Kala Shareera: Concept, Definition, Types, Clinical Relevance

Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay)
Kala Shareera is an important part of Ayurvedic anatomy. Kala means layers or membranes of our body. There are many layers or membranes in the body which form an envelope over the organs. They provide support and protections to the organs.

The fluid between their layers provides lubrication to the organs and helps them to function easily. Example, the pleurae are the membranes or layers covering the lungs. The fluid in between the layers of the pleura is called pleural fluid.

This helps in lubrication of the organ and helps the lungs to expand and contract easily during breathing process. Similarly, the pericardium covers the heart, pericardial fluid is present between its layers. The meninges covers the brain, the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is filled between its layers.

The peritoneum covers the abdominal viscera. All these layers or membranes can be considered as Kala. Thus they act as shock absorbers in the body.

The cell membranes separating each and every cell are also considered as Kala.

Definition of Kala

कलाः खलु अपि सप्त भवन्ति धातु आशय अन्तर मर्यादाः।(सु.शा.४/५)
यथा हि सारः काष्ठेषु छिध्यमानेषु दृश्यते
तथा हि धातुः मांसेषु छिध्यमानेषु दृश्यते॥
स्नायुभिः च प्रतिच्छन्नान् सन्ततां च जरायुणा
श्लेष्मणा वेष्टितां च अपि कला भागाः तु तान् विदुः॥(सु.शा.४.६,७)
Kalaaha khalu api sapta bhavanti dhaatu aashaya antara maryaadaaha (Ref – Sushruta Shaareera 4/5)
Yathaa hi saaraha kaashteshu chidhyamaaneshu drushyate
Tathaa hi dhaatuhu maamseshu chidhyamaaneshu drushyate
Snaayubhihi cha pratichchannaan santataam cha jaraayunaa
Shleshmaa veshtitaam cha api kalaa bhaagaaha tu taan viduhu (Ref – Sushruta Shaareera.4/6,7)
Kala is defined as a separator between dhatu (tissues) and its Ashaya (organ or viscera). They are principally of 7 types.

By definition it is clear that the Kalas are the layers or membranes present at the junction of the dhatus and their aashayas.

They form a screen or partition between the tissue and the organ which is made by that tissue.
According to Ayurveda, the ashaya’s or visceral organs are made up of dhatus.

Example, Amashaya is a site of ama (improperly digested food or ama, ama is the product of first part of digestion of food in the stomach, when the food has been partially digested).

Amashaya is made up of mamsa dhatu or muscle tissue. The layers or membranes which separate the muscle tissue from the cavity of the organ are called Kala.

According to modern anatomy, the stomach is made up of 4 layers. The outer one is serous membrane; then comes the muscular layer, below the muscular layer we have sub-mucous layer and finally below the sub-mucosa we have mucous layer which lines the interior of the stomach, i.e. lines the lumen of the stomach.

The sub-mucous and mucous layers which separate the muscular layer (dhatu) from the lumen of the stomach (ashaya) are called kala’s. Similarly, the membranes separating each muscle fibre from the other are also considered as Kalas.

The other version –
Aashaya means avasthana pradesha (restricted or bounded space). By this we can understand that the boundary or demarcated lining between Rasa (plasma), Rakta (blood) etc tissues and their ashayas (blood vessels) is called Kala.

Example, the layer forming a boundary around (surrounding) the plasma and blood and separating it from its bounded walls (ashaya) is called Kala.

They can be compared to mucous membrane, epithelium and synovial membrane (covering the joint space i.e. ashaya and separates it from the tissue i.e. bone tissue).

Kala also could be considered as cells because it is the cells which form a particular tissue. The cellular layer of a tissue separates it from the ashaya (formed from that tissue).

The kalarasa or secretions of the kala forms the tissues. The kala also produces kapha (mucous) and pitta (bile or digestive enzymes).

Kala swaroopa

Kala swarupa (structure and appearance of Kala) –
When we cut a wood, some liquid flows out of it. This can be considered as the essence of the tree or wood.

