Tanmatras

Definition - What does Tanmatras mean?

Tanmatras are the five objects of perception, made up of the five subtle elements. According to this principle, each of the five senses (sound, touch, sight, taste and smell) corresponds with one or more of the five elements (ether, air, fire, water and earth).

Tanmatras is an important concept in both Ayurveda and Hindu philosophy. The word itself stems from two Sanskrit roots; tan, meaning subtle, and matra meaning element. These subtle energies form the way in which the objective, material world is perceived.

Yogapedia explains Tanmatras

According to Sankhya philosophy (a branch of Hindu philosophy), there are twenty-four principles of creation known as tattvas. Tanmatras make up five of these tattvsaas. They can be understood as the subtle root energy of all five elements, from which sensory perception arises.

The five Tanmatras are:

  1. Shabda Tanmatra - ether element, associated with sound
  2. Sparsha Tanmatra - air element, associated with sound and touch
  3. Rupa Tanmatra - fire element, associated with sound, touch and sight
  4. Rasa Tanmatra - water element, associated with sound, touch, sight and taste
  5. Gandha Tanmatra - earth element, associated with sound, touch, sight, taste and smell

Since all matter is made up of each of these subtle energies, Tanmatras are important in Ayurvedic diagnoses and treatment. The dhatu (tissues) of the body are made up of these elements, and the health of our sensory organs therefore depends on a relative balance of Tanmatras.

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