Dravya: Meaning, Ayurvedic Explanation

Article by Dr MS Krishnamurthy.
The first mentioning of Dravya guna is traceable from the description of Charaka who defined Ayurveda as the science which deals with Dravyaguna and Karmas of helpful and harmful material. (CH. SU. 30)

Dravya Guna Shastra has been identified as a separate specialty by Narahari, the author of Raj Nighantu (17. A. D. )
Acharya Priyavrata Sharma defined Dravya Guna Shastra as the branch which deals with the property action and theraperitic effects of various Dravyas (drugs).

Actually Ayurveda does not advocate the concept of pharmacology and therapeutics separately, it advocates the concept of pharmaco therapeutics and clinical pharmacology.

Dravyaguna does not agree with universal truth, but it is based on principle of thesis truth. These principle have been derived through knowledge experience, repeated elucidation of findings.


Importance of Dravya Guna Shastra: 
The two main goals of Ayurveda are: 
To protect the health of a healthy person
To eradicate the disease.

These two goals will be achieved with the help of Dravya.
The imbalance of the body can be treated with the help of Panchabhouthika dravya. (Su su 42)
The versatile action of a drug can be explained as follow based on dosage. Even an acute poison can become an excellent drug if it is properly administrated. Even a drug if not administered properly can become a poison.


Division of Dravya Guna Shastra:
Dravya Guna Vijnana
Padartha Dravya Vijnana
Nama Roopa Jnana
Yoga Vijnana
Samyoga Vijnana
Guna Karma Vijnana Prayoga vijnana

Pancha and Sapta Padartha

Pancha Padartha – 5 elements of the herb: 
Bhavamishra (16-17AD) quoted about the five constituents of a dravya viz
Rasa – taste
Vipaka – taste conversion after digestion
Veerya – potency of the herb
Guna – qualities of the herb
Prabhava – special effect of the herb

Sapta Padartha – 7 elements
Adding dravya and karma to the above five Acharya Yadavji Trikamji mention about sapta padartha.
Dravya (Drug): A substance which possess Guna (property) and Karma (action) with inheritance relation is known as Dravya.
Rasa (Taste) – The property perceived through the taste buds is known as Rasa.
Guna (Physical property) – It is the property which will have inherent reaction with dravya but remain inactive.
Virya (Potency) – This may be considered as the un-metabolized pharmacologically active ingredient of the drug which perform pharmacological activities
Vipaka (Drug Metabolism) – It is a property of a drug which is responsible for change in origional taste on expose to GIT enzymes.
Prabhava (Non Specific Activity) – When a drug produces a which is not in accordance with the constituent is called as prabhava.
Karma (Pharmacological Action) – The inseparable relation for association and dissociation of drug in exhibiting its action is called as karma.


The properties and action have no identity or existence without the substance and the substance has no identification without the properties and action. In broad sense, any substance or mixture of substance intended to be used internally or externally for the preservation of fortification of health and for the prevention mitigation or cure of disease either man or other animal is called as Dravya. (Ch. su. 9/7)

The four aspects of Therapeutics are the physician, patient, medicament and attender. they are responsible for cause of disease.

According to Charaka there is no any substance in the world which may not be used as a medicine.
The drugs (dravya) performs certain action in the body by virtue of its properties(guna) which exists in a state of coherence.

This uniformity of the drug on other hand form the basis of principle of similar and dissimilar. These principle imply that the predominant proto element of the drug will increase similar proto element in the body dissimilar will decrease the dissimilarity.

Thus the six padartha gets practical application in Dravya Guna Dravya holds the position of prominence in these six padartha of ayurveda.

Derivation of Dravyas: 
The word dravya is derived from
The word Dru – origin
Gatho – movement, knowledge.

Where continuously dravyas take palce is called as dravya
Where and is going on is called is as dravya.


