Shaareera: Ayurvedic Study Of Anatomy And Physiology

Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) and Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
Shareera means the ‘human body’. Shaareera is the study of human body. (read ShArEra wherein you pull on A and E). There are two main branches of it.
1. Rachana Shaareera – study of structure of body – anatomy
2. Kriya Shaareera – study of how the body functions – physiology.

Rachana Shareera

Rachana Shaareera (Shareera Rachana)
This is the study of human body in relation to its formation (construction or built) including
1. essential ingredients needed in its formation such as
sperm, ova, uterus, inheritance of qualities, fetal nutrition etc,

2. subtle and micro-ingredients needed in its formation such as –
mahat tatva or cosmic intelligence,
ahankara or cosmic egoism,
indriyas or subtle sense organs,
manas or mind, atma or soul etc,

3. study of various tissues (dhatu), koshta (visceral space), koshtanga (visceral organs), blood vessels (sira and dhamani), vital areas (marmas) and lot more.

Rachana Shaareera deals with study of the ‘constructive aspect of the human body, their numbers, location and dimensions’. Thus Rachana Shaareera can be correlated with the modern day ‘Anatomy’.

Kriya Shareera

Kriya Shaareera (Shaareera Kriya) –
This is the study of the functions of various components of the body including

1. Study of doshas dhatus (tissues) and malas (excreta), their classification, subtypes, location, normal and abnormal quantities, qualities, functions, pathology related to their imbalances, stages of pathogenesis (kriya kala),

2. Functions of various organs and organ systems of the body,
3. Functions of sense organs, mind and detailed study of various functions like circulation, breathing pattern, defecation, fetal circulation, digestion, cognition and lot more.

Thus basically Kriya Shaareera deals with the ‘functions of the human body and its components’. Thus Kirya Shaareera can be correlated with the modern day ‘Physiology’.

Definitions of Shaareera

Shaareera Sthanam or Shaareera is

Subject or section related to the discussion of divine and celestial resources related to the body
According to Charaka – Shaareera Sthanam’ is the name given to that section which deals with all the daiva (divine, celestial) and maanusha (human) sampat (resources) related to the Shareera (human body) are discussed in detail. Shaareera Sthana deals with both Rachana Shaareera (anatomy of the human body) and Kriya Shaareera (physiology of the human body).

Definition of Shareera
The one which deteriorates, or the one that undergoes catabolic changes is called Shareera.
Matter that continuously gets deteriorated is called Shareera.
The one which gets nourished by food is called Kaya.

Definition of Kriya

Kriya means the actions performed with the intention to complete a deed. Its synonyms are Karma, Yatna and Karyasamarambha.

Types of Shareera

Four types of bodies have been mentioned –
Jarayuja – born out of the placenta – Example: human, cow, monkey etc
Andaja – born out of the egg – Example – birds, fishes
Swedaja – born out of sweat – Example – lice
Udbhija – born out of the earth – Example – trees, plants

Shaareera deals with description of life and death
According to Vagbhata – Shaareera Sthana deals with the chapters which elaborately explain the mechanism of Janma (birth or formation) and Marana (death or destruction) of the Shareera (human Body)

Deals with discussion and elaboration of the human body
Shaareera is a text or section written with an intention of covering in detail about the discussion and elaboration of human body in terms of anatomy (structure) and physiology (functions). Thus Shaarera deals in detail about the human body, its parts, surface landmarks and functions.

Shadangatwam of Shareera

For the purpose of easy understanding and for convenience of studying, the human body is divided broadly into 6 different regions. Therefore the human body is also often addressed as ‘Shadanga Shareera’ or ‘Human body made up of 6 fragments or regions’.