Similarly, when we cut a muscle, we can see the tissues flowing through it or oozing through it in the form of Rasa (plasma) and Rakta (blood).

The portions of the body which are covered by Snayus (ligaments and tendons), enveloped by Jarayu (membrane) and smeared with Kapha (mucous) are called Kalas.

This appearance of Kala explained above fits into the category of mucous membranes and epithelium.

Thus the membranes which secrete mucous and protected by the snayus are called kalas.

Snayu and shleshma are the components of Kala and they spread in its layers. The essence part of the dhatu remains in small part as layers.These structures are called Kala’s.

धातु आशय अन्तरस्थः तु यः क्लेदः तु अधितिष्ठति।
देह ऊष्मणा विपक्वो यः सा कला इत्यभिधीयते॥(शा.प्र.५)
Dhaatu aashaya antarasthaha tu yaha kledaha tu adhitishtati
Deha ooshmanaa vipakwo yaha saa kalaa iti abhidheeyate (Ref – Shaarangdhara Prathama 5)
Sharangadharas explanation of Kala also gives the same meaning and anatomical definition of Kala.
According to him ‘The kleda or moisture or liquid portion present in between dhatu and ashaya is processed by the heat of the body and converts it into kala’.

यः तु धातु आशय अन्तरेषु क्लेदो अवतिष्ठते स यथा स्व ऊष्मभिः विपक्वः स्नायु श्लेष्म जरायुच्छन्न काष्ठ इव सारो धातु सारः रस शेषो अल्पत्वात् कला संज्ञः।(अ.सं)
Yaha tu dhaatu aashaya antareshu kledo avatishtate sa yathaa sva ooshmabhihi vipakwaha snaayu shleshma jaraayuchchanna kaashta iva saaro dhaatu saaraha rasa shesho alpatvaat kalaa sangnaha (Ref Ashtaanga Sangraha)
According to Vagbhata –
‘The kleda or moisture present in between the dhatu and its aashaya, reacting to its own heat gets converted into Kala. It is called Kala because it is made up of small quantity of the essence of dhatu or dhatu rasa which oozes from the dhatu just like the liquid oozes when a fresh wood is cut. It is enveloped by snaayu (muscle fibers, ligaments and tendons) and Jarayu (membrane).’

Let us sum up all the above said explanation and see what exactly Kala is!
Taking Ashaya as a viscera or hollow organ: 
Kala is a structure in the form of a membrane or layer.
It separates the hollow or lumen of an organ from its lining tissue.

In this sense, the mucous layer or membrane of all the hollow organs are called as kala. Kala is interposed between the ashaya (viscera or lumen of an organ) and its dhatu (lining tissue).

It is covered by snayu (the innermost layer of the muscular layer) and Jarayu (outer serous membrane) on one side and smeared with shleshma or mucous on the other side (mucous layer). Taking this into consideration, kala should be sub-mucous layer.

If the snayu is taken as innermost layer of muscle cells and jarayu as submucosa, then mucous layer will be considered as Kala as it has the shleshma covering (mucous producing surface) on the other side, facing the lumen of the organ. The muscular sheath also can be considered as kala in this context.

If the peritoneal layers are considered as snayu and the muscular sheath covering the muscle fibres is considered as jarayu, both mucous and submucous layers present on the other side of the muscle (towards the lumen of the viscera or ashaya) is considered as kala.
Bottom line is the inner lining of hollow visceral organs producing mucous are considered as Kala.

Taking Ashaya as a dhatu or mamsa dhatu (muscle tissue) –
(Definition by Vagbhata and Sharangadhara)
It is said that when a muscle is cut, the dhatus ooze out in the form of rasa and rakta just like the liquid oozes out when a fresh would is cut. Though mamsa dhatu or muscle is a also a tissue, it is mentioned that the dhatus ooze out of it.

The authors are speaking about the protection the blood vessels are getting being embedded deep in the muscular tissue. We know that the blood vessels run deep in the muscular tissue.

