The Three Doshas

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).

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.

Prakruthi Types

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

Vata Prakruthi
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.

Pitta Prakruthi
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.

Kapha Prakruthi
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.

Sama Prakruthi
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.