Article by Prof. Dr. MS Krishnamurthy MD (Ayu), Ph. D.
The word rasa panchaka is include that the five factors of dravya (substance) (substance) that is
Rasa – taste
Guna (qualities) – qualities
Vipaka – taste conversion after digestion
Veerya (potency) – Potency of the herb (cold or hot)
Prabhava – special effect of the herb. Example: Brahmi is Medhya – brain tonic.
The word rasa means taste. Rasa also carries other meanings such as
Rasa Dhatu – the first tissue of the body
Rasa – taste definition:
“Rasya te aswadhyate rasanayaha rasendriyena eti Rasa”
That means the particular sense object, which is perceived by the tongue, is called rasa or the guna (qualities), which can be perceived by the rasanendriya, is called rasa.
Types of Rasa:
Rasa are basically divided into six type based on its perception that is:
Sweet taste, amla Rasa, lavana rasa, pungent rasa, tikta rasa, kasaya rasa.
Once again, based on the actions of rasa the tastes are divided into two types i. e. , soumya rasa and agneya rasa,
Panchamahabhootha of Rasa:
Sweet (sweet) – Prithvi +jala (earth + water)
Amla (sour) – Prithvi+tejas (earth + fire)
Lavana (salt) – Jala+tejas (water + fire)
Pungent (pungent) – Vayu+tejas (air + fire)
Tikta (bitter) – Vayu+akash (air + ether)
Kashaya (astringent)- Vayu+prithvi (air + earth)
Regarding composition of amla and lavana tastes there is difference of opinion between charaka and Surshrutha.
The composition given in above table was proposed by Charaka. According to sushrutha amla is composed of jala and tejas and lavana is of prithvi and tejas.
Even though taste is having above-mentioned basic elements are dominant, other basic elements will also be present in a substance in minute quantities.
Rasa and its guna (qualities)s:
Sweet (sweet) is Snigdha (oily, unctuous), sheetha (cold), guru (heavy)
Amla (sour) is Snigdha, ushna (hot), guru
Lavana (salt) is Snigdha, ushna, guru
Pungent (pungent) is Ruksha (dry), ushna, laghu (lightness)
Tikta (bitter) is Ruksha, sheeta, laghu
Kashaya (astringent) is Ruksha, sheeta, laghu
Action, effect on Doshas
Action of Tastes on Doshas:
The actions of tastes on doshas is an essential because rasa is one which has guna (qualities)s in its and which are favourable or unfavorable for the dosha and it will be mainly applicable in the treatment aspect because in ayurveda we are treating only on basis of doshas by using different recipes.
Doshas and effective Tastes against them, in sequence (less to more effective)
Vata Dosha – Lavana (salt), Amla (sour), Sweet (sweet)
Pitta Dosha – Tikta (bitter), Sweet (sweet), Kashaya (astringent)
Kapha Dosha – Pungent (pungent) Tikta (bitter), Kashaya (astringent)
In these order tastes are used in treatment.
Perception of Tastes
According to Indian Darshana shashtra knowledge rasa can be acquired through three pramanas i. e. , pratyaksha, anumana, aptopadesha.
Tastes can be known through all these three modes of knowledge. Yet, direct demonstrable knowledge is more widely used. if the dravya (substance) comes in contact with the tongue then only the direct perception of rasa is possible. this is rasana pratyaksha.
The some rasa can perceivable by anumana only like, sweetness of gold, taste of silver. Taste of lead & bitter taste of iron have all been ascertained through inference after carefully observing the effects of these dravya (substance)s on the body.
Similarly avyaktha tastes or anurasas have to be specially understood through aptopadesha. And this knowledge is endorsed through anumana pramana.
According to some, a general knowledge of tastes is obtained through pratyaksha, anumana provides specific knowledge, where aptopadesha provides experimental knowledge.
Actions of Rasa
The action of tastes is brought in accordance with samanya vishesha siddhantha. Similar dravya (substance)-guna (qualities)-karma increase similar dravya (substance)-guna (qualities)-karma and dosha-dhathu-mala. Whereas dissimilar dravya (substance), guna (qualities), karma bring about decrease. The action described as the action is in fact the actions of guna (qualities)s belong the dravya (substance)s having the particular rasa.
The one which is directly perceived is called rasa, Some tastes which are not perceptible in the beginning but are perceived after some time. These are called Anu Rasas
Characteristics of anurasa:
Anurasa is either unmanifested or is manifested in small proportion.
Anurasa doesn’t remain in dravya (substance) inits dry state. For eg: The sweet anurasa of dry pippali will not persists.
Read more: Tastes – Types, Qualities, Therapeutic Action- Ayurveda Details
Comparison between Rasa and Anurasa
Rasa is clearly manifested. Anurasa may not be clearly manifested.
Rasa remains in tact in the herb even after drying. Anurasa may not remain intact after drying.