Thus the muscle becomes the ashaya or abode. Thus the layers of the blood vessels which separates the blood and plasma carried by them (dhatu) from the muscle tissue (ashaya) should be considered as kala.

Need for knowing about the Kalas (importance of kalas) –
Kalas are the important physical and functional components of the body.

They form a protective coating for the ashayas and also form a boundary between the ashayas and dhatus. They are formed from elements of the tissues related to them and also produce dhaturasa (essences of tissues).

By producing the mucous, they buffer and protect the organs like stomach and intestine from the corrosive action of acids and other digestive enzymes. On the other hand they also protect the lining tissues from getting damaged by the acids and enzymes.

Vital organs like heart, lungs, brain, intestines and other visceral organs function effortlessly antagonizing the physiological shocks they are exposed due to non-stop functioning.

In other words, the whole activities of life are taken care of the buffer and protection provided by Kala’s and their discharges.

In many diseases, the kalas will suffer the earliest damage. Example, the mucous membrane of stomach or intestines will first be eroded causing gastritis etc conditions before the disease goes deeper and damage the muscular tissue or before ulcers are formed.

The synovial membranes are damaged before the bones involved in a joint are damaged to cause arthritis. If the damage to kala is diagnosed earlier, the diseases can be prevented.

Kala types

Types of Kala –
The Kala’s are of 7 types. They are as enlisted below:
Shleshmadhara Kala
Raktadhara Kala
Medodhara Kala
Shleshmadhara kala
Pureeshadhara kala
Pittadhara kala
Shukradhara kala

Mamsadhara Kala

तासां प्रथमा मांसधरा नाम, यस्यां मांस गतानां (मांसे वा) सिरा स्नायु धमनी स्रोतसां प्रताना भवन्ति॥(सु.शा.४/८)
यथा बिस मृणालानि विवर्द्धन्ते समन्ततः।
भूमौ पङ्क उदक स्थानि तथा मांसे सिरा आदयः॥(सु.शा.४/९)
Taasaam prathamaa maamsadharaa naama yasyaam maamsa gataanaam (maamse vaa) siraa snaayu dhamanee srotasaam prataanaa bhavanti (Ref – Sushruta Shaareera 4/8)
Yathaa bias mrunaalaani vivardhante samantataha
Bhoomau panka udaka sthaani tathaa maamse siraa aadayaha (Ref – Sushruta Shaareera 4/9)
The first Kala is called Mamsa dhara kala (membranes or layers of muscles holding and supporting the blood vessels).

This kala holds embedded in it the networks and branches of Siras (veins), snaayus (ligaments and or nerves), dhamanis (arteries) and srotas (channels of transportation).

This kala is explained with a simily –
The stalk of the lotus flower sinks deep into the mud and it branches to spread all around in the surrounding area. In the same pattern, the Sira, Dhamanis, Snayus and srotases by taking the support of the Kala spread and nourish (functional support) the mamsa. On the other side, the mamsadhara kala provides the anatomical support and forms a protective shield covering these delicate structures.

Mamsadhara kala should have been explained after Rasa and Raktadhara kala’s according to chronology of formation of tissues (Rasa-Rakta-Mamsa-Meda-Asthi-Majja-Shukra).

But Rasa (plasma) and Rakta (blood cells) are passing through siras and dhamanis which in turn are embedded in the substance of Mamsa. The substance of mamsa dhatu should be split to find the raktadhara kala. Therefore, mamsadhara kala is explained as the first srotas.

Functionally, the muscle tissue and the protective sheaths, the fine membranes binding the muscle cells and packing up the muscle fibres into different compartments along with the embedded blood vessels intervening the muscle fibres should be compared to Mamsadhara Kala.