Definition of Dravyas-
Dravya is having, function & qualities with samavaya sambandha. (vi & su )
Dravya is having base for karma & guna. They both defined on dravya with samavaya sambandha. (Ch su 1 )
Dravya is one on which the rasa etc 5 factors depends. Ex. Rasa, virya, vipaka, guna, prabhava. (Bhavamishra)
Five factors – Rasa, virya, vipaka, guna prabhava depends on dravyas. (Rasa visheshika)
The lakshana of dravya is that the guna & karma is on it with samavaya sambandha. (Yoga ratanakara)
Rasa, virya, vipaka, guna prabhava these all combination defined on dravya. (Nagarjuna)
In this context Chakarapani explained that guna term include Rasa, virya, vipaka, guna prabhava etc. (Chakrapani)
That which is substratum of qualities & action and is the molecule cause is defined as dravya. (Dr. gu. su. )
The one in which guna & karma are present with is called as dravya. (Dr. gu. su. )

To understand the relation between cause and effect certain principle were mentioned:
Samvayi eg: Thread in fabric.
Asamavayi eg: union of thread to piece of cloth.
Nimitha cause eg: means for weaving the fabric.

Charaka quotes an example that, ” a drug is like a fabric material and its properties and action are like yarn of the fabric. ” Though the definition of dravya given by Charaka is intended for karana dravya’s the same is applicable to karya dravya.

There drug will inert different Gunas – Karmas when used in therapeutics.
Badhanta Nagarjuna defined dravya as sets of operation for the activates of rasa, guna, virya & vipaka.

Concept of Pachamahabhuta

Concept of Panchamahabhutas in Dravya:
For Ayurveda, panchabuta theory is an important as chemistry is for modern medicine. There are evidence about five elements theory in the western medicine during ancient times.

Bhutas is defined as the matter which prove its existence through certain characteristic feature or it is the factors which produce all the inorganic and organic material. (Ra. va. )

Susruta mentioned about the process of conversion of food into body constituents through the action of Agni. (Su. su 46/80)

Charaka conclude that all the in the universe are composed of Panchabhutas. (Ch. su26/10)
Here Chakarapani clarified that the karya dravyas are only panchabhoutica but not Karana.

With this background Susruta correctly defined that the treatment ultimately depends on Panchmahabutas. (Su. sa. 1/9)

The human body is made up will need diet which in turn composed of mahabhoutas. Therefore they will undergo & improves respective biochemical equivalent. (Su. sa1/9)

The main difference is that explains there concept on the basis of paramanu & trisrenu whereas Sankhaya explains as tanmatara & mahabhouta which is weekly accepted in ayurveda.

Text mention that 2 paramanu become dvayanuka & 3 dvayanuka will make a thrisranuka. Even Sharangdhara explains the measurement on the basis of text mention that becomes. However it is accepted by both the philosophy that then physical & chemical characteristic one by one. . (Su. sa1/9)

The following order is given in the Ayurveda text: 
Vakrika(Satva) Tejasa(Rajasa) Bhutadi(Tamas)
Ekadasha Indriya Pancha Tanmatra

Sabda Sparsa Roopa Rasa Gandha

Akasha Vayu Agni Jala Prathvi

It is stated that the creation begins with Ayurveda or Prakriti which is impercievable in nature. In biochemistry it is known as cosmic energy coming from galaxy. Enline energy of universe in its results only. The rese plus is compare to virtual particles like mean, positron etc.

But these are highly unstable and can sat have active part in formation of karya dravya. After we have ahankara with the fragments viz vikarika, tejasbhutadi. There 3 will represent the move stable energy particles i. e. is proton, Rough is electron & is neutron. There 3 together known as trividha ahankara. Since satva is source of +ve energy.

Actually from there stable particle only the material world begins to from Eka dasha Indrriyas will merge from satwa & rajas will the support of tamas in the end. Pancha tanmatras viz orbit sound, touch/valence, electron activity /shape, protron activity/taste & neutron activity/smell will emerge from tamas and rajas. (Su. sa1/4)

Trividha ahankara and panchatanmatra will be together called as astaprakruti while, 11 organs and 5 bhutas are known as shodasha vikarithi (sixteen modified factors ). There 24 factors are together known as chathur vimshathi. . Finally Atma (kinetic energy) of atom is added to this and therefore entire creation becomes alive & hence are called as Panchavimasati tathwas (Ch. sa1/63-64)

In modern Physiology all the motor and sensory function are the result of incharge of +ve & -ve ions across a membrane either depolarization by means exchange of +ve charged Cu+, K+, Na+, etc. or negatively charge CL-, O-, etc. results in bodily activities. The same is the basis for considering satva & rajas for ekaadasha indriya.

