothas, namely - Akaasa, Vaayu, Teja, Jala and Prithvi. Akaasa or space, is an omnipresent and all pervading element, which serves as a substratum to the other four elements and it is because of the this, that one can separate or differentiate materials. Vaayu or air, is responsible for movement of all types and is essential for the sustenance of life. Prithvi is the element of earth and is responsible for structure and bulk of the material. The building blocks of the entire material universe are termed as Mahabhootas.
Each one of these Mahabhootas is also related to one of the five sense organs. Knowledge or sensation is ultimately perceived only through these five agencies, namely the sensations of sound, touch, vision, taste and smell.
The entire universe is understood as being made up of these elements. All material substances in the universe (animate and inanimate) are ultimately constituted of the five Mahabhootas. The gunas (i.e. properties of the Mahabhootas that are listed in the last column of the table under ` Function’) are reflected in the matter that is constituted by them . For example if a substance has a good proportion of Jala Mahabootha it would show up as a property of coldness (i.e. sheetha). This also has implications for the way in which doshas are affected by the substance (This is example in the text section).
|Physical Characteristic |
|Sensation of sound |
|Absence of resistance |
|Porousness Distinctiveness Perception of Sound|
|Sensation of touch |
|Sparseness, Activity, Lightness. Perception of Touch|
|Sensation of vision |
|Brightness,Perception of vision|
|Sensation of taste |
|Coldness,Fluidity Perception of taste|
|Sensation of smell |
|Roughness, Grossness |
|Solidity, Perception of smell|
The Three Doshas
However in terms of the functioning of living beings, Ayurveda understands all actions based on three basic function called as doshas, namely - Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Each of these doshas is responsible for a specific set of functions. For example, -
- Vata is responsible for respiration, control of movement etc.
- Pitta is responsible for maintenance of body heat and
- Kapha is responsible for maintenance of body form and structure
In the normal function of the body, the three doshas are in a state of harmony and equilibrium. When one or more of these doshas is deficient or in excess, it manifests as disease. For example if the Pitta is weak, it may manifest as poor digestive ability.
Relationship Between the Doshas and Bhootas
Doshas are nothing but the manifestation of bhootas in the living systems.
- Kapha dosha consists of Prithvi and Jala
- Pitta dosha consists of Tejas and
- Vata dosha consists of Vayu and Aakaasha
It is essential to understand this relationship to understand the effect of food on us. For example, consider a person who is suffering from an excess of Kapha. He should avoid foods containing an excess of Kapha, i.e. those that have an excess of Prithivi and/or Jala bhootas. Thus he should avoid cold drinks, bananas etc.
The doshas are influenced not merely by the foods that we take, but also by one’s lifestyle. For example
- Sleeping in the day time increase Kapha and
- Staying awake at nigh increase Vata
Some of these effects form the basis for restrictions and do’s and don’ts suggested by Ayurveda in the treatment of disease.
Ideal Health and Prakruthi Types
Ayrurveda considers, an ideally healthy individual to be one in whom the three dosha are in a state of perfect harmony or equilibrium. However, this is a situation seldom encountered. In real life we find that most individuals tend to have an excess of one or more doshas. This is manifested as their susceptibility to specific types of diseases. For example some people are inclined to suffer often from `Kapha’ related disorders. This has been used in Ayurvedas as basis for classifying and understanding various body types. For example, a `Vata type’ individual is one who has a tendency to have his Vata functions under imbalance. In the following section descriptions of the individuals belonging to these three types of Prakruthis, are given namely - Vata Prakruthi, Pitta Prakruthi and Kapha Prakruthi individuals.
Before each Prakruthi type is described in detail it would be instructive to know the qualities of each of these three doshas, Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These qualities have manifestations at the level of personality for which some illustrations are given.
- Vata is dry, light, mobile, expansible, quick, cold, rough, clear and astringent in taste. For example Vata Prakruthi individuals tend to have dry and rough skin, to be of light build, quick in their mental process and initiation of actions etc.
- Pitta is hot, penetrating, slightly foul smelling , liquid, sour and pungent in taste. For example, pitta Prakruthi individuals tend to sweat a lot and tend to have a higher than normal body temperature.
- Kapha is unctuous, smooth, soft, sweet in taste, stable, dense, slow, rigid, cold and clear. Kapha prakruthi individuals tend to have soft limbs, slow gait and are slow to understand. The cold quality means that their agni or digestive power is low - cold is contrary in quality to the hot agni.
