Basic Elements of Ayurveda - AGNI
What is Agni?

Ayurveda has described an important factor of digestion and metabolism in our body as Agni. Ingested food is to be digested, absorbed and assimilated, which is unavoidable for the maintenance of life, and is performed by Agni. In Ayurveda, the term “Agni” is used in the sense of digestion of food and metabolic products.

Importance of Agni:

About the importance of Agni, Acharya Charak has mentioned that after stoppage of the function ofAgni, the individual dies, and when the Agni of an individual is sama, then that person would be absolutely healthy and would lead a long, happy, healthy life. But, if the Agni of a person is vitiated, the whole metabolism in his body would be disturbed, resulting in ill health and disease. Hence, Agni is said to be the base (mool) of life.

Types of Agnis:

Agni is innumerable because of its presence in each and every dhatu paramanu (cell) of the body. According to Acharya Charak Agni has been divided into 13 types according to the function and site of action. These are:

  • Jatharagni – one Agni present in the stomach and duodenum.
  • Bhutagni – five Agni from five basic elements.
  • Dhatwagni – seven Agni present, one in each of the seven dhatus.

Jatharagni is the Agni or bioenergy present in the Jathara (stomach and duodenum). According to Ashtanga Hridaya, Jatharagni, the seat is grahani (duodenum), so called because it withholds the food for a certain time inside the Amasaya (stomach) to facilitate digestion.

Jatharagni is considered to be the most important because each and every nutrient that one ingests first comes to the Jathara and is subjected to the action of Jatharagni. Jatharagni digests the food materials that consist of the five basic elements and transforms it for utilization by the respective Dhatus paramanus (tissues).

Jatharagni is also responsible for separation of the food material into the essence portion (sara) and the waste products (kitta) in our body (As.Hr.Su-12/8). Jatharagni is directly related to Dhatvagni or bioenergy in the cells and their metabolic processes, with ultimate tissue metabolism or Dhatu-Paka process. All the Dhatvagni depend on the normal, healthy state of Jatharagni. If the Jatharagni is hyperactive (Tikshna) or hypoactive (Manda), it will cause an excessive or retarded action of the Dhatvagni. This disturbed action ultimately leads to various disorders. Jatharagni is the main important Agni that controls the function of all other 12 Agnis. All the Agnis are totally dependent on the status of Jatharagni (Cha. Chi. 15/39-40).


Bhutagni is the one that is present in a basic element (Bhutas). There are five Agnis in each of the five basic elements, namely – Parthiva (earth), Apya (water), Tejas (Agni), Vayavya (vayu) and Nabhasa (akash).

Each and every cell in our body is composed of the five mahabhutas or five basic elements. Naturally, each cell (dhatu paramanu) consists of these five Bhutagni also. All the nutrients in this world that we eat also consist of the same five basic elements with their respective Agni or bioenergies. Thus, they are completely similar with respect to the five basic elements with their Bhutagni in our body cells as well in all the outside nutrient, that we ingest for the nutrition of our body. Acharya Charak has mentioned that the five Bhutagni digest their own part of the element present in the food materials. After the digestion of food by the Bhutagni, digested materials containing the elements and qualities similar to each bhutasnourish their own specific bhautika elements of the body (Cha. Chi. 15/13, 14). These Bhutagnis act after the Jatharagni present in the stomach and duodenum, acting on the food and causing their disintegration. In the modern physiological perspective, the action of Jatharagni can be equated with the digestion in the stomach and duodenum, and the action of the Bhutagni can be equated with the conversion of digested materials in the liver.


All the seven Dhatus (seven element tissues of the body) contain their own Agni to metabolize the nutrient materials supplied to them through their own Srotas.

  • Rasagni present in the Rasa Dhatu.
  • Raktagni present in the Rakta Dhatu.
  • Mamsagni present in the Mamsa Dhatu.
  • Medagni present in the Meda Dhatu.
  • Asthyagni present in the Asthi Dhatu.
  • Majjagni present in the Majja Dhatu.
  • Shukragni present in the Shukra Dhatu.

Each Dhatvagni or the bioenergy present in each Dhatu synthesizes and transforms the essential Rasa Dhatu required for that particular Dhatu or cell from the basic nutrients present in the AnnaRasa or essence of the diet that we consume. Each Dhatvagni has got a speciality to synthesize and transform the constituents suitable to its particular Dhatu. This action is a sort of selective action. Acharya Charaka has mentioned the fact that the seven dhatus are a support of the body contain their own Agni, and by their own Agni they digest and transform the materials supplied to them to make the substances alike for assimilation and nourishment (Cha. Su. 28/15).

Tridosha and Agni:

In human body everything is dependent of Tridoshas which are the three Bio regulators. These Tridoshas regulate the Agni in the body. When the Pitta Dosha will be too much active; the Agni will be too much aggravated. As a result the person will experience too much appetite. As we have said earlier the strength of the Jatharagni will also determine the strength of Dhatwaganies and the Panchamahabhutagnies. When the Agni will be too much (because of the involvement of the Pitta Dosha in it); it will digest every thing available to it. On the level of Jatharagni it will digest the food stuffs very quickly and on the level of Dhatus (the body tissues) it will digest or betterly saying absorb or suck up the Dhatus – the tissues similarly it will wipe out the Mahabhutas at the level of Panchamahabhutagnies.

The Kapha Dosha involvement will make the Agni very dim in strength. As a result; there will be diminished working of Agnies on all level. Low level of Jatharagni will result in indigestion which in turn disturbs the body by deposition of harmful wastes in the body. Similarly dimness of the Dhatwagnies will result in the inadequacy of the Dhatus – the tissues. Once the Dhatus are not being nourished properly it will definitely disturb the body.

When the Vata Dosha will be involved there will be ups and downs in the working of all the Agnies. Some times there will be excess of the fire and some times the Agni will be very low.

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