Panchatanmatra’s mainly indicate the physical properties of matter or atom while mainly indicate the chemeal properties of the atom along with physical properties have linear or vertical expansion like group in periodic table.

The panchtanmatra and panchmahabhuta are represents in the following way scientifically.
In is compared to orbit eye because by beating gases audible sound is not produced. But by beating is soled metal sound is produced. From gases to metallic element the orbit dye increased and the properly of sound increased is considered as valence since vayu is known for movement.

The electron are revolving in orbits because of this force only. i. e. color & luminescence differ from each element & hence colorimetry. is senile to electron activity is compared to proton activity since it is base for. Hydrogen acts as a water forming element because of its proton peculiarity. On the other hand liquid medium in must for the perception of tasks. Gandha is related similar to neutron because solid particles are essential for olfactory function and neutron provides the weight to alone.

These five elements in the from of five compound are major constituent of the body. They are CO2, CH3, PO3, H2O, & NH3.

It is mention in the classical that the at all minutest level have their individual characteristic like shabda etc. There features add one to another as the evolution of bhutas complete. This process of quantification is denoted as anyonapravesha or panchpanchi krana in Ayurveda & Vedanta respectively. (Ch. sh. 1/27-28)

As Avayakta is inactive, activity is provided by or Parusha. This may be compared to kinetic energy of atom. These are 3 types of activities disturbed in ancient text.
Activity in the inorganic matter.
Activity in organic matter
Activity in galaxy.

According to Vedantika view bhuta predominate in a dravya is assessed by this formula. The main will be 1/2 part and the remaining will be 1/8.

Utility Of Dravyas

It is discussed earlier that all the Karya dravyas are composed of five elements. There dravyas may be either the drugs or the constitution of human body. Therefore, the vruddhi & kshaya of Thri doshas (Three humors) i. e, Physiological & patho physiology are under control of Dravya.

It is further cleaned that the constitution of viz rasa, guna, virya, vipaka are responsible for the or vruddhi or samya or doshas – dhatu malas. (Su. su2)

Basically, Ayurveda elaborate the disease & the health on the account of vitiation or balance of tridoshas.
Hence the treatment are 2 folds.
Swastha urjaskara – (preventive aspect)
Athura roganut – (curative aspect) (As. ha)

Among the quarlet of medical management drug is floced necit to physcian in chronology. (Ch. ch)
An ideal must posses following four characteristic:
Bahuta – should be undeniably available.
Yogyatwa – Should be maximum utility.
Aneka Vidha – Should be made into different from
Sampath – Should be posses the best quality. (Ch. su. )

Charaka mentioned that even deadly medicine may be used as an efficient medicine or vice versa.
It is generally proposed that similar properties enhance the respective qualities inside the body. while the opposite property reduce. (Ah. sa. su)
However Chakrapani highlights the importance of in utilizing the drug
May enhance then related qualities usually but it is not a hard & fast rule. Similarly opposite may become useful in management when used with certain modification. (Ch. su)
Dalhana also concluded that all and dravyas act as good machine become of their nature. (Dalahana com41/5)

Superiority of Dravya

Charaka samhita accepted dravya as the supreme matter among Dravya, Rasa, Guna etc. At later time Susrutha have specialty mention about the superiority of the Dravya.

Acc. to Susrutha, dravya is important than that of quartet since is the seat for later Vagbhata also express the same view.

It is observed that is depended upon, cannot exist without dravya.
Hence is claimed to be ultimately thing. (Ah. su. )

Even the eight type of viryas depend upon usually are devoid of any activity independently similarly also depends upon dravya but not an rasas alone. Hence dravya is explained with primary important of dravya.

Vyavashitha (Stability) – The charge is only stable in nature bets not the consultants life Rasa, guna will keep on changing till it ripens. But the fruit is known as mango fruit till the end. In b/w the taste etc will change from astringent to sour & sour to sweet.

