Dravya (द्रव्यम्)

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Dravya is literally defined as an object, substance or matter. In Ayurveda, dravya is one of the shad padarthas (dravya, guna, karma, samanya, vishesha, samavaya). Padarthas refer to the entities that exist in the universe and knowledge of which is belived to be the stepping stone to follow pathway which can lead to ultimate knowledge of oneself and universe. Dravya is the first padartha in order and represents matter or one that exists indepently in the universe. It doesn't rely on any other entity for its existence rather other entities are dependent on it for manifestation. Therefore generally dravya is considered to be a object or matter. Vaisheshika darshana has discussed about dravya as a padartha similar to Ayurveda. In Ayurveda and Vaishehsika darshana 9 types of dravyas are discussed.

Definition of dravya

       यत्राश्रिताः कर्मगुणाः कारणं समवायि यत्|

         तद्द्रव्यं || (char.sutr.1.51)

Dravya is that entity which shelters karma and guna. Karma and guna resides in dravya with samavaya karana meaning in perpetual coherence. Guna or karma cannot exist independently without dravya.

द्रव्यलक्षणं तु ‘क्रियागुणवत् समवायिकारणम्’ इति ||३||(sush.sutr.40.3)

Acc to (rasa.vai.1.166)

Dravya is that entity which consist of rasa, guna, veerya, vipaka, karma.

These five altogether form dravya.


Dravya word is derived from

न० द्रोर्विकारः द्रोरिति यत् “द्रव्यञ्च भव्ये” पा० निपा० । (Vachaspatyam)[1]

“Dru + gatho”

Where dru means origin

Gatho means movement

9 types of Dravyas

Ayurveda and Vaishehsika darshana have enlisted 9 types of dravyas as below.

खादीन्यात्मा मनः कालो दिशश्च द्रव्यसङ्ग्रहः|

सेन्द्रियं चेतनं द्रव्यं, निरिन्द्रियमचेतनम्||cha.su.1.48

Meaning: Panchamahabhutas (5 fundamental elements), Atman (soul or life energy), Kala (Time), Manas (mind) and Disha (orientation in space) are types of drvayas (existing in the universe). Depending upon the presence of indriyas (sensory and motor organs which decide the level of interaction of being with the universe) the drvayas are categorized into Chetana (sentinent) or Sendriya (with indriyas) and Achetana (Insentinent) or Nirindriya (Without indriyas) types.

All the dravyas listed above have exclusive features. They play major part in formation of any matter or energy existing in the universe. Although Atman (life energy), manas (mind), kala (time) and Disha (orientation in space) can not be shown explicitly to others, those are perceivable to every living being. They fulfill the criteria to be called as dravyas since they exist independently and are responsible for certain activities ocurring in the universe. The brief account on each dravya is given below. For reading in depth kindly click the links to separate pages of every dravya.

Panchamahabhuta(akasha, vayu, teja, jala, pruthvi)



Atman is that which is described at the deepest level of one's existence. Upanishads state that the inmost core of every person is not the body, nor the mind, nor the ego, but Atman (referred to as Soul or Self). Atman is the adhyatmik essence in all creatures, their real innermost essential being.

Different upanishads portray different aspects of the Atma that

  • Atma is unchanged and independent of body (Sharira); only it manifests itself more and more through these bodies.
  • It is distinct from the sense organs, manas and Prana (vital force)
  • It has no origin, because it is immaterial and thus beyond space, time and causation under which everything material exists.
  • It is indestructible, outlives the body and plays a chief role in punarjanma (reincarnation)
  • It goes after death to different worlds, high and low, and according to its past work and knowledge may return to this world
  • Its limitations are only for a particular time (until it is under the spell of Avidya as per the Advaita Vedantins)
  • It is said to have three states having attributes - waking (in which it experiences the outside world), dream (it experiences the inner world of mind) and deep sleep (a blissful state)
  • It is in reality ominipotent, onmipresent in the fourth state (turiya) when it is described as essentially identical with the Brahman (the unmanifested)

For more insights in to the topic Atman please refer page Atman



Disha or dig

meaning a direction, locality, geographical area.

According to vachaspatyam, dik means to show, indicate. Deasha and dik are from same root of word, where desha means, place or locality.

प्राच्यादिव्यवहारहेतुर्दिक्। सा चैका विभ्वी नित्या च (tarka samgraha)

Meaning, dravyas which are responsible for providing knowledge of dik/disha or directions. It is nitya(constant) and vibhu (omnipotent).

