Gurvadi Gunas – 20 Qualities Of Substances As Per Ayurveda

By Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S

Gunas are the qualities contained in any substance. The qualities and the substance share an inseparable relationship.

Introduction

According to Ayurveda classification of gunas, the qualities are broadly classified into two types. They are –

  1. Adhibhoutika gunas and
  2. Adhyatmika gunas
    Read – Dravya: Meaning, Ayurvedic Explanation

Gurvadi Gunas


Guru – heaviness, Adi – first, Gunas – qualities

Ayurveda has the methodology of naming the group of anything with the first term / substance etc mentioned in the list. Gurvadi gunas are set of 20 qualities, the first among which is guru guna (heaviness quality).
Read – Heaviness Quality – Guru Meaning, Action On Doshas, Therapeutic Uses

Since the list of qualities begins with guru quality, the entire group of qualities is called gurvadi gunas i.e. ‘the group of qualities begins with guru quality’.

Gurvadi qualities
Since these qualities are related to the tissues and substances of the body, they are also called as Shareerika Gunas. Shareerika means pertaining to the body. These qualities are also found in all substances made up of five elements of nature, including the medicines and food we consume.

They are general qualities present in the elements of creation and the substances made up of them. Therefore they are called samanya gunas i.e. general / common qualities.
Read – Panchamahabhuta: Application, Areas of Utility in Ayurveda treatment

Samanya gunas, including its sub-classification of qualities i.e. gurvadi and parade qualities are classified under Adhibhautika qualities i.e. qualities pertaining to living beings. Therefore, the gurvadi qualities are also the qualities pertaining to living beings.
Read – Hardness Quality – Kathina Meaning, Action On Doshas, Therapeutic Uses

Gurvadi qualities list

Below enlisted are 20 Guruvadi gunas

  • Guru guna – heaviness quality
  • Laghu guna – lightness quality (read more about laghu quality)
  • Sheeta guna – cold quality
  • Ushna guna – hot quality
  • Snigdha guna – unctuousness quality
  • Ruksha guna – non-unctuousness quality
  • Manda guna – dullness quality (read more about manda quality)
  • Teekshna guna – sharpness quality
  • Sthira guna – immobility quality
  • Sara guna – mobility quality
  • Mrudu guna – softness quality
  • Kathina guna – hardness quality
  • Vishada guna – clearness quality (read about vishada quality)
  • Pichchila guna – sliminess / stickiness quality
  • Shlakshna guna – smoothness quality
  • Khara guna – roughness quality
  • Sukshma guna – fineness quality
  • Sthula guna – bulkiness quality (read about sthula quality)
  • Sandra guna – solidity quality
  • Drava guna – liquidity quality

When we see these qualities, they are actually 10 qualities + 10 opposite qualities of those 10 qualities. Totally they are 20 in number.
Read – Drava Guna (Liquidity) – Meaning, Action On Doshas, Therapeutic Uses

Gurwadi qualities pairs

Sl No Quality Opposite Quality Sl No
1 Guru Laghu 11
2 Sheeta Ushna 12
3 Snigdha Ruksha 13
4 Manda Teekshna 14
5 Sthira Sara 15
6 Mrudu Kathina 16
7 Vishada Pichchila 17
8 Shlakshna Khara 18
9 Sukshma Sthula 19
10 Sandra Drava 20

Read – Dryness Quality – Ruksha Meaning, Action On Doshas, Therapeutic Uses

Sanskrit verse

Important points

Karmanya Gunas – Master Nagarjuna has considered the below mentioned 10 qualities as karmanya qualities i.e. those qualities which has special capability and strength. They are mentioned in duals of opposite qualities.

Among these, leaving apart the dual qualities of clearness and sliminess, Nagarjuna has considered the other eight qualities as potency of substances (virya). We can also see that the author has mentioned harshness as the opposite quality of softness instead of hardness.
Read – Unctuousness Quality – Snigdha Meaning, Action On Doshas, Therapeutic Uses

Qualities mentioned by Sushruta


Master Sushruta has followed the same method of mentioning 20 qualities in 10 group of 2 opposite qualities. Sushruta has mentioned 10 qualities mentioned by Nagarjuna in the same chronology. The other 10 qualities include –

Instead of khara, Sushruta has mentioned the word karkasha, which also means the same. Pleasant and unpleasant odour is missing from the list of 20 qualities mentioned by other authors including Vagbhata and Charaka.

