Human beings are in a continuous struggle against the ever changing environmental conditions to maintain optimum health and vigour throughout the day and in all seasons of the year. The existence of the human body depends on the continuous interaction in a holistic way between the internal environment and external factors. When this holistic interaction is in a state of equilibrium the human being enjoys health and when this fails either due to innate deficiency or hostile environmental factors, the balance is disturbed and leads to diseases and disharmony. Environmental factors include the nature of the land, water and various atmospheric phenomena such as temperature, humidity, wind, rain, snow etc. All these factors are continuously changing.
Rhythms in Nature and the Variation of Doshas
Of immediate interest to us are three levels at which there are rhythmatic variations of doshas. Two of these three are cycles at occur in nature, namely variation through the day during the course of twenty four hours and variations through the seasons during a year. The other is the variation during the course of a human life span.
There is a rhythmic variation in the predominance of doshas during the course of a day i.e. in twenty four hours. Starting from the period of sunrise, four hours each, are - Kapha, Pitta and Vata predominant after which the cycle repeats itself for the next twelve hours. For example if sunrise is at 6.00 A.M. on a particular day, then -
6 A.M . - 10 A.M. is Kapha period
10 A.M. - 2 A.M. is Pitta period and
2 P.M. - 6 A.M. is Vata period
Again in the evening and night
6 P.M . - 10 P.M. is Kapha period
10 P.M. - 2 A.M. is Pitta period and
2 A.M. - 6 A.M. is Vata period
Ayurvedic advice for a healthy daily regimen (Dinacharya) is drawn up, taking these rhythms into consideration. For example
- An important aspect of good health is advice to get up daily at the `Bramha Muhurtham’ - this is a period immediately preceding sunrise. This as we can see, is `Vata period ‘. The natural urges of the body to defecate etc. which are controlled by Vata, help us if we get up at this time.
- The Pitta period (10 A.M. - 2 P.M.) is the time when we are advised to take the major meal of the day. This is the time when the digestive power is strong.
- The Kapha period (6A.M. - 10 P.M.) is the time of the day to perform various daily regimens, such as the use of eye ointments and nasal drops meant to control Kapha.
However this is a variation of a relatively small magnitude. A more significant variation is the variation of dosha predominance in nature through the year with the changing seasons. This is taken up in detail later.
Variation During an Individuals Lifetime
During the course of a human lifespan the predominance of doshas varies as follows -
First 1/3 of life (birth to 30 years) Kapha period
Second 1/3 of life (31 to 60 years) Pitta period
Last 1/3 of life (61 to end of life) Vata period
This mean that Kapha disorders will usually manifest themselves with extra vigour in youth - one may get relief from chronic Kapha conditions as one goes on to middle age. Similarly chronic Vata disorders may manifest themselves with full vigour in old age.
- A 62 year old retired Headmistress had a nagging problem in all the joints in her body. She was very lean, tall with rough skin and dry hair i.e. a typical Vata Prakruthi. From childhood she had joints and body pain even on slightest exertion. Her condition had aggravated after her middle age and if she did not apply oil on the body even for a day she had severe body pain and immobility of her joints. This phenomenon can be explained in Ayurvedic terms - a person of Vata Prakruthi is prone to disease of the joints during the latter half of their lifetime and the condition is only paliable with application of suitable medicated oils.
- A 35 years old business executive suffered from severe gastric disorders from the age he had attained adulthood. Due to business compulsion the was unable to stick to a strict dietary routine but he often encountered irritable bowels and he also threw out plenty of yellow, sticky fluids in the morning while cleaning his tongue. Even if there was a slight delay in intake of food he got a severe burning sensation and at times this also lead to giddiness. Physical examination revealed that the individual was of Pitta Prakruthi. During the middle ages the Pitta doshas is the most predominant dosha. Hence individuals of this Prakruthi type are prone to gastric disorders because Pitta is the dosha responsible for digestion and metabolism.