The Shadangas are as below mentioned –

  • Bahu – Upper limbs, 2 in number
  • Sakthi – Lower Limbs, 2 in number
  • Shiro-Greeva – Head and neck, 1 unit
  • Antaradhi – Middle portion of the body (includes thorax and abdomen)

Related Reading – Shadangatwa of Shareera

Divisions of Shareera

Divisions or Branches of Shaareera
There is no division or classification of Shaareera explained as such in Ayurveda. But contextually with whatever information and elaboration is available regarding the anatomical and physiological aspects of human body (Rachana and Kriya Shaareera), and depending on the nature and utility of the subject, the knowledge of Shaareera can be divided into several branches. Below mentioned are the divisions (branches) of Shaareera (rachana and kriya put together) based on the references and explanations available –

Based on Dhatu Bheda

Shaareera on the basis of Dhatu Bheda (Componential Anatomy) –

The human body or Shareera can be studied in terms of the Dhatus it is made up of. Dhatus means tissues. Body is made up of tissues, 7 in number according to Ayurveda. But the study of Shareera on the basis of Dhatu Bheda here specifically denotes the study of body depending on the basic elements or components with which the human body was (is) formed as we derive ourselves from the macro nature (Prakriti). Therefore DHatus means elements or various components which help in the formation of human body.

Man or human body is considered to be a microcosm and is a representation and part of macrocosm (Prakriti). While each of us are being derived from the Prakriti, we derive some of its qualities and inherit some other qualities in chronological order until we are orderly formed. These components and qualities which make us up are called Dhatus. On the basis of Dhatu, Purusha (man) or SHareera (body) is divided into various forms (according to different opinions). They are:

Eka-Dhatwatmaka Purusha – Man or human body is comprised of single dhatu (component) and is called ‘Purusha’, the living being or the chetana dhatu (life element present in us).

Shad-Dhatwatmaka Purusha – Man or human body is made up of 6 components, they are –

  • Prithvi – Earth element
  • Ap or Jala – Water element
  • Teja or Agni – Fire element
  • Vayu – Air element
  • Akasha – Space (sky) / Ether element
  • Shareeri (Chetana) / Jeevatma – Soul

Chaturvimshati-Dhatwatmaka Purusha (Rashi Purusha) – Human body or man is composed of 24 factors or components, they are Ashta Prakritis (8 primordial substances) and Shodasha Vikritis (16 derivatives of primordial substances).

Panchavimshati Dhatwatmaka Purusha – Human body or man is made up of 25 components, they are 24 tatwas explained above in chaturvimshati dhatwatmaka purusha along with the 25th component i.e. Purusha or Jeeva or Atma (Soul, life element).
Related Reading: Purusha: Definition, Types, Characteristic Features

Based on embryological development

Shaareera on the basis of formation and development of fetus (Embryology)

This branch or division explains Shaareera on the basis of embryology or Garbha SHaareera. This gives us a detailed account of many aspects related to the formation of a healthy fetus (baby in the womb of the mother). They include the ideal time of conception and factors needed for healthy conception (sperm, ovum, uterus, fetal circulation etc), elements and components needed for the formation of primitive human body (tatvas or dhatus), determination of sex, implantation (garbhadana), monthly development of fetus (masanumasika garbha vriddhi krama) and many more things.
Read related: Conception And Formation Of Fetus As Per Ayurveda

Based on description of structures

Shaareera on the basis of description of structures (Descriptive Anatomy)

This section gives us a detailed knowledge of Shareera (body), the growth of the body, formation of dhatus (tissues), metabolism of dhatus, excretion of malas (excretory wastes, metabolic wastes and toxins), nutrition of embryo (garbhastha rasarakta evam ahara paribhramana), formation of different avayavas (organs) in the garbha, ayu (life span) and marana (death) and other aspects of the human body.

Based on Anga Vibhaga

Shaareera on the basis of Anga Vibhaga (description of various organs)
In this division of Shaareera, different organs and structures of the body are highlighted and described in detail. The individual parts of organs and structures are learnt. This also gives us the knowledge of differentiation of body parts and their detailed study.

