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The term Ahara (आहारः) in Samskrit refers to the food or diet. Any food that is consumed to gain energy or to continue the survival is called as Ahara in Ayurveda. Anna, Bhojana, Ashana are some synonyms commonly used to refer Ahara in Ayurveda. Ahara has been identified as that entity which is responsible for sustenance of life of a person. It provides nourishment, strength, health and at the same time can cause various diseases if not consumed in an appropriate way. Thus, it is counted as the first among 3 supporting pillars of life i.e. Trayopasthambhas.
In Samkskrit, Ahara is the term made of 3 roots, आङ् + हृ + घञ्.
पुं, (आङ् + हृ + घञ् ।) द्रव्यगलाधःकरणं । (Shabdakalpadruma)
This altogether indicates that Ahara means to ingest/take inside something through mouth and throat. Thus ahara refers to food.
Bhojana, Jemana, Bhakshana. Ashana, Swadana are some common synonyms for Ahara. (तत्पर्य्यायः । जग्धिः २ भोजनं ३ जेमनं ४लेपः ५ निघषः ६ न्यादः ७ । इत्यमरः ॥ जमनं ८ विघषः ९ इति तट्टीका ॥ प्रत्यवसानं १० भक्षणं ११ अशनं १२ ॥ इति रत्नमाला ॥ अभ्यवहारः १३ स्वदनं १४ निगरः १५ । इति राजनिर्घण्टः ॥ अस्य गुणाः । सद्यस्तृप्तिजनकत्वं । बलकारित्वं । देहधारकत्वञ्च । इति राजवल्लभः ॥) Shabdakalpadruma
Importance of Ahara
Ahara has been acclaimed for its role in every aspect of persons life in Charaka Samhita. Acharya Charaka has described the multivariate importance of Ahara or Annam in the verse below.
प्राणाः प्राणभृतामन्नमन्नं लोकोऽभिधावति| वर्णः प्रसादः सौस्वर्यं जीवितं प्रतिभा सुखम्॥
तुष्टिः पुष्टिर्बलं मेधा सर्वमन्ने प्रतिष्ठितम्| लौकिकं कर्म यद्वृत्तौ स्वर्गतौ यच्च वैदिकम्॥
कर्मापवर्गे यच्चोक्तं तच्चाप्यन्ने प्रतिष्ठितम्॥ (Char. Samh. 27.349-51)
prāṇāḥ prāṇabhr̥tāmannamannaṁ loko'bhidhāvati| varṇaḥ prasādaḥ sausvaryaṁ jīvitaṁ pratibhā sukham॥
tuṣṭiḥ puṣṭirbalaṁ medhā sarvamanne pratiṣṭhitam| laukikaṁ karma yadvr̥ttau svargatau yacca vaidikam॥
karmāpavarge yaccoktaṁ taccāpyanne pratiṣṭhitam॥ (Char. Samh. 27.349-51)
Meaning: The source of life for all living beings is food and thus all the world seeks (runs behind) food. Complexion, clarity, good voice, long life, understanding, happiness, satisfaction, growth, strength and intelligence are all established in food (can be attained by eating right food). Whatever is beneficial for worldly happiness, whatever pertains to the vedic sacrifices leading to higher abode and whatever actions lead to spiritual salvation are said to be established through food.
At the same time, Ayurveda acharyas have also identified the nuisance value of ahara if it is not consumed methodically. It is because of some inappropriate practices of consuming food, it can also become a cause for disease development and thus might create trouble. Acharya Charaka has pointed out this interesting aspect of Ahara by comparing it with liquor and poison by showing the similarity between them skillfully in the verse below.
किन्तु मद्यं स्वभावेन यथैवान्नं तथा स्मृतम्| अयुक्तियुक्तं रोगाय युक्तियुक्तं यथाऽमृतम्॥
प्राणाः प्राणभृतामन्नं तदयुक्त्या निहन्त्यसून्| विषं प्राणहरं तच्च युक्तियुक्तं रसायनम्॥ (Char. Samh. 24. 59-60)
kintu madyaṁ svabhāvena yathaivānnaṁ tathā smr̥tam| ayuktiyuktaṁ rogāya yuktiyuktaṁ yathā'mr̥tam|॥
prāṇāḥ prāṇabhr̥tāmannaṁ tadayuktyā nihantyasūn| viṣaṁ prāṇaharaṁ tacca yuktiyuktaṁ rasāyanam॥ (Char. Samh. 24. 59-60)
Meaning: (Ayurveda has identified alcoholic drinks or fermented preparations as one of the medicinal formulations e.g. Asavas and Arishtas. Thus how Madyam can be utilised as medicine and when it can give trouble was well-known to Ayurveda scholars which they skillfully applied in practice of medicine. The same applies to use of poison. In this reference this verse has been added) But liquor by nature is similar to the food. It causes disorders when consumed improperly; while it is like amritam (elixir) when consumed properly. Food is like the vitality of life for the human beings; but the same may be fatal if ingested improperly. The poison is fatal, but it can be rasayana if used sensibly.
According to Ayurveda, diet and daily activities of an individual are responsible to maintain or disturb the internal balance of bodily elements. Thus, if one can modify diet and lifestyle or activities according to changes in external environment, one can achieve good health and wellness.
