The Five Elements and Their Attributes

The rishis perceived that in the beginning the world existed in an unmanifested state of Consciousness, avyakta— meaning unmanifest. From that state the subtle vibrations of the cosmic, soundless sound Aum manifested. From the subtle vibration of Aum came the Ether or Space elem ent. This ethereal element then began to m ove and through its subtle movements created the

Air element, which is Ether in action. The movement of Air produced friction and through friction heat was generated. Particles of this heat combined to form intense light and from this light the Fire element emerged. Thus, Ether produced Air and it was Air that further manifested into Fire. The heat of Fire dissolved and liquefied certain ethereal elements, forming Water that then solidified to form the molecules of Earth. In this way, Ether manifested into the four elements of Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. From Earth, all physical bodies for organic living beings were created, including both the plant and animal kingdoms. Earth was also the origin of all inorganic substances that comprise the mineral kingdom. Thus, out of the womb of the Five Elements all matter was born. The five basic elements exist in all matter.

Water provides the classic exam ple: the solid state of water, ice, is a manifestation of the Earth principle. Latent heat (Fire) in the ice liquifies it, revealing the Water principle. Eventually water turns into steam, expressing the Air principle. The steam disappears into Ether or Space. Thus the five basic elements— Ether, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth— are all present in one substance. All five originated from the energy within Cosmic Consciousness and all five are present in all matter in the universe. Thus, energy and matter are one.

Man is a microcosm of the universe and, therefore, the five basic elements present in all matter also exist within each individual. In the human body, many spaces are aspects of the Ether or Space elem ent. The spaces in the mouth, nose, gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract, abdom en, thorax,
capillaries, and tissues are all examples of Space.

Air is the element of movement. All movements involve Air as an element, because it alone moves everything. Any time there is motion, it means Air is present. The nature of the elements themselves determines the nature of physiology. Within the human body, Air is present in the pulsations of the
heart and the expansion and contraction of the lungs. Under a microscope, even a single cell can be seen to move. Response to a stimulus is the m ovem ent of afferent and efferent nerve impulses, which are sensory and motor movements respectively. Movements of the nervous system are also governed by the Air principle present in the body. The third element is Fire. The source of Fire and light in the solar system is the sun. In the human body, the source of Fire is metabolism. Fire works in the digestive system as well as in the gray matter o f the brain, where Fire manifests as intelligence. Fire also activates the retina to perceive light.

Therefore, body temperature, digestion, thinking processes, and vision are all functions of bodily Fire. All metabolism and enzyme systems are controlled by this element. Water, the fourth element, manifests in the body as the secretions of digestive juices, in the mucous membranes and in
plasma and cytoplasm. Water is vital for the functioning of all the systems of the body. For example, dehydration resulting from diarrhea and vomiting must be treated immediately to protect the patient’s life. Earth, the fifth element, is also present in the microcosm of the human being. Life is possible on this planet because the Earth holds all living and non-living substances to its solid surface. In the body, all solid structures are derived from Earth.




Ayurveda is one of the oldest known healthcare science known to the world. It is said to be originated in the Indian Subcontinent around 5000 years back. It is also one of the oldest documented science.

The changing lifestyle and increase in stress has driven people towards finding a natural way of healing, thus leading towards Ayurveda. Ayurveda literally means Science of Life.

Ayurveda books or granthas basically describe how to lead a long and disease free life giving preventive and social measures and also providing medicine knowledge to help people lead a disease free life physically and mentally.

In ancient times Ayurveda was known all over the world by travellers documenting their version of Ayurveda studied in India though Greek, Roman and middle east, Buddhist monks thought Ayurveda to Tibet, Nepal and China.

It we want to understand Ayurveda in the deepest form. We have to understand and learn Sanskrit.


Sanskrit is the language from which the present day Indian languages originated. All the granthas or texts were written in Sanskrit. So it given us the ability to understand and interpreted the science better.

