Module on “Classification of Ahara Dravya in Brihat-Trayee” By – Dr. Binay Sen



Dr. Binay Sen,

Assistant Professor, Department of Dravyaguna,

Faculty of Ayurveda, IMS, BHU



  • Introduction
  • Dravya in Ayurveda
  • Necessity of classification
  • Classification of Dravya
  • Classification of Āhāra dravya
  • Sub-classification of Āhāra dravya
  • Scope of future expansion
  • Discussion & Conclusion



In vedic period, the classification of dravya (substances used as diet and medicine) is not prominently found. In Samhitā period, many references are found in this regard. Morphological and pharmacological (on the basis of properties and action) classification are clearly mentioned in brihat-trayee (Charaka Samhitā, Sushruta Samhitā & Ashtānga Hridaya/ Ashtānga Samgraha). It is observed that, in brihat-trayee, dravya in general, and of aushadha (medicine) and āhāra/ anna (diet/food) in specific sense are classified in different context. Thus, it could be suggested that the classification of dravya is applicable for both the aushadha and āhāra dravya or inter se. It is justified with the fact that in Bheshaja chatushka (Charaka Samhitā, Sutrasthāna, chapter 1-4), Charaka classified dravya in general, whereas in Annapāna chatushka (Charaka Samhitā, Sutrasthāna, chapter 25-28), the dietetic substances are described, included lavana, kshāra, taila etc in āharayogi varga, which are also used as medicine. Thus, it is important to know about the dravya in brief to understand the different aspects of classification in the present context.

Definition of Dravya-

  • Dravya is derived from the verb ‘dru-gatau’, means movement or attainment in this context.
  • When applied in forms of medicine, it causes kshaya-decrease/vriddhi-increase of doshas or attainment of health (sthāna/sāmya-homoeostasis) when used as diet.
  • The form of dravya is anna (diets) & aushadha (medicine). A substance could either be used as diet or medicine, or sometimes both. For an example, ‘māsha’ is being used as pulse in dietetics but when it is processed with oil (mahāmāsha taila), it becomes a medicine.
  • It is the substratum of properties and action, inherent cause of its action. Adravya is also considered within dravya as their properties and actions are well explained in pānchabhautika sharira.

Definition of Āhāra-

That is taken to provide nourishment is called āhāra. It is also known as anna


Food is the best among life sustaining factors!


It would not be an exaggeration of fact that dravya pervades into all branches of Ayurveda, being one of the chikitsā-pāda (limb of treatment), is also considered one among the Trisutra (hetu,linga & aushadha) Ayurveda. Thus, considering the universal application, Charaka has coined the definition of Ayurveda on dravya itself, that which deals with the dravya (life promoting and/or otherwise) along with their properties and actions is called as Ayurveda.


  • Innumerable substances in the universe thus need to arrange in group.
  • To study the morphological characters, properties and actions.
  • Systematic distribution for easy understanding and scientific study.
  • For easy referencing and cataloguing.
  • To avoid repetition.


Basic classification

In ‘Bheshaja Chatushka’ and ‘Annapana Chatushka’, many basic classification of dravya is found.

  • According to causality: Kārana/causal (9 basic substances) & Kārya dravya/ effectual substances (innumerable) (Ck, CS.Su.1/48).
  • According to consciousness: Chetana (animate) & Achetana (inanimate) dravya (CS.Su.1/48).
  • According to Bhautika composition: Pārthiva, Āpya, Āgneya, Vāyavya & Ākashātmaka (CS.Su.26/11).
  • According to Source (03): Audbhida/ Sthāvara (pants origin), Jāngama (animal) & Bhauma/Pārthiva (metals & minerals) (CS.Su.1/68-71; SS.Su.1/28-32)
  • Acc to Rasa Vikalpa (permutation & combination): 63 (CS.Su.26/14)
  • According to use: Aushadha & Āhāra (Ck, CS.Su.2/17, Su. 25/36-39)
  • Acc to context (Adhikarana): Āyushya & Anāyushya (CS.Su.30/23)
  • Acc to Yoga (Rational Administration): Visha & Bheshaja (CS.Su.1/126)