- A nine year old school boy suffered from respiratory problems from his early childhood. The disorder was more during the monsoon and winter months. The condition worsened if the boy happened to take any cold food substances. The boy is a Kapha Prakruthi type and congestion due to phlegm was a constant problem. Kapha Prakruthi type individuals are prone to phelgmatic disorders especially during the early stages of life which is the period of Kapha dosha. The chest being the seat of Kapha dosha - it was often filled with phlegm which caused breathing disorders. The intensity of the disorder gradually decreased as the individual got older.
Diseases and Age
As per the CCRAS study (cited earlier in the second chapter)
- Disease having a predominance of Vata dosha afflict people of old age to a greater extent.
- The people of middle age are prone to Pitta disease.
- Diseases of Kapha Dosha affect children ( 1-14 year) and young people (15-29 year) to a greater extent.
- Diseases such as Vata Vyadhi were found to have gradually increased in the upper age group while diseases such as Raktha Vikara (blood diseases) gradually declined for the upper age group. This sequence was irrespective of the sex of the person.
The Tridoshas and Seasons
The environmental condition in various seasons and also the food habits of the individual may control his diet but cannot protect oneself totally against the environmental factors. These factors cast their influence on the entire system and bring about changes in the equilibrium of the doshas.
If the qualities of these factors are opposite to those of the constitutional qualities, the individual enjoys perfect health. On the contrary, if the qualities of the constitution are similar, the result would be accumulation of doshas and change in the equilibrium culminating in diseases. For eg. In winter, the cool and dry environment is beneficial for the Pitta constitution but is detrimental to individuals of Vata Constitution.
A calendar year can be broadly divided into six parts or seasons. They are Varsha (Monsoon or Rainy Season), Sharad (Autumn), Hemantha (Early Winter), Sisira (Late Winter), Vasantha (Spring) and Greeshma (Summer). Each of these season are associated with the characteristic environmental factors by which they are identified. Each has specific effects on the equilibrium of the doshas of an individual.
The Concept of Adaana and Visarga Kala
The six season or rithus can be broadly classified into two groups based on the movement of the sun. When the sun is in the southern course (Dakshinayana) it is called as Visarga Kala and the three seasons corresponding to it are Varsha, Sharad and Hemantha. When the sun is in the Northern course (Uttarayana) it is called as Adaana Kala and the three seasons corresponding to it are Sisira, Vasantha and Greeshma.
The Sanskrit meaning for the term Visarga is "sending forth", "shedding", or "giving away’. In this period the moon (soma) is predominant and endows to all living beings nourishment and thus uncrease their bodily strength. This period bestows Bala (strength) and is soft (Sowmya) in nature. Human beings are endowed with natural strength during this period which begins with the Varsha rithu and reaches its peak energy (Ojas) during the Hemantha rithu.
Adaana means "taking away", "seizing" or "pulling out". In this period the sun is powerful and saps the strength and energy (Ojas) from the living being. This period starts with the Sisira rithu (Early Winter) and culminates with Greeshma rithu (Summer). During this period human beings begin to loose their nature strength and energy which reaches the minimum during the Greeshma rithu.
Relationship Between and Taste (Rasa)
Rasa or taste is an important nutritional concept in Ayurveda. Rasa is not merely incidental in terms of rendering the food palatable, but it is important in term of nutrition as well shall see below. As per Ayurveda, there are six rasas or tastes, namely Madhura (sweet), Amla (sour), Lavana (salt), Katu (pungent), Tiktha (bitter) and Kashya (astringent). Each rasa serves a specific nutritional purpose. For example Madhura rasa is needed to nourish the Rasa dhatu, to build body tissues etc. A balanced diet must have all the six rasas in a good balance. Rasas are also ultimately made up of the five mahabhootas. For example, Madhura rasa is composed of Prithvi and Teja. The components of various rasas in terms of Mahabhoothas is given in the table.
