Majja Dhatu (मज्जा धातु)
Majja Dhatu (Samskrit: मज्जा धातुः) is one of the 7 dhatus described in Ayurveda. It is 6th in order of dhatu sequence. The word majja (मज्जा) literally means marrow. Thus majja dhatu in Ayurveda is equivalent to the soft bone marrow tissue described in western medicine. Also, majja (मज्जा | marrow) of animals is described in Ayurveda at many places especially where Snehana (स्नेहन | oleation) therapy is described. There it refers to the marrow tissue of animals which possesses unctuous and nourishing properties. When the word majja is used in the context of pharmacology and herbs in Ayurveda it refers to the 'fleshy part of the fruit or seed'.
निरुक्तिः तथा परिभाषा॥ Etymology and definition
The word 'Majja' is derived from root word 'Majjan' (मज्जन्) which means to be immersed, drowned or submerged into something. Therefore in human body, the dhatu which is present inside the other i.e. Asthi dhatu (अस्थि धातुः) is called as the 'Majja dhatu'. This has been explained in depth while describing the formation of dhatus in Charaka samhita.  Majja dhatu is thus defined as, the body component which fills the cavities of bones.
मज्जाधातोः पाञ्चभौतिकत्वम्॥ Panchabhoutikatwam
Sneha (Unctuousness) is the most important quality of majja dhatu described by Ayurveda acharyas. Sneha means the ability to bind something together. This is the characteristic feature of Jala mahabhuta. Hence the mahabhuta having sneha dominant quality i.e. jalam is in abundance in majja dhatu.
मज्जाधातोः स्थानम् ॥ Location of majja dhatu
Majja dhatu is invariably present inside the cavities of bones as the name suggests. Majjavaha srotas (मज्जावह स्रोतसम्) i.e. the channels of transportation and transformation of majja dhatu are known to originate from bones and joints. Also, since eyes are placed inside the cavities formed by bones of skull, those too are believed to be dominant in majja dhatu. The increase in level of majja dhatu is reflected in eyes where heaviness is experienced. Thus, majja dhatu is found in bones, joints and eyes.
मज्जाधातोः उत्पत्तिः ॥ Formation or utpatti
The majja dhatu is formed from its predecessor asthi dhatu (अस्थि धातुः) and meda dhatu (मेद धातुः). During metabolism, vata dosha (वात दोषः) produces hollowness inside the asthi dhatu. These hollow cavities are filled by the unctuous extract of meda dhatu which percolates inside asthi through its minute holes because of porous nature of Asthi. In this way, the majja dhatu is formed.
मज्जाधातोः उपधातुः ॥ Upadhatu of majja dhatu
Majja dhatu when subjected to the process of micro-transformation (सूक्ष्मपचनम्), it generates 1 more body component which is known as Upadhatu (उपधातु | Metabolic by-product) of majja dhatu. Sharangadhara samhita (शार्ङ्गधर संहिता | one of the classical treatises on Ayurveda) considers Kesha (केशाः | hair) as metabolic byproduct of majja dhatu.
मज्जाधातोः मलः ॥ Mala of Majja dhatu
During the micro-transformation of majja dhatu inside body and formation of upadhatus (उपधातु), one liquid form of substance is generated as a waste byproduct which is unctuous in nature (स्नेहोऽक्षिविट्त्वचाम्). This unctuous or fatty substance (स्नेहः) which provides lubrication specifically in eyes (अक्षि), skin (त्वचा) and stools (विट्) is identified as the mala of majja dhatu.
मज्जासारता लक्षणानि ॥ Majja sara characteristics
Those who have supreme quality of majja dhatu in a body are identified by some characteristic features. These features are called as majja-sarata features (मज्जासारता लक्षणानि). Most of these features are manifested on various external body parts. Thus one can identify the quality of majja dhatu by assessing presence or absence of following signs in person.
