Ayurveda-The 5 Great Basic Elements (Panch Mahabhootas)

Five basic elements (Space, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth) provide the foundation for the entire physical world. Ayurveda recognizes these elements as the building blocks of all material existence. Sequence of their manifestation is like Akash- Vayu- Agni- Jala- Prithavi.

All organic and inorganic substances are combinations of these five elements, be it a natural herb or a piece of synthetic plastic. Every object is unique, because it contains a varying ratio of these five elements. So, Earth, and everything on it, is the product of different combinations of the five basic elements: earth, water, fire, air, and space.

The human lifecycle is divided into:-

  • Childhood, where physical growth takes place (Water and Earth)
  • Adulthood, where activity and change occur (Fire)
  • Old age, where mobility becomes impaired and the body begins to weaken (Space and Air).

Earth (“Prthvi”)

  • Represents the solid state of matter.
  • Bones, teeth, and hard tissues are considered as earth elements.
  • Earth connects to the nose and the sense of smell.
  • Water and Earth form the Kapha Dosha.
  • Characters are: stability, fixity and rigidity

Qualities – heavy, rough, solid, stable, slow  Attribute – resistance, density Substance – anything solid and heavy  Example in foods – cheese, banana, potato Intake – increases heaviness, stability, obesity and solidity in the body

Water (Jala or Apa)

  • Water represents the liquid state of matter and indicates change or instability. Water is responsible for the ?uid metabolism in the body and so blood, lymph and other ?uids are considered as water elements.   It makes 70 percent of our total body mass
  • Water connects to the tongue and the sense of taste. Water is the dominant element in the Kapha Dosha
  • Characters  are: Spreadibility/Flux

Qualities – oily (unctuous), moist, cool, soft, and sticky  Attribute – cohesion, lubrication  Substance – anything liquid, fluid or watery  Example in food – drinks, soups, melons, cucumber Intake – increases smoothness, coolness, softness and flow of fluids in body.

Fire (“Tejas”)

  • Tejas represents to the power converting solids to liquid, liquid to gas.
  • In the body it is responsible for digestion and perception and connected to the eyes and therefore sight. Responsible for all metabolic and chemical actions.
  • Fire is the dominant element in the Pitta Dosha. Fire provides the body with heat and radiant energy.
  • Characters are : transformation

Qualities – hot, sharp, dry, subtle, weightless and rough  Action – radiation of heat and light Substance – anything hot and spicy  Example in food- chilies, ginger, pepper, clove, cumin Intake – increases digestion, metabolism (fire and heat) glow and color of skin

Air/ Wind (“Vayu”)

  • Vayu represents the gaseous state of matter
  • Air flows freely throughout the body, giving movement to biological    functions and feeding every cell with oxygen. The air element represents the capacity for motion or kinetic energy. Air represents all forces and the movement that transpires as a result of those forces.
  • Character : mobility/ dynamism
  • In the body the wind element is represented mainly by the respiratory system. Wind also connects to the skin which perceives touch. The concept of vayu (air) is synonymous with that of prana (life energy).
  • Air is the dominant element in the Vata Dosha.

Qualities – Weightless, mobile, cool, dry, porous and subtle.  Action – motion or movement, evaporation, dryness   Substance – anything dry and airy, or that creates gas Example in food – toast, cabbage, beans Intake – increases coolness, dryness, movement and circulation 

Ether(space)/ (“Akasa”) :

  • Akasa is represented by the field from where everything manifests
  • Character : emptiness
  • In the body it relates to all hollow or empty places in the body, like channels and pores and the ears that perceive sound.
  • Together with the air element ether forms the Vata Dosha

Qualities – Soft, light, subtle and abundant. Action – provides room, looseness, openness Substance – anything that is light, profuse, and ethereal Example in food – hollow and light foods – popcorn, wafers Intake – increases softness and lightness in the bodyImportance in


We easily utilize plants, herbs, minerals, and water, because these substances are the same in composition and character to our own underlying make-up.

The doshas derive from the Five Elements and their related properties. Vata is composed of Space and Air, Pitta of Fire and Water, and Kapha of Earth and Water.

In our body:

  • Space/akasha is present wherever there is a cavity like in the nostrils, mouth, ears, throat, lungs, and stomach.
  • Air/vayu is perceived through movement of the lungs, heart, stomach, intestines and joints.
  • Fire/agni is perceived by all metabolic activity, the eyes, intelligence and body temperature.
  • Water/jala is present in all plasma, blood, mucus, and saliva.
  • Earth/prithvi represents any solid structure like fat, muscles, skin, nails and hair.