Go Beyond the Dosha: a Trayodashi (Thirteen-fold) Constitutional System - Ayurveda | Everyday Ayurveda

Go Beyond the Dosha: a Trayodashi (Thirteen-fold) Constitutional System

By on January 4, 2016

The three biological doshas (literally: defects), often described as humors and used in the system of Ayurveda, are dual combinations of the great elements: Vata (ether and air), Pitta (fire and water) and Kapha (water and earth).

Such don’t always provide refinement relative to the Prakriti or nature of deha (bodily) constitution, as specific elements can be variable in different people according to their strengths, as also combinations that cannot always be expressed by the dual-elemental theory of the doshas.

Some systems, like Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), however, employ five elements: Metal, Wood, Fire, Water and Earth. Metal corresponds to Ether (Akasha) of the Ayurvedic elements and Wood to Air (Vayu) in the Ayurvedic system, just as Vata, Pitta and Kapha connect at a more cosmic level in their forms as Prana (life-force), Tejas (radiance and light) and Ojas (vitality) to the TCM concepts of Qi (Vata / Prana), Yang (Pitta / Tejas)  and Yin (Kapha / Ojas) respectively.

While expressing the dual-elemental (dosha) system, Ayurveda agrees that man himself is nothing but the expression of the five elements (Sushruta, Sutrasthana, I.22).

Fine-Tuning of the Prakriti

However, Sushruta also further elaborates on other systems of Ayurveda that relate the different Prakriti types as arising from the pancha-mahabhutas – one each from  Pavana (air), Dahana (fire), Toya (water Prithivi (earth) with a large and stable or strong body and Nabha (ether) of a clean and long-life (Sushruta, Sharira, IV.80), providing a fundamental key here to using the system of five elements, as opposed to doshas alone.

Thus, as a result of the Pancha-Mahabhuta type said to be used by some practitioners at the time of Sushrutacharya, I began using this (five-fold) system to fine-tune people, in addition to the dual-elemental type of the doshas, creating amy own special Trayodashi or thirteen-fold system of Prakriti according to various elemental attributes in the person.

Naturally, this goes beyond the scope of the three-dosha model and provides a new system of examination, based on the clues of (now lost) older systems mentioned by Sushruta.

Some forms of Ayurveda such as Ayurvedic Jyotisha or astrology also have specific models to fine-tune people, according to planetary and rashi (star-sign) types and complex combinations, that also move beyond the basic dosha-model. This system I present here is yet another expansion to type people, using more specifics, while less complicated than astrological systems of Ayurveda.

To understand the basics, we need to look at the basic properties (or gunas) of the mahabhutas (great elements) themselves.

Basic Properties of the Elements

Akasha (Ether or Space)

Ether is sukshma (subtle), vishada (non-slimy), laghu (light), and relates to shabda (sound).

Such people are hollow, spaced-out and very light or light-headed. They are sensitive to sounds, which can irritate them (or can suffer from acute tinnitus etc.). Their mentalities can be detached.

Vayu (Air)

Air is ruksha (dry), vishada (non-slimy), laghu (light), and relates to sparsha (touch).

They are sensitive to touch and tactile sensations, bruise easily, hurt easily and may not like to be touched. They are very mobile people, often hyperactive, very dry and light in nature or subtle in movements, like the wind. They can be non-emotional in nature or with a “dry” personality.

Agni (Fire)

Fire is ruksha (dry), tikshna (sharp), ushna (hot), vishada (non-slimy), sukshma (subtle), and relates to rupa (sight / form).

They can be sensitive to bright lights and hues or sight and can even be driven by sights, hence prone to lust. They have good skin-tone, hue or lustre, good circulation and are great at tapas, great transformers of society and other types. When Agni is higher in a person, such traits come out, as also anger passion and drive in excess.

Ap (Water)

Water is drava (liquid), shita (cold), guru (heavy), snigdha (unctuous), manda (dull), sandra (thick), and relates to rasa (taste).

They are sensitive to tastes and can become addicted, thus adding to their watery nature and retention. Such people have good damp skin, sweat a lot, good joint lubrication and stamina as also memories. Watery natures however can make them somewhat emotional in nature (like Cancer and Pisces). Large tongues are noticeable in such people.

Parthiva (Earth)

Earth is guru (heavy), sthula (dense / well manifested), sthira (stable), and relates to gandha (smell)

Such people are sensitive to smells, by which they can become addicted to foods (tastes) and add to their dense natures.

Such types have heavier bodies, good stability and ojas as also endurance and good growth of tissues (often abundant, being more the final element as “well-manifested”). When earth is good in people, abundant hairs and such are notable, as also noses.

Thirteen (Trayodashi) Prakriti Types

The main thirteen types are as follows:

  1. Akasha (Ethereal)
  2. Vayu (Airy)
  3. Akasha-Vayu type (Vata type – Ether + Air)
  4. Agni (Firey)
  5. Akasha-Vayu-Agni (Vata+ Firey-)
  6. Jala (Watery)
  7. Agni-Jala type (Pitta – Fire + Water)
  8. Akasha-Vayu + Agni-Jala type (Vata-Pitta type– Ether+Air & Fire +Water)
  9. Prithivi (Earthy)
  10. 10. Jala-Prithivi (Kapha– Water + Earth)
  11. Agni-Jala + Jala-Prithivi  (Pitta-Kapha – Fire+Water & Water+Earth)
  12. Akasha-Vayu + Jala-Prithivi type (Vata-Kapha – Ether+Air & Water+Earth)
  13. Panchamahabhuta (Five Elemental) (Vata-Pitta-Kapha orTridosha , combining all five elements)

Various sub-combinations also exist within in this complex system.

Additional combinations can be seen relative to adding an element to basic doshic (dual-elemental) types.

As an example, a Vata-Ap (Vata + water) type, in which ether (thus, sensitive to sound) and air (thus, sensitive to touch) exist, primarily a Vata person, but with the secondary nature of ap (watery nature), which holds and retains water, or an anabolic Vata-type.

Such types don’t neatly fit into the proper cycles of the dosha models and hence, would be Vata [65%], Ap [35%] – here noting the dual nature of the primary Prakriti-dosha, but not the dual nature of Kapha completely – only water.

In this way, all of the above can combine with each-other and even dual types can combine with natural (primal) elements also.

Some of these are expressed in combinations of elements of rasa (taste) in Ayurveda already, such as Katu (Pungent), composed of Air and Fire; Kashaya (Astringent), composed of Wind and Earth and finally Amla (Sour), composed of Earth and Fire.

In such a manner again, the dosha-model doesn’t do justice for the mainstream, where percentages are required as per the elements and this model above provides an additional refinement to the basic Prakriti model of assessment of one’s birth-constitution.

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About Durgadas

Durgadas (Rodney) Lingham is a Yoga and Ayurveda Teacher, Ayurvedic Practitioner, Veda Kovid and author of over twenty books on Ayurveda, Yoga and other Vedic sciences and director of the Academy of Traditional Ayurveda and Arogya Ayurvedic Health Ltd in New Zealand. He comes from a traditional Vedic lineage deriving from Northern India and is a student of Acharya David Frawley in Vedic sciences.


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