Similarly, the green colour of black jamoon fruit when it is very tender will turn into Bringal colour after some lime and finally black like collyrium when fully ripen. Accordingly taste, smell, well also charge where as dravya do not. (Su. su)

Nithyatva (Eternity) – Certain quality of a charge may be lost after some tine. But the augerial dravya will remain as it is e. g. kalka or swarasa of the given material. Therefore is considered to be of primary importance. (Su. su40)

Swajathyavasyanatva (Gene – specificity) – No substance belonging to one genus /group will change into another eg: a prithwi dravya remain. to be so till the end. Similarly milk will become and but not salt or honey. Hence is important. (Su. su. 40/3)

Panchendriya Grahanatva (Perceptible through all the senses) – Only dravya is perceptible through all the five senses. Rasa, guna etc. are not so eg : rasa is perceived through rasanendriya, virya is identified through adhivasa. (Su. su. 40/3)

Ashrayatva (Hast for proportion) – Only dravya can act as the host for other constituents like rasa, guna, verya etc. vice versa is not possible. Therefore dravya is considered as important. (Su. su. 40/3)

Arambha Samarthya (Initiation of action) – Inculcation of a specific pharmacological action is possible only by using the dravya. It is not possible to pick up the constituents and use in the treatment. Hence dravya is suitable. (Su. su. 40/3)

Shastra Pramana (Classical Reference) – All the ancient Ayurveda classes have mentioned different medicine. on the basis of dravya but not Rasa etc Even through we find the reference about Rasa Skandha They are also represented by group of dravyas but not by rasa Hence dravya is superior. (Su. su. 40/3)

Kramapekshitvaccha (Degree of Maturity of Dravya) – The properties depends upon the state of the dravya. When a drug is tender then the properties will be present in it. That means the degree of maturity of drug and its properties are directly proportional. therefore dravya is carried to be important. (Ch. Su 40/3)

Ekadesha Sadhyatva (Utility through part used)- Dravya can be utilized in the treatment by using a part of it. Whereas rasa, virya etc. can not be used partly eg : the later of snuhi can be used in many disease but etc taste can not be. Therefore dravya is more important.

Taratamayogonupalabdhe (Non – availability of grading) – Gunas and rasas can be used according to the grading like milk moderate and severe. However these of lyte of grading is not possible for dravya. Through the constituent vary in thier nature dravya remain stable. Hence it is important.

Vikalpa Samarthya (Possibility of Pharmaceutics) – Dravya can be made into different forms of pharmaceutics viz. kalka, kashaya, etc But the constituents like, etc can not be utilized for the same purpose.

Prathighata Samarthya(Malleability) – Among the 7 constituents of only dravya posseses some stuff and structure which is visible. Therefore dravya can occupy some spare while rasa etc can not exhibit there qualities.


Material having medicinal value may be classified into different group are to their source, evolution, utility age & property.
I. Classification on the Basis of Activity (Sristi Kramanusara)-
All the substance in the universe are grossly divided into two group is viz. Animate & inanimate.
They are otherwise discribed as living & non living being.

The group is subdivided into
With internal activity
With both internal & extrrnal activity (Ch. su2/48)

Anthah chethana – This group covers all the animal kingdom which will possess both invisible internal activities and visible external activities also.
Bahirantha chethana – This group will cover all the animal kingdom which will possess in both invisible internal activities and visible external activities.

Renounced scientist Sir JAGADISH CHANDRA BOSE proved about the internal activity of plant through his research at later period.

II On the Basis of cause & Effect (Karya Karana Bheda) – 
Entire creation may be divided into 2 groups i. e. – causal material effectual material. (Ch. su)
There are nine dravya through which creation was possible. The 2nd group i. e. Karya dravya are made up of and are innumerable eg :guduchi

III On the basis of evolution (utpatti bheda) – 
All the dravya are used in the treatment are made up of panchabhuta. (Ch. su16)
However classified that the main characteristic of is divided on the basis of major bhuta in it. (Su. su. 41)

Akashiya Dravya-Substance which have the properties like soft, lighter, minute, glesening, clear, seperate, unknown taste etc. and the substance which produce smoothness to body is known as sound is its characteristic features. (Ch. su16)