Only Sushruta has mentioned these qualities. Sushruta has mentioned dullness as the opposite quality of mobility, instead of immobility mentioned by other authors. The dual qualities of quick acting and fineness are not mentioned by other authors. According to other authors, fineness is the opposite quality of bulkiness. Other authors have not mentioned ‘quick acting’ quality.
Read – Stable Quality – Sthira Meaning, Action On Doshas, Therapeutic Uses

Mention of Vyavayi and Vikasi qualities by Sushruta –
Sushruta has also mentioned 2 additional qualities i.e. vyavayi (that which gets dispersed throughout the body and gets transformed) and vikasi (that which after getting dispersed all through the body cause destruction of ojas and causes laxity of body tissues and joints.
Read – Extra Qualities (Gunas) Enumerated By Master Sushruta

Classification of dual qualities given by Bhavaprakasha –
In Bhavaprakasha treatise, the same dual qualities as mentioned by Sushruta are given, but with some changes. His classification is as mentioned below –

  • Heaviness – lightness
  • Unctuousness – non-unctuousness
  • Sharpness – smoothness (change in conventional duality)
  • Immobility – mobility
  • Sliminess – clearness
  • Cold – hot (read about hot quality)
  • Softness – roughness (change in conventional duality)
  • Bulkiness – fineness
  • Liquidity – coarsely rough (change in conventional duality)
  • Quick acting (ashu) – dullness (change in conventional duality, ashu is not mentioned by other authors)
    Read – Mobility Quality – Sara Meaning, Action On Doshas, Therapeutic Uses

Charaka – Sushruta Comparison

Closer comparison of unconventional qualities mentioned by Sushruta etc authors with those mentioned by Charaka etc authors –
Some authors have correlated the newer qualities mentioned by Sushruta, Bhavaprakasha with traditional and conventional qualities mentioned by other authors, to sort out the confusions and controversies related to the names and pairing of qualities. They are as mentioned below –

Quality Is same as
Vyavayi Sara / drava
Vikasi Teekshna
Sugandha Manda
Durgandha Teekshna
Ashukari Chala
Prasanna Sthula
Shuchi / Vimala Vishada
Visra Teekshna

Read – Sliminess Quality – Pichchila Meaning, Action, Therapeutic Uses

Many authors are of the opinion that the qualities are not limited to 20 in number, in fact they are innumerable. The most popular ones are counted among the 20 gurvadi qualities. They also opine that any newer quality which is used in one’s region, in spite of it being new and not among the elite 20, if applicable to describe quality of something, should be duly considered and accepted as per practice.

Click to Consult Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ayu) – Email / Skype

Gurvadi Gunas with Pancha Mahabhuta

1. Guru guna – heaviness
This quality contributes to the weight and gravity of substance. If a food is said to possess heavy quality, it means that it is hard to digest or takes a longer time to get digested. This is because of the abundance of earth and water elements contained in these substances. Kapha Dosha is made up of earth and water elements. A person of Kapha constitution is slow and steady in his actions and thoughts. This is because of the heaviness quality in them due to earth and water elements.

2. Laghu Guna – Lightness
This quality is opposite to Guru guna (heaviness). It contributes to lightness in weight of a substance. In terms of food, it can be explained as foods that are easy to digest or that which undergo quick digestion.
Lightness is due to abundance of air and ether elements. Vata Dosha is made up of air and ether elements. A person of Vata constitution is very quick and unstable in his actions and thoughts. This is because of lightness quality in his body due to air and ether elements.

3. Sheeta Guna – Coldness
This quality contributes to the cold nature of substances. Coldness is related to water and air element. Water is the basis of coldness quality. In its normal temperature, water is cold to touch. We feel cold when exposed to cold breeze. This is because of Sheeta guna (cold quality) of water and air. A person of Vata body constitution cannot tolerate cold climates because there is already an excess of cold quality in him due to Vata Dosha (due to air element). A Pitta constitution person will feel comfortable in low temperatures as his body has excess of hotness (ushna guna) due to fire element predominance.

