Ayurveda has described an important factor of digestion and metabolism in our body as Agni. The food that we eat is to be digested, absorbed and assimilated, which is an important function for the maintenance of life, and is performed by our digestive fire Agni. In Ayurveda, the term “Agni” is used in the sense of digestion of food, metabolic products, digestion of sense perception.

Agni converts food in the form of energy, which is responsible for all the vital functions of our body. Therefore, Ayurveda considers that our Bodily fire “DehaAgni is the cause of life, complexion, strength, health, nourishment, lusture, ojas (strength), tejas (energy) and prana (life energy).

Acharya Charak has mentioned about the importance of Agni that in absence of Agni, the individual dies, and when the Agni of an individual is sama (balanced) then that person would be considered healthy and would lead a long, happy, healthy life. But, if the Agni of a person is vitiated, the whole metabolism in his body would be imbalanced, resulting in ill health and disease. Hence, Agni is said to be root (mool) of life.

Cell is the functional unit of the body and metabolic processes; division and multiplication are going on in all cells from birth till death.  According to Acharya Charak and Sushrutu, the cells are considered as “dhatu paramanus” (tissue atoms). For these processes to happen, our body needs biological energy constantly without which the survival is impossible. This biological energy is provided by Agni in Ayurveda. Agni, the provided biological energy in the cells of our body is of two types- kinetic and potential

Agni can be summarized in two points

  1. Description of Agni in various Ayurvedic texts.
  2. Physiological function of different types of Agni

My Guru and teacher, Dr. Vasant Lad describes Agni “that ignites the fire”. According to him

A= Awareness

G = Governor

N = Nutrition

I = Intelligence

A is for cellular awareness. Agni maintains cellular awareness, consciousness also called “Chetna”. G is for Governor. Agni governs digestion, absorption, assimilation and transformation of food into Ahara Rasa. Ahara rasa is food precursor of all bodily tissues. N is for Nutrition and Agni governs nutrition of tissues, of organs, of body, mind and consciousness. I is for Cellular Intelligence. According to Ayurvedic texts, Agni has other synonyms like Anala, Kaya, Dehosma, Vaishwanara, Jataveda etc.

In Brahmasutra, Agni is considered to be a sign of life in the body. Great importance of Agni has been given by classical literature. Acharya Yasaka has mentioned the etymology of the term “Agni,” which is as follows: Agni = A + G + Ni. The word “A” denotes root “I,” meaning “to go”; “G” denotes root “daha,” means “to burn” and “Ni” means “to carry.” The etymology given by Yasaka, Shankaracharya illustrates that Agni carries everything in it. It moves everywhere and metamorphoses substances, burns, assimilates, glitters and grows. Agni is a pivot around which the remaining factors responsible for the maintenance of health and causation of disease as well as decay revolve.

Agni as Pitta Dosha

Pitta is one of the three doshas or humors in our body that is responsible for digestion, color, luster, maintenance of heat etc.

Now, the question arises whether Pitta and Agni are same or different?  Different views have been suggested regarding Pitta and Agni by different Acharyas (teachers). Some Acharyas consider Pitta to be Agni while others speak differently.

Agni is radiant heat. Agni gives us memory, lustre, concentration, understanding, appreciation, knowledge, luster of skin, glow of Aura. Pure essence of Agni is “tejas” because pitta is substance which contains the Agni. As many types of pitta are there so many types of Agni are there.

Types of Agnis

Agni is innumerable because of its presence in each and every dhatu paramanu (cell) of the body. But, enumeration of the number of Agnis varies in various classical Ayurvedic texts, as shown below

  • Acharya Charaka has mentioned about 13 AgnisJatharagni – 1, Bhutagni – 5, Dhatvagni – 7
  • According to Acharya Sushruta, five types of Agnis are illustrated, viz. Pachakagni, Ranjakagni, Alochakagni, Sadhakagni and Bhrajakagni. However, there is an indirect reference of five Bhutagnis underlying in the brief description made to the transformation of food stuff.
  • Acharya Vagbhata has described different types Agni –  5 Bhutagnis,  7 Dhatvagnis, 3 Dhoshagni and 3 Malagnis.

Agni has been divided into 13 types according to the function and site of action. These are:

  1. Jatharagni – main Agni present in the stomach and duodenum.
  2. Bhutagni – five Agni from five basic elements.
  3. Dhatwagni – seven Agni present one in each of the seven dhatus.

Accordingly, they are classified into three groups, namely Jatharagni, Bhutagni and Dhatvagni.


Jatharagni is the Agni or bioenergy present in the Jathara (stomach and duodenum). According to Ashtanga HridayaJatharagni, the seat is duodenum (grahani), so called because it withholds the food for a certain time inside the stomach (Amashaya) to facilitate digestion. In the opinion of Dhanvantari, it is the Kala known as “Pittadhara,” situated at the entrance of the intestine (Pakwashaya) and acting as a bolt to the door of the pathway/channel of food. It is responsible for the duration of life, health, ojas (essence of the dhatus), strength of all the elemental agni and tissue agni. The strength of the grahani is from Agni itself, and the strength of Agni is from grahani. When the Agni undergoes vitiation, grahani also gets vitiated and produces diseases.