Since it is a very old science .It is important that people understand what the ancient books or granthas exactly mean. The Indian Ayurveda books or granthas are written in Sholas or Verses that are rhyming. This style helps in keeping the Vedic oral traditional of conserving knowledge.

Now a day many Ayurveda doctors have penned down their vast experience to help the new generation, to understand the science better in their local language.

The shlokas are written in such a manner that they can be recited well and remembered because in ancient time all the Shlokas or granthas were recited and remembered by heart.

With time the need to be written down of this vast knowledge became important. So all the sages or vaidyas in ancient day wrote the whole granthas on palm leaves.

Lord Dhanvantari is the God of Ayurveda and health according to Ayurveda.

As per the text Astanghridya Ayurveda was introduced to humans to relive the suffering of mankind by God Brahma. Sages brought the knowledge to earth to help people understand life and live a healthy and long life.

Ancient History

Ayurveda developed significantly through the Vedic period.

Vedas are the oldest written document available to mankind.

There are 4 Vedas

  1. Rig-Veda –which introduce us to panchamahabhuta or the basic elements.
  2. Sama veda
  3. Yajur veda.
  4. Atharva veda.

Ayurveda is branch of atharva veda. Life or ayu according to Ayurveda is the combination of samyoga or balance of the mindbody and soul.

Ayurveda says what is in nature as is in body. So the nature effects the body in positive and negative way .The food, season, day and night all effects the body.

This science is the product of constant verification and fine tuning so it keeps on improving, this is because of the concept of sandheya sambhasha (discussion, authentication of active communication of physicians)

Later with time the acharyas/scholars like Charak,Shusharut and Vagbhat wrote the knowledge and documented it in manuscripts in the language Sanskrit.

The same texts were later again explained deeper by Tikakars (interpretators) like Dalhan for Shushrut , Arundatta for Charak. Due to which the text were easy to understand.

If we look at in short the way Ayurveda was documented –

  1. Reciting(memorising)
  2. Manuscripts(palm leaves)
  3. Books granthas
  4. Small interpretation of big books for common students to understand according to need of topic by new age books and authors.

If you are a beginner to Ayurveda. There are two types of Ayurveda Books

  1. One is the old Sanskrit version or manuscript version which is written in Sanskrit the original Indian languages. Over which the other local languages originated.
  2. New age books – written in the local languages of scholars or English for the common people to understand. If we look at the granthas /Ayurveda texts they all were written in Sanskrit and have a specific pattern.

The basic book is called grantha. IT is again divided into Stahanas or subtitles according to matter to be explained. Stahanas are again divided into Adhayas or chapters. Which explained the needed topic divided by sthanas. The adhays are written in a specific amount of shlokas.

The shlokas are written according to concept of Adhayas. The shlokas are written in such a way that the knowledge is not rewritten and repated of the same knowledge is avoided to keep the grantha concise.

So it become important to correlate or connect the knowledge as a whole and look at the book as whole not chapter in sthana/chapter wise.

Because of this a lot of meaning can be put in few words.

  • Eg- grantha/book – astang hridaya by vagbhatta
  • Stahana-sutrasthana
  • Adhaya /chapter-ayushkamiya ashaya

How a grantha/ayurvedic text is written

There are 8 branches described in Ayurveda.

  • Kaya-medicine
  • Bala – paediatrics
  • Graha – psychiatry
  • Shalya – surgery
  • Shalakya – E.N.T
  • Visha – toxicology
  • Jara/rasayana – geriatrics and long life with health
  • Vajikaran – Aphrodisiacs, increasing health of progeny.

For example if we take astang hridaya

sthanas.                                    Adhayas /chapters

sutrasthana                                 30

sharirsthana                                 6

nidansthana                                 16

chikitsasthana                              22

kalpasiddhisthana                            6

uttrasthana                                 40

These chapters have content material/knowledge according to the mentioned sthanas.

