The ancient Indian science of life – Ayurved – looks at human health holistically along with its intricate connection with the universe. Indian Shaastras (holistic sciences) have always studied the close relationship between the microcosm and the macrocosm, both at the physical and the energy level. Our Shaastras assert that the material world is the manifestation of the subtle vibrations permeating the universe. The Panchmahabhutas or Panchtatvas (five basic elements) that make up the physical world are represented in the form of energies, which are manifestations of the Prakruti (primordial energy), which in turn unites with the Parameshwar or Purush (supreme cosmic consciousness) to form life.
To put it in simple terms, all that is visible to the eye is driven by the invisible energy. Prakruti, along with the Panchtatvas, is expressed in three states or features described as Trigunas, viz. Satva, Raj and Tam. All the forms of life, including humans, emanating from Prakruti through various combinations of the Panchtatvas, have different proportions of the Trigunas. The play of Panchtatvas and their energies in various life forms, including the human body, also gives rise to the Tridoshas (three bodily tendencies), viz. Vaat, Pitta and Kaph, which determine human wellbeing or the lack of it.
Thus, Trigunas and Tridoshas are closely related. Trigunas as explained in the Vedas, Bhagwad Gita and Sankhya Darshan, determine the personality, likes and dislikes, profession and level of spiritual inclination of a person. Tridoshas also have a role in the same and in the physical health and the body type. Vaat Dosh is a combination of the Akashtatva (space element) and the Vayutatva (air element), while Pitta Dosh is a combination of the Agnitatva (fire element) and the Jaltatva (water element). Kaph Dosh is made up of the Pruthvitatva (earth element) and the Jaltatva.
Satva Gun brings true knowledge, Raj Gun brings activity and passion, while Tam Gun brings inertia and delusion. While, the functions of the three Gunas look contradictory, they are always found together and work together for the common goal of providing life experiences and liberation to an Atma (consciousness in an individual). Apart from the universal meaning of Gunas as indicated above, they also have relative a meaning depending upon the experiences they provide to different people. A person who loves reading would be happy upon visiting a library, while a person who is not interested in gaining knowledge would be sad if forced to do so. A person who is totally ignorant about a library may end up having a delusion about the whole concept.
Satvic diet gives longevity, mental and physical strength, health, joy and love. It is juicy with adequate fats and moderate in taste. Vegetarian food including Desi cow milk, fruits and roots is considered Satvic. Rajasic diet promotes strength, fearlessness and material desires. It includes fried, heavily sweet and non-vegetarian food with strong tastes. Tamasic diet disables judicious behaviour and gives rise to laziness, fear and violence. It includes excess of non-vegetarian food, and stale, unclean and fermented food, along with alcoholic drinks.
Vaat Dosh enables movement in the body, Pitta Dosh enables digestion and assimilation, and Kaph Dosh provides the stability and strength required for this. A proper balance among the Doshas brings health. The dominance of Doshas is also dependent upon the season and the time of the day. Just as individual tastes are dependent upon the Tridosh composition of the person, recommended diet also differs based on the latter. Often, people have a mixture of Tridoshas with one dominant and the other one or two Doshas playing a minor role. One kind of food may be beneficial to a person, while the same could be detrimental to the health of another depending upon his Tridosh composition. For instance, milk helps in controlling aggravated Pitta; but it can increase Kaph in a person with that disposition.
Pitta dominant persons should eat Desi ghee, milk, buttermilk, salads, sweet fruits and vegetables such as gourds. They should avoid bakery products, alcoholic drinks and fermented foods. Vaat dominant people should eat juicy fruits, fruit based drinks, lemon, buttermilk, Desi ghee, sesame and green gram (Moog). They should avoid cold and stale food and lentils such as chickpea. Kaph dominant persons should eat sorghum, finger millet, vegetable soups, spices and old rice. They should avoid potato, sweet potato, curd, black gram, milk products and foods that are heavy to digest. Indian Shaastras state that it is necessary to choose food keeping in mind the dynamics of Trigunas and Tridoshas in a person, along with seasonal and daily factors, which together result in the changing power of Jatharagni (digestive fire). A ‘one size fits all’ approach does not address the nuances of the body composition of every individual. While all lentils provide protein, pigeon pea (Toor) can aggravate Pitta; but green gram does not have such an effect. Thus, looking beyond mere proteins and vitamins, it is necessary to understand the Tridosh dynamics to ensure holistic health.