Taste is manifested at first, in the beginning of tasting process. Anurasa is manifested later or in the end.
Guna (qualities): Guna (qualities) is one which is located in dravya (substance) inherently causative agent and devoid of property and action.
It means guna (qualities) itself has no action but its qualitates dravya (substance) for such action.
Characteristics of guna (qualities)s:
“samavayee tu nischesthaha:”
here the word nischestha has been intentionally added to characteristic of guna (qualities) in order to differentiate it from karma. If only the word samavayee would have been used, it might have been transgressed the characters of guna (qualities)s, since karmas also have an inseparatable relationship to dravya (substance)s and resides in dravya (substance)s.
Dravya (substance) sustains guna (qualities), karma, but guna (qualities) can’t sustain guna (qualities) and karma. Karma also resides in dravya (substance) and it is a non essential cause as well. Yet, it is the cause of aggregation, segregation at the same time
The author of text rasa vaisheshika describes guna (qualities)s as “ Vishwa lakshana guna (qualities)h”. As these are responsible for the presence of various characteristics of padarthas.
Guna (qualities)s acts as a medium for understanding the peculiarities of dravya (substance)s. it is an acceptable principle that every guna (qualities) has a definite action a single dravya (substance) may have many guna (qualities)s and single specific guna (qualities) may be present in many dravya (substance)s.
Classification of guna (qualities)s:
Guna (qualities)s are classified mainly on three types i. e. , vaisheshika guna (qualities), samanya guna (qualities)s, and atma guna (qualities)s.
The vaisheshika guna (qualities)s are
Shabda – sound
Sparsha – touch
Roopa – shape
Rasa – taste
Gandha – smell
Gurvadi, Paradi gunas
The samanya guna (qualities)s are 30 in number. they are divided into guruadhi and paradi guna (qualities):
Guruvadi guna (qualities)
Guru X laghu
Mandha X thikshana
Hima X Ushna
Snigdha X Ruksha
Slakshana X Kara
Sandra X Drava
Mrudhu X Kathina
Sthira X Sara
Sukshma X Sthula
Visadha X Pichilla
Paradi Guna (qualities):
Para, Apara, Yukti, Samyoga, Vibhaga, Prutaktva, Abhyasa, Samskara, Parimana and Samkhya
Atma guna (qualities)s are 6 in number. They are
In total 41 guna (qualities)s are considered.
Significance of guna (qualities):
The references for guna (qualities) are available in all the classics.
Definition of sharira dosha dhatu mala mulam he shariram,
Here three factors dosha dhatu malas are exhibited through guna (qualities)s.
In chikitsa aspects samanya vishesha siddhantha, samanya guna (qualities) will increases the dhatus etc. . vishesha guna (qualities)s will decreases the dhatus etc. .
This is based on guna (qualities) only.
Importance of guna (qualities):
The importance of guna (qualities)s is:
Rasabibhavath: – Actions of rasa that are present in dravya (substance) are superseated by guna (qualities)
Rasanugraha: – The guna (qualities)s of dravya (substance)s are condensive to tastes only
Vipakakarantvath: – the vipaka superseats the tastes, but this vipaka mainly due to the guna (qualities)s
Sankyabahulyath: – in number also it is more
Prayogabahulyath: – in the aspect of usage the guna (qualities)s are widely used in clinical application
Karmabahulyath:- guna (qualities) is associated with and helps to bring action in various manner, this is by guna (qualities) only
Vishayabahulya:- dravya (substance) which are sustainer of guna (qualities), guna (qualities) are superior and that which has many sustainer is considered as superior.
Upadesh: – many of granthas explained about guna (qualities)s.
Apadeshath: – it means description while describing an objects we mentions its guna (qualities)s only.
Anumanath: – the inference is also by guna (qualities)s
Guna of Doshas
Doshas and its guna (qualities)s:
Vata dosha:- ruksha, laghu, sheeta, kara, sukshma, chala.
Pitta dosha:- sneha, tikshna, usna, lagu, visra, sara, drava.
Kapha dosha:- snigdha, sheeta, guru, mandha, slakshana, Sandra, mrudhu.
The word Veerya (potency) is derived from ‘veer’ that means a dynamic property of a substance which brings about the action is called Veerya (potency).
The actions of rasa are described. The remaining actions are due to Veerya (potency).
Characteristics of Veerya (potency):
It is observed that drugs which effectively act on dosha, dathu, mala at a particular time become ineffective after sometimes. This is so because the potency of a substances or the Veerya (potency) which is responsible for the effective action, is lost when old.
For this reason all samhitas adviced to use fresh dravya (substance)s instead of old.
A drug works through Veerya (potency) if its Veerya (potency) gets depleted due to the effect of adverse conditions it looses its dynamic potency because of which it becomes ineffective. Action only takes place if the drug posessess Veerya (potency) if it doesn’t actions are not seen.
