The term ‘Mala’ in Samskrit literally means ‘dirt, filth or impurity’. In the context of Ayurveda, Mala denotes those impurities in physical body which when remain in body for more than a stipulated time period, make the body dirty or filthy. In other words, Malas are one of the 3 key components of the Sharira (शरीरम्), which when not in equilibrium, increase impurities in the body.
परिचयः ॥ Introduction
Doshas, Dhatus and Malas are the 3 fundamental functional units in the body. Each one of these components perform specific function in the body and their presence in optimum level and pure form is integral for the normal functioning of the body systems. Malas are impurities produced after the process of Pachana (पाचनम्। digestion and metabolism). These are the unwanted by-products of the Pachana and need to be excreted out of the body. However, their presence for a stipulated time in the body, their composition, optimum levels and timely removal is equally important in order to maintain the equilibrium of Doshas (दोषाः), dhatus (धातवः) and malas (मलाः), all of which are interdependent. Thus, Ayurveda acharyas have always considered the imbalances in malas and their role in maintaining health or developing diseases.
The term 'Mala' is derived from the root word in Samskrit which denotes cleansing purifying activity.
मृज्यते शोध्यते इति । (शब्दकल्पद्रुम)
mr̥jyate śodhyate iti ।
Meaning: The one that cleanses or purifies by carrying and eliminating waste, filth, dirt or debris.
विविधाः मलाः॥ Types of Malas
Purisha (पुरीषम्), Mutra (मूत्रम्) and Sweda (स्वेदः) are called as Trimalas (त्रिमलाः । 3 wastes) of Sharira. These can be roughly correlated with Stools, Urine and Sweat respectively. Among these 3, Purisha (पुरीषम्) and Mutra (मूत्रम्) are believed to be the Annamalas (अन्नमलाः) i.e. waste products obtained from the process of digestion (of food) while Sweda (स्वेदः) and few other substances are obtained from the process of Sookshma pachana (सूक्ष्मपचनम्। dhatu level metabolism). Various malas described by different Ayurveda acharyas are listed below
- Vit OR Purisha (विट् / पुरीषम् । Feces) - Waste by product of digestion, excreted through Guda (anus). Thus, correlated with Stools.
- Mutram (मूत्रम्। Urine) - Waste by product of digestion, excreted through Basti (Urinary system). Thus, correlated with Urine.
- Rasa mala Kapha (रसमलः कफः । Kapha like mala)
- Rakta mala Pitta (रक्तमलम् पित्तम् । Pitta like mala)
- Khamalas (खमलाः । Impurities/debris material found at various external orifices)
- Sweda (स्वेदः । Sweat) - Commonly known as Sweat, excreted through skin.
- Kesha (केशाः । Hair)
- Loma (लोमाः । Body hair)
- Sneha at Akshi, Vit and Twak (स्नेहो अक्षिविट्त्वचाम् । Moisture content in Eyes, Stools and Skin)
मलानां कार्यम्॥ Function of malas
Although malas have a tendency to generate impurities in sharira, they do have the role in normal functioning of the body. Malas are excreted out of the body once their function is over. If body fails to discard them, they become painful to the body. Ayurveda considers Malas as one of the 3 roots of the Sharira. Thus they are equally important as Doshas and Dhatus when it comes to the normal as well as abnormal function of the body. According to Ayurveda, when Malas are in the balanced state, they perform specific functions as described here.
Purisha mala means the stools or fecal material. Shakrt (शकृत्) is another synonym for Purisha. Its is one of the kittam (किट्टम्। waste byproduct) of the pachana (पचनम्। digestion of food). Pakwashayam (पक्वाशयम्), antrani (आन्त्राणि) are said to be the normal seat of this mala. Although its a waste byproduct and conventional medical science only limits its role in taking out the food waste out of the body, Ayurveda believes that when in balanced state this waste product also plays critical role in maintaining normal function of digestion. It plays critical role in maintaining Vata (वातः) and agni (अग्निः) in its normal state. The quality of this mala depends on the type of food an individual eats. Vata (वातः) dosha in the shariram is closely associated with Purisha. Accumulation of purisha beyond stipulated time also negatively affects Agni which is responsible to maintain healthy state of an individual and keep away various diseases. Agni and Vata dosha are 2 factors that help maintain healthy state of individual and both are affected by Purisha. Thus, ancient Ayurveda scholars have awarded the high rank to even this mala in the body and rightly called it one of the mulam (root) of shariram. Thus a vaidya always assesses the status of Purisha mala.
Mutram is the term used to refer urine, another kittam (किट्टम्। waste byproduct) in the body. Alike purisham, mutram also performs specific role in the normal functioning of the body when in equilibrium. According to Ayurveda, mutram is also the waste by-product of pachana (digestion of food) and precisely it is said to be formed of excess moisture content in the body resulting from the digestion at various levels. It performs the major function of balancing the moisture content or water balance in the body. Basti (बस्तिः। an organ which could be correlated with urinary bladder but performing different functions according to Ayurveda) is filled up by mutram and this is said to be the physiological function of mutram.
Sweda literally means sweat. It is the 3rd mala which has also secured place in the list of fundamental physiological components of the shariram. It is not the waste byproduct of food digestion but a waste product formed during dhatu level pachana (metabolism). It is the waste product of Meda (मेदः) dhatu. It is closely associated with twak (त्वक्। skin) and lomakupa (लोमकूपाः। hair follicles). Twak is the barrier between external environment and internal environment of the body thus playing major role in the protection, temperature maintenance. Sweda helps Twak (skin) in performing these functions and also keeps the twak (skin) moist.
Thus, Malas play important role in normal function of Sharira. Naturally, when in disequilibrium, these can also cause development of diseased state of the body.
There is another subcategory named Dhatumalas in Ayurveda, which is important while understanding the process of tissue level metabolism. Dhatumalas are the waste by-products of Sookshma pachana (सूक्ष्मपचनम्। tissue level metabolism). Ayurveda acharyas have listed dhatumalas for most of the dhatus e.g Kapha (कफः) is considered as the Rasa (रसः) dhatu mala while Pitta (पित्तम्) is considered to be Rakta (रक्तम्) dhatu mala. Kesha (केशाः Hair) are considered as the Asthi (अस्थिः) dhatu malas. (Citation)
This category of malas also holds clinical importance since Vaidyas (Ayurveda practitioners) look at the abnormalities related to various body constituents considering their roots of origin and development. It is believed that, in authentic Ayurveda practice, one can achieve optimum therapeutic outcome when these fundamentals are kept in mind and not just by equating conventional medical terms with Ayurveda theories.
- Ashtanga Hrdayam (Sutrasthana Adhyaya 1 Sutram 13)
- Charaka Samhita (Chikistasthanam Adhyaya 15 Sutra 18-19)
- Sushruta Samhita (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 15 Sutram 5)