Understanding The Concept Of Agni – The Digestive Fire According To Ayurveda

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Agni Concept

Concept Of Agni

Agni, literally meaning fire, refers to the fire like activity in the alimentary canal, responsible for digestion of food and its assimilation. This process takes place continuously in the body and Agni is represented by various types of enzymes in the gastro-intestinal tract and in the tissue cells themselves.

Types Of Agni

Depending upon the function and site of action there are 13 different types of Agni in the body. They are as follows:

  1. Types of Kayagni (Digestive fire of food)
  2. Types of Bhutagni (Digestive fire for the Pancha mahabhutas (five main elements)
  3. Types of Dhatwagni (Digestive fire of seven Dhatus)

Digestive fire responsible for the digestion of food is known as ‘Kayagni’ (Jataragni), the fire present in each of the five Mahabhutas is called ‘Bhutagni’ and the fire present in each of the seven Dhatus is called ‘Dhatwagni’.

Kayagni

Among all the Agnis, the digestive fire, which digests the food, is the greatest and is the root of 5 Bhutagnis and 7 Dhatwagnis it’s increases and decreases and promotes the increase and decrease of the Mahabhutas and Dhatus. So, it should be preserved and maintained with great care by the proper use of suitable food and drinks. On its normalcy depends the life span and condition of strength of an individual. Thus Kayagni is the cause of life, complexion, strength, health, nourishment, lustre of the body Ojas (body immunity) and life energy.

This digestive fire is active in the stomach and gastrointestinal tract. This helps to break down the food taken in to their smallest possible particles, so that they are made easily absorb-able through the villi and the gastric and intestinal mucosa. From here they go to the liver where it is acted upon by the five Bhutagnis. If Kayagni is weak Rasa (the body juices) and other Dhatus (elements) won’t be formed and nourished by the digested food.

Bhutagni

They are five in number and situated in the liver. They help in the transformation of external heterogeneous Mahabhutas of the broken down food into internal homogeneous ones. The food after digestion is thus divided into five groups of Mahabhutas to nourish the respective attributes of the body. The Bhutagnis act after the Kayagni present in stomach has acted upon the food and it is disintegrated into smaller particles. The Kayagni can be equated with the digestion-taking place in the stomach and small intestine and Bhutagni’s action can be equated with changes taking place in the liver for the digested food materials.

Dhatwagni

These enzymes are seven in number and are located in their respective tissue elements of the body. They help in the assimilation and transformation of the nutrient materials received after the digestion by the Bhutagnis into substances homologues to the tissue elements. During this process of assimilation with the help of these Agnis or fire many waste products are also produced.

Rasa Dhatu, when it is acted upon by its fire (Rasa dhatwagni ) produces Kapha or Phlegm (not the Kapha Dosha) as its waste product.
Rakta Dhatu when acted upon by its Agni (Rakta dhatwagni) produces Pitha or bile (not the pitha dosha).
Mamsa Dhatu when acted upon by Mamsa dhatwagni produces the excreta of ear, eyes, nose, mouth, rectum and urinary orifice as the waste product.
Medo Dhatu when acted upon by Medo Dhatwagni produces sweat as the waste product.
Asthi Dhatu when acted upon by Asthi Dhatwagni produces hair and nails as the waste products.
Majja Dhatu when acted upon by Majja dhatwagni produces the unctuous substances, which are present in the eyes stool and skin as its waste products.

Some say that Shukla Dhatu has no waste product. But Shukla Dhatwagni is present in it to synthesize sperm, ovam and ojus (energy or immunity). Some say that by the action of Shukla Dhatwagni on Shukla Dhatu, the beard in men and secondary sexual characters in females are produced as its waste products.

States Of Agnis

When the Doshas of the body are in a state of equilibrium, these Agnis or enzymes function normally but when there is any disturbance in this equilibrium, there is impairment in the function of these Agnis.

There are four states of Agni.

  1. Samagni (Normal)
  2. Vishamagni (Erratic, unsteady)
  3. Teekshnagni (Strong)
  4. Mandagni (Weak)
Samagni (Normal Digestive Fire)

Here all the three Doshas will be in equilibrium and so the digestion of food will be perfect in all respects Samana Vata is in its normal level along with Pachaka Pitha and Kledaka Kapha.

Vishamagni (Unsteady Digestive Fire)

Here Samana vata is aggravated and the digestion becomes irregular, different from time to time and accompanied with flatulence, abdominal distension, ascites etc. This fire digests the food sometimes too quickly though it is improperly consumed i.e. at improper time ,more in quantity etc. and sometimes too slow even though the food is properly consumed at proper time and in usual quantity. It produces abdominal distension, colicky pain, diarrhoea, ascites, heaviness, gurgling sounds in dysentery, constipation, etc.

Teekshnagi Eekshnagni (Strong Digestive Fire )

Here Samana Vata and Kledaka Kapha are associated with aggravated pachaka pitha. When panchaka pitha is aggravated the digestive activity is very intense. Even large quantities of food get digested very quickly .Burning sensation of the throat,lips,palate,thirst,etc during digestion, ulcer,acidity and voracious hunger are some of the associated symptoms.

Mandagni (Weak Digestive Fire)

Here Samana Vata and Pachaka Pitha are associated with aggravated Kledaka kapha when kledaka kapha is aggravated, the digestive activities become very weak, poor and inadequate. Even small quantities of food get digested after a long time and there is heaviness of abdomen and flatulence.

Food take in should be digested and metabolised properly by the agnis of the body because undigested food is not able to produce the recovered body elements. So agni is also important in promoting the health of an individual. If any one of the agni is vitiated, the seven body elements wont be formed so before starting the treatment of any disease, the defects in these agnis are located and efforts are made to correct them. Most ayurvedic medicines contain substances, which stimulate the functioning of these agnis (enzymes) at different levels. Some of the elimination therapies are also prescribed in Ayurveda with a view to clear the channels of circulation and the remove the waste products accumulated there. This helps in the proper functioning of the enzymes. Through rejuvenation therapy an effort is made to rejuvenate and revitalize these enzymes so that they could maintain or increase their activities. These helps to reduce the ageing process and also cures diseases associated with it.

Dosaha, Dhatu and Mala are like the roots of the body.
Doshas govern the physico-chemical and physiogical activities of the body.
Dhatus enter into the formation of the basic structure of a body cell and also perform certain specific action.
Malas are substances which are partly utilized in the body and partly excreted in a modified form after performing their physiological functions.

These three elements should be in dynamic equilibrium with each other for the maintenance of health. Any imbalance of any one of them results in disease

Written by Dr. Priya Jain

Dr. Priya Jain

Dr. Priya Jain, Uvas Ayurveda, Mphill.Ayurveda, B.A.M.S, PG diploma in dietetics and nutrition, F.I.I.M, C.C.M,C.G.O,.C.C.M,.C.C.N.D, Diploma in preventive cardiology. Dr. Priya has an experience of 12yrs in field of ayurveda apart from academics and conducting several international workshops on various ayurvedic topics also is nature loving person.

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