Ayurveda and its principles sprout form the roots of doshas (humors). Hardly any of the chapters in three major treatise of Ayurveda – the Charak Samhita, the Susruta Samhita and the Astanga Hridayam – are free from the elaborative touch of doshas. Doshas reiterated and typified in various ways are basically three in number – Vata (Wind), Pitta (Bile), Kapha (Phlegm). Susruta samhita sometimes cites Rakta (Blood) as being a dosha but at other times has agreed upon the number three.
Vata the prime driving motive of all bodily function can be seen as a biophysical force which brings about various actions and their consequences. Vata is a sort of like neural or hormonal stimulus which is responsible for movements of phlegm or bile out of their respective residing site and into the location where they do their tasks. Thus, vata is often iterated as king of doshas and other doshas being the disciple of this “king”. Charak classified vata into 5 types Prana, Udana, Vyana, Apana and Samana. The yogic scriptures sub-typified prana into Naga, Kurma, Devadatta, Krikala and Dhananjaya.
Pitta is the one that converts or is the biochemical energy which converts one form of bodily substrate into another. It concerns mainly with digestion and the pitta that resides in the belly and sometimes is also termed as Jatharagni or the abdominal fire. Pitta is the enzyme, the bile and all the biochemical molecules which reside in the body. From giving body complexion to lighting the retinal cells with the power of vision; Pitta is the dosha that drives them forward. Susruta classified pitta into 5 types namely Pachaka, Ranjaka, Bhrajaka, Alochaka and Sadhaka. All of them drive some very specific reactions in the body.
Kapha is the dosha responsible for giving shape and structure to the body. Thus, it is a structural and cytological element of the body. Kapha binds one organ to next, one cell to the next and thus forms clockwork that we call the body. One element thus is linked to another through a meshwork of extracellular components and fluids. Kapha is also responsible for nourishing the body and mind and providing lubrication to joints. Vagbhata classified kapha into additional five types based on their location and function in the body; namely Avalambaka, Sleshaka, Tarpaka, Bodhaka and Kledaka. Through their individual interactions these forms a basic structural component of the body.
The doshas are the primary driving force of all physiological functions in the body however a state of disequilibrium may lead to disease. This is when doshas become pathological. They may be aggravated or decreased or may have lost functions. This leads to exaggeration or underrepresentation of certain or all three types of dosha and lead to very specific diseases. For example when vata becomes aggravated it leads to overt neurological stimulation and thus vata type of diseases are associated with pain. However, when vata level decreses this leads to hypotonia or dyskinesias.
Now, the bodily doshas are usually bluntly refered to as “dosha” in most ayurvedic texts. However, there also exists mental doshas which are primarily driven towards causation of mental diseases, these are Raja and Tama. The raja is the extroverted, excited portion of our mental faculty and usually misbalanced state may lead to a paranoid or maniac state. The tama is the introverted, subdued section of the consciousness and disequilibrium may lead to a depressive or an anxious state. These when in right amount are named as “Guna” along with the more balanced satwa.
Thus, it is important for a conscious being to keep his dosha in a leveled and balanced state. Varous Ayurvedic texts describe dinacharya (daily activities) and ritucharya (activities according to seasons) as well as diet plans which help maintaining doshas in their respective sites and in a balanced state. Thus, ayurvedic texts are to be revered because it describes pathologies and ways of preventing those pathologies through simple instructive claims on diets and daily activities. Doshas are to be revered because they are the governing forces of human nature and nurture.