Pharmacological classification-

  • Acc to Effect :
    • Dosha-prashamana/Shamana (pacifying): It is again subclassified as Vata-prashamana, Pitta-prashamana & Kapha-prashamana (CS.Su.1/67, SS.Su.39/7,8,9). Eg. Āmalaki, Haritaki.
    • Dhātu-pradushana/Kopana (Aggravating): subclassified into Vata-kopana, Pitta- kopana & Kapha- kopana (CS.Su.1/67, SS.Su.21/19,21,23). Eg. Visha, Yavaka, Mandaka, Māsha, Dadhi.
    • Svasthavrittau matam/Swasthahita (Maintaining homeostasis) (CS.Su.1/67, Ck, CS.Su.1/67AH.Su.1/16): Rakta-shāli (CS.Su.25/38), Rasāyana (CS.Ci.1).

Note: Svasthavrittakar dravyas maintain the homeostasis by not aggravating or diminishing the dhātus and exerting wholesome effect on channels carrying Rasa etc. (CK, CS.Su.1/67, Su.25/33).eg. Lohita shāli, Mudga, Rasāyana & Vājikarana dravya.


Spiritual Classification-

Mana & Ātmā are considered as adhyātma dravya (CS.Su.8/13). In this context, adhyātma guna can be considered as 11 in numbers (05 Mano-artha, 06 Atma guna). Mana and ātmā are also being included in Kārana dravya.


Classification of Audbhida Dravya (substances of plant origin):

  • Acc to Morphology : 04 types;
  1. Vanaspati: Trees with hypanthodium type of inflorescence; eg. Vata, Plaksha, Udumbara.
  2. Vānaspatya/Vriksha: Trees with manifested florescence; eg. Āmra, Jambu.
  3. Virudha/Pratāna : Gulma (shrubs) and latā (climbers/creepers); eg. Vidāri, Shālaparni.
  4. Oshadhi: It could be subdivided into two category on the basis of commentators interpretation, as
  • Phalapākāntā/phalanishthā (dies after fruit ripen, eg. Shāli, Tila, Mudga).
  • Pākāntā/ pākanishthā (dies after completely matured, eg. Durvā, Chhatraka- all herbaceous plants) (CS.Su.1/71-72, SS.Su.1/29; Ck.CS.Su.1/68-73, Dal. SS.Su.1/29).
  • Acc to Āshraya (useful parts) :
  • 07 types (fruits, leaves, roots, tubers, flowers, exudates & barks) Shiro-virechaniya dravyas (CS.Vi.8/151).
  • Root: Sapta Panchamoola (CS.Ci.1-1/42-44, SS.Su.38/66-75, AS.Su.12/33-34, AH.Su.6/167-71), 16 Moolini dravya (Su.1/77-80)
  • Fruit: 19 Phalini dravya (CS.Su.1/80-83), Triphalā (SS.Su.38/56).
  • Pancha-valkala (CS.Ci.30/62).
  • Shadshodhana vriksha (Kshira-3, Twak-3; CS.Su.1/114-119).


Classification of Jāngama Dravya (animal origin)

  • Basic classification
  • Jarāyuja (viviparous)-human, cow
  • Andaja (Oviparous)-birds, snakes
  • Svedaja (emerging from sweat)-worms, insects
  • Udbhijja (hibernatory)- frog, indragopa (excessively red colored worms-Dalhana) (SS.Su.1/30)
  • Acc to use
  • Ashta-mootra (CS.Su.1/92, SS.Su.45/217),
  • Ksheerashtaka (CS.Su.1/105-6, SS.Su.45/47)
  • Māmsa-varga (Su.27/35-87, SS.Su.46/53)
  • Madhu (Su.27/243, SS.Su.45/132)
  • Gorasa (Su.27/217-224): dadhi, takra, ghrita varga (SS.Su.45/65, 84, 96)


Classification of Pārthiva Dravya (inorganic substances/ metals & minerals):

  • No basic classification is observed
  • Pancha-loha (Rajata, Tāmra, Trapu, Sheesa & Krishnaloha: Ck.CS.Su.1/70)
  • Pancha-lavana: (CS.Su.1/88-89)
  • Trapyādi gana (SS.Su.38/62) 

Mixed classification:

This is considered on the basis of plant, animal or inorganic substances appeared in a group.

  • Chaturvidha/ Mahāna sneha: Taila (plant), ghreeta, vasā and majjā (animal) (CS.Su.1/86-87, AH.Su.16/4). Similarly, Yamaka & Trivrita sneha (CS.Su.2/31, AH.Su.16/4).
  • Ushakādi gana: except hingu all are inorganic origin (SS.Su.38/37).



