As per Ayurveda, all the physical matter of the universe is combination of five elements with predominance of one of the other elements. These five elements are: 1) Akasha (ether/space) 2) Vayu (air) 3) Agni (fire) 4) Jala (water) 5) Prithvi (earth).
These elements along with Atma (soul) take part in the creation of the physical body. Human body is considered as a replica of the universe; whatsoever formed entities are in the universe, the same are in the person and vice versa. The constituents of the universe are innumerable and so of the individual. The aggregate of six constituents is termed as ‘Universe’ (macrocosm) such as prithvi, ap, tejas, vayu, akasha and unmanifest Brahman (principle of consciousness). These very six constituents aggregated are termed as ‘individual’.
The elements such as; prithvi, ap, tejas, vayu, akasa and brahman are represented by form, moisture, heat, vital breath, pores (including vacant spaces) and inner self respectively. As is the magnificence of Brahman in the universe so is that of inner self in the person. Seeing the entire universe in the self and vice versa gives rise to true knowledge. Like the physical body, Tri-Doshas are also made up of Panchamahabhuta’s (five elements) with dominance of one or other bhuta (element).
Akasa + Vayu
Agni + Jala
Prithvi + Jala
Tri-Doshas are the one which govern the functioning of body and mind.
Agni has been called a key factor of digestion and metabolism in our body. In living body it maintains the structural and functional integrity by performing the vital activities (bio-physical & bio-chemical processes). Agni transforms the food into the form of energy, which is liable for all the vital functions of our body. Therefore Ayurveda considers, Agni is the source of life, complexion, strength, nourishment, health and prana (life energy). Acharya Charaka has told that if Agni stops functioning, the individuals will die, when it is in the state of balance leads to healthier and longer life. Imbalance or vitiation of Agni disturbs the whole metabolism in the body which results in ill health and leads to diseases. It is the component which plays major role in the process of digestion and transformation in the body tissues. Hence Agni is considered base of life.
PITTA AND AGNI
In the Tri-Dosha concept of Ayurveda, functions of Agni are attributed to Pitta dosa. The term Pitta is derived from the root word ‘Tap’ which means to heat or burn. The term Pitta has three meanings:
Tap santape – generation of heat
Tap dahe – relates to the act of burning of nutrition consumed
Tap aishwarye – factor which is responsible to make one achieve the eight types of benefits
Pitta has been described as Agni, meanwhile it performs fire like actions
Hence Pitta is known as Antragni (Fire inside the body). Acharya Charaka has mentioned that the Agni which is present in the universe is present inside the human body in the form of Pitta. But Cakrapani has commented that, the usma (heat) of Agni is manifested in the form of Pitta. Heat can perform its action only in the presence of its carrier. For example, heat can produce burns in humans only when heated substances like oil or water comes in contact with human body. Here, heat is the cause and performer of the burn. But it is transferred through oil or water which acts as the carrier to transfer heat to body without which there will not be any burn. Similarly Pitta in human body acts as the carrier of Agni which does its functions.
The pitta present in between pakvasaya and amasaya is termed as Pachakapitta. Because of the predominance of fire element it performs action like digestion of the ingested food materials and thereby acts in separating the nutrients from the food, leaving behind the waste material. This pitta supports the other pittas as well to perform their functions.
PLACE OF AGNI
Seat of Agni is Grahani (duodenum, 1st part of the small intestine). Grahani is named as it receives the food. It is situated between amashya (stomach) and pakwashaya (large intestine).
Agni has the qualities of roopa (vision) and sparsha (touch). Vision is the specific quality of Agni while quality of touch is inherited from the vayu (air element).
Sparsha (touch) – hot
Roopa (form) – glittering white
Indriya (Sense organ related) – organ of vision i.e. eye
GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS – Substance with predominance of fire element possesses following qualities:
- Ushna (hot)
- Teekshna (sharp)
- Sukshma (subtle)
- Laghu (light)
- Ruksha (dry)
- Rupa (vision)
TYPES OF AGNI
On the basis of functions and site of action, Agni has been divided into 3 main categories in our body, which then further divided into 13 different types in total.
- PACHAKAGNI -one type
- BHUTAGNI – five types
- DHATVAGNI – seven types
It is the Agni located in the gastrointestinal tract and helps in the primary digestion of food. Pachakagni is also known as Jatharagni. It digests the food taken and also separates Sara bhaga (essence portion) from the Kitta bhaga (waste material) with the help of Samana Vata. This essence portion is rich in vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, carbohydrates etc.
If Jataragni is weak, Rasa and other Dhatus (tissues) won’t be formed and nourished by the digested food. All the Bhutagni and Dhatvagni are dependent on the balanced state of Jataragni. If Jataragni is increased or decreased, it will cause excessive or delayed action of the Bhutagni and Dhatvagni. Disturbed action ultimately leads to various disorders. Jataragni is the most important Agni; it controls the Bhutagni and Dhatvagni as well. All the Agni’s are totally dependent on Jataragni. Therefore protecting and taking care of gut fire is very important to be healthy.
