Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) and Dr Manasa BAMS
Agni (micro-fire) means the basic fire element present in all of us. It is the representation of Agni (macro or cosmic fire) present outside us, which also is one among the 5 mahabhutas (basic elements of the creation). The agni in us is responsible for metabolism and all activities.
Meaning – If the fire in us gets diminished or blown off, we don’t exist.
This shows the significance of the fire within us. The presence of fire is the witness and proof of our life, which determines that we are living. Therefore when we live, we feel the temperature. After the death, the warmth or temperature of the body no longer exists.
Agni exists in the form of Pitta
This agni or fire is represented in us in the form of Pitta. The functions of the fire and Pitta are alike.
When Pitta is balanced and is not contaminated, it is beneficial for the body and mind. All the functions of the body like segregation, digestion, absorption, assimilation, conversion of food into body elements and tissues and elimination of toxins and wastes from the body takes place in an undisturbed way.
Strength, Colour, Complexion, Immunity, Nourishment, Enthusiasm, Intelligence and many other factors depend on normalcy of Pitta and Agni located within it.
When the same Pitta gets contaminated (morbid) it can lead to untoward consequences like disturbed health, metabolism and immunity and also death. Morbid Pitta can be manifested in an increased (Vriddhi / Prakopa) or decreased (Kshaya) form in terms of quality and quantity.
Acharya Sushruta has declared that ‘We can’t find any other Agni or fire in the body other than Pitta’
This substantiates and clears all confusions.
‘Agni or fire in the body prevails in the form of Pitta’
The agni in the belly or gut which helps in digestion, bifurcation, differentiation, absorption, assimilation and utilization of food is called Jataragni. This is also simulated with one of the 5 types of pitta which is involved in the same functions i.e. Pachaka Pitta. Some call Jataragni as Kayagni. This has lead to the controversies so as to if these terms can be used interchangeably or not!!
Are Jataragni and Kayagni one and the same?
There is a debate about 2 terminologies namely Jataragni and Kayagni. Many times they are used as synonyms.
Jatara=Belly, tummy, Agni=fire
Therefore the fire in the belly or tummy is called Jataragni. This coincides with Pachaka Pitta (subtype of Pitta) which is located in between Pakwashaya (colon, intestines) and Amashaya (stomach), i.e. in Grahani (duodenum, 1st part of the small intestine, which continues from where the stomach ends).
To understand Kayagni, we need to understand the word Kaya. The word Kaya carries below meanings in different contexts –
- Deha – Human Body
- Kayagni – Fire in the body
- Manas – Mind
- Hridaya – Heart
- Sakala Shareera – full body
References indicating that Kayagni and Jatharagni are one and the same –
स्व स्थानस्थः तस्य कायाग्नेः अंशा धातुषु संस्थिताः।
तेषां सादाति दीप्ताभ्यां धातु वृद्धि क्षय उद्भवः॥(अ.हृ.सू.११/२४)
According to Acharya Vagbhata, A small part of Kayagni (Gut Fire) is represented in all the Dhatus (tissues and all cells included in those tissues, i.e. all the cells of the body). Thus Agni is present in each and every cell of the body. This Agni is called Datvagni (Tissue fire). The increase of Dhatvagni leads to the burn-out and resulting depletion of tissues (Dhatu Kshaya). The decrease of Dhatvagni leads to accumulation and increase of the tissues (Dhatu Vriddhi). The Kayagni or Jatharagni being located in its place (Svasthana – Gut) governs and maintains all these Micro-Agni’s located in the tissue.
Site and Function of Kayagni / Jataragni /Jatharagni
स्व स्थानं कायाग्नेः पक्व आमाशययोः मध्यम्। (अरुणदत्त)
Svasthaanam kaayaagnehe pakva aamaashayayoho madhyam (Ref – Arunadatta)
Svasthana – Arunadatta in his commentary further clarifies the meaning of Svasthana of Kayagni. He tells that the site of manifestation or dwelling for Kayagni is at a place in between Pakvashaya (Large Intestine) and Amashaya (Stomach). Thus the site of Kayagni or Jatharagni is Grahani (Duodenum, First part of Small Intestine) or Ksuhdrantra (Small Intestine as a whole).
This reference explains that both Kayagni and Jatharagni are one and the same.
It is very difficult to conclude if Jatharagni and Kayagni are one and the same. As we have seen, some authors have taken kaya as agni and others have taken kaya as deha or body.
If Kayagni is taken to be the ‘fire in the body’, it would definitely differ from ‘jatharagni’ which is limited to the belly or tummy. Thus Kayagni sums up all the 13 types of Agni’s taken together i.e. 1 Jatharagni, 5 bhutagnis (the fires present in 5 basic elements which help in formation of our body) and 7 dhatwagnis (fires present in the tissues). Kayagni also seems to be the sum of all the 5 types of pitta or agnis i.e. Pachaka pitta (Pachakagni), Bhrajaka pitta (Bhrajakagni), Sadhaka pitta (Sadhakagni), Ranjaka pitta (Ranjakagni) and Alochaka pitta (Alochakagni).
If Jatharagni is taken as Pachaka Pitta (jathara being tummy or belly) or Pachakagni, it still is one among the 5 subtypes of Pitta. Therefore Jataragni becomes a part and parcel of Kayagni.
According to the reference from Vagbhata (explained above), Kayagni and Jatharagni are one and the same, the terms being used interchangeably.
Just Before Finishing –
Ayurveda has in its belly a lot of terms which give various meanings and also many terminologies which are controversial. The controversies are due to different analysis, understanding and presentations of their meanings by various commentators over a period of time. Kayagni and Jataragni are similar such words. But when we understand these terms properly going to their root levels, we learn that no meaning is wrong. We also learn that they are not as controversial as we think. Situational understanding of these terms is the key to solve the controversies and the puzzles involved with these tricky words.
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