Pancabhuta, aka: Pañcabhūta, Panca-bhuta, Pancan-bhuta; 6 Definition(s)


Pancabhuta means something in Hinduism, Sanskrit. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

Alternative spellings of this word include Panchabhuta.

In Hinduism

Vastushastra (architecture)

[Pancabhuta in Vastushastra glossaries]

According to Vastu Shastra, the world comprises of the five elements known as the pancha-maha-bhuta. Out of the eight planets, ours has life because of the presence and balance of these five elements.

The five elements are as follows.

  1. Earth (Bhumi),
  2. Water (Jal),
  3. Air (Vayu),
  4. Fire (Agni),
  5. Space (Akasha).

There is an invisible and constant relation between all the five elements. Thus, the person can improve their conditions by properly designing their buildings by understanding the effectiveness of these five natural forces.

Vastu Shastra combines all the five elements of nature and balances them with the person and the material. It takes advantage of the benefits bestowed by the five elements of nature to create a congenial living and working environment thereby facilitating spiritual well-being and paving the way for enhanced health, wealth, prosperity and happiness.

(Source): The India Center: Architecture (Vastu Shastra)
Vastushastra book cover
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Vastushastra (वास्तुशास्त्र, vāstuśāstra) refers to the ancient Indian science (shastra) of architecture (vastu), dealing with topics such architecture, sculpture, town-building, fort building and various other constructions. Vastu also deals with the philosophy of the architectural relation with the cosmic universe.

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Yoga (school of philosophy)

[Pancabhuta in Yoga glossaries]

The Five Elements (Pañca Bhūta): The five great elements are ether or space, air, fire, water and earth. The physical universe is made up of infinite elemental patterns because of their many, many combinations. Also remembering the first axiom of Āyurveda, namely, everything in the universe has its counterpart in the human body. Therefore the five basic elements present in all matter also exist within each individual’s body.

Comparing the five elements in the human being and the universe we have:

  1. Earth is incarnate, so the incarnation of the human body is earthy.
  2. Just as water carries everything, so in the human being water carries elements and excreta.
  3. Just as fire on earth cooks and bakes things, so the Agni or digestive fire cooks food inside the human system.
  4. Wind affects everything, moving constantly, both in the universe and the human body.
  5. Ether provides space of cavity, both in the universe and in the human body.

The qualities of these five elements within the human body are:

  1. Earth (Pṛthvī) as the basic element comprises those parts that are gross, firm, incarnate, heavy, inactive, rough, hard. (For example, hails, bones, gums, flesh, skin, excrement, hair, sinews, teeth, muscles, etc.)
  2. Water (Ap) as the basic element comprises those parts that are fluid, moving, slow, oily, soft, cold, slimy, moist, taste predominant. (For example chyle, blood, fat, phlegm, lymph, urine, bile, sweat, etc.)
  3. Fire (Agni) as the basic element comprises those parts that are penetrative, light, dry, rough, cold, trans-colour predominant. (For example bile, digestion, body heat, colour, sight, etc.)
  4. Air (Vāyu) as the basic element comprises those parts which are penetrative, light, dry, rough, cold, transparent, touch predominant, etc. (For example all movements of the body and organs, blinking, inhale, exhale.)
  5. Ether (Ākāśa) as the basic element comprises those parts that are penetrative, light, soft, smooth, transparent, sound predominant, etc. (For example all cavities, gross and subtle, pores, channels.)

These are examples of the primary qualities of the elements and how they manifest themselves in the human body.

(Source): Centre for Yoga Studies: Āyurveda & Yoga – The Pañca Bhūta
Yoga book cover
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Yoga is originally considered a branch of Hindu philosophy (astika), but both ancient and modern Yoga combine the physical, mental and spiritual. Yoga teaches various physical techniques also known as āsanas (postures), used for various purposes (eg., meditation, contemplation, relaxation).