However it is also observed that specific rasas predominate in particular seasons and this has implications for how our food and regimen must change in various seasons. The predominance of a particular taste in a season can be illustrated from the following examples of Greeshma(Summer) and Varsha (Monsoon) seasons. In the summer months the sun’s rays are hot and all the directions appear to be blazing. Due to this extreme heat, roughness (rooksha) quality increases in the atmosphere. This rough (rooksha) and penetrative (teekshna) qualities are predominant in Vayu and Teja bhoothas which are also predominant in Katu rasa or pungent taste. Thus all living creatures on earth experience the pungent taste. Thus all living creatures on earth experience the pungent quality thereby causing increased roughness and dryness creating a parched condition in the body. Similarly, in Varsha (Mansoon) period which follows Greeshma(Summer) the rain drops falling on the parched earth creates warm fumes(bashpa). This increases the Prithvi and Teja bhoota is the atmosphere which is also predominantly sour and permeate all living creatures. The table below illustrate this concept better.
|Predominant Bhoota (in Nature)|
|Bhoota in Rasa (Taste)|
|Vayu + Aakasha |
|Vayu + Aakasha|
|Vayu + Prithvi |
|Vayu + Prithvi|
|Vayu + Teja |
|Vayu + Teja|
|Prithvi + Teja |
|Prithvi + Teja|
|Jala + Teja |
|Jala + Teja|
|Prithvi + Jala |
|Prithvi + Jala|
Characteristic Features of Seasons
Effect of Season on the Prakruthi Types
- Varsha Rithu (Monsoon or Rainy Season)
The period between mid-June and mid-August is usually the Varsha or themonsoon period. During this period the sun is dim and dull due to overcast skies. The wind blows in the western direction. The atmosphere is cold, damp and cloudy with rain. The land is wet , muddy and covered with plenty of vegetation. The water is turbulent, muddy and full of sediments. The rivers flow with strong currents. The predominant taste of the land is sour and slightly salty.
- Sharad Rithu Autumn Season)
Between mid-August and mid-October is the Sharad or the Autumn season. The sun during the period is hot and the wind blows from the eastern direction. The atmosphere is hot, humid with scanty white clouds. The land is moist with plenty of water vapour. The water is crystal clear and pure. River are almost full with clear water and a gentle flow. The vegetation is abundant and dull green. The predominant taste of the land during this period is sour.
- Hemantha Rithu (Early Winter Season)
The period between mid-October to mid-October is the Hemantha rithu or early winter season. The sun during this period is dull and obscured by mist and fog. The wind blows gently from the northern direction. The atmosphere is cold,dry,foggy with gentle winds. The lands is cold and dry. The winter is cold and clear with sweet taste. The rivers have little water and minimum flow. The predominant taste of the land during this period is sweet.
- Sisir Rithu (Winter Season)
The period between mid-December to mid-February is Sisira rithu or winter season. The sun during the period is extremely weak and is always covered with mist and fog. The wind is strong and blows in the northern direction. The atmosphere is foggy, stormy with rain, snow, hailstorms and is very cold and dry. the land is very cold,dry and rough and the water is cold and clear. The rivers are frozen. The trees and plants shed their leaves completely and there is very little of vegetation. The predominant taste of the land during the season is bitter.
- Vasantha Rithu (Spring Season)
The period between mid February to mid April is the Varsha rithu (spring season). During the period the sun is bright and warm and the wind blows from the southern direction. The atmophere is warm and pleasant with clear skies. The land is warm during the day hours and cool during the night hours. The water is clear and slightly warm. The rivers have very little water and scantly flow. The trees and plants put forth plenty of flowers and young leaves. the predominant taste of the land during this period is astringent.
- Greeshma Rithu (Summer Season)
The period between mid-April to mid-June is Greeshma rithu or the summer season. During this season the sun is very strong, hot and penetrating. The wind blows in the north-westerly direction. The atmosphere is extremely hot,dry, dusty and unpleasant. The land is hot and dry with predominantly light and rough qualities. The rivers are dry and muddy with hardly any water. The trees and plants have very fewleaves and the vegetation is scanty. The predominant taste of the land during this period is pungent.
In summer, due to the extreme heat, dry and rough qualities, the digestive power is very low and the body loses plenty of water due to perspiration. These factors aggravate the Vata dosha which has similar properties and causes accumulation of Vata. The excessive heat which is antagonistic to the cold quality of Vata prevents it from getting vitiated. During the rainy season which follows the summer the sudden atmospheric change from hot to cold results in the vitiation of Vata thus causing diseases. The wet and humid condition of the Autumn season reduce the increase Vata dosha.
