Pancha Bhootas refer to the 5 great elements that form a base for all that the cosmic creates. The 5 great elements are Earth, Water, Fire, Wind and Space. Out of these 5 elements – the first four namely the Earth, Water, Fire and the Wind are tangible in nature but the 5th element - Space is intangible. Also, for the first four elements to exist, you need the fifth element - Space. All these 5 elements are so interconnected with each other that they are indispensable for any higher life form.
Our ancestors and the great sages believed that a human body is composed of these 5 elements. They believed that once the human being dies, their body is transformed back into the 5 elements and again gets unified with the cosmos. Each of these elements has a specific characteristic feature and is associated with the overall health of a Human Being. Any Imbalance of these elements found in the body result in disease.
Earth Element – The Earth element is present in the form of bones and muscles in our body. It gives structure and strength to our physical body. The imbalance of the Earth element leads to obesity or loss of weight. The Sense organ related to the earth element is nose.
Water Element – The majority of earth’s surface is made up of water and similarly the major portion in a human being is also made up of water. The blood, sweat, and the saliva are the water elements present in our body. A lack of this element leads to dryness of lips, skin and mouth, which robs the mouth of taste. Excess on the other hand leads to the accumulation of phlegm and mucus in large quantities. An imbalance of the water element can have its effects on blood in the form of blood thinning or clotting. The sense organ related to Water element is tongue.
Fire Element – The basic character of this element is heat and light. In human body, fire element is present in the digestion, light in the eyes, the shine or glow of the face and also the heat in the body. On a subtle level – healthy positive people emit a kind of radiance and energy. An overdose of the Fire element leads to Fever, inflammation and lack of Fire leads to digestive problems. The sense organ associated with Fire element is Eyes.
Wind or Air element – The air element is responsible for all the movement in the body. The inhalation and exhalation and opening and closing of the eyelids are associated with Wind. The sense organ associated with the Air / Wind element is Skin. An imbalance of this element leads to Constipation, bloating of stomach or disorders related to the nervous system etc.
Space / Ether Element - It is the vastness or the openness which is associated with Space. It does not mean emptiness but rather a place for all the elements to coexist. The vital feature of the element is coldness and being infinite. Excess of this element leads to the person feeling cold all the time. This is the reason why the elderly people always feel cold while a youngster in the same temperature can withstand it easily. An imbalance leads to speech disorders and mental problems. The Sense organ related to Space is Ears.
In Ayurveda tradition, any disease in the human body arises due to the imbalance of these 5 elements. An imbalance is called a Dhosha. There are 3 Dhoshas present and they are a combination of these five elements. The Dhoshas are Vaada (Air and space), Pitta (Fire and water), Kapa (Wind and Water). They try to balance these elements for a healthy body. The balancing of the elements or the energies in one’s body is done mainly through the food that a person intakes. Each person’s body type is different and hence there is a personalized food routine for each body type.
In Yogic tradition, there is a belief that you can master yourself by mastering these 5 elements. There are various Mudras (Hand postures) practiced to balance these elements in the body. The way we join our fingers is responsible for the energy to flow in a certain way inside our body. Also, there are various Asanas (body postures) one can practice to balance the 5 elements and rid oneself from any diseases.
In Vedic tradition, the land development and the architecture on the place was developed with the energies of the 5 elements based on the cardinal directions. This science was called Vastu. Living in accordance with the Vastu is said to solve one’s problems and said to help accumulate health, well-being, and happiness.
Pancha Bhoota Sthalam
Our ancestors have also built powerful temple complexes for performing Sadhana and to uplift a person. These temples are spread across 5 places in the South of India. Out of these, 4 places are found in Tamil Nadu and 1 in Andhra Pradesh to be specific. These temples are all dedicated to Lord Shiva.
1. Ekambareswara Temple – This temple represents the EARTH element and it is located in Kanchipuram. The temple legend says that Goddess Parvathi created this Shiva Lingam from the Sand on the banks of the river Vegavathi and placed under a mango tree and worshipped. Shiva wanted to test her devotion and increased the flow of the river in order to scare her. It is said that Goddess Parvathi embraced the Shiva Lingam and saved it.
2. Jambukeswara Temple – This temple represents the WATER element and it is located in a place called Tiruvanaikaval near Trichy. The Shiva lingam is called Jambukeswarar and there is an underground water stream running constantly. Despite water being pumped out, the place always gets filled with water. The legend says Parvathi, in the form of Akhilandeswari, worshipped the lingam known as Appu Lingam (made from water). She faced east while taking lessons from the Lord himself who faced west while teaching her.
3. Arunachaleswara Temple - This temple represents the FIRE element, and it is located in Thiruvannamalai. Arunachaleswarar temple is the largest temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. The legend says that when Lord Brahma took the form of Swan to see the Crown of Shiva, Brahma had asked a flower called Thazhambu to tell a lie to declare that Brahma had actually seen the Crown of Shiva. The place where Lord Shiva stood like a column of fire is Thiruvannamalai. Every year during the Month of Karthigai, the lighting of a huge lamp on the hill nearby is considered famous and auspicious.
4. Sri Kalahasti Temple – This temple represents the WIND element, and it is located in Kalahasti in Andhra Pradesh. This temple is also called as “Kashi of the South”. The legend says that the great Naayanmar - Kannappar was ready to offer both his eyes in order to stop the blood flowing out from the Shiva Lingam before him. Sri Kalahasti temple is situated close to Tirupati. This temple is also considered as a Rahu–Ketu temple.
5. Thillai Nataraja Temple – This temple represents the SPACE element, and it is located in Chidambaram. Lord Shiva is worshiped as Lord Nataraja – the Lord of Dance. This temple is one of the few temples that boasts of having both Lord Shiva and Lord Govindaraja Perumal inside one temple complex – (a Vaishnavite and a Shaivite deity in the same place). The temple legend says that Lord Shiva was once strolling in the Thillai forest where a group of saints lived. Lord Shiva disguised himself as a person seeking alms followed by Lord Vishnu disguised as Mohini. The wives of the saints were enchanted by the brilliance of these two people, which enraged the saints who invoke snakes and demons. It is said Lord Shiva crushed the Demon Muyalakan at this place and performed the Ananda Thandavam - The dance of Bliss.
In the temples mentioned above the five elements are thus honored and acknowledged subtly by our mighty ancestors.
Also, in any temples, the 5 elements are subtly honored through the following:
Thus, we experience and bow down to all these elements in our daily lives – knowingly or unknowingly.
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