Ayurvedic Dhatus: Know About the Body’s Fundamental Elements

If you’re interested in learning about Ayurveda, you’ve probably heard the term dhatu before. But what are dhatus, exactly? And what do they mean for your health? In this blog post, we will discuss dhatus according to Ayurveda and explain their importance in maintaining optimal health. Stay tuned, because by the end of this post, you’ll have a better understanding of the body’s fundamental elements!

What is Dhatu?

According to Dr. Sumit Kesarkar, Dhatu’s etymology comes from the root word ‘Daa’ which means ‘foundation’ or ‘that which bears’. It is said to be the basis of growth and survival. They are also known as the ‘building blocks’ of the human body and serve an important role in ayurvedic physiology. 

In terms of the human body, Dhatu is described as the functional entities or tissues which nourish the body and support it. Modern medicine describes the body as the network of interconnected systems. They each affect one another, the nervous system affects the skeletal system, which affects the circulatory system and so on. 

The Srotas

The way in which the physiology of the human body is perceived in Ayurveda is completely different from that of modern medicine. Rather than having specific, differentiated systems, the body consists of a series of channels called ‘srotas’ which are seven in number.  

These srotas are named after their respective organs, and the channels emanate from these organs to form a network throughout the body.The ‘ashtamoola’ (the organ of speech) is believed to have an influence on all the other organs. This is why disease and disorder manifest more in the throat than in any other part of our body. 

These srotas or channels flow through every part of the body to perform the necessary functions. The seven srotas contain the seven dhatus, which are progressive in qualities, with each higher unit carrying a part of its previous one.

Seven Dhatus

There are seven dhatus in total, each one representing a different stage in the process of tissue formation. These dhatus are:

1. Rasa or Lympathics and Capillary – predominance of Aapah (water) 

2. Rakta or Haemopoetic System – predominance of Agni (fire) ++ and Aapah +

3. Mansa or Muscular System – predominance of Prithvi (earth) ++ and Aapah

4. Meda or Lipid System – predominance of Aapah +++ and Prithvi +

5. Asthi or Bone System – predominance of Prithvi ++ and Aakash (space) +

6. Majja or Neurogenic System – predominance of Aapah +++ and Prithvi +

7. Shukra-Aartava or Reproductive System – predominance of Aapah ++ and Prithvi +

5 Mahabhutas

Each Dhatu has certain proportions of the Pancha Mahabhutas in them. To review the general translations of the 5 Mahabhutas:  

1. Agni – fire

2. Prithvhi – earth

3. Aakash – space

4. Aapah – water

5. Vayu – air

The Upadhatus

Note that some Dhatus produce accessory tissues or Upadhatus. It can be considered as a refinement produced when dhatu metabolism occurs or a secondary tissue. It also nourishes the body. Each Dhatu has a unique set of upadhatus. 

For instance, Rasa Dhatu contains two primary Upadhatus: Aartava and Stanya (breast milk) (Menstrual blood). The parent Dhatu provides food for the Upadhatus. Therefore, the breast or uterine tissue will exhibit the same symptoms as Rasa if it is dysfunctional, deficient, or irritated.

The dhatus also produce waste products known as Mala’s. The Mala’s have a healthy state and a diseased state in terms of their physical attributes and are useful for diagnosing the functioning of the dhatus. The proper functioning of all the 7 units culminates into an eighth unit known as ‘Ojas’, which is considered as the ultimate refinement, the supreme nectar that sustains life. 

Dhatu Functionalities

Each Dhatu is the representation of the macro human form. It sustains itself by absorbing food from the digestive juices. The absorbed food is assimilated to nourish itself and its upadhatu and the unwanted material is excreted as waste; Mala. 

For example, the Ahar Rasa or the digestive juice, on reaching the Rasa Dhatu is absorbed by it. The digestive fire within the Rasa Dhatu assimilates the Ahar Rasa as per its own attributes and nourishes Rasa and its Upadhatus. The waste product is excreted out, which in case of Rasa Dhatu is a phlegm or mucus and can be attributed to Kapha. 

The three processes of Absorption, Assimilation and Excretion, when functioning together harmoniously, impart health. Any discrepancies lead to diseases. Dhatu’s growth, sustainability and destruction are governed by the three doshas: Pitta, Vata, Kapha. 

Dhatu’s Laws

Dhatu Poshan refers to the nutrition of the different Dhatus in the body through digested food. Three different laws exist in Ayurveda that explain the process of nutrition of the Dhatus from the digested food. 

Ksheer Dadhi Nyaya 

Ksheer means milk and Dhadi means yogurt, this most accepted law states that as milk is transformed to yogurt similarly one dhatu transforms into another. Just as yogurt cannot be converted back to milk, this transformation is unidirectional. 

At first, Aahar (food) rasa completely changes to Rasa Dhatu following this is the changes of the Rasa Dhatu to Rakta Dhatu and so on. This is one of the paths of nutrition of the different Dhatus. For example, Mansa Dhatu would constitute the part of Mansa and Rakta. Each unit is processed from the previous one and hence considered to be a finer refinement. 

Kedar Kulya Law

The word Kedar means small pieces of Land and Kulya means Drain. In other words, crops in a field get irrigated by creating Kulya or drains and Kedar or small pieces of land. The small pieces of land get irrigated one by one through drains in sequence. In the same way, different Dhatus of the body get one by one in sequence through vessels. 

The first Dhatu gets nutrition from the digested food and so on. This ayurvedic law of nutrition unfolds as follows: During the transformation, the Ahar Rasa reaches the Rasa Vaha srotasa or channel, the Rhasa Dhatu Agni or metabolic fire of Rasa Dhatu processes the Ahar Rasa. 

It is divided into three parts: Sthoola or Macroscopic, Sukshma or Microscopic and Mala or Excretions. The Sthoola gives nutrition to the Dhatu, specifically Rasa. The Sukshma nourishes its different Dhatus such as Rakta and Upadhatus. Lastly, Mala is excreted out which can be a form of a phlegm or mucus. 

The theory in brief says that one Dhatu serves as an activating signal for the transformation of the next. In modern medicine, we can compare it to the effect of hormones as signals.

Khala Khapot Nyaya Law

The word Khala means pot and Kapota means pigeon, the bird. As the bird has come to the pot of grain for nourishment. Each dhatu is nourished with enzymes known based on its needs (aahar rasa). Furthermore, Dhatus are organized from the surface to the depth. It should be emphasized that each dhatu receives nutrition from aahar rasa on its own. 

All dhatus rely solely on aahar rasa, not on one another. They choose from the chyle according to their needs; the milky alkaline result is the starting point for the development of dhatu. Specifically, it travels from the colon to the bloodstream via the lymphatic system. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, the seven dhatus are all intertwined, and a single dhatu’s malfunctioning can have an influence on every other dhatus. There are dhatus. containing five mahabhutas, or constituent parts. Consequently, the doshas, which also consist of Five factors aid in maintaining the equilibrium of dhatus, resulting in the right functioning of the body’s many systems. 

Special thanks to NLAM: National Library of Ayurveda Medicine for the reference materials and Dr. Sumit Kesarkar for discussing the topic very clearly. Don’t forget to subscribe to Organic Ayurveda Life for more ayurvedic related updates! 

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