Brief descriptions of sthanas. Here we are taking the example of astang hridaya


It deals with basic doctrines/concept of Ayurveda, principles of health, prevention of disease, properties of articles related to diet and drugs, about physiology and pathology.

Sharir sthana

This deals with embryology, anatomy, physiology, signs of prognosis.

Nidan sthana

This contains the cause, premonitory symptoms, character, features, pathogenesis and prognosis of important disease.

Chikitsa sthana

This sthana elaborates the method of treatment of all major disease including medical recipes, diet according to disease and care of patient.

Kalpa and siddi sthana

This sthana explains preparation of medicine recipes, administration of purification therapies/panchakarma, management of complication of procedures and principle of pharmacy.

Uttra sthana

This sthana is devoted to the remaining seven branches of Ayurveda. Psychology, disease of E.N.T, surgery, toxicology, geriatric, aphrodisiac and increase in health of progeny.

Brief description of major Ayurveda granthas /texts

We can categorise then in to old texts and new age books.

Old texts

The basic/ major granthas or (major Ayurveda texts)

  1. Charak samhita-by charaka,agnivesha

It basically is based for a healthy long life and more related to medicine.

Charak follows Aterya school of physicians which predominately deals with external and internal medicine and treatments. He also told the timing and manner in which plants should be collected. It is also called the samhita of agnivesha. It has 8 sthanas and 120 adhayas or chapters. It mentions more than 600 drugs related to plant mineral and animal origin.

  1. Sushrut samhita- by sushrata

It is the first ancient text that mentions surgery so sushruta is called the father of surgery by modern science. It mentions how to dissect a body.

It explains cosmetic surgery related to ear, nose, brain and other major surgeries such as prosthetic surgery are explained.

Vital points or marmas are explained in this text which is very unique.

Anatomy is widely discussed in text. Surgical instruments more than 120 types are explained in the text. It explains embryology on detailed basis.

  1. Astanghridaya – by vagbhatta

He wrote this text keeping charaka and sushrata in mind abstracted important portions, and tried to remove all the flaws of the previous texts.

He has given all the knowledge of the previous texts in a more understanding manner, concise, does not repeat the same contents twice , and a smaller version which makes it more easy to understand.

These texts have all the 8 branches and their specialties explained and incorporated in it. The most fascinating aspect of Ayurveda is that it accepts all other sciences and incorporates it to make Ayurveda better.

Example in those times yoga, meditation, gemology, astrology, and languages.

       Then comes the laghutrayi (3 minor ayurveda treatises)

  1. Madhav nidan by madhav kara

This has extensive work on the pathogenesis of the disease, it gives elaborate description of causes, symptoms, aetiology, prognosis complications, and treatments of the diseases .he has explained the ashtavidha pariksha (8 diagnostic points).

  1. Bhavprakash by bhav Mishra

It is one of the major compilation on herbs mentioned in Ayurveda with all is properties and uses. Plant drugs are described according to – taste, quality, potency, post digestive effect, special effects and their benefit on disease.

  1. Sharandar samhita by sharandhara,

This deals mainly with information of various medicine formulae. It contains topics related to preparation of food, medical uses of metals, many treatments of specific disease with their diagnosis and deals with terminology, weights, measures, preparation of medicines, pulse examination, and metallurgical techniques are has 3 divisions, 32 chapters,2600 verses.

Rasashastara (Indian alchemy)

It is the pharmaceutical branch of Ayurveda which deals mainly with metals, minerals , animal and plant origin products and also explains their therapeutic uses elaborately. It also widely describes the medicines made from to mercury sulphur and all other metals and minerals available during that era.

These texts refer how to use metals and minerals by purifying them, to be consumed and used as medicine, for different illness by processing them, absorbable to human body. Some of the text names are rasa ratnasamucchaya, rasendra chudamani, rasa hidriya tantra.


In the later periods after 500 ad.  Many major texts called nighantus were written.

