Agni means fire in Samskrita. Agni, the basic essential of life, regulates the creation and destruction of the universe, as well as the anabolism and catabolism of all organisms.
According to Ayurveda, Jatharagni, the digestive fire is responsible for all digestive and metabolic processes in human beings which is unavoidable for the maintenance of life. It is the inevitable agent in the process of digestion and transformation. The food which is ingested is digested, absorbed, and assimilated, which is performed by the Agni and is very much similar to the way food is cooked. The Agni helps to digest the food like how the fire of a stove cooks the food kept on it.
Agni is innumerable as it is present in each and every Paramanu (smallest and indivisible particle of matter) of the body. According to its sight and function, Agni is classified into 13 types, i.e. one Jatharagni (digestive fire which is responsible for the digestion of the food), 5 Bhootagni (which helps in the transformation of the five mahabhootas), 7 Dhatvagni (the Agni present in the Dhatus or body tissues and which is responsible for the transformation of the body tissues). Jatharagni is the most important one and is situated in the Jathara or upper part of the stomach. It digests the food and transforms it into food essence and waste or excreta. If Jatharagni is vitiated, it disturbs all the other Agni in the body as all the other Agni is dependent on the Jatharagni. The five Bhootagnis act on the respective Bhoota proportion of the food and nourish the Pancha bhootas in the body. The seven Dhatvagni act on the respective dhatu (body tissues) and transform into the next dhatu.
Jatharagni or Digestive fire is classified into four categories according to its quality which in turn depends on the dosha which is predominant, as Samagni, Vishamagni, Tikshanagni, and Mandagni.
- Samagni (due to balance of all three doshas): It digests food properly at the proper time.
- Vishamagni: (due to predominance of vata dosha): The person with this type of Agni has erratic digestion and appetite, sometimes digestion happens quickly and sometimes slowly.
- Tikshnagni: (due to predominance of pitta dosha) - Regardless of the type of food, it digests food very quickly.
- Mandagni: (due to predominance of kapha dosha)-“Manda” which means slow. Even less quantity of food will take a longer time for digestion.
Unwholesome food and lifestyle lead to an imbalance in the physiology of Agni which in turn leads to the formation of Ama (undigested food) which is the main reason for many diseases. Agni is responsible for every function in the body and hence it is to be preserved and protected.
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