Raktadhara Kala

द्वितीया रक्तधरा मांसस्य आभ्यन्तरतः, तस्यां शोणितं विशेषतः च सिरासु यकृत् प्लीह्नोः च भवति (स्रवति)॥
वृक्षद् यथा अभि प्रहतात् क्षीरिणः क्षीरम् आस्रवेत्।
मांसात् एव क्षतात् क्षिप्रं शोणितं पंप्रसिच्यते॥(सु.शा.४/१०,११)
Dwiteeyaa raktadharaa maamsasya aabhyantarataha, tasyaam shonitam visheshataha cha siraash yakrut pleehaanoho cha bhavati (sravati)||
Vrukshaad yathaa abhi prahataat ksheerinaha ksheeram aasravet
Maamsat eva kshataat kshipram shonitam samprasichyate (Ref – Sushruta Shaareera 4/10,11)
The 2nd Kala is called Raktadhara Kala (membranes holding or shielding the blood tissue)

The Raktadhara Kala is embedded deep in the mamsa or muscle tissue. This kala is also present inside the Sira’s (blood vessels), Yakrut (Liver) and Pleeha (Spleen).

(Yakrut and Pliha are considered to be Rakta vaha srotas in Ayurveda, i.e. the roots of channels forming and transporting blood are located in liver and spleen)

This Kala is explained with a simily –
When a branch of latex yielding plant is cut, we can see the milk or latex flowing out of it. Similarly when we cut the mamsa or muscle tissue, we can find the plasma and blood oozing out of it. This gives a proof that the Raktadhara Kala is located deep within the mamsa.

Functionally, the epithelial layers of the blood vessels, the hepatic cells, splenic cells and the entire haemopoetic system (system involved in formation and maturation of blood cells) shall be considered as Raktadhara Kala.

Medodhara Kala

तृतीया मेदोधरां मेदो हि सर्व भूतानां उदरस्थम् अणु अस्थिषु च महत्सु च मज्जा भवति॥
स्थूल अस्थिषु विशेषेण मज्जा तु अभ्यन्तर आश्रितः।
अथ इतरेषु सर्वेषु सरक्तं मेद उच्यते॥
शुद्ध मांसस्य यः स्नेहः सा वसा परिकीर्त्तिता॥(सु.शा.४/१२,१३)
Truteeyaa medodharaam medo hi sarva bhootaanaam udarastham anu asthishu cha mahatsu cha majjaa bhavati
Sthoola asthishu visheshena majjaa tu abhyantara aashritaha
Atha itareshu sarveshu saraktam meda uchyate
Shuddha maamsasya yaha snehaha saa vasaa parikeertitaa (Ref – Sushruta Shaareera 4/12,13)
The Third Kala is called Medodhara Kala (membranes or layers holding the fat tissue or which form a fatty layer).

The meda or fat is located in all the living beings in the belly and inside the small bones.

In the large bones, the same meda is specially termed as Majja (bone marrow). In all other bones, it is termed as Sarakta medas (bloody fat). The untainted essence of Mamsa is called as Vasa (muscle fat).

Functionally, the adipose tissue and fatty layers of the abdomen should be considered as Medodhara Kala.

Shleshmadhara Kala

चतुर्थी श्लेष्मधरा, सर्व सन्धिषु, प्राणभृतां भवति।
स्नेह अभ्यक्ते यथा हि अक्षे चक्रं साधि प्रवर्त्तते।
सन्धयः साधु वर्त्तन्ते संश्लिष्टाः श्लेष्मणा तथा॥(सु.शा.४/१४,१५)
Chaturthee shleshmadharaa, sarva sandhishu praanabhrutaam bhavati
Sneha abhyakte yathaa hi akshe chakram saadhu pravartate
Sandhayaha saadhi vartante samshlishtaaha shleshmanaa tathaa (Ref – Sushruta shaareera 4/14,15)
The 4th kala is called Shleshmadhara kala (the layers or membranes which hold mucus or secrete mucus). It is present in all the bony joints.

This Kala is explained by a simily –
As properly lubricated parts of a frictional area of a wheel helps for good, smooth and quality movement, the Shleshma present in the Sandhi’s or joints facilitates for their proper and smooth motion and functioning.