Gunas of dik

तस्यास्तु गुणाः संख्यापरिमाणपृथक्त्वसंयोगविभागाः कालवदेते सिद्धाः ।(prashastapada)

पूर्वेण दक्षिणेन पश्चिमेनोत्त्त्तरेण पूर्वदक्षिणेन दक्षिणापरेण अपरोत्तरेण उत्तरपूर्वेण चाधस्तादुपरिष्टाच्चेति दश प्रत्यया यतो भवन्ति सा दिगिति,अन्यनिमित्तासम्भवात् ।

Purva(east) Paschim(west), uttar(north) , Dakshin(south)

पूर्वेण दक्षिणेन पश्चिमेनोत्त्त्तरेण पूर्वदक्षिणेन दक्षिणापरेण अपरोत्तरेण उत्तरपूर्वेण चाधस्तादुपरिष्टाच्चेति दश प्रत्यया यतो भवन्ति सा दिगिति,अन्यनिमित्तासम्भवात् ।(prashtapadam)

Other meanings of the term dravya

१ पित्तले २ वित्ते ३ पृथिव्यादिषु नवसु । ४ विलेपने न०

५ भेषजे ६ द्रुमविकारे ७ तत्सम्बन्धिनि च त्रि० मेदि० ।

८ जतुनि ९ विनये न० हेम० । १० मद्ये न० राजनि० ।

Dravya as a synonym for medicine or drug

Dravya also is one of the important aspects of chikitsa chatushpada (four components of treatment), which are the important four pillars of any treatment protocol.

भिषग्द्रव्याण्युपस्थाता रोगी पादचतुष्टयम्| गुणवत् कारणं ज्ञेयं विकारव्युपशान्तये|| (char.sutr.9.3)

Which are, bhishak- physician, dravya which is aushadhi dravya (medicine), upasthata – attendant, rogi is patient. These four aspects in their best state are responsible for the treatment of disease.


नामानि क्वचिदिह रूढितः भावात् देश्योक्त्या क्वचन च लाञ्छनोपमाभ्याम् |

वीर्येण क्वचिदितराह्वयादिदेशात् द्रव्याणां ध्रुवमिति सप्तधोदितानि ||१३||

(raj Nighantu. 1.13)

The nomenclature or naming of dravya is based on seven factors as follows,

Rudhi – conventional basis

Prabhava – based on special effect

Deshayukta – based on place

Lanchan – having characteristic mark

Upma- has resemblance or in comparison with other substances

Veerya – based on the potency of that dravya

Iteravhya -  


तत्र पृथिव्यप्तेजोवाय्वाकाशानां समुदायाद्द्रव्याभिनिर्वृत्तिः, उत्कर्षस्त्वभिव्यञ्जको भवति- इदं पार्थिवमिदमाप्यमिदं तैजसमिदं वायव्यमिदमाकाशीयमिति || (sush.sutr. 41)

The existence of every dravya depends on panchamahabhuta (akasha, vaayu, teja, jala, pruthvi). Every dravya expresses itself differently based on the predominance of mahabhuta in it.



Vyavasthitavta – dravya has stability, there is no change in the form of dravya, whereas rasa and guna of dravya changes with respect to time, place etc. for example a mango fruit changes its taste and properties from raw to ripe, but the mango as a fruit remains same start till end.

Nitya – dravya is a constant entity. It does not change according to climate, timing, place, whereas properties of a drvya do.

Swajatya awasthanat - each dravya has a particular mahabhuta predominance, which remains constant and thus the nature of a dravya remains constant.

Panchendriya grahanat – dravya is Pradhan or important entity because it can be understood by all the five sensory organs or panch indriyas in compararison with rasa, veerya etc.

Ashrayatva – dravya encompasses guna, karma rasa etc , they cannot be independent.

Aarambha samarthya – whwnever there is treatment to be done, the preparation of medicine starts with identifying the dravya according to their name.

Vikalpa samarthya(ra.vai.1.105)

There are various formulations like kalka(herbal paste), Kashaya( decoction) etc, which are of dravya and not of any other entity.


Based on origin,

तत् पुनस्त्रिविधं प्रोक्तं जङ्गमौद्भिदपार्थिवम् | (ch.su.1.67)

Jangama dravya (animal origin)- the dravyas which are obtained from animals like milk, ghee, gorochan etc

Audbhida dravya (plant origin) – plants or vegetables etc are audbhida dravya,like guduchi, haritiki etc

Parthiva dravya (mineral origin) – naturally occurring inorganic substances like parad (mercury), gandhak(sulphur) etc