The Alimentary System, Anna Vaha Srotas
Charaka mentions the oesophagus (vamaparshwa anna nalika) and stomach (amashaya) as the mula, the chief organs of this channel system, srotas.
Begining with the mouth (asya) till its terminal, the anus (guda), it is a continuous tube of irregular shape and size. Hence it is also called mahasrotas (big canal).
The organs under this group can be classified as follows:
Anatomy, Rachana Sharira
The mouth (asya) is the first gateway of the big canal, mahasrotas.
It has two lips (osthas), one above and the other below acting as doors, protecting the food from falling out. Osthas are composed of mamsa and medo dhatus, their inner surface is lined with mucous membrane, sleshmasravi kala and their outer surface being a think layer of skin (twak).
There are 32 teeth (danta), in two rows of 16 each. One row is attached to the maxilla (kapolasthi or gandasthi), forming the upper jaw, and the other row is attached to the mandible (hanu-asthi), forming the lower jaw. All the teeth are firmly embeddded in sockets (danta-ulukhala), held on either side by a pad of mamsa (dantavestha).
Teeth (dantas) appear like bone (asthi dhatu), are hard and so are helpful for functions such as cutting, tearing and grinding of food (charvana).
The tongue (jihwa) is composed of mamsa dhatu, placed on the floor of the mouth with its front portion free. It is capable of all types of movement inside the mouth and can even be brought out of the mouth a little. Embedded inside it, are the taste perceptors, rasanendriya. At the back of the jiwah are two slightly raised nodules on either side of the central line, the papillae of the tongue.
The roof of the mouth is the palate (talu). The front part of it is hard, hence it is called the hard palate (kathina talu), while its hind part is soft because of the presence of a pad of mamsa, hence it is called the soft palate (mrdu talu). From the centre of the soft palate (mrdu talu), hangs a small piece of mamsa, like the trunk of an elephant (sunda), the uvula, (gala sundi).
On either side of the throat (gala) are lymphatic glands (lasika granthis), the size of a bead seed, called the tonsils (gilayuka).
The cavity of the mouth (asyaguha) is covered all over with a thin sheet of mucous membrane (sleshma sravi kala) and so is always kept moist.
The epiglottis (adhijihwika) is made up of cartilage (tarunasthi). It is situated just above the larynx (swarayantra) and acts effectively as a lid over the trachea (swasanalika) during the swallowing of food.
The oesophagus (annanalika) starts at the level of the sixth cervical vertebra (griva kasheruka) and ends by joining with the stomach (jathara). It is placed at the back of the trachea (swasanalika) and can be divided into three parts. The first part of about 3” in the neck (grivabhanga), the second part of about7-8” in thechest (urobhanga) and the third part of about 2.5-3” lying in the abdomen (udarabhanga). It is the tube composed of two layers, the outer layer is of longitudinal mamsa kala and the inner one of horizontal mamsa kala and it is a mucous membrane (slesmasravi kala). At its lower portion it pierces through the diaphragm (mahaprachira) and joins the stomach (jathara).
The diaphragm (maha prachira) is a thick sheet of muscle (mamsa pesi) and ligament (snayu) which separates the chest (uras) from the abdomen (udara). It resembles the hood of a serpent, with its convexity towards the chest and concavity towards the abdomen. Under its concavity lie the liver (yakrt) on the right side, stomach (jathara)and spleen (pliha) on the left side. It moves up and down in relation to respiration (swasana).
The stomach (jathara/urdhwa amasaya) is a big bulge of the big canal (mahasrota), forming a bag for the statis of food. Hence it is called a hollow organ (saguha-avayava). It is similar in structure with the oseophagus (annanalika), outer layer of mamsa and snayu which is moderately thick, and the inner layer of mucous membrane (sleshma-sravi kala), arranged in longitudinal folds. It is situated on the left side of the upper abdomen and extends towards the centre and also downwards. Behind it is the spleen (pliha) and inbetween these two, lies the pancreas (taila vartika).
At both the ends of this organ (stomach, jathara) there is a ring of circular ligament (sushira snayu), which, by its action, can close the passage; hence it is called a sphincter (argala or mudrika). The upper sphincter (mudrika) is designated as the cardiac sphincter (hardika dwara mudrika) as it is nearer to the heart and the lower sphincter (mudrika) is called the pyloric sphincter (grahanidwara mudrika), which marks the beginning of the deodenum (grahani).
The deodenum (grahani) is the continuation of the stomach (urdhwa amasaya), extending for about 12”. It is also the first part of the small intestine (ksudrantra). The pyloric sphincter at its beginning being a powerful one, withholds the food for about 2.5 to 3 hours, to remain in the stomach (urdhwa amasaya), and then allows it to pass slowly.
To be continued
Shanti Gowans is the globally recognised author and founder of Shanti Yoga™, Meditation and Ayurveda for the self, family and community.
Shantiji has brought the concepts and practices of a healthy body and a still mind to thousands of Australians through her Yoga and Meditation programs on national television... Read more about Shantiji's biography
Travel with Shanti & Peter Gowans this November for a trip of a lifetime.