The shleshmadhara kala provides lubrication for the bony joints and enable them to move freely. It helps the joints to overcome the shock and strain of repeated movement.

Functionally, this kala can be compared to the synovial membranes covering the inner surfaces of the joints. The synovial fluid secreted by this membrane can be considered as shleshma.

Pureeshadhara Kala

पञ्चमी पुरीषधरा नाम, या अन्त कोष्ठे मलम् अभि विभजते पक्वाशयस्था॥
यकृत् समन्तात् कोष्ठं च तथा अन्त्राणि समाश्रिता।
उण्डुकस्थं विभजते मलं मलधरा कला॥(सु.शा.४/१६,१७)
Panchamee pureeshadharaa naama yaa anta koshte malam abhi vibhajate pakwaashayasthaa
Yakrut samantaat kowhtam cha tathaa antraani samaashritaa
Undukashtam vibhajate malam maladharaa kalaa (Ref – Sushruta Shaareera 4/16,17)
The 5th kala is called Pureeshadhara Kala (the membranes or layers which hold or form stools or faeces). It is located in the Pakwashaya (large intestine) inside the Antah Koshta (abdomen).

This kala particularly located in the intestine at the level of Yakrit (Liver) and within the Koshta (abdomen or hollows of the body), differentiates the Mala (pureesha / water) situated at the site of Unduka.

This means to tell that the Pureeshadhara Kala is located all through the large intestine but mainly in the Unduka or caecum (starting part of the large intestine). It receives the totally digested food from the small intestine.

The Pureeshadhara kala then separates the water and other nutrients from the digested food and forms the stools or faeces. This Kala is also called by the name ‘Maladhara Kala’. (Mala=Pureesha=Stools or faeces)

Functionally, the large intestine as a whole and caecum in particular with their inner layers and the mechanism involved with segregation of essentials and non-essentials should be considered as Pureeshadhara or Maladhara Kala.

Pittadhara Kala

षष्ठी पित्तधरा या चतुर्विधं अन्न पानम् आशयात् प्रच्युतं पक्वाशय उपस्थितं धारयति॥
अशितम् क्शादितं पीतं लीढं कोष्ठ गतं नृणाम्।
तत् जीर्यति यथा कालं शोषितं पित्त तेजसा॥(सु.शा.४/१८,१९)
षष्ठी पित्तधरा नामा या कला परिकीर्तिता।
पक्व आमाशय मध्यस्था ग्रहणी सा परिकीर्तिता॥
षष्ठी पित्तधरा नामा पक्व आमाशय मध्यस्था।
सा हि अन्तः अग्नि अधिष्ठानं आमाशयात् पक्वाशय उन्मुखं अन्नं बलेन पिधाय पित्त तेजसा शोषयति पचति ततो असौ अन्नस्य ग्रहणात् पुनः ग्रहणी सज्ञा॥(च.शा.५)
Shashtee pittadharaa yaa chaturvidham anna paanam aashayaat prachyutam pakvaashaya upasthitam dhaarayati
Ashitam khaaditam peetam leedham koshta gatam nrunaam Tat jeeryati yathaa kaalam shoshitam pitta tejasaa (Ref – Sushruta Shaareera 4/18, 19)
Shashtee pittadharaa naama yaa kalaa parikeertitaa
Shashtee pittadharaa naamaa pakwa aamaashay madhyasthaa
Saa hi antaha agni adhishtaanam aamaashayaat unmukham annam balena pidhaaya pitta tejasaa shoshayati pachati tato asau annasya grahanaat punaha grahane samgnaa||(Charaka Shaareera 5)
The 6th Kala is called as Pittadhara Kala (the membranes or layers which hold Pitta). It receives and retains the semi-digested food until it is totally digested. It is after the action of Pitta secreted by Pittadhara Kala that the food is totally digested.

The Pittadhara Kala receives the semi-digested food propelled from Amashaya (stomach) and contained in the Pakwashaya (post-digestion by the kala). It distinctly holds the food till the food is totally digested and also digests all the four types (ashita – chewable, khadita – swallowed, peeta – drinks, leedha – licked) of foods.