Based on body preservation and study

Shaareera on the basis of preservation and study of dead body (dead body preservation and study)

External features of the human body can be studied just by looking at the exterior of the body. But to study the interior parts of the human body including bones, skin, blood vessels, nerves, visceral organs, muscles etc, the body has to be cut open and the individual structures studied. For this to happen we need a non-living or dead body. Ayurveda was the first ever science to describe the preservation of a dead body and its dissection (methodical opening and cutting of structures of human body using sharp instruments) so as to study various structures of the body. Preserving the dead body and opening it to study different structures and components (dissection) falls under this study.

Based on Sankhya

Shaareera on the basis of Sankhya (Numerical description of the body parts)

This division deals with the description of the human body on the basis of its numbers. Everything has its number. Like in human body, ears and eyes are 2 in number, heart, liver, pancreas, gall bladder and spleen are 1 in number, bones are 206 in number, cells and hairs are innumerable. The knowledge of the numbers is very essential. Therefore the numerical description of body, body parts and structures fall under this category.

Based on Marma Vignana

Shaareera on the basis of Marma Vignana (Surgical and applied anatomy)

This section of Shaareera deals with study of body on the basis of the marmas (vital organs, structures) present in the body. According to Sushruta, there are 107 Marmas in the body. They are scattered all through. Marmas are the anatomical areas of the body where there is a confluence of sira (blood vessels, nerves), snayu (ligaments, tendons), mamsa (muscles), asthi (bones) and sandhi (joints). One of the tissue will be predominant in each and every marma. Example Guda or anus (rectum and anus) is a Mamsa marma (rich in flesh) and other structures i.e. sira, snayu, asthi and sandhi will be dormant. Similarly Hridaya or heart is a Sira Marma. These structures form delecate parts of the body and vital ones too. Injury to them leads to either structural damage or deformity or pain or death. Knowledge of these structures is very important for physicians and surgeons. The surgeons should preserve these areas from injury and perform surgery. Even in modern anatomy we study about applied anatomy which deals with the diseases occurring in each and other structure of the body or effect of damage on those tissues, structures and damage. Thus, this section could be considered equivalent to surgical anatomy or applied anatomy.

Based on Shareera Pramana

Shaareera on the basis of Shareera Pramana (quantity of structures of the body or anthropometry)

Just like numbers all body structures have some quantum. These structures when in normal quantity depict best health. If the quantity gets reduced or increased, it indicates disturbance in health (diseased condition). Quantity of pramana of the body and body structures are measured in –

Anjali Pramana – measure of the tissue or structure as measured by cavity formed by putting both hands together. This is generally used to measure liquid tissues like blood, lymph, water components of the body, urine etc.

Anguli Pramana – measure of the tissues or structures of the body as measured by the transverse measurement of one’s middle finger (approximately ¾ inches).

Based on Anjali Pramana

Shaareera on the basis of Anjali Pramana (Volumetric anatomy)

This section deals with the measurement of the body liquids or liquid tissues as measured by the depression formed by joining both the hands together (palm sides). Udaka (water components of the body), Ahara rasa (nutritive juice in circulation), SHonita (blood), Pureesha (feces), Shleshma (phlegm), Pitta (bile), Mutra (urine), Vasa (Muscle fat), Medas (fat), Majja (bone marrow), Mastishka (brain, grey matter), Shukra (semen), Ojus (essence of tissues) are measured by anjali pramana.

Though this is included in the anthropometry as explained above, it is discussed as a separate division because of its specialty and unique way of measuring the body elements.

Based on kriya

Shaareera on the basis of Kriya (functions of different structures of the body)
This section or division of Shaareera deals with the functional aspects of doshas, dhatus (tissues), mala (excretory wastes of the body) and other structures of the body. It also deals with the physiology of circulation, excretion, aeration, digestion, nerve conduction, speech, cognition, sex etc in detail. This can be compared to physiology.