तस्याशिताद्यादाहाराद्बलं वर्णश्च वर्धते| यस्यर्तुसात्म्यं विदितं चेष्टाहारव्यपाश्रयम्|| (Char. Samh. 5.3)
tasyāśitādyādāhārādbalaṁ varṇaśca vardhate| yasyartusātmyaṁ viditaṁ ceṣṭāhāravyapāśrayam|| (Char. Samh. 5.3)
Meaning: A person who knows the rutusatmya (getting accustomed to changes in diet and behavior according to seasons), practices such habits timely, and whose diet consists of various types of food articles (with properties such as ashita, pitta lidha and khadita), has his strength and luster enhanced, and he leads a healthy, long life.
Season specific diet recommendations are given by Ayurveda scholars in the adhyaya of Rutucharya.
Guidelines on selection of food items are based on the taste of food. The tastes that are to be deliberately included or excluded from diet in a particular season have been explicitly mentioned by Ayurveda treatises. These recommendations are given in order to maintain the equilibrium of doshas, dhatus and malas in body in spite of change in the external environment. The guidelines given are in general applicable to all provided the person following those is healthy and devoid of any other disease.  In case of existing diseases or any kind of already present illness, selection of food as per season should be done after taking advice of a qualified vaidya.
The general guidelines on selection or exclusion of food as per rutu (seasons) can be found in Rutucharya.
Role of ahara in prevention of diseases
Ahara is one of the highly important factors from one's life that is responsible for maintenance of health and wellbeing. The entire theory of disease development and health in Ayurveda is based on the effect of food and lifestyle factors on various body components. Therefore, the role of aahara in prevention of diseases has also been identified by Ayurveda. Various Ayurveda scholars at multiple places in literature have clearly stated that the one who consumes the appropriate and suitable food regularly can stay away form diseases and live a healthy life.
नित्यं हिताहारविहारसेवी समीक्ष्यकारी विषयेष्वसक्तः
दाता समः सत्यपरः क्षमावानाप्तोपसेवी च भवत्यरोगः (Asht. Hrud. 4.36)
The qualities of food that should be looked for while selecting the daily food have been mentioned by ayurveda scholars. Ahara which is nutritious, right in quantity, snigdha (having appropriate amount of fats) and madhura rasa dominant is believed to be beneficial to build and maintain strong health. Such ahara should be consumed on daily basis or in other words, the food that is recommended to be consumed on daily basis should have these qualities.
Various properties of Ahara have been mentioned in Ayurveda classics. These properties are described in terms of Panchamahabhutas, rasa and veerya of Ahara. While describing the properties, some types of Ahara have also been mentioned. Ahara is divided into 4 categories based on its form and method of consumption. These types of ahara are as follows,
- Bhakshya : Food that can be eaten with mastication i.e. Hard and solid food
- Bhojya : What may be eaten without masticaiton i.e. Solid food
- Lehya : What can be licked i.e. Semisolid food
- Peya : What can be drunk i.e. Liquids
In this way, food articles on the basis of their physical nature have been divided into 4 types. Along with that, Ahara can also be categorized on the basis of its dominant properties e.g dominant mahabhuta or dominant rasa etc. These types have significance from the point of view of digestion, transformation and end effects of it in the person who consumes it.
Types of aharadravyas
Although the ahara is categorised in 4 types based on its physical form, it can be divided in 2 groups depending on the properties of it core ingredients. These properties of ingredients are important because those decide the fate of this ahara and its effect on person's body after consumption. Also, this understanding helps to decide the appropriate quantity or portion of this ahara to be taken at a time in a person. Guru and Laghu are these 2 chief properties.
The term Laghu means light or small. The ingredients which are easy for digestion and help to create the feeling of lightness, buoyancy in a body are identified as Laghu. Examples of such food articles are Rice, Green gram etc. Even if one consumes excess quantity of Laghu food articles, it does not cause as much trouble as the guru ahara can.
Guru indicates that food article having this property will take more time to get completely digested. The agni (digestive fire) has to process it with more efforts than Laghu food. Such food articles should be consumed in less quantity for better digestion and avoid untoward side effects. Various milk products, starch rich food articles,black grams, meat etc fall under Guru category. Therefore it is necessary to control the portion of such food stuffs. 
Various properties and types of Ahara considered by Ayurveda
Ayurveda classics thoroughly discuss about Ahara and its effects on person. Ahara has been studied in multiple aspects by Ayurveda scholars. As a result, Ahara is classified into various types which actually describe its nature and help to understand its probable effect on body. Ayurveda vaidyas consider all these points while assessing patinets' current diet, health and then recommending a specific diet plan for an individual.
- 2 types- based on origin-Sthavara (Vegetarian), Jangama (Non-vegetarian)
- 6 types- based on Rasa- Madhura (Sweet), Amla (Sour), Lavana (Salty), Katu (Pungent), Titkta (Bitter), Kashaya (Astringent)
- 20 types- Based on properties like Hot, Cold, Unctuous, Dry, Soft, Hard etc
- Infinite types - Based on combinations, processing techniques etc.
Best Quality of Ahara
Ahara can have different qualities depending on its ingredients, processing method, taste and texture etc. However, among all other qualities the best quality of Ahara is believed to be its capability to provide satisfaction i.e. satiety. Satiety is also defined as absence of hunger.
Thus the food or ahara that fulfills one's hunger completely so that after eating that food no more feeling of hunger is experienced and the person is satisfied completely is said to be the best quality of Ahara. The ahara which is capable of fulfilling the nutritional needs as well as is desirable for that person can possess this quality.