4. Ushna Guna – Hotness
When this quality is present in a substance, it is said to be hot in nature. It is opposite to cold quality (Sheeta guna). Hotness is a quality which can be felt by touch. We would experience heat when we touch hot water. When hotness as a quality is present in food substances, it means that the food is hot in potency, burning and corrosive in nature. Hotness quality is related to fire element. Fire is the basis of hot quality. Fire naturally has heat in it and fire is hot on touch. A person of Pitta constitution develops symptoms like redness in the eyes, excessive sweating and burning sensation of the skin when exposed to sunlight. This is because heat is naturally more in Pitta constitution persons (due to Pitta which has fire element) and a slight exposure to sunlight which is also hot in nature aggravates hotness in them.

5. Singdha Guna – Unctuousness
This quality contributes to oily or unctuous nature of a substance. It is opposite to dry quality. Foods and medicines of unctuous quality are administered to counteract the effect of excessive dryness in the body. Unctuousness is a special quality of Water element. Therefore Snigdha quality is defined in terms of its capacity to induce unctuousness in the body. The property of water to produce wetness is also present in the unctuous quality. Just as water acts as binding substance between two materials and makes the dry things wet, unctuous quality too binds the cells and tissues and removes dryness prevailing in them. The skin of a Kapha constitution person is soft and supple and not dry. This is due to predominance of Kapha Dosha which is made up of water element. The same water element in Snigdha guna renders unctuous nature to substances.

6. Ruksha Guna – Dryness
This quality contributes to dryness or non-unctuousness of substances. It is opposite to unctuous quality. Foods and medicines of dry quality are administered to counteract the excessive unctuousness in the body. Dryness is a special quality of Air element. Therefore Ruksha guna is defined in terms of its capacity to bring about dryness in the tissues and body. The property of air to produce dryness is present in Ruksha guna. For example, the skin of a Vata constitution person will be dry. This is due to predominance of Vata Dosha which means increased air element in the body.

7. Manda Guna – Dullness
Slow acting or dullness is explained as Manda in Ayurveda. The substance in which it is present is said to be dull in nature.  Dullness is defined on the basis of slowness. Foods and medicines which work slowly and pacify the doshas over a period of time are called Manda. Dullness is made up of earth and water elements. We can see that earth and water are basically heavy in nature. Due to this heaviness they are also dull and slow acting. Medicines and foods rich in earth and water elements will naturally tend to act slowly in the body and induce dullness. For example, in a person of Kapha constitution, the activities are slow and dull. This is due to predominance of Kapha Dosha which means a predominance of earth and water elements.

8. Teekshna Guna – Sharpness
Teekshna Guna means ‘sharpness’ quality. Substance which has this quality are said to be sharp in action. It is opposite to dullness quality i.e. manda guna. Sharpness is defined on the basis of quickness and intensiveness with which things work and on the ability of things to cause cleansing and expulsion of materials in the body. Sharpness is a natural quality present in fire element. Likewise, sharpness is predominantly made up of fire element. We can see that fire element is basically sharp, intense and deep penetrating in nature. Due to this sharpness, materials having this quality are fast acting and make quick impact. Medicines and foods rich in fire element will naturally tend to act quickly in the body and induce sharpness. Example – spices.

9. Sthira Guna – Stability
Sthira Guna means ‘immobility or stable’ quality. It is present in some substances and those substances are said to be stable in nature. That which has the capacity and strength to hold things back, i.e. capacity to retain things is called Sthira guna i.e. stability or immobility quality. Stability is the quality of earth element. All things which are solid are made up predominantly of earth element. We see that solid materials are in a state of rest, immobile and stable unless mobilised by outward pressure or force greater than their weight or displaces them from their static position. 
Medicines and foods rich in earth element will naturally tend to bring about immobility to greater extent.

10. Sara Guna – Mobility
Sara Guna means ‘mobility’ quality. It is present in some substances and those substances are said to be unstable in nature. It is opposite to Sthira guna i.e. immobility quality. That which has a capacity and strength to put things in motion, to mobilize and expel things is called Sara guna. That, on entering the body mobilizes and expels flatus and waste products out of the body, mainly the faeces, is called Sara guna. Mobility or instability quality is related to water and air element.