Vayviya Dravya –Substance which are light, cold, nonunctous, rough, dear, minute, etc. Properties and having astrigent taste are known as vayaviya. Sparsha is etc characteristic feature. (ch. su. 16)

Agneya Dravya-Substance having hot, stimulated, minute, rough, clear, etc. properties and which act appetizer, which improves color & completion etc is known as agneya dravya.  Rupa is its main characteristic features. There will be mainly pungent with little salt cum sour taste. They exhibit property of leveling in upward direction [Ch. su 16]

Aapya Dravya-Substance which are having liquid, unctuous, cold, dull or slow acting, smooth, sticky, turbid, heavy etc properties and which provide only appearance, nourishment, attachment inside the body. that is called apya dravya.  Rasa is characteristic feature of & having the astringent, sour & salty taste. (Ch. su16)

Parthiva Dravya –Substance which have heavy rough, hard, dull & slow actiry, stable, clear turbid. bigger particle size etc properties which which provide strength, tonicity, attachement growth etc to body are known as parthiva dravya.  Gandha is characteristic feature. They are having sweet with little astrigent taste. (Ch. su. 16)

On the Basis of Sources (Yoni Bhedane) – Dravya are divided into 3 groups on the basis of their sources of origin viz
Animal source eg: pearl
Herbal source eg: visha etc
Mineral source eg:parada etc.

Acc. to Sushruta only plants & animal are present.
Jangama-All creatures which are able to walk or crawl are considered as Jangama (Su. su. ) It is otherwise defined as those who originated in the animal kingdom are known as Jangama. they are subdivided onto 4 classes.
Jarayuja- animal which have placental birth eg: man, lion, tiger, etc.
Andaja – aves (birds ) and reptiles etc which have their birth through egg crows etc.
Oudbija-The creature which have their born in mud eg : frog etc.
Swedaja-The creature which are born in sweda eg: flies, mosquito etc

Dalhana enumerated certain exuption in the above categories Among birds is as well as Among share is only Among swadega ceratin ants are as well as oudbija.

Charaka quoted the following items as annual products i. e. honey, milk, fro dust bile, lard, bone marrow, blood, meat, wune, skim, begarends, feces, horns etc. (Ch. su1/68-69)

Oudbhidam-Those which grows by sprouting through through the sort are known as i. e. plants. they are again divided into 4 categories.
Vanaspati-There plants donot posses visible flowers. hence called apushpa. They will themselves with fruit alone eg:vata etc.
Virudha –There plants which twin, crowl are called as virudha. They are subdivided into 2 orders.
Lata –Climbers eg:vidari etc
Gulma- Shrubs eg: atibala etc.

Vanaspatya –The plant posses both flower & fruit visible are known as vanaspatya
Oushadi –Those plants which die after yielding the fruit after lowest is known as eg: paddy, pulses, wheat etc.
Parthiva –Those substance present beneath the earth is called as parthiva. Usually all the minerals our, metals salts etc are comes under parthiva dravya. (Ch. su)
Classification of dravya indicate the knowledge of Rasaoushadhis in the amount itmes before the development of Rasa Shastra

On The Basis of Utility (Prayoga bheda) – On the basis of utility, dravya are classified into – medicine, food
Chakarapani produced his concept while discussing about yavagu. Acc to him, drug is important on the basis of policy & food is important on the basis of taste.
Usually drugs like chitraka are used for then therapeutic used based on potency. But food material like Sali are used as a diet.
Ahara & oushada are equal important. The main different between theres 2 are drug will act on dhatu & gives nourishment. On the other hand while using a drug shita etc are considered & then it should administrated.