Different opinions exists regarding the form of Veerya (potency). Some ancient acharya mentions Veerya (potency) as a substances, some as guna (qualities) and karma. Some describes Veerya (potency) as a dynamic potency and therefore consider it as a part of guna (qualities). Modern scholars consider Veerya (potency) as ‘active principle’ and hence a part of special substances.
Types of Veerya (potency):
Veerya (potency)s are mainly divided into two types based on Charaka samhitha and Vagbhata samhitha. i. e. ,
Dvividha Veerya (potency) and its Mahabhootha, Karma, effect on Dosha:
Sheeta Veerya (potency) –
composed of Prithvi and Jala
Effect – Pleasurable, stabilizing, cleaning, life giving, heavy
Effect on Dosha – Pitta balancing, Kapha – Vata Increasing
UshnaVeerya (potency) –
Mahabhuta – Agni
Effect – Burning, fainting, loss of senses, sweating, digestion, emesis, purgation
Effect on Dosha – Kapha Vata balancing, Pitta Increasing
Asthavidha Veerya (potency)
Snigdha Veerya (potency) –
Mahabhuta – Aap (water)
Effect – Snehana, restorative, anti ageing, aphrodisiac
Tridosha effect – Vatfood
Mahabhuta – Vayu
Effect – Constipative, drying,
Tridosha effect – Vata Increasing
Guru Veerya (potency) –
Mahabhuta Pruthvi + Aap
Effect – Brumhana, Vata anulomana, Dhatu Increasing, Aphrodisiac
Effect on Dosha – Increases Kapha, Decreases Pitta and Vata
Laghu Veerya (potency) –
Mahabhuta – Agni + Vayu
Effect – drying, absorption, healing, scraping
Effect on Tridosha – Increases Vata, Decreases Kapha.
Mrudu Veerya (potency) –
Mahabhuta – Aap + Akasha
Effect – Blood & muscle promoting
Tridosha – Pitta balancing
Teekshna Veerya (potency)
Mahabhuta – Agni
Effect – stimulating, secreting, oozing
Tridosha – Balances Kapha Dosha. Increases Vata and Pitta
Some authors have told
Vishada (clarity) as Veerya (potency) in place of Laghu and
Picchila (stickiness) as Veerya (potency), in place of Guru.
Rasa veerya relation
Relations between rasa and Veerya (potency):
Generally dravya (substance) having Sweet bitter, kashaya tastes are sheeta Veerya (potency) and those having amla, lavana, pungent rasa, are hot potency). All these tastes which are related to agni mahabhoothas are usna Veerya (potency), and rest are sheeta Veerya (cold potency). But there is a exception, even through rasa is usefull in arriving at an inference about Veerya (potency), vipaka, guna (qualities). So it is wrong to decide the Veerya (potency).
Importance of Veerya (potency):
Drug contains different entities like, rasa, Veerya (potency), vipaka etc. among all these Veerya (potency) is predominant because it brings about action of dravya (substance).
Only dravya (substance) those which are predominant in Veerya (potency) are used in chikitsa.
Actions of dravya (substance) are due to Veerya (potency).
Veerya (potency) supersedes rasa, vipaka, and guna (qualities). Therefore even when tastes, vipaka and guna (qualities) of a dravya (substance) act in accordance with each other, Veerya (potency) may bring in a different action.
Veerya (potency) is mentioned as extremely importance even by aptavachas in literature.
The word vipaka is gets originated by “vi-puch” which means pachana. The synonyms are parinama durgathi, swadhu, nayathi, ayu.
Transformation of tastes after food is digested completely in the koshtanga by the help of Jataragni is called vipaka. When its undergone digestion the food rasa is divided into sara bhaga and kitta bhaga.
Classification of vipaka:
vipaka is classified into 2 types ie. , a)prapaka; b)vipaka.
Prapaka:- It is the first stage of digestion here the food undergone paka in koshtanga levels, nourishes the tridoshas respectively. It is also called awasthapaka. It is of three types.
Sweetwasthaka: which will takes place from mouth to amashaya and nourishes kapha dosha.
Amlavasthapaka: which will takes place at ama pakwashaya madhya (between stomach and large intestines) and nourishes pitta dosha.
Pungentawasthapaka: it takes place at pakwashya and nourishes vata dosha.
Shushrutha mentioned two types of prapaka i. e, Guru which does kapha vardhana and vata pitta shamana. Lagu which does vata pitta vardhana kapha shamana
Vipaka:- is done by bhoothagni and dhathu agni. it is the final stage of rasa which nourishes the respective dosha, mala, dhatus by done food rasa paka by its respective agni.
