A good physician knows individual variations and specific treatment accordingly.– Charaka Samhitaa
Prakriti is an important concept of Ayurveda that explains individuality and has role in prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases. It expresses unique trait of an individual that is defined by specific and permanent composition of Dosha at conception.
The word Prakriti is derived from Pra + Kri (to create or to act). Prakriti means constitution, disposition or fundamental form. Basic entity responsible for creation of Universe is called as Prakriti . Saamkhya and Sushruta describe it as Avyakta Prakriti or Moola Prakriti the state of equilibrium of Trigun`a. Charaka explains Asht`adhaa Prakriti as Panchatanmaatraa + Ahamkaara + Mahat + Avyakta. Though the word Prakriti is referred in many contexts, focus of this article is Deha Prakriti or
Dosha Prakriti . (Chart no. 1)
Tridosha and Trigun`a– Basis of Prakriti:
Tridosha are basic factors responsible for health and disease. Dosha are biological expression of Mahaabhoota. They govern all functions of body and mind but on vitiation produce diseases. Vaata, Pitta and Kapha are three Dosha. Each Dosha possesses specific Gun`a or attributes. These attributes are defined according to pharmacological actions and form base for diagnosis, treatment and diet and lifestyle advice.
Vaata is Rooksha (Dry), Laghu (Light), Chala (Mobile), S`heeghra (Swift), S`heeta (Cool), Parusha (Rough). Pitta is Tikshn`a (Penetrating), Ushn`a (Hot), Visra (Having musty smell), Drava (Liquid). Kapha has Snigdha (Unctuous), Guru (Heavy), Manda (Slow) and Sthira (Stable) attributes. These attributes of Dosha are expressed in physical and psychological characteristics.
Sattva, Rajas and Tama are Trigun`a. These are mainly psychological attributes, which also affect physical characteristics. Satva is related to consciousness, intelligence, perception and memory, Rajas is responsible for kinetic energy and impetus; Tamas is mass, inertia and responsible for stability.
These Gun`a are expressed in characters of body and mind, as Prakriti is manifestation of composition of Dosha with specific Gun`a. Prakriti assessment is not only categorization of individuals based on phenotypes but also evaluation of these attributes to estimate dominance of particular Dosha or Gun`a.
Factors affecting Prakriti:
Prakriti is formed at fertilization and Dosha status of male and female gamete play important role. There are other factors, which influence Prakriti determination. Foetus has inherited characters from father (Pitrija), mother (Maatrija), Soul (Aatmaja), mind (Satvaja), diet (Rasaja) and homologation (Saatmyaja). Characters of individuals are resultant of these factors.
Charaka has categorized influencing factors in to four types as:
- S`hukras`hon`ita Prakriti (Characters from father and mother)
- Kaalgarbhaas`haya Prakriti (season and uterine environment)
- Maaturaahaara Vihaara Prakriti (diet and lifestyle of mother)
- Pancha Mahaabhoota Vikaara Prakriti (attributes of Mahaabhoota )
All these factors affect the genesis of Prakriti. Vaagbhat`a and Sus`hruta emphasize on inherited characters from parents while Charaka, Kaaashyapa and others highlight more on environmental factors for Prakriti determination. Naagaarjuna believes environmental factors in course of intrauterine life affect Prakriti. Kaas`hyapa Samhitaa has emphasized importance of diet of mother. According to Bhela Samhitaa, diet and lifestyle of father and mother affect Prakriti of offspring.
Charaka Samhitaa describes method of procreation and development of healthy child by controlling possible affecting factors. The process for elective pregnancy includes पंचकर्म and Vaajikaran`a to produce healthy gametes. Procedures like Pumsamvana, Garbhasthaapana and गर्भिणी परिचर्या (Obstetric nursing guidelines) are meant for equilibrium of Dosha for healthy child.
Other factors are important for Prakriti assessment. They are quoted by Charaka
- Jaatiprasaktaa (Characters linked to race)
- Kulaprasaktaa (Familial characters)
- Deshaanupaatinee (Characters related to geographical or agro-climatic location)
- Kalaanupaatinee (Seasonal variations at the time of conception)
- Vayaanupatinee (Characters dependent on age or stages of life)
- Pratyaanmitaa (Individual variations despite of any similarity)
These criteria define baseline for Prakriti assessment and needs methodical attention. For example, average height and weight of Punjabi and Nepali are different; diet habits are specific for some communities. Considering above variables, each needs different weightage and generalized approach sometimes leads to confusion or false positive / negative results.
Types of Prakriti:
Types of Prakriti based on Tridosha, Trigun`a and Mahaabhoota are termed as Dehaprakriti, Maanasprakriti and Bhautikprakriti respectively.