11. Mrudu Guna – Softness
Mrudu Guna means ‘softness’ quality. Substance which has this quality is said to be soft in nature. Softness (mrudu) is defined on the basis of capability of foods, medicines and activities to induce softness and laxity in body parts. Therefore, foods and medicines which cause softness and laxity in body parts are considered as having softness quality. Softness quality is related to water and space elements. Therefore softness quality is formed by the combination of water and ether elements.

12. Kathina Guna – Hardness
Kathina Guna means ‘hardness’ quality. A substance which has this quality is said to be hard in nature. It is opposite to Mrudu guna i.e. softness quality. They also balance each other. Hardness is related to earth element. Therefore hardness quality is formed by presence and predominance of earth element in any substance.
Medicines and foods rich in earth element will naturally induce hardness in body parts. 

13.  Vishada Guna – Clearness
Vishada Guna means ‘clearness’ quality. Substances which have this quality are said to be clear in nature. Clearness quality would remove excessive sliminess, thereby removing blocks and treat conditions caused by increased sliminess. This quality also causes separation and differentiation of different body parts and thus becomes responsible for loss of adhesiveness between structures and loss of integrity in body. Clearness quality is related to four elements i.e. earth, air, fire and ether elements. Therefore clearness quality is formed by the presence and predominance of the above mentioned four elements in any substance.
Medicines and foods rich in earth and other elements mentioned above will naturally induce clearness in body parts. 

14.  Picchila Guna – Sliminess
Picchila Guna means ‘sliminess’ quality. It is present in some substances and those substances are said to be slimy and sticky in nature. It is opposite to Vishada guna i.e. clearness quality. Sliminess and clearness are opposite qualities. They also balance each other. Those which on entering the body causes adherence of structures with each other (lepana) are called Picchila guna. This quality has the property of unifying and integrating things. It also destroys clearness quality and causes heaviness in the body. Sliminess quality is related to water element. Therefore sliminess quality is formed by predominance of water element in any substance. 

15. Shlakshna Guna – Smoothness
Shlakshna Guna means smoothness’ quality. It is present in some substances and those substances are said to be smooth in nature. Smoothness is defined on basis of capability of foods, medicines and activities to produce healing effect in the body. Therefore, foods and medicines which heal damaged tissues, wounds and ulcers and induce smoothness in body parts are considered to have Shlakshna guna i.e. smoothness quality. There are different opinions regarding elemental relationship of smoothness quality.
Master Sushruta has opined that this quality is rich in water element just like Picchila guna i.e. sliminess quality.
According to Master Charaka, it is rich in space element. 
Master Nagarjuna is of opinion that this quality is made up of fire element.
But seeing the action of smoothness qualities, Sushruta’s opinion seems to be appropriate.

16. Khara Guna – Roughness
Khara Guna means ‘roughness’ quality. Substances having this quality are said to be rough in nature. It is opposite to Shlakshna guna i.e. smoothness quality. Roughness and smoothness are opposite qualities and are also mutually balancing. Roughness is a quality which can be perceived by touch. It is a feel when you touch the dry bark of a tree or a sand paper. Inside the body, roughness can be known through its action, i.e. its ability to cause roughness, scrape and deplete tissues, increase Vata and Vata symptoms including dryness, roughness of the body parts and degeneration. There are different opinions regarding the elemental relationship of roughness quality.

According to Master Charaka, it is predominant in air and earth elements.
According to Master Sushruta, roughness is predominant in fire and air elements. In spite of difference of opinions, air is the common factor in roughness; therefore it is rich in air element.

17. Sukshma Guna – Minuteness
Sukshma Guna means fineness’ quality. Substance with this quality is said to be very fine in nature. It is opposite to Sthula guna i.e. bulkiness quality. Fineness and bulkiness are opposite qualities and are also mutually balancing. Fineness quality is mainly related to three elements i.e. fire, air and space elements.

Combination of air and space elements makes up Vata dosha. Therefore fineness which is formed by and dependent on these elements also increase Vata in body. Combination of these three elements in balanced proportions is very intense and quick acting. They enable easy dissolution and penetration into minute channels of the body, into each cell and small channels of body and hence spread in the body. 