Vipaka and its Guna (qualities) and effect on Doshas:
Sweet – Snigdha, guru guna (qualities) – Kapha increasing
Amla Vipaka – Snigdha, laghu guna (qualities) – Pitta increasing
Pungent Vipaka – Ruksha, Laghu guna (qualities) – Vata Increasing
Karmas of Vipaka on Dosha, Dhatu, Mala:
Sweet Vipaka – Kapha increasing – Shukra increasing – Laxative
Amla Vipaka – Pitta increasing – Shukra reducing / depleting – Laxative
Pungent Vipaka – Vata increasing – Shukra nashaka – Constipative
General rule of Vipaka:
Always Sweet taste dravya (substance)s undergoes amla vipaka, and pungent, bitter, kashaya tastes undergone pungent vipaka. But parashara opines that Sweet, lavana, bitter, kasaya, tastes undergoes Sweet vipaka, amla to amla vipka and pungent rasa to pungent vipaka.
Perception of vipaka:
Vipaka of the dravya (substance) is ascertained by anumana. When food undergoes vipaka it shows an effect by this we can infer the vipaka of the drug but in pratyaksha cannot be possible to ascertain.
Importance of vipaka:
Vipaka is one in which the food or the medicinal drugs will attains the last stage of the homologous stage and nourishes the definite dosha, dhatus, malas etc respectively.
Even though it is not possible to see directly we can elicited by inference.
Even though it is of different rasa, guna (qualities) etc due to the vipaka it undergoes to nourish tridoshas specifically by its action.
It s a micro digestion particle of food and medicine.
Vipaka is important among all other qualities like rasa within dravya (substance), because guna (qualities) or dosha of dravya (substance) depend on proper and improper digestion.
Guna (qualities)s are evolved due to proper digestion of dravya (substance) by balanced digestive fire and doshas due to incorrect digestion.
Vipaka is more important because both aggravation and alleviation of Doshas is due to Vipaka.
Read related: Vipaka: Taste Conversion During And After Digestion
“Due to its presence and combination the substance acquires a distinct activity that is called Prabhava. ”
Prabhava is that action of the substance which cannot be explained by means of taste, qualities, Vipaka – after digestion taste transformation and potency. Hence, it is called Achintya – unimaginable.
Characteristics of Prabhava:
Two plants may have similar qualities, taste etc. But their actions and benefits could be different. It is due to Prabhava – special effect of the plants.
For eg: milk and ghee both are sweet and cold but ghee is agni deepana but milk is not. This is due to prabhava.
Any effect is having cause similarly when dravya (substance), rasa, guna (qualities), vipaka cannot explain the effect. The effect is attributed to prabhava.
Prabhava is the inconceivable unique property of a sustbance (dravya (substance)), its effect is seen but one cannot establish a casual relationship i. e. , prabhava.
By ancient scriptures prabhava is considered as superior one.
Read related: Prabhava: Special Effect of Herb
Discussion and conclusion
Rasa panchaka is a term which includes five factors of dravya (substance) i. e. , Rasa, Guna (qualities), Veerya (potency), Vipaka. These five are always the factors of dravya (substance) and these are having inseparable relation with Dravya (substance).
The actions of these five factors depend on Dravya (substance) only because these five are the fractions of dravya (substance) and some of interrelated while performing the karma.
Among these rasa panchakas Charaka mentioned vipaka as the first because of its wide spread actions over the body. But the recent authors mentioned in the order of rasa, guna (qualities), Veerya (potency), vipaka, prabhava.
Some scholars mention that qualities are stronger than taste.
Vipaka – after digestion taste transformation is stronger than qualities.
Potency is stronger than Vipaka – after digestion taste transformation.
Prabhava – special effect is stronger than potency (Veerya (potency)).
But of all the components, the Dravya (substance) – substance is stronger. The substance is the base for all of its qualities to exist.
Every matter in the world is studied under the concept of dravya (substance) only.
So the fulfilment of knowledge towards dravya (substance) the knowledge of rasa, guna (qualities), Veerya (potency), vipaka, is must because without this dravya (substance) is not perceptible to our naked eyes.
For the fulfilment of treatment in Ayurvedic science the knowledge of Dravya (substance) is must. So for the knowledge of Dravya (substance) the knowledge of these five factors is important.
There is difference of opinion regarding which one among taste, Vipaka, potency etc is great.
It is safe to conclude that all are equally important.
Charaka Samhitha by R. K Sharma and Bhagawan Das
Shushrutha Samhitha by Laxmidhar Dwivedhi
Astanga Sangraha by K R Shreekanta Murthy.
Ayurvedic Pharmacology and Therapeutic Uses of Medicinal Plants by Vaidhya V. M Gogte
Dravya (substance) Guna (qualities) Vignana by P. V Sharma
Dravya (substance) Guna (qualities) Vignana by Gyanendra Pandey
Bhaishajya Kalpana by Ramachandra Reddy
Bhaishajya Kalpana by Shobha J Hiremath