Jatharagni is considered to be the most important because each and every nutrient that one ingests first comes to the Jathara and is subjected to the action of JatharagniJatharagni digests the food materials that consist of the five basic elements and transforms it for utilization by the respective Dhatus paramanus (tissues).

Jatharagni is also responsible for separation of the food material into the essence portion (sara) and the waste products (kitta) in our body

Jatharagni is directly related to tissue agni (dhatvagni) or bioenergy in the cells and their metabolic processes, with ultimate tissue metabolism or Dhatu-Paka process. All the Dhatvagni depend on the normal, healthy state of Jatharagni. If the Jatharagni is hyperactive (Tikshna) or hypoactive (Manda), it will cause an excessive or retarded action of the Dhatvagni. This disturbed action ultimately leads to various disorders. Jatharagni is the main important Agni that controls the function of all other 12 Agnis. All the Agnis are totally dependent on the status of Jatharagni

Jatharagni is also classified into four categories according to its performance of digestion in the human being namely Irregular metabolic fire (Vishamagni), hyper metabolic fire ( Tikshanagni), hypo metabolic fire (Mandagni )and regular metabolic fire (Samagni).

According to Hareet Samhita, Samagni depends on whether the Doshas (Vata, Pitta, Kapha) are in normal stage. When the Pitta is higher than normal, the condition is known as Tikshnagni. When Vata and Kapha are higher than normal, the condition is known as Mandagni.

  • Samagni: The Samagnidigests and assimilates food properly at the proper time. This thus increases the quality of the Dhatus (supportive tissues of the body). Persons having Samagni are always hale and healthy.
  • Vishamagni: This type of Agnichanges between digesting food quickly and slowly. When this Agni is affected by the Vata Dosha, it creates different types of
  • Tikshnagni: Tikshnagnimeans very quick/very sharp/very fast. Tikshnagni is a state of very quick digestion of food, regardless of the type of food. Acharya Shushrut states that when the power of digestion is increased from normal to above normal, food digests very quickly and produces hunger or the desire for food. When food is digested, the throat, the mouth cavity and the lips become dry with a burning sensation. This condition is known as “Bhasmak Roga” according to Ayurveda.
  • Mandagni:Mand” means slow. The meaning of the Mandagniis slow digestive power or digestive capacity. Those who are having Mandagni eat very little and are unable to digest the smallest amount of food.

Bhutagni (Elemental Fire)

Bhutagni is the one that is present in five basic element (Bhutas). There are five Agnis in each of the five basic elements, namely – Parthiva (earth), Apya (water), Tejas (Agni), Vayavya (Air) and Nabhasa (Ether or Space).

Each and every cell in our body is composed of the five mahabhutas or five basic elements. Naturally, each cell consists of these five Bhutagni also. All the nutrients in this world that we eat also consist of the same five basic elements with their respective Agni or bioenergies. Thus, they are completely similar with respect to the five basic elements with their Bhutagni in our body cells as well in all the outside nutrient, that we ingest for the nutrition of our body. Acharya Charak has mentioned that the five Bhutagni digest their own part of the element present in the food materials. After the digestion of food by the Bhutagni, digested materials containing the elements and qualities similar to each bhutas nourish their own specific bhautika elements of the body. These Bhutagnis act after the Jatharagni present in the stomach and duodenum, acting on the food and causing their disintegration. In the modern physiological perspective, the action of Jatharagni can be equated with the digestion in the stomach and duodenum, and the action of the Bhutagni can be equated with the conversion of digested materials in the liver.

Dhatvagni (Tissue Agni)

All the seven Dhatus (seven element tissues of the body) contain their own Agni to metabolize the nutrient materials supplied to them through their own Srotas.

  1. Rasagni in the Rasa Dhatu (Plasma tissue).
  2. Raktagni in the Rakta Dhatu (blood tissue)
  3. Mamsagni in the Mamsa Dhatu (muslces tissue)
  4. Medagni in the Meda Dhatu (adipose/fat tissue).
  5. Asthyagni in the Asthi Dhatu (bone tissue)
  6. Majjagni in the Majja Dhatu (nerve and bone marrow).
  7. Shukragni and Artavagni in the Shukra/Artava Dhatu (male and female reproductive tissues).

Each Dhatvagni or the bioenergy present in each Dhatu synthesizes and transforms the essential Rasa Dhatu required for that particular Dhatu or cell from the basic nutrients present in the AnnaRasa or essence of the diet that we consume. Each Dhatvagni synthesizes and transforms the constituents suitable to its particular Dhatu. This action is a sort of selective action. Acharya Charaka has mentioned the fact that that the seven dhatus that are a support of the body contain their own Agni, and by their own Agni they digest and transform the materials supplied to them to make the substances alike to them for assimilation and nourishment.


(Charak  Samhita, Chikitsa Sthana- 15/3.)


(Cha. sha.7/17).





(Cha. Chi. 15/39-40).


(Cha. Chi. 15/51),

(Cha. Su. 28/15).

(Cha. Chi. 15/13, 14).