Ahara is believed to be the best among those things which are essential for maintenance of livelihood. Since it is such an extremely important lifestyle factors, there are some rules related to its consumption and some basic guidelines. Some of those are listed below,
- Eating in excess quantity of Ahara is the chief cause of Ama generation (Foundational stone for disease development)
- Eating in quantity as per one's Agni's strength is the best way to kindle the digestive fire i.e. Agni
- Eating food that is compatible for one's body type and suitable or habitual to one is the best practice one can adopt
- Eating on right time (timely eating) is the best method to stay healthy
- Eating once a day is best for smooth digestive functioning
- Staying food deprived or empty stomach is life threatening or reduces life span
- Guru Ahara eating is the chief cause for indigestion
- Eating unbalanced food (Only one rasa dominant or only one type of food) is the prime cause of malnourishment
- Overeating (taking next food before the previous one is digested) is the primary cause of dysfunction of grahani (chief digestive organ)
- Untimely eating is the leading cause of agni disturbances/ irregularities
- Eating Viruddha ahara (incompatible food) is the primary cause of developing nindita rogas e.g. Obesity, gigantism, dwarfism, pigmentation disorders etc
Ayurveda samhitas have categorized food items into various groups. Primarily the food is divided into liquid foods (Drava dravya) and solid foods (ahara dravya). Ahara dravyas (solid food) is further categorised into 8 groups and Drava drvyas (liquid food) divided into 4 groups. Altogether 12 groups of food items have been listed in Ayurveda and those are as follows.
|Sr No||Ahara Dravyas||Drava dravyas|
|1||Shooka Dhanya (शूकधान्य)||Toya varya|
|2||Shimbi Dhanya (शमीधान्य)||Ksheera varga|
|3||Mansa varga||Ikshu varga|
|4||Phala varga||Taila varga|
|5||Shaka varga||Madya varga|
|7||Harita / Aharayogi varga|
Various food articles have been grouped under these 12 categories. Their properties, effect on health and well-being have been critically studied and described in Ayurveda treatises.
Factors to be considered while selecting food articles
The food articles should be selected on the basis of certain factors so that they do not disturb the equilibrium of body components. These factors are Desha, Kala and one's body (physical constitution of individual). Desha refers to the geographical condition/land while Kala means season. The food article that possess qualities which will balance the disturbances created by external factors like desha, kala and also which are suitable to maintain balance of bodily components should be selected. This helps in maintaining health and well-being.
देशकालात्मगुणविपरीतानां हि कर्मणामाहारविकाराणां च क्रियोपयोगः  सम्यक्, सर्वातियोगसन्धारणम्, असन्धारणमुदीर्णानां च गतिमतां, साहसानां च वर्जनं, स्वस्थवृत्तमेतावद्धातूनां साम्यानुग्रहार्थमुपदिश्यते||८|| (Cha.Sha.6.8)
विरुद्धमपि चाहारं विद्याद्विषगरोपमम्||२९||
देहधातुप्रत्यनीकभूतानि द्रव्याणि देहधातुभिर्विरोधमापद्यन्ते; परस्परगुणविरुद्धानि कानिचित्, कानिचित् संयोगात्, संस्कारादपराणि, देशकालमात्रादिभिश्चापराणि, तथा स्वभावादपराणि||८१|| (Cha.Su. 26.81)
यत् किञ्चिद्दोषमास्राव्य  न निर्हरति कायतः|
आहारजातं तत् सर्वमहितायोपपद्यते||८५|| Cha.Su.26.85
Gramya Ahara (ग्राम्य आहारः।) is a special category of such dietary habits and food stuffs, that adversely and directly affect one's strength, immunity, health and well-being. Ayurveda scholars were able to identify those dietary factors as well as lifestyle components which when consumed and practiced over time, can lead to all types of illnesses due to their direct effect of Dhatus (धातवः। vital body tissues). such dietary factors are known as Gramya Ahara while such lifestyle factors are called as Gramya vihara (ग्राम्य विहारः।). Ayurveda acharyas have advised each and every individual to refrain from such practices if one wants to achieve the best possible life.
Diet that is suitable for maintaining healthy status of individual is called as Pathyam while the diet which is responsible for creating imbalances in body and development of diseases is called as Apathyam.
