Pancha Bhoota basically means five great elements. They are

  • Prithvi (Earth)

  • Varuna/Jal (Water)

  • Agni (Fire)

  • Vayu (Air)

  • Akash (Sky)

It is said that Human Body is made of these Pancha bhootas. Many sites have also claimed that Hindu Scriptures mention that these Pancha bhoota are contained inside the human body! Now this sounds Interesting.

So I want to know which scriptures mention that Pancha bhootas are inside the Human Body? Is this mentioned in Upanishads or Vedas? What is the view of different philosophies regarding this?

1 Answer 1


There are such references in the Upanishads as well as in the Tantras.

From the SAriraka Upanishad (one of the 108 Upanishads and it is linked with the Krishna Yajurveda):

OM. The body is a compound of prthivi (earth) and other mahabhutas (primordial elements, as apas or water, agni or fire, vayu or air, and akas ). (In the body), that which is hard is (of the essence of) earth ; that which is liquid is (of the essence of) water; that which is hot is (of the essence of) fire ; that which moves about is (of the essence of) vayu ; that which is perforated is (of the essence of) akas . The ear and others are the jnanendriyas (organs of sense). The ear is of the essence of akas , the skin of the essence of vayu, the eye of the essence of fire, the tongue of the essence of water, and the nose of the essence of earth ; sound, touch, form, taste, and odour being respectively the objects of perception for these or gans. These arose respectively out of the primordial elements, beginning with earth. The mouth, the hands, the legs, the organs of excretion and the organs of generation are the karmendriyas (or organs of action). Their functions are re spectively talking, lifting, walking, excretion, and enjoyment. Antahkarana (or the internal organ) is of four kinds manas, buddhi, ahankara, and chitta. Their functions are respectively sankalpa-vikalpa, (or will-thought and doubt), determination, egoism, and memory. The seat of manas is the end of the throat, that of buddhi the face, that of ahankara the heart, and that of chitta the navel. The bone, skin, nadis, nerves, hair, and flesh are of the essence of earth. phlegm, blood, sukla (or sperm), and sweat are of the essence of water. Hunger, thirst, sloth, delusion, and (desire of) copulation are of the essence of fire. Walking, scratching, opening and closing the gross eyes, etc., are of the essence of vayu. Desire, anger, avarice, delusion, and fear are of the essence of akas . Sound, touch, form, taste, and odour are the properties of earth : sound, touch, form, and taste are the properties of water : sound, touch, and form, are the properties of fire : sound and touch are the properties of vayu : sound alone is the property of akas .

This is from the first chapter of the Upanishad.

The Grabha Upanishad (which is another minor Upanishad and also linked with the same Veda) also have the references:

OM. The body is composed of the five (elements) ; it exists in the five (objects of sense, etc.); it has six supports: it is associat ed with the six gunas ; it has seven dhatus (essential ingredients) and three malas (impurities); it has three yonis (wombs) and is formed of four kinds of food. Why is the body said to be composed of five ? Because there are five elements in this body (viz.), prthivi, apas, agni, vayu, and akas . In this body of five elements, what is the prthivi element ? what apas ? what agni ? what vayu ? and what akas ? Prthivi is said to be that which is hard ; apas is said to be that which is liquid ; agni is said to be that which is hot ; vayu is that which moves ; akas is that which is full of holes (or tubes 2). Of these, prthivi is seen in supporting (objects), apas in cohesion, tejas (or agni) in making forms visible, vayu in moving, akas chiefly in avakas a (viz.j giving space). (Then what are the five objects of sense, etc. ?) The ear exists in sound, the skin in touch, the eye in forms, the tongue in taste, and the nose in odour. (Then) the mouth (exists) in speech, the hand in lifting, the feet in walking, the anus in excreting, and the genitals in enjoying. (Then) through buddhi, one knows and determines ; through manas, he thinks and fancies ; through chitta, he recollects ; through ahankara, he feels the idea of I . Thus these perform their respective functions.

The Tantras also discuss this aspect.

Quoting from the ShAktAnada Taranigini's (an overview of this text can be found here) 1st chapter:

asthi charma tathA nAdi loma mAmsa tathaiva cha |
ete pancha gunAh proktAh prithivyAncha vyAvasthitAh ||
malamutra tathA shukram shleshmA shonitameva cha |
ete pancha gunAh proktA Apastatra vyAvasthitAh ||
kshudhA trishnA tathA nidrA pramohah kshAntireva cha |
ete pancha gunAh proktAstejastatra vyavasthitam ||
virodhAkshepanAkunchadhArnam tarpanam tathA |
ete pancha gunAh proktA mArute cha vyavasthitAh ||
rAgo dveshacha mohashcha bhayam lajjA tathaiva cha |
ete pancha gunAh proktA AkAshe cha vyavasthitAh ||

Bones, skin, the NAdis, body hairs and flesh - These five are from the Earth element and they are established in the Earth. The faeces, urine, semen, phlegm and blood - These five are from the Water element and it is established in all of those. Hunger, thirst, sleepiness, delusion (Moha) and tiredness- These five are the properties of Fire and it is established in all of those. Obstruction, Akshepan (unable to translate this one, probably remorse or expansion?), Akunchan (contraction, writhing and bending like acts), holding and contentment - These five are the properties of the Air and they all stay in it. Anger, jealousy, delusion, fear and shame- These five are the properties of Ether and they all stay in it.

Now, a somewhat different list is found in the Brahma GyAna Tantram which is quoted in the ShArada Tilakam. Here the mapping is like:

  • Earth (Prithivi)

Bone, flesh, skin, nerve and hair.

  • Water (Apa or Jala)

Saliva, urine, semen, blood and marrow.

  • Fire (Tejas)

Hunger, thirst, fear, sleep, lethargy and tiredness.

  • Air (VAyu)

Swift movement, jump, eating, contraction and expansion.

  • Ether (AkAsh)

Anger, jealousy, shame, fear and delusion.

Therefore, in this way, correspondences have been established between everything that's within our body and one or the other MahAbhutas. So, that's why it's said that our body is nothing but a combination of those Pancha MahAbhutas.

  • 1
    what exactly is Aakash ? My guess is it pervades everything in the universe, and the more dense it gets compacted, gives rise to lower elements. e.g. akash is there all around solar system. when it gets compacted more, it becomes atmosphere around earth. further more compaction, becomes fire. more dense, becomes water, and finally earth. but my biggest doubt has been why we cannot hear any sound in vaccum, even though sound is property of akash. but we're able to see sun, which means light travels through akash, but sound cannot ?
    – ram
    Apr 15, 2018 at 16:53

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