18. Sthula Guna – Bulkiness
Sthula Guna means ‘bulkiness / stoutness’ quality. Substance in which it is present is said to be bulky in nature. It is opposite to Sukshma guna i.e. minuteness quality. Bulkiness and fineness are opposite qualities and are also mutually balancing. Sthula is defined on the basis of capability of foods, medicines and activities to cause obstruction in channels and tissues owing to its heavy and large size and its inability to move easily in the body. Bulkiness quality is mainly related to earth element.

19. Sandra Guna – Solidity
Sandra Guna means solidity or density quality. It is present in some substances and those substances are said to be solid in nature. Solidity is defined on the basis of the capability of foods, medicines and activities to nourish the organs and tissues in the body. It also increases thickness and density of tissues in a healthy way contributing to stability of the body and maintenance of health. Solidity is predominantly formed from earth element.

20. Drava Guna – Liquidity
It is present in some substances and those substances are said to be liquid in nature. Liquidity is defined on the basis of the capability of foods, medicines and activities which being subtle and fine in nature, to flow freely and move in all parts of the body in an uninterrupted way. This quality has the capacity to drip through, dissolve, liquefy, moisten things, circulate, ooze and flow in the body. That which is subtle and perforate everywhere and in everything is called Drava guna i.e. liquidity quality. That which is responsible for flow of things is called liquidity or is said to possess liquidity quality. Liquidity is predominantly formed from water element. Water element too has liquidity quality in it.

The 20 qualities and their elemental relationship has been summarised in the table below –

Table – Gurvadi and Basic elements

Qualities (Gunas) Elemental relationship
1. Guru – Heaviness Earth, Water elements                   
2. Laghu – Lightness Air, Ether elements
3. Sheeta – Coldness Water, Air elements
4. Ushna – Hotness Fire element
5. Snigdha – Unctuousness Water element
6. Ruksha – Dryness Air element
7. Manda – Dullness Earth, Water elements
8. Tikshna – Sharpness Fire element
9. Sthira – Stability Earth element
10. Sara – Mobility Water, Air elements
11. Mrudu – Softness Water, Space elements
12. Kathina – Hardness Earth element
13. Vishada – Clearness Earth, Air, Fire, Ether elements
14. Picchila – Sliminess Water element
15. Slakshna – Smoothness Water element
16. Khara – Roughness Air element
17. Sukshma – Fineness Fire, Air, Space elements
18. Sthula – Bulkiness Earth element
19. Sandra – Solidity Earth element
20. Drava – Liquidity Water element


Panchamahabhuta predominance in Gunas

1. Predominance of Earth element (Prithvi mahabhuta) is found in these gunas:
Heaviness – guru,
Unctuousness – snigdha,
Hardness – kathina,
Roughness – khara,
Dullness – manda,
Stability – sthira,
Clarity – vishada,
Solidity – sandra,
Bulkiness – sthula

2. Predominance of Water element (Jala mahabhuta) is found in these gunas:
Heaviness – guru,
Liquidity – drava,
Unctuousness – snigdha,
Coldness – sheeta,
Softness – mridu,
Dullness – manda,
Sliminess – picchila

3. Predominance of Fire element (Agni mahabhuta) is found in the following gunas:
Hotness – ushna,
Sharpness – teekshna,
Fineness – sukshma,
Lightness – laghu,
Dryness – ruksha,
Clarity – vishada

4. Predominance of Air element (Vayu mahabhuta) is found in the gunas:
Lightness – laghu,
Coldness – sheeta,
Dryness – ruksha,
Sharpness – teekshna,
Roughness – khara,
Clarity – vishada,
Fineness – sukshma
 
5. Predominance of Space / ether element (Akasha mahabhuta) is found in these gunas:
Softness – mridu,
Clarity – vishada,
Fineness – sukshma,
Smoothness – shlakshna

All matter (dravya) is composed of five basic elements of nature (Panchamahabhuta).
No matter can exist without these five basic elements (Prithvi, Ap, Teja, Vayu and Akasha).

When matter was originated, there was intermingling of all five basic elements.
The appearance, feature, shape, texture and the state in which any matter exists is because of predominance of any one element. For example, hardness in any substance is attributed to predominance of Earth element in it. It means that the hard substance is made up of a combination of Mahabhutas, but Earth element is the predominant one. Similarly, any substance in liquid or fluid state has a predominance of Water element in it. 

Write Your Comment Below

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

error: Alert: Content is protected !!