Based on Vikriti

Shaareera on the basis of vikriti (pathological anatomy)

This branch or division of Shaareera deals with the pathological aspects. It describes anatomy of organs and structures in relation to the related pathology. It deals with the knowledge of each and every part of the body, their structural and functional deformities, diseases occurring in them, their proportional imbalances and consequences.

Based on Sadhya Asadhyata

Shaareera on the basis of sadhya-asadhyata and arishta lakshanas (Prognostic Anatomy

This section or division of Shaareera deals with the arishta lakshanas (signs indicating bad prognosis of a disease, i.e. signs and symptoms or the appearance and or functioning of tissues and organs which depict that those conditions are not curable or that they carry bad prognosis, i.e. would cause death in a short period or after long period of time.
Read related: Importance of studying Shaareera: Human Anatomy And Physiology

Shareera Sthana Chapters

Chapters of Shaareera Sthana in different Samhitas
Almost all the ancient Samhitas or treatises (especially the Brihat Trayees or greater 3 i.e. Charaka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita and Ashtanga Hridaya / Ashtanga Sangraha) have included a section called as ‘Shaareera Sthana’ embedded in their volumes. Now let us see what these Shaareera Sthanas have to contribute towards learning of anatomy and physiology as related to the human body.

Charaka Samhita Shaareera Sthana
Charaka Samhita has included 8 chapters in Shaareera Sthana.

Sl NoName of the ChapterImportant topics covered
01Katidhaa Purusheeyam ShaareramCreation and evolution of universe


Role of Atma in the creation

Manifestation of Atma, Prakriti and its derivatives

02Atulya Gotreeyam ShaareeramCosanguineous marriages and their impact on childbirth


Shukra-Shonita (sperm and ovum), genetic observations related to them, their influence on the progeny

Fetal sex and progeny

Role of mind and senses on the diseases

3Khuddika Garbhavakraanti ShaareeramHereditary factors and other influencing factors on the development of the ‘embryo parts’
4Mahatee Garbhaavakraanti ShaareeramFormation and development of garbha (embryo), Sexual abnormalities, Prakriti (constitution) and its types
5Purusha Vichayam ShaareeramSimilarity between Prakriti (Macrocosm, universe) and Purusha (Microcosm, human), Atma (soul), its attachment and detachment with body
6Shareera Vichayam ShaareeramComprehensive knowledge about body and its growth, formation of dhatus (tissues), excretion of Malas (excreta), Garbha poshana (nutrition to fetus), anga nirmana (formation of organs in embryo), life span and death
7Shareera Sankhya ShaareeramEnumeration and description of body structures
8Jaati Sutreeyam ShaareeramGarbha dharana (conception), causes for complexion and other features of the fetus, signs of garbhini (pregnancy) and parturition, neonatal care, post-natal care etc

Sushruta Samhita Shaareera Sthana

Sushruta has dedicated 10 chapters for Shaareera Sthana

Sl NoName of the ChapterImportant Topics Covered
1Sarva Bhoota Chintaa ShaareeramSrushti Utpatti (Creation of universe), biosphere, atmosphere and human beings
2Shukra Shonita Shuddhi ShaareeramSpermatogenesis, Oogenesis, pre-conception entities, sexual abstinence and their effects on the progeny
3Garbhaavakranti ShaareeramFertilization, Signs of Pregnancy, development of fetus, hereditary factors
4Garbha Vyaakarana ShaareeramDevelopment of body parts, sense organs, prakriti (constitution of the body)
5Shareera Sankhya Vyakarana ShaareeramEnumeration and description of various body (small) structures, preservation of dead body, dissection
6Pratyeka Marma Nirdesha ShaareeramVital points of the body and their applied and surgical aspects
7Siraa varna vibhikta shaareeramSiras (blood vessels), their description, number, distribution, functions
8Siraa Vyadha ShaareeramVein Section (treatment procedure, bloodletting), anatomical and surgical importance, applications
9DHamanee Vyaakarana ShaareeramDescription of Dhamanees (arteries), Srotas (channels) and their distribution, numbers
10Garbhinee Vyaakarana ShaareeramCare of Garbhini (pregnant woman), qualities of labour theatre, postnatal mother care, neonatal child care, abnormalities of breast milk etc