मृद्वङ्गा बलवन्तः स्निग्धवर्णस्वराः स्थूलदीर्घवृत्तसन्धयश्च मज्जसाराः|
ते दीर्घायुषो बलवन्तः श्रुतवित्तविज्ञानापत्यसम्मानभाजश्च भवन्ति ॥ (Char. Samh. 8.108)
mr̥dvaṅgā balavantaḥ snigdhavarṇasvarāḥ sthūladīrghavr̥ttasandhayaśca majjasārāḥ|
te dīrghāyuṣo balavantaḥ śrutavittavijñānāpatyasammānabhājaśca bhavanti ॥ (Char. Samh. 8.108)
Meaning: The persons having superior quality of majja dhatu are endowed with soft body parts, strength, unctuous complexion, and sweet voice. They have prominent (sthula), long (dirgha) and rounded joints.
मज्जाधातोः कार्यम् ॥ Function
Puran (पूरणम्) i.e. Filling the cavities of bones is the major function of majja dhatu as described by classical Ayurveda treatises. This provides strength to the asthi and ultimately strength to the entire skeletal framework and body structure. Along with that, being unctuous in nature it performs the function of lubrication, maintains unctuousness in body thus keeping check on excess Vata levels. Being predecessor of Shukra dhatu (शुक्र धातुः) it performs the function of providing nourishment to shukra dhatu.
मजाधातुदुष्टिहेतवः ॥ Causes of vitiation
Majja dhatu is vitiated due to various dietary and lifestyle related causes. Ayurveda acharyas have listed certain causes that directly and adversely affect the channels of transportation and transformation of majja dhatu. These causes therefore vitiate majja dhatu as well. The cases are listed below.
आहारहेतवः ॥ Dietary causes
Viruddha ahara : This is the concept of incompatible food exclusively discussed in Ayurveda. The food that is incompatible for body tissues and thus acts like a foreign body or toxin can be considered as Viruddha. Ayurveda described 18 types of such incompatible food. Any of these types of viruddha ahara when consumed frequently and excessively adversely and directly affect majja dhatu.
Other causes that directly and adversely affect majja dhatu are listed below,
- Utpesha (उत्पेष्य): crushing injury
- Abhishyanda (अभिष्यंद): excessive discharge causing pressure
- Abhighata (अभिघातः): trauma
- Prapidana (प्रपीडन): compression
मज्जाधातोः स्वास्थ्यरक्षणे प्राधान्यम् ॥ Importance in the preservation of health and prevention
Majja dhatu resides inside bony cavities and provides strength to the bones. Hollow bones would undoubtedly be more susceptible for easy fracture. Thus majja dhatu reduce their susceptibility of fracture, add to their core weight and thus provide strong skeletal structure to the body. Moreover majja dhatu is responsible for nourishment of its successor Shukra dhatu. Shukra is the body tissue which is responsible for reproductive function. And nourishment of such shukra dhatu takes place through majja dhatu. Therefore indirectly majja dhatu also contributes in providing progeny and growth. The best quality of majja dhatu helps one to achieve Longevity, strength, learning ability, wealth, understanding, progeny, and social respect because of its superior function.
- Charaka Samhita (Chikitsasthanam Adhyaya 15 Sutra 31-32)
- Charaka Samhita (Vimanasthanam Adhyaya 5 Sutram 8)
- Ashtanga Hrudayam (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 11 Sutram 11)
- Sharangadhara Samhita (Purvakhandam Adhyaya 5)
- Charaka Samhita (chikitsasthanam Adhyaya 15 Sutra 18-20)
- Charaka Samhita (Vimanasthanam Adhyaya 8 Sutram 108)
- Available from charakasamhitaonline.com
- Ashtanga Hrudayam (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 11 Sutram 4)
- Sushruta Samhita (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 15 Sutra 5)
- Charaka Samhita (Vimanasthanam Adhyaay 5 Sutram 18)