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[Pancabhuta in Purana glossaries]

Pañcabhūta (पञ्चभूत).—Pṛthvī (earth), Ap (water), Tejas (fire), Vāyu (air) and Ākāśa (ether) are the Pañcabhūtas (five elements). The whole visible world is composed of one or more of these five elements. This is called the Pāñcabhautikasiddhānta (doctrine of five elements). Besides these five dravyas (elementary substance), people in Bhārata have reckoned Time, space, soul and mind also as Padārthas or categories. Dravya, one of the seven categories according to Nyāya Vaiśeṣikasūtras, has nine svabhāvas (inherent properties). The seven Padārthas of Vaiśeṣika are Dravya, Guṇa, Karman Sāmānya, Viśeṣa, Samavāya and Abhāva.*

The word 'Padārtha' has got a very wide meaning. The word 'matter' in English cannot indicate the full significance of the word Padārtha. Kaṇāda in his Vaiśeṣika sūtras has given the name 'Artha' combining in it the three svabhāvas, Dravya, Guṇa and Karman. Of the above seven padārthas Praśastapāda, the famous logician, has included only the first six in his book 'Padārthadharma Saṃgraha'. The Vaiśeṣikas of a later period included 'abhāva' also and raised the number of arthas to seven. Gautama, the Nyāyasūtrakāra and Vātsyāyana, the Nyāyabhāṣyakāra, and all their followers accepted the number of arthas as seven. (See full article at Story of Pañcabhūta from the Puranic encyclopaedia by Vettam Mani)

(Source): Puranic Encyclopaedia
Purana book cover
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The Purana (पुराण, purāṇas) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahapuranas total over 400,000 shlokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

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Shaktism (Shakta philosophy)

[Pancabhuta in Shaktism glossaries]

Pañcabhūta (पञ्चभूत) or Pañcabhūtatantra refers to one of the twenty-eight Gāruḍatantras, belonging to the Śāktāgama (or Śāktatantra) division of the Āgama tradition. The Śāktāgamas represent the wisdom imparted by Devī to Īśvara and convey the idea that the worship of Śakti is the means to attain liberation. According to the Pratiṣṭhālakṣaṇasamuccaya of Vairocana, the Śāktatantras are divided into to four parts, the Pañcabhūta belonging to the Garuḍa class.

(Source): Shodhganga: Iconographical representations of Śiva (shaktism)
Shaktism book cover
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Shakta (शाक्त, śākta) or Shaktism (śāktism) represents a tradition of Hinduism where the Goddess (Devi) is revered and worshipped. Shakta literature includes a range of scriptures, including various Agamas and Tantras, although its roots may be traced back to the Vedas.

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General definition (in Hinduism)

[Pancabhuta in Hinduism glossaries]

The system of five elements are found in Vedas, especially Ayurveda, the pancha mahabhuta, or "five great elements", of Hinduism are

  1. bhūmi (earth),
  2. ap or jala (water),
  3. tejas or agni (fire),
  4. marut or pavan (air or wind),
  5. vyom; or shunya or akash (aether or void).

They further suggest that all of creation, including the human body, is made up of these five essential elements and that upon death, the human body dissolves into these five elements of nature, thereby balancing the cycle of nature.

The Creator used akasha (aether), the most "subtle" element, to create the other four traditional elements; each element created is in turn used to create the next element, each less subtle than the last. The five elements are associated with the five senses, and act as the gross medium for the experience of sensations.

(Source): WikiPedia: Hinduism

Languages of India and abroad

Sanskrit-English dictionary

[Pancabhuta in Sanskrit glossaries]

Pañcabhūta (पञ्चभूत).—the five elements; पृथ्वी, अप्, तेजस्, वायु (pṛthvī, ap, tejas, vāyu) and आकाश (ākāśa).

Derivable forms: pañcabhūtam (पञ्चभूतम्).

Pañcabhūta is a Sanskrit compound consisting of the terms pañcan and bhūta (भूत).

(Source): DDSA: The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary
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Sanskrit, also spelled संस्कृतम् (saṃskṛtam), is an ancient language of India commonly seen as the grandmother of the Indo-European language family. Closely allied with Prakrit and Pali, Sanskrit is more exhaustive in both grammar and terms and has the most extensive collection of literature in the world, greatly surpassing its sister-languages Greek and Latin.

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