Bhutagni is the one which is present in 5 elements i.e. Pancha mahabhuta. Each Bhuta (element) has their own Agni, thus we have 5 Bhutagnis. They are –
- 1.Parthiva Agni (Fire with in the Earth element)
- Apya Agni (Fire with in the Water element)
- Taijasa (Fire with in the Fire element)
- Vayaveeya Agni(Fire with in the Air element)
- Akasheeya Agni (Fire with in the Ether element)
Each Bhutagni helps in breakdown & absorption of their own components from nutritious food into the tissues. For example: Earth element is dominant in bones, so Parthiva Agni helps to absorbs the earth components of food into the earth parts of the body. Each and every cell in our body is composed of five basic elements. So naturally each cell consists of these five bhutagni and the foods that we eat consist of the same five elements. The 5 Bhutagni digest their own part of the element present in the food materials. After the digestion of food by the Bhutagni, digested material containing the elements & qualities similar to each bhuta’s nourish their own specific elements of the body. These Bhutagnis act after the Jatharagni (digestive fire present in the GIT & stomach) i.e after digestion of the food by Jataragni which results in the breakdown of food into five distinct physio-chemical groups such as – Parthiva, Apya, tejasa, vayavya & Akasha.
Effect of Bhutagnis on the food at the cellular level transforms them into nutritive elements which nourishes the tissues & channels of the body. When Bhutagni gets imbalanced, it causes loss of strength, immunity, and complexion, healthy & longer life span.
Agni through which nutrient molecules of food undergoes further transformation till it takes status of particular dhatu/tissue is termed as Dhatvagni. Tissue digestive fire is the physiological fire, which is related to 7 tissues of the body. Seven types of Dhatvagnis:
- Rasa Dhatvagni (fire in the plasma tissue)
- Rakta Dhatvagni (fire in the blood tissue )
- Mamsa Dhatvagni (fire in the muscle tissue)
- Meda Dhatvagni (fire in the fat tissue)
- Asthi Dhatvagni (fire in the bone tissue)
- Majja Dhatvagni (fire in the bone marrow tissue)
- Shukra Dhatvagni (fire in the reproductive tissue)
Jatharagni is the one which controls & regulates Dhatvagni. If functioning of Jatharagni is normal then Dhatavagni functioning will also be normal. Excess or reduced activity of Dhatvagni is completely depends upon the state of Jatharagni. Excess activity/functioning leads to tissue depletion and reduced activity leads to buildup of unprocessed nutrients and toxins in the cells of the tissues. This results in the weakening of tissue & low immunity and proceeds to systemic disorders.
STATES OF AGNI – BASED ON THE INFLUENCE OF DOSHAS
- VISHAMAGNI – Due to predominance of Vata Dosha, action of Agni is erratic & irregular. Agni sometimes digest the food very quickly even if it is consumed improperly at improper time & more in quantity and sometimes too slow even though food is properly consumed at proper time & in usual quantity. It leads to abdominal distension, heaviness and constipation.
- TIKSHAGNI – Intense digestive activity, due to increased Pitta dosha. Even large quantity of food gets digested quickly. It manifests excessive hunger. It produces parched throat & palate.
- MANDAGNI – Due to aggravated Kapha dosha, digestive activity becomes very weak & inadequate. Even small quantity of food gets digested after a long time which leads heaviness of abdomen, nausea & loss of appetite.
- SAMAGNI – Here all the Tri-Doshas will be in equilibrium and represents normal functional state of Agni.
FACTORS RENSPONSIBLE FOR VITIATION OF DIGESTIVE FIRE
- Diet incompatible with respect to habitat, environment, body constitution, digestive capacity, combination and quantity.
- Doing excess fasting, over eating, irregular consumption of food, eating too cold or too hot
- Sleeping during daytime and staying awake at nighttime.
- Improper administration of Panchakarma (detoxification) therapies.
- Suppression of manifested natural urges like urine, stool, vomiting, hunger, sleep etc.
- Psychological issues like stress, anger, anxiety, fear, lust, greed, jealousy, depression etc.
- Inactive lifestyle
These factors lead to imbalance of Agni (Digestive fire).
AGNI VITIATION – KEY FACTOR FOR DISEASE FORMATION
Regularity of all the physiological functions of the body is depends upon the normal functioning of Agni (digestive fire). Vitiation of Agni due to any causative factor leads to pathological activities, which further proceeds to disease condition of the body. Most of the diseases originate due to vitiated digestive fire as per Ayurveda. When Agni (digestive fire) becomes weak, then due to poor digestion process unwanted by-products of digestion gets formed which is known as ‘AMA’. This ‘AMA’ on elongated periods of stasis develops toxic qualities, does vitiation of Doshas and leads to increased impermeability and slowness of Srotas i.e. body channels. This obstruction of channels is the common factor in the manifestation of any ailment. This inhibits the process of digestion and absorption, causes gastro-intestinal disorders.
Most of the diseases like gastro-intestinal, auto-immune and metabolic disorders have hypo-functioning of digestive fire and Ama formation as primordial cause in their manifestation.
Jatharagni is the key to lead a healthy & longer life. Other Agni’s are dependent on the state of Jatharagni, increase or decrease of this Agni have influence on the Bhutagni and Dhatvagni and healthy or diseased condition as well. So it is most important to take proper care of digestive fire by eating healthy quality food with right quantity at proper time to protect our health. Preservation and promotion of Agni is the first step towards the healthy life and for the cure and management of ailment.