The excessive heat in summer season leads to increased exhaustion and reduction of body strength. The same quality i.e. heat, results in the increase of the Pitta dosha. With the advent of rains on the dry and hot land surfaces, the pungent taste of the land transforms to sour taste and this results in the accumulation of Pitta dosha. The cool environment does not allow the Pitta dosha to get vitiated due to the antagonistic action. The Autumn season which follows the rainy season is hotter and this quality gives rise to the vitiation of the already accumulated Pitta dosha and results in diseases.
The sweet taste and the cold nature of the environment during the Hemanth rithu reduce the Pitta dosha.
The extreme cold condition of the Sisira leads to the accumulation of Kapha. But due to the extreme cold the Kapha solidifies. The spring season which follows the Winter is warm and this causes the liquefaction of the accumulated Kapha and vitates it causing disorders. The dry, light and hot qualities predominant in the Summer reduce the increased Kapha.
The table gives the natural seasonal variation of the three doshas. It is imperative that the individuals of particular Prakruthi type adopt preventive measure in the respective seasons of accumulation andupheal to maintain health. the most dangerous season in terms of health is the Greeshma rithu because in this season both the Vata and Pitta dosha are in the accumulative stage and similarly also in Varsha rithu in which Pitta continues to be in the accumulative state where as Vata is an upheaval state. Human beings are in poor health in these seasons and the natural strengthen poor health in these seasons and the natural strength is at its minimum. One can also see that the natural strength is at its peak in the Hemantha seasons, wherein no dosha is in the accumulated or upheaval stage.
|Doshas Sanchaya (Accumulative) Stage |
|Doshas Prakopa (Upheaval) Stage |
|Doshas Prashamana (Equilibrium) Stage |
|Vata & Pitta |
Ritusandhi or the Transitional Period
This period is from the last week of the outgoing season to the first week of the incoming season. During this period the regimen advised for the outgoing season be gradually tapered out and the regimen of the forthcoming season should be gradually introduced. In case of unexpected and sudden fluctuations in the characteristic features of any season the regimen should be modified according to the characteristic features exhibited.
In the southern part of India, we experience only three major seasons namely the rainy or the monsoon season, cold or the winter season and hot or the summer season. The following are the dietary and behavioral guidelines beneficial for the three seasons-
Rainy or Monsoon Period
During this season the Vata Prakruthi individuals should avoid cold foods and drinks. The Kapha Prakruthi type should avoid sleeping during the day hours. Both are Vata and Kapha type should avoid traveling or being outdoors during the early hours of the day when there is dew and cold winds blow. The Vata type individuals should avoid physical exertion. The Kapha type should use honey in foods and drinks. Plenty of milk and fermented beverages should be included in the diet. Oil massage with oil possessing warm quality is beneficial. Clean and dry clothes should be worn. Digestive fire should be included in foods.
Kapha and Vata type individuals should avoid direct and strong cold winds. Pitta type individuals should take heavy foods to suit their strong digestive power and should include materials such as ghee and cheese in their diet in plenty. Vata type individuals should avoid pungent food substances. The Vata type individuals should include salted meat soups in their diet. Oil massage should be done regularly especially by those of the Vata type. Well covered beds and thick sheets made of wool or leather should be used. The Kapha type should undertake rigorous physical exercises indoors.
The Vata type individuals should use food articles which are sweet, cold and unctuous because this is the period in which accumulation of Vata dosha occurs. The Pitta type individuals should take plenty of liquid food and avoid alcoholic drinks. Sexual intercourse is prohibited for all the three types due to very poor natural strength during this period. Mild physical exercise can be taken by Kapha tye individuals. Pitta type individuals can apply cold potency (sheetha veerya) substances such as sandalwood on the body to get rid of the burning sensation and excessive heat. cold water should be used for both bathing and drinking purpose. Sleeping in the open during night hours is permitted, but only on a cot.