These were basic related to plants and their uses and their medicinal formulations.

Some famous nighantus are, bhavprakash, raj ,shaligram, shodal, kaidev , nighantu sangraha etc.

Then there are many famous texts related to many different subjects

Example –

  • Yog ratnakar
  • Bhaishjya ratnavali
  • Sahasara yogam (1000 medicinal formulas)
  • Bharat bhaishjya ratnakar
  • Kashyap samhita (Pediatric text)
  • Bhel samhita
  • Haritha samhita


Modern text books.

Majorly inspired from the old and major texts they are divided by subjects, disease, medicine, diet, yoga, spices, basic fundamentals, and published in local language or English for the new generation to understand.


Today Ayurveda is increasingly popular and a growing science.

It is popular because it speaks of elementary concepts like

  • Contact with nature
  • Holism
  • We are what we eat
  • Daily and seasonal regime
  • Balanced meal and unique concept of digestive fire and digestion.(concept of agni)
  • Preventive health care and health promotion by rasayana.

The ultimate goal of Ayurveda is to help people live a healthy and long life.

As a seeker of good health it is important to be aware of history and its lineage towards Ayurveda, and its core principle in order to appreciate its application in our daily life.

Obviously the classical texts of Ayurveda are not light reading material, it is meant for vaidys or ayurvedic doctors. The new generation books are more simplified and easily understood leading to a clear concept of Ayurveda.


The Ancient Ayurvedic Writings





The Great Three Classics of Ayurveda

Charaka Samhita

The Charaka Samhita is believed to have arisen around 400-200 BCE. It is felt to be one of the oldest and the most important ancient authoritative writings on Ayurveda. It is not known who this person was or, if indeed, this represents the work of a “school of thought.” It could have been from a group of scholars or followers of a man known as Charaka or an original composition from a single person named Charaka. This work is sometimes considered a redaction of an older and more voluminous work, Agnivesha Samhita (46,000 verses), which is no longer extant. Dridhabala, living about 400 AD, is believed to have filled in many verses of missing text (perhaps up to 20%) in the Chikitsasthana and elsewhere, which disappeared over time.

The language of Charaka is Sanskrit and its style is poetry, with meter and melody. Poetry was known to serve as a memory aid. For example, Charaka contains over 8,400 metrical verses, which are often committed to memory, in toto, by modern medical students of Ayurveda.

It presents most of the theoretical edifice of Ayurveda and concentrates on the branch of Ayurveda called kayachikitsa (internal medicine). This is largely the theory of the internal fire–of digestion–or internal medicine, in modern terms. Charaka never discusses the sub-types of pitta and kapha, but does list and describe the 5 sub-types of vata.

Seen from a greater perspective, this work seems to represent a certain value of consciousness that is different from other works. It gives more discussion about the notion that life is fundamentally a field of intelligence and pure knowledge. This field is self-aware; it is the Knower as well as the object of perception, and for Charaka this is part of what is to be treated by the physician.

The P.V. Sharma translation comes in four volumes, two of original text and two of commentary about the original work. Sharma’s English version is said to be a scholarly and relatively faithful work. It has numerous appendices and an extensive index. The B. Dash / R.K. Sharma version lacks these features but does have extensive commentary incorporated in with the original text. All three translators have excellent academic or/and clinical credentials supporting their works.Sushruta Samhita

The Sushruta Samhita presents the field of Ayurvedic surgery (shalya). This branch of medicine arose in part from the exigencies of dealing with the effects of war. This work also is said to be a redaction of oral material passed down verbally from generation to generation. It is thought to have arisen about the same time period as the Charaka Samhita, slightly after or before it according to different authorities. Its style is both prose and poetry with poetry being the greater portion.