The above classifications are applicable to dravya (both āhāra and aushadha) in general. Here, those are specific to āhara dravya are mentioned.

Morphological classification-

Charaka has classified āhara-dravya into 12 groups, Sushruta and Vāgbhata have classified it into two major categories as dravadravya and annadravya with further sub-classification of each into 10/5 and 11/7 sub-group respectively. The name of the group is self explanatory of morphological (shukadhānya-awn bearing cereals, shamidhānya-legume/pods bearing etc) or structural (ambu, taila-liquid, māmsa-solid etc.) dimension. Another aspect of such classification could be explained on the basis of nutritional components (shukadhānya-carbohydrates, shamidhānya, mamsa varga-proteins etc).

According to Charaka: 12 varga (Su.27/6-7)

Sl No Varga Sl No Varga
1 Shukadhānya 7 Madya
2 Shamidhānya 8 Ambu
3 Māmsa 9 Gorasa
4 Shāka 10 Ikshuvikāra
5 Phala 11 Kritānna
6 Harita 12 Ahārayogi


According to Sushruta: 21 Varga (Su.45,46)

Sl No Dravadravya (10) Sl No Annadravya (13)
1 Jala 1 Shāli
2 Ksheera 2 Kudhānya
3 Dadhi 3 Māmsa
4 Takra 4 Shāka
5 Ghreeta 5 Phala
6 Taila 6 Pushpa
7 Madhu 7 Kanda
8 Ikshu 8 Lavana
9 Madya 9 Kritānna
10 Mootra 10 Bhakshya
11 Anupāna


According to Vāgbhata: 12 Varga (AH.Su.5/84, 6/172)

Sl No Dravadravya (5) Sl No Annadravya (7)
1 Jala 1 Shukadhānya
2 Ksheera 2 Shimbidhānya
3 Ikshu 3 Kritānna
4 Taila 4 Māmsa
5 Madya 5 Shāka
6 Phala
7 Aushadha



  • Acc to source: Sthāvara & Jāngama.
  • Acc to effect: Hita (wholesome) & Ahita (unwholesome).
  • Acc to way of intake : 4 Types; Pāna/Peeta (drinks), Ashana/Ashita (eatables), Bhakshya/Khādita (chewables) & Lehya/Leedha (lickables).
  • Acc to taste : 6 types; Madhura etc.
  • Acc to property: 20 types (Guru, laghu etc).
  • Innumerable: According to abundance in dravyas, their combination & preparations (CS.Su.25/36, 38-39; SS.Su.46/3, 1/28, 20/5, 8).

Some groups are further sub-classified on the basis of origin, habit & habitat (māmsa, madhu), season of harvesting (shukadhanya) etc. Few examples are;

  • Shukadhānya/Shāli: Shāli, Shashtika & Vreehi varga (indirect reference is available in Charaka & Sushruta Samhita).
  • Kudhānya (Inferior/ coarse grain cereals): Kudhānya, Mudgādi/ Vaidala & Māshādi varga (pulses) (SS.Su.46/20-52).
  • Māmsa (8-CS.Su.27/56; 6 &2, Jāngala-8, Anupa-5-SS.Su.46/53).
  • Lavana- Kshāra (SS.Su.46/322), Suvarnadi dhātu (Su.46/326), Muktadi ratna (Su.46/329).
  • Madhu (4-CS.Su.27/243; 8-SS.Su.46/133).
  • Mootra (8-CS.Su.1/92).



(Chakrapani, CS.Su.25/36)

Ahāra dravya are innumerable owing to abundance in shukadhānyadi substances, their mutual combinations & processing. Some varga can be sub-grouped on the basis of useful parts, guna (properties) and karma (action) as evident with the indirect reference of such classification in the classics. Therefore each group can be sub-classified in many ways. For illustration;

  • Shāka varga: The part used of leafy vegetables. The indirect reference is available in Charaka & Sushruta Samhita along with in commentaries (CS.Su.27/98-113 & Chakrapani, SS.Su.46/211 & Dalhana). Eg.
  • Parta shāka (supyashaka, phanji, chilli, vāstuka, dronapushpi)
  • Pushpa shāka (Shana, shālmali, karbudāra, agasta)
  • Phala shāka (kushmānda, alābu)
  • Aluka shāka (mānakanda, āluka, mulaka, grinjana).