Prakriti with reference to Dosha is known as Doshaprakriti or Dehaprakriti as it expresses mainly physical characters. Ekdoshja (One Dosha ) types are concerned with one dominant Dosha they are three Vaata Pitta – Kapha, Dvidoshaja types exhibit dominance of two Dosha and they are three (Vaata Pitta PittaKapha – KaphaVaata ) while Sama Prakriti has three Dosha in balanced state. Thus there are 7 types of Dehaprakriti.
Maanas Prakriti. :
Maanasa Prakriti also has seven types as Dehaprakriti. It is also known as Gun`aprakriti, Mahaprakriti or Chittaprakriti and mainly deals with attributes of mind. Charaka and Sushruta further subdivide Maanasprakriti into 16 categories.
(Chart No. 2)
Bhautika Prakriti. :
Classification of Prakriti based on dominance of Mahaabhoota is termed as Bhautikprakriti by Sushruta . Attributes of respective Mahaabhoota reveal five types of constitutions. Vaayaveeya Prakriti has similar characters as Vaata Prakriti, Tejas Prakriti is similar to Pitta Prakriti and Aapya Prakriti resembles Kapha Prakriti. Paarthiva Prakriti has Sthira, Vipula S`haarira (stable and large body) and Kshamaavana (has forgiveness). Naabhasa (Aakaasheeya) Prakriti has large cavities and live longer and follow purity.
Definitions of Prakriti:
Prakriti is specific composition of Dosha that is permanent throughout the life. Dominance (Utka`ta) and unchangeable (Avyaabhichaari) nature of Dosha are called as Prakriti.
Status of Dosha at conception determines Prakriti. Though Dosha are dominant, they do not cause diseases but they are well tolerated being congenital in nature. Charaka specifies Sama Dosha as Sama Prakriti , in which Dosha are in state of equilibrium. Others are not termed as Prakriti but called as Vaatala, Pittala and S`hleshmala (and not Vaataprakriti etc.). Charaka considers Prakriti as normal state hence describes Sama as only Prakriti. Sushruta describes Dosha s elevated (Utkat`a) but within normal limits. According to Asthanga Hridaya, in any Prakriti, Dosha are elevated but well tolerated and do not cause abnormality.
Dosha are classified in two components: Prakrita and Vikrita Dosha. Prakrita Dosha are congenital, maintain homeostasis, regulate physiological processes and responsible for health. Vikrita Dosha are generated in metabolic processes and are responsible for diseases. Prakrita Dosha are responsible for Prakriti hence it is unchangeable and constant nature of an individual.
Dosha, though dominant are in physiological limits in Prakriti, abnormal (either Kshaya, वृद्धि or Prakopa) in diseased state and completely changed in Arisht`a (alarming signs of death or grave prognosis of disease).
Charaka, Sushruta, Vaagbhat`a and other Samhitaa describe guidelines for Prakriti assessment. Characters of Vaata, Pitta and Kapha Prakriti are described in details, based on which physician examines dominance of Vaata, Pitta, and Kapha. These characters can be divided into anatomical, physiological and psychological variables.
Charaka explains assessment of Prakriti based on Gun`a and describes manifestation of each Gun`a separately. For example, Vaata Prakriti is illustrated on the basis of Rooksha, Laghu, Chala, S`heeghra, S`heeta, Parusha, Vishada, Alpa Gun`a. Each Gun`a is responsible for specific characteristics. (Table no. 1) Sushruta and Vaagbhat`a, Haarita, Bhaavmishra and Shaarangdhara describe Prakriti based on anatomical, physiological and psychological characters. Sushruta and Vaagbhat`a (Samgraha and Hridaya) have added numerous objective parameters as: cracked legs and feet and developed calf muscles of Vaata Prakriti, coppery hair and laxity of joints for Pitta Prakriti, long arm, broad chest and muscular body of KaphaPrakriti . Dreams, liking and disliking of different Prakriti have elucidated by other Samhitaa, , . Shaarangdhara has listed few parameters for quick assessment of Prakriti.
Sushruta and Vaagbhat`a have linked Prakriti with some animals or birds based on similarity of characters 22, 23. This similarity is termed as Anookatva and explained as – Vaata Prakriti personality is analogous to goat, jackal, dog etc; Pitta Prakriti is similar to cobra, owl, cat etc and Kapha Prakriti resembles swan, elephant, lion etc.
Apart from these characters; history, compatibility, proneness, lifestyle, diet and other aspects are considered with structured clinical examination. Role of lifestyle, occupation and many other causative factors requires appropriate credit. Thus Prakriti is retrospective evaluation of Gun`a based on clinical examination of an individual.