The Sushruta Samhita, while dealing with the practice and theory of surgery, is an important source of Ayurvedic aphorisms. For example, the most comprehensive and frequently quoted definition of health is from Sushruta. This work is unique in that it discusses blood in terms of the fourth doshic principle. This work is the first to enumerate and discuss the pitta sub-doshas and the marmas. With its emphasis on pitta, surgery, and blood, this work best represents the transformational value of life.

This work, also originally written in Sanskrit, is now available in English with Devanagari. Bhishagratna’s translation is English and Sanskrit. P.V. Sharma has recently written a translation with both the Sanskrit/Devanagari and English that includes Dallana’s commentary. Dallana has been regarded as the most influential commentator on Sushruta’s work.Ashtanga Hridayam and Ashtanga Sangraha

Ashtanga Sangraha and Ashtanga Hridayam are the work of a person named Vagbhata. There are two works by a person or persons with this name. The Ashtanga Sangraha is nearly 40% greater in size (by verse count) and is primarily poetry with prose. The Hridayam (about 7,800 verses) is written in prose and seems to have a slightly different organization of material than the former. Both works have been dated about the same time and are thought to date after the Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita (400 CE).

The exposition is relatively straightforward and also deals primarily with kayachikitsa. In this work, we see the kapha sub-doshas are listed and described for the first time, completing our modern edifice of vata, pitta, and kapha with their five sub-types. Its emphasis on treating the physiology of the body and suggestions for therapeutic use of metals and minerals means the perspective of the treatise represents the gross, material value of life more than its counterparts Charaka and Sushruta. While Charaka has entire chapters dealing with the Self, these works merely mention that the body is the home for the Self without any elaboration.

Srikantha Murthy’s translation includes the Sanskrit/Devanagari for those who want to delve into the original text. S. Murthy has translated many of the ancient Ayurvedic writings into English, for which we are indebted. He has weighty credentials and brings them to bear in this work.

The Lesser Three Classics of Ayurveda

Sharngadhara Samhita

The Sharngadhara Samhita is a concise exposition of Ayurvedic principles. Its author, Sharngadhara, has offered his work as a digested version of Ayurvedic knowledge, deliberately omitting much detail because the works of The Great Three were already widely known. This treatise is thought to have originated in the 15th century AD. The Sharngadhara Samhita is prized for its enumeration and description of numerous pharmacological formulations used in panchakarma and contains the first textual elaboration of diagnosis by means of the pulse. Its subject matter is again the field of kayachikitsa. This work is available in Sanskrit/Devanagari and English translation by Srikantha Murthy.Bhava Prakasha

Bhava Prakasha is just now available in English translation. It is the most recent of the classical texts, written in the 16th century. It is a well-organized and compact re-presentation of the earlier classics. There are about 10,268 verses of varying meters. It deals with kayachikitsa generally and has a large section entitled Nighantu, which gives the characteristics of many foods, plants, and minerals. Many of it sutras are direct quotes from earlier writers. Sri Kantha Murthy again does this Sanskrit/Devanagari and English translation.Madhava Nidanam

Madhava Nidanam, available here in Sanskrit/Devanagari and English translation by Srikantha Murthy, deals with the classification of diseases in Ayurveda. Its taxonomy is slightly different at times from those given by Charaka, Sushruta, and Vagbhata, while for the greater part its verses are seemingly direct quotes from them. This work is dated around 700 AD and is prized for covering a wide range of diseases in the fields of bala (children and women’s disorders), shalya, damstra (toxicology), shalakya (ear, nose and throat), and kayachikitsa. While this treatise gives detailed description of disease etiology (disease doctrines), prodroma and cardinal signs and symptoms, it does not give explanation or suggestions for chikitsa (treatment).

