The Concept of Agni in Ayurveda
The concept of Agni is another of Ayurveda’s contribution to healthcare. Solar energy is the source of any sort of conversion in the living beings. Agni represents this solar energy in the living beings. Agni has the capacity to convert the substance in any form because of its occult power. Maintenance of physiological actions in a state or heal this dependent on the normal state of agni while the abnormal state of agni contributes to pathological changes and absence of agni results in death of the living being. Therefore maintenance of human life itself is dependent on agni. It attributes to the lustre and complexion of the skin energy work capacity strength nutritional process and growth of the body. The pranas the life forces depend on the agni. Agni is one of the basic constituents which is helpful in the maintenance and growth of the human body.
In common language agni means fire. But in the context of living organism it signifies the power or heat which is responsible for digestion and metabolism. The agni is of thirteen types viz.
- Bhuta agni (of five types) - Prithvi-Bhutagni, Jala-Bhutagni, Teja-Bhutagni, Vayu-Bhutagni, Akasha-Bhutagni.
- Jatharagni- Also known as koshthagni or kayagni.
- Dhatvagni (of seven types) – Rasa Agni, Rakta Agni, Mamsa Agni, Meda Agni, Asthi Agni, Majja Agni, Shukra Agni.
Jatharagni is active in the stomach and gastrointestinal tract. It helps to assimilate the panchbhautik food taken from outside according to our body needs. It digests the food and separates the sara (The nutrient fraction) from the kitta (The residue fraction) it is directly correlated with the dhatvagni and bhutagni.
The five Bhutagni work at the level of intermediatory metabolism. Diet after digestion divides in to five groups to nourish the corresponding attributes of the body.
The seven dhatu are formed after the action of agni on the ingested food some waste products are also formed. Each dhatu receives its nourishment from the previous dhatu receives its nourishment from the previous dhatu.
The seven dhatvagni work at the cellular level.
Acharya Charaka says the five kinds of agni i.e parthiva apya teja, vayaviya and akashiya digest the five bhutta or consume the five kinds of food derived from the above five bhuta. The result of this digestion is conversion of the food into two parts.
The essence called rasa which is panchbhautika. The waste product called mala which again is panchbhautika.
This rasa(Essence) circulates through the body and supplies nutritive elements to all part i.e dhatu (The tissues) which again are made up of the five bhatu. The dhatvagni(the tissue enzymes) regulate the metabolism thus performing all the functional activities from an individual cell to the entire body. The products of the chain of metabolism as well as anzymes are also composed of the five bhuta which means they are panchbhautik too.
Functional states of agni
Mandagni(Slow)- Due to influence of kapha.
Tikshanagni(Accute)- Due to influence of pitta.
Vishmagni(Disturbed)- Due to influence of vata.
Samagni(Balanced)- Due to balance state of tridosha.
Jatharagni is considerably inhibited due to the dominant influence of kapha dosha resistsany change that may result due to the activity of agni because its attributes are opposite to each other and as a result of this duality process of digestion slows down. If the kapha dosha over powers agni the mandagni causes an abnormal weight gain due to this sluggish conversion there is a backlog of undigested food material in various srotas. The agni is unable to digest even a small quantity of food otherwise even easily digestible food. This can be named as slackened difestionor weakened gastric fire.
This is the result of the association of agni and pitta dosha. The sneha(Emollient) and drava(Fluidity) attributes of the pitta are entirely that of agni itself.This pitta predominant agni of an intense variety can digest assimilate anything thrown in. It easily digests a very heavy meal in a very short time and the body again feels hungry. It may produce a parched throat, palate and lips heat and other discomforts.
A long time allegiance of agni and pitta shall tilt the balance of the agni in direction of pitta and if it is not continuously fed then it causes dhatukshaya.
Due to the influence of vata the agni is irregular. A prolonged vishmagni creates an imbalance of dosha dhatu and mala in favour of vata and there by precipitates vatavyadhi(Disease caused by an imbalance state of vata dosha) depending on the intensity and chronicity. Sometimes the digestion may be complete and at other times may be produce distension of the abdomen colicky pain constipation of the bowel dysentery ascities heaviness of the limbs and loose stools.
It is a well-balanced state of functioning of the tridosha as well as the jathagni. Digestion of the ingested food is good and at proper time without any irregularity.
There is a very delicate and critical balance between the various attributes of each of the three dosha which results in a normal physiological state samagni.