Prakriti in health and diseases:
Knowledge about Prakriti is prerequisite for assessment of Vikriti (pathology) hence it is important for diagnosis and therapeutics. Treatment is called as Prakriti Sthaapana as it reverse pathology and restores Prakriti.
Primary objective of Prakriti assessment is to estimate Bala Pramaan`a and Dosha Pramaan`a of an individual. Bala Pramaan`a refers to judgment of physical and psychological potential that illustrates status of Dosha, Dhaatu, Mala and related organs.
Assessment of Dosha Pramaan`a is associated to nature and extent of Dosha. Thus, concept of Prakriti is important in preventive and curative aspects. Prakriti assessment is a part of Das`havidha Parikshaa (10-point evaluation) and is considered in totality with understanding of other minimum nine aspects.
Prakriti aspart of Das`havidha Parikshaa: 
Ayurvedic classics like Charaka Samhitaa and Sus`hruta Samhitaa have recommended extensive guidelines for assessment of disease (Vyaadhi) and diseased (Rugn`a). These guidelines aim at precise understanding of physiology and pathology; hence are applied to healthy individuals (Svastha) for Prakriti assessment. Prakriti assessment is a part of patient examination (Das`havidha Parikshaa) and that needs consideration of other factors, like Vikriti (pathology), Dhaatusaarataa (status of tissues), Samhanana (compactness), Pramaan`a (quantitative examination of organs), Aahaarshakti (digestive capacity), Vyaayaamashakti (capacity of exercise), Bala (strength), Kala (season) and Vaya (age). Considering all these dimensions, physician defines patient status, which forms base of treatment. Prakriti evaluation coupled with all above factors gives complete information on which treatment (or health advice) is based. Thus Ayurveda emphasizes evaluation of patient in totality for perfect diagnosis, management of health and disease.
Role in health: Preventive aspect:
Prakriti has decisive role in Swasthavritta (restoration of health), which is the prime objective of Ayurveda. Prakriti based guidelines for diet and lifestyle result in healthy tissues and homeostasis of Dosha.
Prakriti forms basis for understanding Sampraapti (pathology), extent and Vikalpana (combinations) of vitiated Dosha and status of host factors. Prediction of proneness and severity of disease can be speculated that helps in prognosis judgment.
Prakriti and disease proneness
Disease is a result of complex interplay between causative agents, environmental and host factors hence there are multiple factors that decide disease proneness. Hence to speculate disease proneness, other factors as causative factors (Hetu), immunity (Dhaatubala) etc should be considered, however some generalized assumptions can be made.
Sama Prakriti has good resistance and generally not prone to diseases. Other types are labelled as Aatura (diseased), as they have dominance of one or more Dosha and need regular preventive measures. Out of rest six types, Prakriti with one Dosha (Ek Doshaja) have better resistance than two Dosha Prakriti (Dvi Doshaja). Vaata, Pitta and Kapha Prakriti are susceptible to disease in decreasing order.
Manifestation of disease in different Prakriti will be different though causative factors are comparable. Similar Dosha in Prakriti and Sampraapti (pathology) leads to severe disease. Vaata, Pitta and Kapha Prakriti individuals may have severe Vaata, Pitta and Kapha disease respectively. These assumptions are based on presence of potent and similar Hetu (causative factors). For example, Kaphavardhaka Hetu (excess Guru, Snigdha, Manda etc. Gun`a) cause severe Kapha disease to Kapha Prakriti individual than any other Prakriti.
Prakriti and prognosis
Prakriti is important for judgement of prognosis. If Vikaara Prakriti (nature of disease) and Prakriti are similar then disease is difficult to manage (Kashtasaadhya). When Prakriti and disease are of different origin, it is easy to manage (Sukhasaadhya). Kaas`hyapa Samhitaa has defined role of season (KaalaPrakriti) in relation to Prakriti. If season, disease and Prakriti are of same Dosha, disease is untreatable and has bad prognosis. Any two of these if similar, make disease difficult to treat.
Though treatment design is based on multiple variables, Prakriti has a role in selection of drug, dose, Anupaana (vehicle) and Samskaara (processing). Considering Prakriti (coupled with other factors) some drugs or procedures are indicated (Ghrita for Vaata and Pitta Prakriti ) or contraindicated (Svedana for PittaPrakriti ). Prakriti of an individual illustrates numerous physiological functions, as Agni (digestive and metabolic capacity), Kosht`ha (digestive and excretory functions), Bala (Strength of tissues) and life span are specific for each Prakriti.
Systematic objective clinical evaluation is essential for understanding of Prakriti . Prakriti assessment with other factors of Das`havidha Parikshaa should be contemplated for total understanding of patient or healthy individual.