  1. Charaka Samhita — PV Sharma Translator, Chaukhamba Orientalia, Varanasi, India, 1981, pp. ix-xxxii (I) 4 Volumes
  2. Sushruta Samhita — KL Bhishagratna Translator, Chaukhamba Orientalia, Varanasi, India, 1991, pp. iii-lxvi (I), i-xvii (II) 3 Volumes
  3. Ashtanga Hridaya — Shri Kanta Murthy Translator, Chaukhamba Orientalia, Varanasi, India, 1991, pp. ix-xxvi 3 Volumes
  4. Sharngadhara Samhita — Shri Kanta Murthy Translator, Chaukhamba Orientalia, Varanasi, India, 1984, pp. iii-xvi
  5. Madhava Nidanam — Shri Kanta Murthy translator, Chaukhamba Orientalia, Varanasi, India, 1993, pp. iii-xv
  6. Bhava Prakasha — Shri Kanta Murthy translator, Chaukhamba Orientalia, Varanasi, India, 1998, pp.vii-xii 2 Volumes

NOTE: This article is not strictly transliterated from the original Sanskrit. Charaka is often transliterated as Caraka as kayachikitsa is often kayacikitsa. The “c” was changed to “ch” to aid in the correct pronunciation in these cases.


Daily habits that can make you happier

The search for happiness is not a new one. When you end the day wishing you could just feel happier, you’re not alone. It’s easy to think that you’ll be happy once you reach a certain milestone. Maybe it’s when your retirement is fully funded, you graduate college, or get married. Or perhaps you think when your kids are finally potty trained, you’ll feel it. Happiness. Unfortunately, once your last child is potty trained, the happiness train doesn’t just pull in. Then you pick another day. Another time when you’ll be happy. Thankfully you don’t have to wait until that elusive day to feel happier. You can start today by building habits into your daily routine that can help you feel happy, no matter your life circumstances. Try doing these habits on a daily basis for a few months and see if they make a difference. 

Pare down your media

Are you watching the news every night? Scrolling social media every chance you get? The media is a great way to gather information. But it could also be contributing to some dissatisfaction and unhappiness in your life. Evaluate your media habits and cut out anything that is affecting your mood. Not convinced it’ll make that much of a difference? Try cutting back to one hour of media use a day and see how you feel. Experiment with it until you find a good balance for yourself.

Get enough sleep

Have you ever been around a toddler that hasn’t gotten enough sleep? They are not typically happy people in that moment. After a good nap, that same toddler will run happy circles around you. Your moods might not be as easily changed as a toddler, but the amount of sleep you get does impact your moods. Aim for at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night. If you aren’t a morning person, go to bed earlier at night.

Go outside

There is something about being outside that lifts your mood. Not only do you get to enjoy the beauty of nature, but you soak in mood lifting Vitamin-D. Get outside. Explore things you haven’t seen before. Even if you are just walking around the block, you’ll feel better when you are finished.

Treat your body well

It’s pretty hard to feel happy when your body is sick or not getting the things it needs. Treat your body well. Drink plenty of water. Eat nutritious foods. Exercise every day, even if it’s just for 20 minutes. Make and keep regular doctor’s checkups.

Spend time with people you love

Spending quality time with the people you love is an essential part of being happy. Even when you are busy, carve out some uninterrupted time for your kids, spouse, family, and dear friends. Put down your phone. Listen to what they have to say. Play together. That quality time with loved ones will help you feel happy.

Work hard and with a purpose

Working hard can get you incredible results in your life. But hard work without purpose can feel like drudgery. Anyone who has worked a job they don’t love can tell you that. Set out to find purpose in your life, and then work hard to fulfill that purpose. Maybe that means running ultra-marathons, teaching kids how to play basketball, or volunteering in your local animal shelter. Whatever it is you love, work hard at it.

Exercise gratitude

The best way to feel appreciative and content with your life is the exercise gratitude every day. You may feel, from time to time, that you are missing important things in your life that will help you feel happy. But if you look around, you’ll notice that your life is full of amazing and wonderful things. Choose a time every day to write down three things you’re grateful for.

Learning how to be happy every day is a choice. If you are intentional, you can create happiness in your life by creating daily habits.