Pittadhara Kala is located in between Pakwashaya and Amashaya. It receives the semi-digested food from the amashaya, digests it completely and later pushes the digested food towards Pakwashaya (large intestine) where it is contained until faeces are formed.

Pittadhara Kala bears the agni or metabolic fire in it. This agni digests the food received from the stomach. Agni becomes the main factor of digestion and absorption and hence this place is considered as Grahani (kitchen of home).

Grahani is a term given for small intestine mainly duodenum or first part of the small intestine. This is the site which receives the semi-digested food from stomach, holds it for a time and digests it properly.

Functionally, the stomach and duodenum, their inner layers and all the secretions including acids and digestive enzymes (gastric juice, hydrochloric acid, bile, pancreatic juice etc) draining into these organs should be considered as Pittadhara Kala.

Shukradhara Kala

सप्तमी शुक्रधरा या सर्व प्राणिनां सर्व शरीर व्यापिनी॥
यथा पयसि सर्पिः तु गुडः च इक्षु रसे यथा।
शरीरेषु तथा शुक्रं नृणां विध्यात् भिषक् वरः॥(सु.शा.४/२०,२१)
Saptamee shukradharaa yaa sarva praaninaam sarva shareera vyaapinee
Yathaa payasi sarpihi tu gudaha cha ikshu rase yathaa
Shareereshu tathaa shukram nrunaam vidhyaat bhishak varaha (Ref – Sushruta Shaareera 4/20,21)
The 7th Kala is called Shukradhara Kala (membranes or layers holding or preparing semen or reproductive fluid of man, which contains the sperms). This kalaa is all pervading and is present in the whole body.

This Kala is explained with the help of a simily –
As the presence of ghee in the milk, sugar in the sugar cane juice, the presence of Shukra or semen is prevalent throughout the human body.

It is not wise to tell that the semen is produced all over the body since it is produced by testes and other reproductive parts. But Ayurveda also has accepted that the semen is produced in the testes as explained in Shukravaha srotaas. Shukravaha srotas are channels responsible for formation and transportation of semen, testes is one of their roots.

Here we should understand this concept in a different way. The entire human body is a product of sperm. Therefore logically the qualities of sperm (semen) should be present all through the body.

More over the presence of semen in proper quality and quantity produces exhilaration and sexual urge and the response is seen enveloping the whole body when one is oriented to have an intercourse or performing sex. Thus the whole body is an abode of Shukradhara kala.

Also we should remember that the semen is formed at the end of formation of all the tissues. Therefore all the tissues are represented in the semen. Thus it is capable of producing a human body.

Since all the tissues of the body are represented in semen, logically the whole body becomes an abode of semen and hence the statement is justified. Now the semen produced by testes becomes the representative of the semen present all through the body.

The shukradhara kala should be considered as the layers of testes in which semen is produced.

Just before Finish –
Kala shareera (anatomy and physiology of Kala) gives us information about the important membranes and layers of the body which take part in many important functions of the body. They also produce and hold the important components of the body like blood, mucous, stools, etc.

Thus a precise knowledge of Kala is important for the physicians to make a diagnosis at the right time and also to know if the disease is at the level of kala.

Since the Kalas are the sites of production or holding many important body elements, the diseases also should logically have origin from them or at least show their initial manifestation in the kalas.

According to Ayurveda, the diseases are formed only when the tissues are contaminated or vitiated by the doshas. Here we have learnt the proximal relation of dhatu with their kala and ashayas.

Even before the disease gets manifested in the ashaya or dhatu, they would have damaged the kalas. These kalas give the early signals of an impending disease. Just like one need to open the gate of the compound before reaching the main door or entering the home.

Thus the knowledge of Kala helps in precise diagnosis of a disease and also enables the doctor to provide timely treatment.
Click to Consult Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ayu) Email: [email protected]

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