Chart 1. Prakriti: Related connotations:
- Saamkhya Tatva: Avyakta (Charaka Shariraa. 1/17)
- Nature (Charaka चिकित्सा 3/12)
- Equilibrium of Dosha , Dhaatuetc.(Charaka Sutra 9/4)
- Normality (Charaka Sharira 4/15)
- Tendency (Sushruta Sutra 30/3)
- Normal functions (Gati) of Dosha (Charaka Sutra /91)
- Health (Charaka Sutra 9/4)
- Non-vitiated state (Charaka Sutra 18/48)
- Aatma (Charaka Sharira 3/25)
- Constitution (Charaka Viman 6 /13)
Table no. 1: Relation of Gun`a and characters (example: Vaata Prakriti) .
|Gun`a (Attributes)||Related Characters|
|Rooksha (Dry)||Rooksha Apachita Alpa S`hariraa,Jarjara Svara, Jagruka(Dry, poorly developed, dwarf, emaciated body hoarse voice, keeping awake)|
|Laghu (Light)||Laghu, Chapala Gati, Chesht`aa,Aahaara, Vihaara(Inconsistent gait, actions, food and movements)|
|Chala (Unstable)||Anaavasthita Sandhi, Asthi, Bhru(Unstable joints, eye brows, jaw, lips,tongue, shoulder, hands, legs)|
|S`heeghra (Quick)||Samarambha Kshobha Vikaara,Shrutgrahino Alpa Smriti(quick in initiating actions, irritable,quick understanding and quick forgetting)|
|S`heeta (Cool)||S`heeta Asahishn`u,Pratata Sheetakodvepaka Stambha(Intolerance for cold, often gettingafflicted with cold, shivering and stiffness)|
|Parusha (Rough)||Parusha Kes`ha, S`maas`hru, Roma,Nakha, Das`hana(Rough hair, head, face, nails, teeth, face,hands, feet)|
|Vishada (Cleansing)||Sphut`it`angavayava,Satatasandhi S`habdagamina(Cracked limbs, joint crepitation)|
|Alpa (Small)||Bala, Aayushya, Apathya, Sadhana, Dhana(Less strength, lifespan, procreation, accessories and wealth)|
 Monier Williams, Sanskrit English Dictionary, Motilal Banarasidas Publications, 2002; 654.
 Sushruta Samhita. Sharirsthana. 1
 Charaka Samhita Sharirsthana. 1/17
 C Dwarkanath, The Fundamental Principles of Ayurveda, Krishnadas Academy, Varanasi, 1998; 38.
 Charaka Smhita, Sharirsthana 3/15.
 Charaka Samhita Vimansthana 8/ 95
 Kashyapa Samhita Sutrasthan 18 /8.
 Bhela Samhita Vimansthan 4 /14.
 Charaka Smhita Indriyasthana 1 /7.
 Charaka Smhita Sharirsthana, Jatisutriya Sharir
 Charaka Samhita, Indriyasthana 1/7
 Charaka. Sh. 4/31-57, Sushruta. Sh.4/81-99
 Sushrut Samhita Sharirsthan 4 /80
 Charaka Samhita. Vimansthana. 6/13 Chakrapaan`i commentary
 Sushruta Samhita. Sharirsthana. 4/63
 Asthanga Hridaya, Sutrasthana. 1/10
 Charaka Smhita, Indriyasthana 6/24
 Charaka Samhita, Vimansthan 8/100.
 Sushruta Samhita, Sharirsthan, 4/ 64 76.
 Ashtanga Hridaya, Sharirsthan, 3/ 85 – 103
 Harita Samhita, Prathamasthana 5/ 17 – 22
 Sharangdhara Samhita, Purvakhanda, 6/ 62 66.
 Charaka Samhita Sharirsthana 1 /4 Chakrapani commentary
 Charaka Samhita, Vimansthana, 8/94.
 Charaka Samhita. Vimansthana. 8/94.
 Charaka Samhita, Sutrasthana, 7 / 41 – 44
 Charaka Samhita, Vimansthana, 6/16.
 Asthang Hridaya Sutrasthana 1/10
 Charaka Samhita Vimansthana 6/16 -18
 Chraka Samhita. Sutrasthan. 10/11
 Kashyapa Samhita. Khilsthan. 6/61
 Charaka Samhita, Vimansthana, 8/94
 Charaka Samhita Sharirsthan 4/31-57
 Sushruta Samhita Sharirsthan 4/81-99
 Charaka Samhita, Vimansthana 8 /100.
Last updated on February 9th, 2021 at 07:27 am