Cha Su 25.38
तद्यथा- लोहितशालयः शूकधान्यानां पथ्यतमत्वे श्रेष्ठतमा भवन्ति, मुद्गाः शमीधान्यानाम्, आन्तरिक्षमुदकानां, सैन्धवं लवणानां, जीवन्तीशाकं शाकानाम्, ऐणेयं मृगमांसानां, लावः पक्षिणां, गोधा बिलेशयानां, रोहितो मत्स्यानां, गव्यं सर्पिः सर्पिषां, गोक्षीरं क्षीराणां, तिलतैलं स्थावरजातानां स्नेहानां, वराहवसा आनूपमृगवसानां, चुलुकीवसा मत्स्यवसानां, पाकहंसवसा जलचरविहङ्गवसानां, कुक्कुटवसा विष्किरशकुनिवसानां, अजमेदः शाखादमेदसां, शृङ्गवेरं कन्दानां, मृद्वीका फलानां, शर्करेक्षुविकाराणाम्, इति प्रकृत्यैव हिततमानामाहारविकाराणां प्राधान्यतो द्रव्याणि व्याख्यातानि भवन्ति||३८||
अहिततमानप्युपदेक्ष्यामः- यवकाः शूकधान्यानामपथ्यतमत्वेन प्रकृष्टतमा  भवन्ति, माषाः शमीधान्यानां, वर्षानादेयमुदकानाम्, ऊषरं लवणानां, सर्षपशाकं शाकानां, गोमांसं मृगमांसानां, काणकपोतः पक्षिणां, भेको बिलेशयानां, चिलिचिमो मत्स्यानाम्, आविकं सर्पिः सर्पिषाम्, अविक्षीरं क्षीराणां, कुसुम्भस्नेहः स्थावरस्नेहानां, महिषवसा आनूपमृगवसानां, कुम्भीरवसा मत्स्यवसानां, काकमद्गुवसा जलचरविहङ्गवसानां, चटकवसा विष्किरशुकनिवसानां, हस्तिमेदः शाखादमेदसां, निकुचं फलानाम्, आलुकं कन्दानां, फाणितमिक्षुविकाराणाम्, इति प्रकृत्यैवाहिततमानामाहारविकाराणां प्रकृष्टतमानि द्रव्याणि व्याख्यातानि भवन्ति; (इति) हिताहितावयवो व्याख्यात आहारविकाराणाम्||३९||
शरीरं धार्यते नित्यमागारमिव धारणैः||५२|
त्रय उपस्तम्भा इति- आहारः, स्वप्नो, ब्रह्मचर्यमिति; एभिस्त्रिभिर्युक्तियुक्तैरुपस्तब्धमुपस्तम्भैः शरीरं बलवर्णोपचयोपचितमनुवर्तते यावदायुःसंस्कारात् संस्कारमहितमनुपसेवमानस्य  , य इहैवोपदेक्ष्यते||३५||
Acharya Vagbhata in Ashtanga hrudayam explains the right time to have food. It is recommended that one should have food when he experiences following signs in body.
- When bodily wastes like stools and urine have been passed out of body
- Belching that might occur is clear and there is no regurgitation with it
- When person has good appetite and desire to eat
- When there is unobstructed flow of vata
- Body feels light
Bhojan kala in daily routine/ dinacharya
Dinacharya refers to the ideal daily regime of the person which can maintain his health and wellness. The daily routine explained by Ayurveda scholars includes diet as an integral part of it. The right time of having food is mentioned after having explained all the cleansing process right up to the bath. Thus most importantly food is to be taken only after the wastes generated from previous day's metabolism are removed, body is cleansed and good appetite is observed.
Panchakarmas after ahara
Dhumapana- A.H.S.21.6- Madhyaam dhooma
Intrauterine growth of fetus dependent on mothers ahara
तदेवं गर्भस्य सम्पत्तिमभिधाय यथा तस्य कुक्षौ वृद्धिः स्यात्तथा वक्ति----बीजात्मकैर्महाभूतैः सूक्ष्मैः सत्वानुगैश्च सः|
मातुश्चाहाररसजैः क्रमात्कुक्षौ विवर्द्धते||२|| A.H.Sha.1.2
Role of ahara in causing diseases and imbalance in dosh-dhatu
आहारश्च विहारश्च यः स्याद्दोषगुणैः समः|
धातुभिर्विगुणो यश्च स्रोतसां स प्रदूषकः||४४|| A.H.Sha3.44
भवन्त्येते मनुष्याणां विकारा य उदाहृताः||२३||
तेषामिच्छन्ननुत्पत्तिं सेवेत मतिमान् सदा|
हितान्येवाशितादीनि न स्युस्तज्जास्तथाऽऽमयाः||२४|| Cha.Su.28.23-24
आहारसम्भवं वस्तु रोगाश्चाहारसम्भवाः|
हिताहितविशेषाच्च विशेषः सुखदुःखयोः||४५|| Cha.Su 28.45
भौमाप्याग्नेयवायव्याः पञ्चोष्माणः सनाभसाः|
पञ्चाहारगुणान्स्वान् स्वान् पार्थिवादीन् पचन्त्यनु||५९||
पञ्चभूतात्मके देहे ह्याहारः पाञ्चभौतिकः |
विपक्वः पञ्चधा सम्यग्गुणान् स्वानभिवर्धयेत् ||५२६|| (Su.Su.46.526)
Effect or function of ahara in management of diseases
अनया चोक्त्या आहारः शरीरगतानां भावानां समानगुणानां गुणद्वारेण वर्द्धनहेतुः,विपरीत गुणानां च क्षयहेतुः इति प्रतिपादयति ----
यथास्वं ते च पुष्णन्ति पक्वा भूतगुणान् पृथक्|
पार्थिवाः पार्थिवानेव शेषाः शेषांश्च देहगान्||६०|| A.H.SHA.3.60
Ahara parinaman kala
Ahara parinaman kala means
इदानीं परिणतिकालमाहारस्य निरुपयन्नाह
मासेन याति शुक्रत्वमन्नं पाकक्रमादिभिः|६६|
Role of Ahara in balam
Yuktikrut bala by ahara- A.H.SHA.3.78
त्रिविधं बलमिति- सहजं, कालजं, युक्तिकृतं च|
सहजं यच्छरीरसत्त्वयोः प्राकृतं, कालकृतमृतुविभागजं वयःकृतं च, युक्तिकृतं पुनस्तद्यदाहारचेष्टायोगजम्||३६||
Ahara as one of the balavruddhikara bhava
बलवृद्धिकरास्त्विमे भावा भवन्ति|