On the basis of taste (Rasa Bheda) – On the basis of taste, of Ayurveda classified drug into group:
Madhura-Drug having sweet taste eg: grapes etc
Amla-Having sour taste eg: lenon etc.
Lavana-Having salt taste by eg: salt, rocksalt.
Katu-Having pungent taste eg: pepper etc.
Tikta-Having better taste eg: neem etc
Kashaya-Having astrigent taste eg: fecisspssps

On the basis of potency (Veerya Bheda) – Most of the drug mention in Ayurveda material media are denoted as sita or ushna.
However the above 2 group are mentioned for taila preparation under kashaya kalpana. 120 drugs present in (CCIM) may be classified into 2 group.
Shita Veerya
Ushna Veerya

On the basis of effects of humors – Dravya are classified into 3 major groups on the basis of dosha karmanusara:
Dosha shamaka-dravya used to subside the aggrevated doshas
Dosha prakopaka -drugs to stimulate doshas
Swasta hita -drug for produce maintain, medicine (Ch. su. )
Samshodana dravya– There is another group described on the basis of their effects on doshas again. They are calle d as drugs & subdivided into 3.
Elimination in upward direction
Elimination in downward direction
Elimination from both direction (Ch. ka. )

On the basis of Vipaka – P. V. Sharma grouped certain drug into 3 group viz.
Madhura vipaka
Amla vipaka
Katu vipaka

On the basis of evolution class shaape and age:
Classification on the basis of class well describe about the different class order, family & species of drug etc.
Classification on the basis of shape include true, shrubs, herbs, climbers etc.
Classification on the basis of the Age include.
Annual- for one year eg: oushadi
Biannual- for 2 years
Perennials- for many years eg: vanaspati

Comparative Knowledge of the groups of the dravyas quoted by Charaka, Sushruta & Vaghbhata-
In the ancient Ayurveda treatise have been grouped into either varga or gana. This grouping were the on the basis of pharmacological properties.
Varga-It is a group of limited member of herbe having similar pharmacological properties.
Gana-It is a group of large number of herb having similar pharmacological properties.
Skandha-A group of the drug from the alone mention reference it is clear that denote a group of drug having similar pharmacological property. Some scholars and mention that contain b/w drugs while gara contain many. But we do not find any such tendency in the any treatise. (sa. ka. dru)

Comparison between Charaka & Shushruta Group of drugs:

Charaka drug                                                                                                Shushruta drug

The mainly concentrated on the group of 10                              He concentrate on the multiple indication of the drug.       drug having similar identification.
He named the group on the pharmacological actions               He named group on the basis of 1st drug
He mentioned 50 vargas                                                                   He mention 37 vargas

Vagabhatta accepted the views of both Charaka & Sushruta. The observed 45 out of 50 of Charaka. The remaining 5 are found in 14th chapter after a little change.
Vamaka in place of vamanopaga
Virechaka in place of virachanopaga
Niruha in place of asthapanoga

Vagabhatta accepted Susrutas classification. Hence 33 are described in Astanga hridaya.
Ahara Dravya – Charaka classified into 12 vargas. Susruta mention in 2 groups Charaka mention 10 & Susruta mention 11 vargas.
Anna dravya – Both drava & dravya are described under 12 vargas.

In Astanga Hridaya –
5 vargas – dravadravya
7 Vargas – anna dravya

Classification method of other Nighantus:
As the number of drug gradually increased from the early times to individual period where many lexicons are written, the drug are arranged in different group.
Dhanvantari nighantu posses 7 varga. Among these guduchvadi contain drug which act as appetiser and tonic etc possess several indication.
Sodhala nighantu possess 27 varga
Siddha Mantra contains 8 varga on the basis of drug & their effects on doshas
Madhava Dravya Guna contain 29 varga namely food material are discussed.
Dravya Guna Sangraha of Chakrapani possess 15 vargas
Raja Nighantu & Bhava Prakasha contain 23 vargas
Kaiyadeva Nighantu has 8 varga. The last group deal with different synonyms of hearts.


Charaka Samhitha
Susrutha Samhitha
Astanga Sangraha
Dravya Guna Vignana (By P. V. Sharma)
Dravya Guna Vignana (By J. L. N. Shastry)
Dravya Guna Vignana (By Gyanendra Pandey)
Dravya Guna Vignana (By Vaidya Yadavji Trikamji)
Dravya Guna (By Madhava)
Dravya Guna Sangraha (By Chakrapani)
Rasa Vaisheshika
Rasa Panchaka (By Dr. S. K. Dhyani)
Bhava Prakasha (By Bhava Mishra)
Yoga Ratnakar
Shodala Nighantu
Siddha Mantra
Kaiyadeva Nighantu
Raj Nighantu
Dhanwantari Nighantu

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