Characteristics of the Prakruthi Types
The dry quality of Vata is manifested in the body in the form of dry skin and thin structure i.e. lean body. The hair, nails, teeth and eyes appear dry. The voice is weak, low, crackling and hoarse. Due to properties such as dryness, lightness and mobility of Vata, these individuals have less sleep and are hyperactive. The movement of the individual - especially of the eyebrows, chin, lips, tongue and limbs are quick and unsteady. The expansive nature is manifest in prominent blood vessels. Due to the quick action the individual has a lot of early initiative in work but due to the dry quality he gets tired because of loss of strength. Their memory is weak but they are able to grasp quickly. Due to the cold nature the body temperature is always low and there is always stiffness of the body with cracking sound at joints during movements. The natural desires and craving for food and enviornment are opposite to the qualities of Vata. Due to the dry and rough quality they have meagre seminal fluid and have only very few children. They tend to have a short life span.
Due to the inherent hot quality of the Pitta, these individuals have a high metabolic rate and have a very good appetite, a tendency to eat and drink a lot and are often thirsty. They develop moles and skin eruptions. They possess soft and scanty hair and have a tendency for premature greyinig and baldness. They are unable to bear even minimum heat. Due to their penetrating action, they are brave and courageous but cannot tolerate exertion. they get easily provoked and upset and have a poor endurance. The fluid quality, renders the body parts, muscles and joints soft and flabby or loose. The excessive metabolic rate leads to a lot of perspiration and excretion of large quantities of stools and urine. The foul smell of the Pitta, tends to give Pitta Prakruthi individuals a strong body odour. The quality of heat and pungent taste leads to a limited sexual urge, scanty semen and limited progeny. Due to the sharp and quick action they have a very good intellect, grasping power, memory and are of moderate strength and the life span is medium.
Due to the unctuous nature of Kapha the individuals of Kapha Prakuthi posses unctuous and oily skin. The soft quality, of Kapha makes the face soft, the looks gentle and clear. The sweet quality, gives Kapha Prakruith individuals profuse quantity of semen and they have a strong sexual urge. The stable and steady quality endows them with a well built and steady body. The dense nature provides fullness the body and organs. The slow quality of kapha, makes the individuals slow in their activities but they have strong perseverance and are emotionally very mild. They posses steady and slow body movements. The cold quality results in poor appetite (their agni or digestion is poor) and low body temperature. The steady and dense quality give them steady joints and ligaments. The clear quality give rise to a pleasant appearance, colour and voice. All the qualities of Kapha endow the individual with strength, wealth and energy and also a long life.
Combination of Prakruthis
The most human being are a combination of two doshas i.e. Dwandvaja Prakruthi. They possess characteristics of both the doshas involved according to the percentage of their combination.
A balance constitution is an ideal constitution and is an extremely rare phenomenon, where in the balanced state of all the three doshas neutralises the bad or unwanted qualities, support and bring out good qualities of each other and the individual leads a healthy life with plenty of strength and energy. The individual enjoys and withstands the heat of summer, cold of winter as well as the showers of monsoon equally well. He is able to digest large quantities of food as well as withstand hunger and thirst. He is cheerful, possesses pleasing manners and has very good resistance to diseases.
Practical Study of the Health Status and its Relation to Prakruthi
Have any of these observations relating to Prakruthi been tested out practically in the field? There have been a few studies in which the relationship between Prakruthi and various other factors such as susceptibility to diseases like Cancer, Ulcers and Diseases have been examined. Studies have also been made on the impact of Prakruthi on criminal behaviour! However, the most comprehensive practical study on Prakruthi is one that was taken up by the Central Council for Research on Ayurveda and Siddha (CCRAS) of the Government of India. In the CCRAS study a group of 56,600 people were covered, spread over fifty seven village during the five year period 1973 to 1978. The research consisted of an initial study after which there were five to six follow up visits at two month intervals so that the group include in the study was covered for period of one year.
Some of the interesting observations from this study were-
- Soma Prakruthi was found to be veryu rare - this occurred only in 1.17% of the group.
- The majority of the group was found to have Dawandvaja (dual) Prakruthi - 64.53%. Of these, the highest proportion was Vata - Kapha Prakruthi - 28.58%
- Among the single Prakruthi types Kapha Prakruthi was found to be the maximum, constituting 26.96% of the group.
The result of this study have been cited in various places in this book (reffered to as CCRAS study wherever cited).
Factors Determining Prakruthi
Life begins with the fusion of male and female gametes Shukra and Shonitha and they carry with them the constitution (Prakruthi) of the parents. At the time of union of Shukra and Shonitha, the dominant Prakruthi or the dosha predominant in the Shukra can either neutralise or exaggerate the dominant dosha in the Shonitha and form the characteristic constitution of the individual. For e.g. a Shukra of Vata predominance can inhibit some of the characteristics of the Shonitha of Kapha predominance or vice versa. If both the Shukra and Shonitha are Vata predominant all the qualities of Vata would be exaggerated and the individual would have a complete Vata Prakruthi. In addition to the doshas, factors such as the internal environment in the womb, diet, activity, location climate and age of the parents at the time of conception also influence the formation of the constitution.