तद्यथा- बलवत्पुरुषे देशे जन्म बलवत्पुरुषे काले च, सुखश्च कालयोगः, बीजक्षेत्रगुणसम्पच्च, आहारसम्पच्च, शरीरसम्पच्च, सात्म्यसम्पच्च, सत्त्वसम्पच्च, स्वभावसंसिद्धिश्च, यौवनं च, कर्म च, संहर्षश्चेति||१३|| (Cha.Sha. 6.13)
Function or role of ahara in sharira vruddhi
कृत्स्नं शरीरमहरहस्तर्पयति वर्धयति धारयति  यापयति (Su.Su.14.3)
प्राणिनां पुनर्मूलमाहारो बलवर्णौजसां च, स षट्सु रसेष्वायत्तः, रसाः पुनर्द्रव्याश्रयिणः,’ द्रव्यरसगुणवीर्यविपाकनिमित्ते च क्षयवृद्धी दोषाणां साम्यं च, ब्रह्मादेरपि च लोकस्याहारः स्थित्युत्पत्तिविनाशहेतुः, आहारादेवाभिवृद्धिर्बलमारोग्यं वर्णेन्द्रियप्रसादश्च, तथा ह्याहारवैषम्यादस्वास्थ्यं…. Su.Su. 46.3
आहारः प्रीणनः सद्यो बलकृद्देहधारकः ||६८||
आयुस्तेजःसमुत्साहस्मृत्योजोग्निविवर्धनः |६९| Su.Chi.24.68-69
देहवृत्तौ यथाऽऽहारस्तथा स्वप्नः सुखो मतः|
स्वप्नाहारसमुत्थे च स्थौल्यकार्श्ये विशेषतः||५१|| Cha.Su 21.51
हिताहारोपयोग एक एव पुरुषवृद्धिकरो भवति, अहिताहारोपयोगः पुनर्व्याधिनिमित्तमिति  ||३१||
यदाहारजातमग्निवेश! समांश्चैव शरीरधातून् प्रकृतौ स्थापयति विषमांश्च समीकरोतीत्येतद्धितं विद्धि, विपरीतं त्वहितमिति; इत्येतद्धिताहितलक्षणमनपवादं भवति||३३|| 25.34
Ahara as one of the Shariravruddhikara bhavas
कार्त्स्न्येन शरीरवृद्धिकरास्त्विमे  भावा भवन्ति; तद्यथा- कालयोगः, स्वभावसंसिद्धिः, आहारसौष्ठवम्, अविघातश्चेति||१२|| (Cha.Sha 6.12)
Factors affecting effect of Ahara on body
हिताहितानामाहारजातानां लक्षणमनपवादमभिजानीमहे; हितसमाख्यातानामाहारजातानामहितसमाख्यातानां च मात्राकालक्रियाभूमिदेहदोषपुरुषावस्थान्तरेषु विपरीतकारित्वमुपलभामह इति||३२||
हिताहारोपयोग एक एवेत्यवधारणेनास्य  प्राधान्यं दर्शयति नान्यप्रतिषेधम्, आचारस्य स्वप्नादेस्तथा शब्दादीनामपि कारणत्वेनोक्तत्वात्| व्याधिनिमित्तमिति व्याध्यभिवृद्धिनिमित्तं मध्यपदलोपाज्ज्ञेयम्, अभिवृद्धिकारणस्यैव पृष्टत्वात्; तथाऽहिताहारस्य यद्व्याधिनिमित्तत्वं, तस्य ‘तेषामेव विपद्व्याधीन् विविधान् समुदीरयेत्’ इत्यनेनैवोक्तत्वात्| किंवा व्याधिनिमित्तशब्देन सामान्येन जनको वर्धकश्च हेतुरुच्यते| अनपवादमिति अव्यभिचारि| हिताहिताहारदुर्ज्ञानताहेतुमाह- हितसमाख्यातानामित्यादि| विपरीतकारित्वमिति पथ्यस्यापथ्यत्वं तथा अपथ्यस्य पथ्यत्वं मात्रादिवशाद्भवति| तत्र पथ्या रक्तशाल्यादयोऽतिमात्रा हीनमात्रा वा मात्रादोषादपथ्या भवन्ति| तथा कालवशात्त एव रक्तशाल्यादयो लघुत्वाद्बलवदग्नीनां हेमन्ते न हिताः; कालशब्देन चेह नित्यग एव कालो गृह्यते, आवस्थिकस्य पुरषावस्थाशब्देन गृहीतत्वात्| क्रिया तु संस्करणं, तेन च रक्तशालिरसम्यक्स्विन्नाप्रस्रुतत्वादिना ओदनदोषेणाहितो भवति, तथा स एव भूमिसम्बन्धादानूपदेशजः सन्नपथ्यो भवति| तथा देहापेक्षया मेदस्विनो रक्तशालिर्लघुतया न हितो भवति, तदुक्तं- “गुरु चातर्पणं चेष्टं स्थूलानां कर्शनं प्रति” (सू. २१) इति| तथा स एव दोषे वायावहितः, दोषशब्देन व्याधिरपि ग्रहीतव्यः| तथा- पुरुषस्य बाल्यावस्थायां श्लेष्मप्रधानायां तिक्तादि पथ्यं, तत्तु वार्धक्ये वृद्धवाते न पथ्यम्| अवस्थान्तरशब्दश्च मात्रादिभिः प्रत्येकं सम्बध्यते| एवमहितस्यापि मात्रादिपरिग्रहेण हितत्वमुन्नेतव्यम्||३०-३२||
Prakruti and ahara matra
Kapha- alpa- A.H.SHA.3.101
Pitta- Prabhuta ashana pana , dandashuka Cha vi. 8.97
Vata- Laghu ahara Cha vi 8.98
एवं च कृत्वाऽन्नमया एव देहे सर्वे भावाः|
परीक्ष्य हितमश्नीयाद्देहो ह्याहारसम्भवः||४१|| Cha.Su. 28.41
Role of ahara in agni strength
दीप्तो यथैव स्थाणुश्च बाह्योऽग्निः सारदारुभिः|
सस्नेहैर्जायते तद्वदाहारैः कोष्ठगोऽनलः||७९|| A.H.Chi.10.79
Aharavidhi vishesha ayatana
आहारस्य विधावष्टौ विशेषा हेतुसञ्ज्ञकाः|
शुभाशुभसमुत्पत्तौ तान् परीक्ष्य प्रयोजयेत्||४२|| cha.su 28.42
Ahara phala souththava hetu
न च केवलं मात्रावत्त्वादेवाहारस्य कृत्स्नमाहारफलसौष्ठवमवाप्तुं शक्यं, प्रकृत्यादीनामष्टानामाहारविधिविशेषायतनानां प्रविभक्तफलत्वात्||४||
8 aharavidhi vishesha ayatanani
Ashta Ahara vidhi vishesha ayatanani
Ahara is the chief source of nourishment for sustenance of life. It provides the strength , energy, and nutrition necessary for smooth functioning of entire body-mind system. However, all these benefits from ahara can be obtained when it is consumed in a specific manner. According to Ayurveda, How we eat is equally important as What we eat. The method of eating has significant impact on the final outcome of consuming a specific food. Therefore, Ayurveda also gives significant importance to the methods of eating which can be considered as the basic dietetic rules.
