The great five elements originate from pancha tanmatra. “Tanmatra” is a word in Sanskrit meaning “subtle essence.” These tanmatras incarnate to form the great five elements. Each one of them is a combination of all the tanmatras but shows a predominance of one. The tanmatras are sound (shabda), touch (sparsha), vision (roopa), taste (rasa), and smell (gnadha). Each tanmatra is related to a sense organ.
In Ayurveda, it is said that the components and functioning of nature are similar to the components of the body and its functions. The Pancha Mahabhuta theory states that everything in the physical creation is composed of these five elements. The first element that comes into existence is ether (akash), the most expansive and least concrete of all. The next element derived is air (vayu), then comes fire (agni), water (jala), and earth (prithvi).