Ashtanga Sangraha Shaareera Sthana
Vagbhata, in his Ashtanga Sangraha has dedicated 12 chapters for Shaareera Sthana

Sl NoName of the ChapterImportant Topics Covered
1Putrakaameeyam ShaareeramEligibility for marriage and begetting progeny, production of sperm and ovum, normal and abnormal shukra and shonita, Ritumati (woman in monthly cycles), Pumsavana vidhi (begetting healthy children)
2Garbhaavakranti ShaareeramGarbha sambhava (fertilization), Jarayu (placenta, embryonic membranes), development of fetus
3Garbhopacharaneeyam ShaareeramCare during pregnancy, arrangement of delivery room, post-natal care of mother etc
4Garbhavyapad ShaareeramGarbha srava (different types of abortions, miscarriages), fetal abnormalities etc
5Anga Vibhagam ShaareeramDevelopment of individual organs, structures
6Siraa Vibhaagam ShaareeramSira (veins), Srotas (channels), Dhamanees (arteries)
7Marma Vibhaagam ShaareeramVital points in the body, their clinical importance
8Prakritibheedeeyam ShaareeramFormation and characters of the Shaareerika (body) and Maanasika (mind) Prakritis (constitution) etc
9Vikrutaanga VignaaneeyamArishta Lakshanas (signs of bad or ominous prognosis) of the patients
10Vikrutehaa Vijgnaaneeyam ShaareeramResponsibilities and ethics of Vaidya (physician) and Arishta lakshanas (signs of bad prognosis) during the procedures of the management of diseases
11Vikruta Vyadhi Vijgnaaneeyam ShaareeramApplied aspects and other features of certain diseases as Jwara (fever), Raktapitta (bleeding disorders), Kasa (cough), Trushna (thirst), Prameha (Urinary disorders), Pandu (anaemia, liver disorders), Udara (abdominal disorders), Shotha (Swelling) etc
12Dootaadi Vijgnaaneeyam ShaareeramArishta Lakshanas (signs of bad prognosis) related to the messenger, ethics of Vaidya (doctor) regarding messenger and patient and possible services that can be rendered by the doctor

Ashtanga Sangraha Shaareera Sthana
Vagbhata, in his Ashtanga Sangraha has dedicated 6 chapters for Shaareera Sthana

Sl NoName of the ChapterImportant Topics Covered
1Garbhaavakraanti ShaareeramDevelopmental and Genetic effects on Garbha (embryo), gametes, sexual abstinence, postnatal care
2Garbhavyaapad ShaareeramManagement of complications of the pregnancy, treatment of abortions, abnormal fetuses and their prevention etc
3Anga Vibhaaga ShaareeramDevelopment and description of individual organs and structures, Prakriti (constitution)
4Marma Vibhaagam ShaareeramVital points of the body and their clinical and surgical importance
5Vikriti Vijgnaaneeyam ShaareeramArishta Lakshanas (signs of bad or ominous prognosis of impending death)
6Dootaadi Vijgnaaneeyam ShaareeramCharacters and Arishta lakshanas related to messenger, prognostic prediction through the dreams of patient and Vaidya (doctor) and definition of health

Importance of studying Shareera

Importance of studying Shaareera: Human Anatomy And Physiology

Shaareera is the study of anatomy and physiology of the body. It is important because of below reasons –
To know about the shape, structure and functions of the living human body and its components 

Shaareera, comprises of Rachana Shaareera (anatomy) and Kriya Shaareera (physiology). Therefore the first and foremost goal, intention or importance in studying Shaareera is to understand the body, its components, their structures, their numbers, their normal proportions, size, shape, mutual relationship and the functions they serve in the best possible way.