There are few factors which need to be considered before taking the food in order to obtain maximum benefits from the food that is being consumed. There are 8 such factors and those are collectively known as Ashta Ahara vidhi visheshayatanani in Ayurveda.
तत्र खल्विमान्यष्टावाहारविधिविशेषायतनानि भवन्ति; तद्यथा- प्रकृतिकरणसंयोगराशिदेशकालोपयोगसंस्थोपयोक्त्रष्टमानि (भवन्ति) ॥ (Char. Samh. 1.21)
The meaning of the term ‘Ashta Ahara vidhi visheshayatanani’
Th can be split into 5 parts as below
- Ashta- Means number 8
- Ahara- Food
- Vidhi- Method or manner
- Vishesha- Specific effect i.e. beneficial or harmful
- Ayatanani- Seat/ grounds/ responsible factors
Collectively it can be understood as ‘the method of eating food based on 8 specific grounds’
Therefore, in order to understand or select the right way to consume food for any person, it is necessary to consider these 8 factors. When food is taken considering these factors, one can get all desired benefits from right chosen food without getting any untoward effects. Prakriti, Karana, Samyoga, Rashi, Desha, Kala, Upayoga-samstha and Upyokta are these 8 factors.
8 factors to be considered while taking food are as below
- Prakriti- Qualitative characteristic of food
- Karana- Processing of food
- Samyoga- Combination/ mixing
- Rashi- The Quantity
- Desha- Habitat
- Kala- Time & Seasonal variation
- Upayoga-Samstha- Classical Ayurvedic Rules of eating
- Upayokta -The person who takes the food/ User
The right way to eat any food presented in front of you should be decided after considering these 8 factors to get best possible benefits from it.
This includes points like the quantity to be consumed, accompaniments to be chosen while taking that food, time to eat that food etc. This provides guideline for healthy eating practices. It is believed that, food consumed after considering these factors and implementing these rules provides all benefits and does not become the cause for ailments. On the other hand, food can be the cause for multiples diseases when it is consumed without considering these factors.
Aharavidhi in Ayurveda refers to the code of eating food. It includes guidelines on eating food for getting best results from food that is consumed. These guidelines are advantageous for healthy as well as sick individuals. These should be followed even if the best suitable food is to be consumed which is supposed to give favorable outcomes. The basic guidelines are given below,
- Eat when fresh and hot
- Eat unctuous food (food articles that lack unctuousness or fats are prohibited)
- Eat in appropriate quantity
- Consume food when the previous food is digested
- Take the food which is not contradictory in veerya (potency and thermal energy) i.e fulfilling basic needs of the body
- Eat at right place (in terms of hygiene, environment, availability etc)
- Eat when all necessary accessories for eating are available
- Do not eat at a very fast pace or very slowly
- While eating one should try not to talk and laugh
- Concentrate on food while eating and pay due regard to oneself
Quantity of ahara to be eaten at a time
Ayurveda acharyas give guidelines for deciding right quantity or portion of food that is being consumed. This has been described on the basis of physical form of food and the space available within imaginary partitions inside the stomach. If we consider that the stomach is divided into 3 parts then, for solid food and liquids one compartment each is to be utilized while a sufficient space i.e. one third space is to be kept vacant for movement of doshas which participate in the process of digestion. Moral of the entire consideration is that one should not over-stuff the stomach with food. solids and liquids both should be taken in balanced proportion and at the same time some part of your stomach should be kept empty to facilitate easy digestion.
How do I understand I have eaten in right quantity?
