april 2023 krishnaarchana 17 FEATURE By Vanamali Mataji The Five Elements The entire cosmic creation begins from what is known as the Pancha Mahabhutas or the five great elements. Whether it is the individual human body or the larger cosmic body, essentially, they are made up of these five elements or the Pancha Mahabhutas – earth, water, fire, air and space (prithvi, apas, agni, vayu and akasha). Shiva is known as Bhutanatha or Lord of the Elements and the Chola kings of Tamil Nadu in South Bharat built five Shiva temples known as the Pancha Bhuta Sthalas in which Shiva is glorified as the manifestation of one of these elements. Tamil Nadu is famous for the five temples of Lord Shiva pertaining to the five elements. Prithvi, or earth, is in Ekambareshwara in Kanchipuram, Apas or water, is in Thiruvannaikkaval, Agni or fire, is found in Thiruvannamalai, Vayu or air, is seen at the temple of Sri Kalahasti and Akasha or space in Chidambaram. In a single living cell, the structure of the cell is the earth element, the liquid or cytoplasm within the cell membrane is the water element, the metabolic processes regulating the cell are the fire element, the gasses regulating the functioning of the cell is the air element and the space occupied by the cell denotes the space element. How do we experience the world outside? If we were totally different from the world, there would be no way that we could experience it. Therefore, the creator has put five agents into our body corresponding to the five elements by which we can experience the glory of this creation. These agents are our five sense organs – eyes, nose, skin, ear and tongue. Only a person who has all these five will be able to cognize the world correctly. If even one of these organs is missing, our experience of the earth will be that much less! So let us see which organ refers to which element. Akasha or ether is the subtlest of all the elements. It is that in which everything takes place. In Hinduism, the subtle always precedes the gross and not the other way around, as we would suppose. The “tanmatra” or subtle quality of this element is “shabda” because it can transport sound. Sound waves can only be transmitted through space (akasha). In order to hear sounds, the body has been given the organ of the ear! The next in order of subtlety is vayu or air. The special property of vayu is “sparsha” or touch. Even though it cannot be seen, it can be felt! The skin is the agent in our body that can feel touch. It also represents the gaseous state of matter and is responsible for the respiratory system. The third element is agni or fire. It represents form without substance, and it is something that we can see. The tanmatra is “rupa” or form. Of course, the organ of perception in our body is the eye! The element of fire is also responsible for digestion. The fourth element is apas or water and is represented by the sense organ of the tongue, which is used for the dual function of both taste and speech. The tanmatra is “rasa” or taste. It represents the liquid state of matter and is responsible for fluid metabolism in the body. Blood, lymph and other fluids are considered water elements. The fifth element is prithvi or earth and its tanmatra is “gandha” or smell. Of course, the nose is the organ representing smell. Prithvi represents the solid state of matter and is responsible for the physical constitution of the body. Bones, tissues and teeth are all considered earth elements. The earth element is not only the basis of the The entire cosmic creation begins from what is known as the Pancha Mahabhutas or the five great elements.