5 Elements of the body

What is vata, pitta and kapha (Tridosha in Ayurveda)

Meaning of Vata, Pitta and Kapha

Before you learn the meaning ‘Vata, Pitta and Kapha‘ let us learn where does the word “Tridosha” comes from. The word “Tridosha” comes from the oldest medical science, Ayurveda. It is formed by combining two Sanskrit words “Treeni” (meaning- Three) and “Dus or Dush” (meaning- fault, error or mistakes) becoming “Tridosha“. The idea typically reveals the 3 types of energies present in a human body.  

According to Ayurveda, The Tridoshas are the “Back Bone” of any person’s very existence. The “Doshas” regulate the physical, mental, emotional, psychological, and other aspects of any person. The Ayurveda tells that a human body is necessarily into existence because of the combination of 5 elements. These elements (the Pancha Maha-Bhoota) are:

  1.  Space AKA Akasha/ Dyaus/ Aether
  2.  Air AKA Vayu/ Pawan (the oxygen we inhale naturally from the air, and from consuming various foods)
  3.  Fire AKA Agni (The heat or Metabolism which gives the body radiant energy to function and which assists the chemical actions)
  4.  Water AKA Jal/ Apas/ Varuna (this concept is not limited to the water as a substance. It refers to the fluids, enzymes, blood, plasma, and other liquids) 
  5. Earth AKA Prithvi/ Bhudevi (The solid matter inside the body such as bones, nails, etc.) 

Now the combination of these elements varies from person to person. 

The Combination of “Fire” and “Water” elements become the “PITTA” dosha similarly, the combination of “Space” and “Air” become the “VATA” dosha and lastly, the combination of “Water” and “Earth” becomes the “KAPHA” dosha.

Generally, one dosha resembles to be the primary dosha (this is to say that it is more in quantity than the other 2 doshas) and thus, predominates over the other 2. The next dosha which predominates over the third one is called the secondary dosha.

Now, one point to be noted here is that all the three “Doshas” compulsorily exist in every person. Just that the ranking of each “Dosha” differs from person to person. In the language of Layman, the “Kapha Dosha”, the “Vata Dosha” and the “Pitta Dosha” are existent in every person but the quantity of all the three differ from person to person. 

The Functions of the ‘Tridoshas’

Before understanding the functions of the three doshas, it is necessary to learn the basic concept of working of a cell, the primary unit of life. Every living cell contains three main functions:

  1. ‘Input/ Absorption’ and ‘Output/ Excretion’
  2. ‘Transformation or Assimilation’
  3. ‘Storage’

Now, since these functions are universal to every cell on the planet, and a human being is also a part of the planet, the same logic applies to a human body.

  • The Vata Dosha is responsible for the first function of input and output of food or material. The action of consuming food and excretion of waste from the body is managed by this Dosha ie, the Vata Dosha. 
  • The Pitta Dosha is the regulatory body for the transformation of the food consumed by a person into various nutrients and minerals. In other words, it is responsible for the extraction of nutrition from the food.
  • The Kapha Dosha is the regulatory body that manages the storage function. It is also responsible for the supply of nutrients and energy to cooperate with the actions of the body till the end of life.

Now, you might be wondering that these three energies or doshas help a human body to function and manage its actions, so why are they called “Doshas” or faults? 

Well, to get an answer to this you have to look into the following paragraphs.

On a deep introspection of Ayurveda concepts, we can perceive “Dosha” in two stages. In the sustaining balanced state, the three doshas are called “Dhatus”. These “dhatus” are different from the 7 dhatus or tissues of a human body described in Ayurveda.

 When the 3 Doshas are in a balanced state in a person, it is considered that the person is fit-fine-healthy! And when it is so, these 3 aren’t called “Doshas”, they are called “Dhatus or the Tridhatu”.

But when these “Dhatus” or say, the “Vata”, “Pitta” and “Kapha” are imbalanced in a person, it is called “Tridosha”.

To understand this more precisely, here is an example for you:

Suppose, A person suffering from an acute attack of kidney stones. He may feel all the ill effects of an imbalanced Vata such as pain and the restricted flow of urine with the disruption of the normal functioning of his organs. However, the complexities of the entire procedure become unapparent or invisible to him when he is devoid of any disorder. 

So here in this case, first of all, the “Vata” which has ceased its normal function to bring about urination, is termed as “Dosha”, while in the healthy state it is called “Dhatu”. So, it becomes apparent that the cause and effect of both balance and imbalance lie with “Vata, Pitta, and Kapha”. 

Although the Doshas or Dhatus are responsible for the balanced state of each manifestation, they ultimately are the cause of imbalance, and hence, though they move in harmony with each other as “Dhatus”, they are ultimately considered as “Doshas” or faults.

Personality aspects of people


The people with “Pitta Dosha” as a primary Dosha have certain personality aspects, different from that of others.

The following are the characteristics of people with high “Pitta” in their bodies:

  1. Highly active and energetic
  2. Short-tempered
  3. Very cheerful and very social
  4. Have quick digestion (due to high metabolism)
  5. Intolerant to Hunger
  6. Intolerant to Heat
  7. Usually have a thin/ fit body


The people with “Vata Dosha” as a primary Dosha in their body have certain personality aspects which are different from others.

The following are the characteristics of people with high “Vata” in their bodies:

  1. Lean body frame
  2. Very active
  3. Lack of sleep
  4. Easily agitated
  5. Poor appetite 
  6. Digestion issues
  7. Intolerant to cold
  8. Fickle by nature
  9. Unsteady in making decisions


The people with “Kapha Dosha” as a primary Dosha in their body have certain personality aspects which are different from others.

The following are the characteristics of people with high “Kapha” in their bodies:

  1. Calm and composed 
  2. Complacent nature
  3. Firm judgments
  4. Slow-paced
  5. Slow Digestion
  6. Sleeps deeply
  7. Large body frame

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