To know the factors of well being
Charaka further tells that ‘The factors responsible for the well-being of an individual can only be understood after having procured a comprehensive knowledge of Shaareera, which in turn is the study of Shareera’. Thus the importance of learning about Shaareera and its consequential knowledge helps in understanding the basic factors and proportions of the body and its components which are essential to keep the physical wellness at optimum levels. Only after knowing what are normal dimensions, mathematics  (anatomy) and chemistry (physiology) can we know about the disturbances (pathology) occurring in them, which in turn becomes the root secret of the medicine or ‘medicinal science’ (Ayurveda in this context). Knowing Shaareera helps one (physician) in handling the medical science in terms of 2 key motives:

Swasthasya Swasthya Rakshanam – Protection and maintenance of health in an already healthy individual and
Aaturasya Vikara Prashamanam – Combating and effectively treating and eradicating the diseases in the diseased
Read related: Shaareera: Ayurvedic Study Of Anatomy And Physiology

To enlighten the universe with the knowledge of Ayurveda
Acharya Charaka tells that each physician should possess comprehensive knowledge of Shareera, i.e. well versed in Shaareera Shastra. Only the physician who has a good knowledge of Shareera (body structure and functions), will be able to teach, preach and handle Ayurveda precision. Only he or she can help in giving to the world a true knowledge of Ayurveda in its right sense.

To achieve unparalleled success in medical science
All physicians want good proportion of success in medical practice. This doesn’t come easily without the physician having a thorough theoretical and practical knowledge of the medical science in its true terms. The foundation of comprehensive medical knowledge lay in comprehensive understanding of anatomy and physiology of the human body i.e. Shaareera Shastra.

Shaareera is a section which deals with the construction and working of human body. The knowledge of this science is needed for achieving important goals of the medical science, and for the prevention of diseases and treatment of diseases of the entire mankind and also for gaining unparalleled success as a physician in medical practice.

To understand Shareera, one among the ‘tripod of life’
Satwa (mind), Atma (soul or life element) and Shareera (living human body) are the tripods for the life and its existence in the universe. The entire universe is based on these 3 basic pillars or units of life. If they are well balanced, the life is steady and keeps going. If there is an imbalance in any of the 3 elements, there is a collapse and destruction of life. Shareera is one among the tripod of life and the knowledge of Shareera is obtained by Rachana Shaareera (study of construction of the body or anatomy of the human body) and Kriya Shaareera (functions of the human body or physiology of the human body), both of which constitute a science called Shaareera Tantra (comprehensive study of human body). So by understanding Shaareera we understand life and by understanding life, we in turn understand the modes and methods of keeping the life element in balance and in equilibrium such that each one of us enjoy a comprehensive health.

Shaareera, Kriya Shaareera in particular deals with ‘understanding manas and atma’ also and also with respect to their relationship with physical body.
Click to Consult Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ayu)

4 comments on “Shaareera: Ayurvedic Study Of Anatomy And Physiology

  • Selvaraj

    14/12/2017 - 8:17 pm

    Sir, it is amazing that Ayurveda is so deep science. May I know how it compares with modern anatomy? Particularly, I want to know if we can prove that our sages had already known all the things (and more) of what modern doctors know?

    Reply to comment
    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

      24/12/2017 - 5:33 pm

      Hi, the explanation of bones, muscles etc matches perfectly with modern science.
      Regarding physiology part, there are differences. Reason is, Ayurveda looks at human body through the prism of Tridosha and modern science, through a microscope.

      Reply to comment
  • Selvaraj

    24/12/2017 - 6:10 pm

    Thank you sir for your kind reply.

    Reply to comment
  • anish

    09/05/2022 - 9:54 am

    thanks for the brief

    Reply to comment

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