Compatibility of the Couple
Ayurvedic Achaaryas have stressed two points while describing the factors responsible for a proper conception and the birth of a healthy child. It is advised that the man and woman should be of different gothras or clans and only then the child born to them would be healthy and strong. Also, marriage with a woman of the same gothra has been forbidden.
Attraction for each other and happiness of mind are essential for the birth of a healthy child and that is why our achaaryas have stressed on such points. It is most important that the man and wife are both in good mental state i.e. with no feeling in epics like Maharashtra about instances where the mother either due to aversion or due to fright is not in a balanced state of mind, resulting in the birth of defective children like Drutharashtra (Who was born blind) and Paandu (Who was born weak and defective).
Do’s and Dont’s for the Pregnant Woman
Garbhini paricharya or antenatal care is the most important aspect in the whole area of Prasuthi Tantra i.e. Ayurvedic Obstetrics. This is so because all other aspects depend on this phase. The proper garbhini charya would result in the proper development of the foetus, its delivery, the health of the mother and thus her ability to withstand the strain of labour and have a trouble free post-partal phase. The care of the pregnant woman reflects on the quality and health of the offspring. For these reason our achaaryas have given a detailed and systematic and monthwise regimen plus a list of do’s and dont’s to be followed in the antenatal phase.
The garbhini paricharya is broadly discussed under three topics
- Monthwise dietary regimen and prescriptions. Maasaanumasika pathya:
- Garbhasthaapaka dravyaas: Substances which are beneficial to pregnancy and
- Garbhopaghaathakara bhaavas: Activities and substances that are harmful and hence to be avoided.
This can also be listed as the various foods and activities that are prescribed and proscribed, according to their effects on the garbha.
Vihaaras (Activities and Behaviour) to be Avoided During Pregnancy
The pregnant woman should avoid strenuous exercise and excessive coitus, harsh or violent activities, travel in vehicles (on uneven roads). Sushrutha - the author of the well known Ayurvedic classic Sushrutha Samhitha, has said that - the pregnant woman should totally give up coitus, exercise, excessive santarpana (satiation or anabolic foods and regimen), swapna viparyaya (sleeping in the day and keeping awake at night), utkataasana (squatting or the posture of sitting on the hams with the sales of feet touching the ground). She should not suppress her natural urges and she should not undergo snehana (Oleation therapy) and rakthamokshana (blood letting). her mind should be always in a pleasant state and she should neither touch nor see unpleasant things or disfigured persons, scary objects, nor listen to exciting and scary stories. It is said that the mental state of the mother can influence the outcome of pregnancy as well as the child to be born. hence one is advised to listen to scriptures - in some families the recitation (paaraayana) of suitable text such as skanda of Bhaagavatha is performed routinely. She should not talk in high pitch and avoid thoughts which would promote her anger or fear - all these physical and mental activities would harm the foetus.
Case 1. A 28 years old woman in the fourth month of her pregnancy attended a temple festival in her home town in Kerala. The temple festival was well known for its fireworks show. To have a good look at the spectacular display she was very close to the site and the show lasted for nearly three hours. She was exposed to very high intensity sound and light and immediately after the show she felt throbbing pain in the lower abdomen and also had slight bleeding. She immediately consulted her gynecologist who prescribed various medicines. On delivery the child had severe congtenital anomalies including deafness and survived only for five months. This case can be clearly explained based on Ayurvedic parameters that during early periods of gestation of very high intensity which would have on adverse effect on the foetus.
As per the understanding of Ayurveda disease can be caused in three ways.
Athi yoga - excessive use of sense organs or body parts (E.g.). People belonging to Professions where they keep standing on their feet for several hours are prone to varicose veins of the feet.
Ayoga - Non-use of sense organs, body parts.(Eg). If one is bed ridden for a long period without using one’s feet, it can lead to decay of muscles of the feet.
Mithya Yoga - Improper use of body parts (Eg) Reading under improper conditions - such as in a moving vehicle with poor lights can effect the eyes.
In this case the excessive and intense of the ears created the problem.
Case 2. A freak accident took place in the life of a young scientist which as left a strong impact on her child. When the woman was pregnant, one night a cat jumped on to her when she was fast asleep and she was rudely awakened. She was fast asleep and she was rudely awakened. She was quite upset over this. This incident created a permanent fear in her child who is ten years of age and even now when the child happens to see a cat she gets tensed and becomes nervous. The mental style of the mother during the pregnancy period has a lasting effect on the mental make up of the child.
That the mental state of the mother during conception and pregnancy deeply influences the child in the womb has been emphasized repeatedly in our mythology. In the Drona Prava of the Maharashtra it is narrated how Abhimanyu the son of Arjuna learnt the art of entering the Padma Vyuha (a particular military formation) when he heard his father Arjuna relating it to his mother Subadhra while while Abhimanyu was in his mother’s womb.