  • Phala varga: Phala: on the basis of guna (properties) & karma (action) (indirect reference is available in Sushruta Samhitā).
  • Amlarasa-Ushna veerya: Badara, Kola etc (SS.Su.46/139-40)
  • Kashāyamadhura-Sheeta veerya: Jambu, phalgu etc (SS.Su.46/164)


  • Kritānna/ Pakkānna varga: Dietetic preparation

(Ck, CS.Su.27/250-256)

  • Āhārayogi varga:

Due to variation in food amusement among individual, there are unlimited substances in āhārayogi, thus which are not mentioned like rasona, pulp of mango can be incorporated (CS.Su.27/308).

  • Māmsa varga


(Ck, CS.Su.27/50-52)

It is advocated that unmentioned and uncommon species should be known from the experts & the inhabitants of those region. Hence it opens many fold classification of māmsa varga.


Groups Nutritional aspects
Shukadhānya, Shālyādi, Kudhānya, Ikshu, Madhu Carbohydrates
Shami/Shimbidhānya Proteins
Māmsa Proteins, essential amino acids  & omega-3& 6 fatty acids
Ghreeta, Taila, Gorasa Fats, essential amino acids & omega-3& 6 fatty acids
Shāka, Phala (including seeds) Vitamins, fibres, minerals, omega-3& 6 fatty acids
Jala/Ambu Water & minerals
Kritānna Stimulant & Digestive preparation used particularly in pathya/ samsarjana karma
Āhārayogi Food preservatives & additives with nutritional and medicinal values.



(The wise should use wholesome diet after proper examination, because the body and disease are said to be the product of food and the wholesome diet is responsible for healthy life and unwholesome for distress.)

  • Balanced food: Sarvagraha (total quantity), Parigraha (fractional quantity), Hita, Ayushya & Shadrasa (having all the rasa).
  • Prakriti wise diet classification.
  • Ritu wise diet classification.
  • Desha wise diet classification (6 region specific diets for pregnant women-ICMR-NIN, Hyderabad).


(The people mostly have diet habit according to their inhabitant.)

  • Avasthā-vishesha diet classification (for Garbhini, bāla & vriddha).



Charaka has classified āhara-dravya into 12 groups, Sushruta into 21 & Vagbhata into 12. Classification of ahara dravya is mainly based on application for maintaining health. Morphological classification is mostly observed for āhāra dravya, eg. shukadhānya (awn bearing cereals), shamidhānya (pods/ legume bearing pulses) etc. Kritānna & Ahārayogi are the preparatory classification. The items of Kritānna varga are innumerable as they are prepared by processing & combination of substances from Shukadhānya etc (Ck, CS.Su.27/250-56). Similarly the number of substances used and their classification of Ahārayogi (food additives and preservatives) are innumerable due to variety of taste, addition, combination, and unlimited processing with substances (Ck, CS.Su.27/308). In fact, the number of substances among dhanya (cereals), māmsa (meat & fish), phala (fruit), shāka (vegetables), kanda (tubers), etc are innumerable; therefore should be described/ classified on the basis of rasa and other features/ properties (SS.Su.46/331 & Dalhana).  Mootra, dhātu and ratna are mostly used as medicine though included in dravadravya and annadravya by Sushrata. Phala, Shāka, Harita, Gorasa, Kshāra, Lavana are used as both diet & medicine. Kshāra varga is unique to Sushruta, but Charaka and Vāgbhata referred ‘Sarva-kshāra’ (CS.Su.27/306; AH.Su.6/151) without naming much more substances. Kshāra is also referred under audbhida dravya (useful part) in Charaka (Su.1/73-74). Since the classification of dravya has multi facet approach, newer technique may be adopted for further classification of āhāra dravya in present scenario.