Ayurveda acharyas have given some simple clues to understand whether the person has eaten in right quantity. Since every individuals capacity to eat is different and it varies based on multiple factors, the hints to understand right quantity for everyone are based on symptoms the person experiences and not in weight or any measures. According to Acharya Charaka, the person has eaten the food in right quantity when it,
- Does not cause undue pressure on stomach
- Does not cause obstruction in the proper functioning of the circulatory system
- Does not exert any pressure on the sides of the chest
- Does not leave a feeling of excessive heaviness in the abdomen,
- Pacifies the sense organs and energizes them
- Pacifies hunger and quenches thirst
- Does not result in difficulty in performing activities such as standing, sitting, walking, exhaling, inhaling, laughing, and talking
- Appears to be easy to digest when taken in the morning and evening hours.
Such a quantity of food helps in enhancing strength and complexion, gets absorbed better and nourishes the body.
Anupana is the exclusive concept from pharmacology and dietetics in Ayurveda. The term anupana refers to adjuvant or vehicle or carrier or a drug/food. It is usually a liquid which is given just after or along with some drug/food. Ahara anupana thus refers to the adjuvant of a food article which is deliberately introduced in order to get maximum benefits from that food and reduce its unwanted effects on one's health.
In charaka Samhita, the right anupana of ahara is said to be opposite in properties of that food but at the same time it should not be opposite (incompatible) to the dhatus. Such anupana is believed to increase energy levels, provide nourishment and strength in body on taking that food. It helps in proper digestion and transformation of that food in one's body so that one can get maximum benefits from it.  Subsequently it helps to fulfill the nutritional requirements of the body through the particular diet.
अनुपानं हितं युक्तं तर्पयत्याशु मानवम्|
सुखं पचति चाहारमायुषे च बलाय च||३२६||
Meaning: The right anupana of ahara energizes the person. It helps in smooth digestion of the food and ultimately increases strength and longevity.
Few examples of aharanupana are given in the classical literature. Selection of these anupanas are based on the properties of that food, the health condition or desired health effect for that person etc. For vata dominant conditions and food, anupana that is snigdha (unctuous) and ushna (hot) in properties is chosen. Various types of fermented preparations made from herbs can prove to be good choice of anupana. However this is to be started under the guidance a qualified Vaidya in order to avoid untoward side effects.
Ayurveda believes that, Bala (Strength) and Ayu (longevity) of a person are dependent on one's ahara. Therefore assessing one's food (intake) capacity could be a good criterion to assess one's strength and longevity as well. Thus, assessment of this parameter is one part of clinical examination of a patient which a Ayurveda practitioner performs. It is believed that, not just the food intake capacity but also the capacity to digest the consumed food is also equally important to get rough idea of one's strength and longevity. Ayurveda gives high importance to the digestion and transformation of ingested food and therefore is is considered as the integral part of examination of a patient.
Metal for vessel to store specific aharadravyas
Ayurveda gives keen attention to not just the food and methods to consume it but also to the method of serving it and storing it. It is believed that all these factors contribute in the final effect of the food that is being consumed. It is known that, material of the container in which the food is served and stored affects the quality of the food. In Sushruta Samhita, one can find the guidelines on the selection of vessel for storage of a specific type of a food recipe. For example ghee (clarified butter of cow milk) is advised to be stored in a vessel made up of black iron while rice gruel is to be stored in a vessel of silver. It is said that when these food articles are stored and served in such specific metal's vessel they give add-on health benefits. 
|Sr No||Food Articles||Material/type of the vessel|
|1||Ghrutam (Ghee)||Black iron|
|2||Peya (Rice gruel), Liquids, Juices/Soups||Silver|
|3||Fruits and other solid foods||Plant leaves|
|4||Dried and marinated food||Gold|
|5||Spicy, Salty, Sour||Stone|
|7||Alcohol, Sour/fermented drinks||Clay/Mud, Glass|
|8||Raga, Shadava, Sattaka (Traditional sour preparations-)||Vaidurya (types of a precious stone)|
Arrangement of food stuffs in a plate
In most of the cultures across Bharata, traditionally the food is served in a plate in a specific manner. There exists a sequence and specific place in in a plate for a specific food article. The roots of this type of serving food are found to be in the classical treatises on Ayurveda. In Sushruta Samhita, the arrangement of food articles in a plate has been clearly mentioned. This description on food arrangement also throws light on the variety of food articles on ancient Bharatiya's plate, traditional balanced diet and probabaly a secret to good health from ancient wisdom. According to Ayurveda the food should be arranged and served in the following manner.
On a clean, presentable, big size plate,
- Soup/Dal, curry, rice, broth should be placed at the front end of plate
- Solid food should be placed at the front place near soups
- Fruits, vegetables, meat is to be served on the right hand side of the person on a plate
- Other liquids, pickles, gruels should be served on the left hand side on the plate
- Sweets, confectioneries should be served in the middle on the plate.
In this way the food articles should be arranged and served on plate.
गुरूणामर्धसौहित्यं लघूनां तृप्तिरिष्यते |
द्रवोत्तरो द्रवश्चापि न मात्रागुरुरिष्यते ||४९५|| Su.Su.46/495
आहारमात्रा पुनरग्निबलापेक्षिणी||३|| (Cha.Su. 5.3)
Factors that affect proper digestion of food
अत्यम्बुपानाद्विषमाशनाद्वा सन्धारणात् स्वप्नविपर्ययाच्च |
कालेऽपि सात्म्यं लघु चापि भुक्तमन्नं न पाकं भजते नरस्य ||५००||
ईर्ष्याभयक्रोधपरिक्षतेन लुब्धेन शुग्दैन्यनिपीडितेन |
प्रद्वेषयुक्तेन च सेव्यमानमन्नं न सम्यक् परिणाममेति ||५०१||
Ahara parinamana refers to the digestion of food and its transformation into rasa dhatu which then further provides nutrition to entire body. If the digestion and transformation of food is not proper, the undigested form of food in the rasa dhatu can cause multiple diseases. Aharaparinamkara Bhavas are the factors responsible for transformation of food into bio-available nutrients which are capable of building and repairing body tissues. These factors are responsible for proper digestion of food so that most of the nutrients from that food required by body are absorbed and utilized. If function of any one of these factors is disturbed, the food undergoing the process of digestion is not processed well and instead of fulfilling the nutritional requirements of body, the improperly digested food becomes the cause for multiple ailments. Therefore Ayurveda lays high importance on well regulated functioning of all these food transforming factors to achieve health and well-being.
