In Vedic philosophy the ‘Panchatatva (पञ्चतत्त्व) represents the five essentials or the five elements from which life evolves, ‘pancha’ (पञ्च) which means ‘five’ and ‘tatva’ (तत्व) which is Sanskrit for ‘truth’, ‘element’ or ‘essence’. 

The five basic elements which comprise the universe are ‘Prithvi’ (पृथ्वी) that is Sanskrit for ‘earth’, ‘Apas'(आपस्) which is water, ‘Tejas'(तेजस्) which means light, Maruta (मरुत) that is wind, and Aakaash (आकाश) that is sky, space and the heavens above. The first four elements are material, the fifth element is cosmic and spiritual and has the highest place in Vedic thought. 

In western philosophy the four known elements were, earth, fire, water and air. The fifth element was added by Aristotle, he called it ‘ether’. However, ether, the cosmic & spiritual element which is deeply entwined in the Vedic philosophy never found the same position in western thought which is more entrenched in the material or the physical.

The word ‘quintessence’ first occurs in European languages in the 16th century as Latin ‘quinta’  i.e “fifth” + essentia that is ‘essence’. This is a loan translation of Greek ‘pempte ousia’ that Aristotle brought in from eastern thought.  The word ‘quintessence’ came to mean ‘the pure and concentrated essence of a substance.”

Click here to listen to the Panchtatva Stuti from the Vedas.


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