Supplementary Resources


  1. Charaka Samhitā. Available from: (Accessed on 03 March 2021).
  2. Sushruta Samhitā. Available from: (Accessed on 03 March 2021).
  3. Acharya Y T (editor). Charaka Samhitā of Agnivesha with ‘Ayurveda-Dipikā’commentary by Chakrapanidatta, Chaukhamba Surbharati Prakashan, Varanasi, 2000.
  4. Acharya J T & Acharya N R (editors). Sushruta Samhitā of Sushruta with ‘Nibandhasangraha’ commentary by Dalhana, Chaukhamba Surbharati Prakashan, Varanasi, 2003.
  5. Hari Shastri Paradakara, Ashtānga Hridayam of Vāgbhata with commentaries ‘Sarvāngasundarā’ of Arunadatta & ‘Ayurvedarasāyana’ of Hemādri, Reprint Edition 9th, Chaukhamba Orientalia, Varanasi, 2005.
  6. Priya Vrat Sharma (editor & translator). Charaka Samhitā (Text with English Translation), vol.I, Reprint Edition, Chaukhambha Orientalia, Varanasi 2011.
  7. Priya Vrat Sharma (editor & translator). Charaka Samhitā (Critical Notes), vol. III, 6th Edition, Chaukhambha Orientalia, Varanasi 2001.
  8. Priya Vrat Sharma (editor & translator). Sushruta Samhitā (with English translation of texts and Dalhana’s commentary along with critical notes), vol. I, 1st Edition, Chaukhambha Visvabharati, Varanasi 1999.
  9. Satya Deo Dubey and Anugrah Narain Singh, Basic Concepts of Dravyaguna Vijnāna, 1st Edition, Chaukhambha Visvabharati, Varanasi 2014.
  10. V V Prasad (editor), P V Sharma & S R Talmale (author). 2002, Plants and other drugs of Sushruta Samhitā Saptadhyāyi, Rashtriya Ayurveda Vidyapeeth Publication, New Delhi.


  1. In Ayurveda, Dravya includes
  • Substances of plant origin
  • Substances of animal origin
  • Substances of inorganic origin
  • All the above
  1. Number of adhyātma dravya is
  • 2
  • 5
  • 9
  • 11
  1. Example of Oshadhi is
  • Vata
  • Guduchi
  • Tila
  • All the above
  1. Example of Dosha-prashamana dravya
  • Āmalaki
  • Maricha
  • Lavana
  • Kshāra
  1. Example of Dhātu-pradushana dravya
  • Guduchi
  • Visha
  • Haritaki
  • Pippali
  1. Numbers of Shodhana vriksha described by Charaka
  • 3
  • 6
  • 9
  • 18
  1. Example of Udbhijja dravya is
  • Udumbara
  • Indragopa
  • Loha
  • Lavana
  1. The term ‘Pancha-loha’ is mentioned by
  • Chakrapāni
  • Dalhana
  • Indu
  • Arunadutta
  1. Trapyādi gana of Sushruta includes
  • Audbhida dravya
  • Jāngama dravya
  • Pārthiva dravya
  • All the above
  1. Ushakādi gana of Sushruta comprises inorganic substances including
  • Lavana
  • Hingu
  • Kshāra
  • None of the above
  1. According to Charaka total varga of āhāra-dravya is
  • 10
  • 12
  • 13
  • 7
  1. Aushadha varga is included in annadravya by
  • Charaka
  • Sushruta
  • Vāgbhata
  • Kāshyapa
  1. Ksheera, dadhi, takra and ghreeta varga are mentioned by
  • Charaka
  • Sushruta
  • Vāgbhata
  • Kāshyapa
  1. Ahārayogi varga is found in
  • Charaka Samhitā
  • Sushruta Samhitā
  • Both a & b
  • Ashtānga Hridaya
  1. Kritānna varga is consisting of dietetic preparation of
  • Shukadhānya etc.
  • Shamidhānya etc.
  • Māmsa etc.
  • Anna etc.

Keys to MCQ

Q.No Answer Reference
1. D CS.Su.1/68-71; SS.Su.1/28-32
2. A CS.Su.8/13
3. C Chakrapāni, CS.Su.1/68-73
4. A Chakrapāni, CS.Su.1.67
5. B Chakrapāni, CS.Su.1.67
6. B CS.Su.1/114-119
7. B Dalhana, SS.Su.1/30
8. A Chakrapāni, CS.Su.1/70
9. C SS.Su.38/62
10. B SS.Su.38/37
11. B CS.Su.27/6-7
12. C AH.Su.6/172
13. B SS.Su.45
14. A CS.Su.27/6-7
15. A Chakrapāni, CS.Su.27/250-256



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