आहारपरिणामकरास्त्विमे भावा भवन्ति| तद्यथा- ऊष्मा, वायुः, क्लेदः, स्नेहः, कालः, समयोगश्चेति ||१४|| (Cha.Sha.6.14)
Meaning: Factors responsible for transformation of the food are, Ushma (Heat), Vayu (Air), Kleda (Moisture), Sneha (oiliness or lubrication), Kala (time) and Samayoga (appropriate combination of all these factors for every individual).
Ushma means heat is responsible for digestion, Vayu helps move the food forward in digestive system, kleda helps in loosening the bulk of food, sneha softens the food consumed, kala is required to complete this process and produce the desirable outcome from it, samayoga means appropriate combination of these factors helps to establish equilibrium in the formed Dhatus.
Significance of proper digestion of food to obtain good health, strength and long life
परिणमतस्त्वाहारस्य  गुणाः शरीरगुणभावमापद्यन्ते यथास्वमविरुद्धाः; विरुद्धाश्च विहन्युर्विहताश्च विरोधिभिः शरीरम्||१६|| (cha.Sha.6.16)
शरीरगुणाः  पुनर्द्विविधाः सङ्ग्रहेण- मलभूताः, प्रसादभूताश्च|
तत्र मलभूतास्ते ये शरीरस्याबाधकराः स्युः| cha sha 6.17
Ahara sara and mala
विण्मूत्रमाहारमलः सारः प्रागीरितो रसः |५२८| S.u.su. 46.528
Ahara as medicine
Cha. Su. 11.54
युक्तिव्यपाश्रयं- पुनराहारौषधद्रव्याणां योजना,
Ahara as the only only medicine to regain strength after recovery from diseases
भेषजक्षपिते पथ्यमाहारैरेव बृंहणम्|
अभ्यङ्गोत्सादनैः स्नानैर्निरूहैः सानुवासनैः|
तथा स लभते शर्म युज्यते चायुषा चिरम्||२३|| Cha.Su. 16.22-23
Can someone suffer from disease if
न च केवलं हिताहारोपयोगादेव सर्वव्याधिभयमतिक्रान्तं भवति, सन्ति ह्यृतेऽप्यहिताहारोपयोगादन्या रोगप्रकृतयः, तद्यथा- कालविपर्ययः, प्रज्ञापराधः, शब्दस्पर्शरूपरसगन्धाश्चासात्म्या इति|
Specific recipes in specific diseases
Shirororogas- Ghrutapura, sanyawa S.u.Ut.26
आहारश्च विधातव्यो वातपित्तविनाशनः ||३७||
मधुमस्तकसंयावघृतपूरैश्च भोजनम् |३८|
मधुमस्तकाः रवजुकाः, संयावः कण्डकघृतैश्चातुर्जातककर्पूरसुगन्धः लप्सिकेति लोके, घृतपूरः ‘घेवर’ इति प्रसिद्धः||३६-३७||
मुद्गान्मसुरांश्चणकान् कुलत्थान् समकुष्ठकान् ||१५०||
आहारकाले यूषार्थं ज्वरिताय प्रदापयेत् |१५१| Su.Ut.39
- Charaka Samhita (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 27 Sutras 349-51)
- Available from charakasamhitaonline.com
- Charaka Samhita (Chikitsasthanam Adhyaya 24 Sutram 59-60)
- Available from charakasamhitaonline.com
- Ashtanga Hrudayam (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 3 Sutra 2)
- Commentary of Arundatta On Ashtanaga Hrudayam (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 3 Sutram 57)
- Ashtanga Hrudayam (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 4 Sutram 36)
- Sushruta Samhita (Chikitsasthanam Adhyaya 24 Sutram 98)
- Dalhana Commentary On Sushruta Samhita (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 14 Sutram 3)
- Charaka Samhita (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 5 Sutram 5)
- Charaka Samhita (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 25 Sutra 36)
- Charaka Samhita (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 25 Sutram 40)
- Ashtanga Hrudayam (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 5, 6)
- Charaka Samhita (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 26 Sutras 6-7)
- Ashtanga Hrudayam (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 8 Sutram 55)
- Charaka Samhita (Vimanasthanam Adhyaya 1 Sutram 21)
- Charaka Samhita (Vimanasthanam Adhyaya 1 Sutram 24)
- Charaka Samhita (Vimanasthanam Adhyaya 2 Sutram 3)
- Charaka Samhita (Vimanasthanam Adhyaya 2 Sutram 6)
- Charaka Samhita (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 27 Sutra 319-26)
- Charaka Samhita (Vimanasthanam Adhyaya 8 Sutra 94)
- Charaka Samhita (Vimanasthanam Adhyaya 8 sutra 120)
- Sushruta Samhita (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 46 Sutras 449-457)