1. EARTH (Prithvi): One can touch earth and smell it too ! However, there are two types of earth one is Eternal or (nitya) which are in the form of atom (Paramanu).The other type is perishable (anitya) which exists in the form of Karya or Work at animate and inanimate levels.
2. WATER or JAL is the second element which again has two characters as in the Earth i.e. eternal in the shape of atom and Karya (Work) be it as river, pond or seas are perishable. As from sea or river water evaporates to be in the sky as cloud then again in the shape of rain it comes down on earth. So the eternal atom is only changing its karya or shape of work and what we see is the perishable form. From the sense organ perspective we can touch it to feel and taste it as well.
In Bhagavad-Gita Lord Krishna makes clear that He Himself is behind the mystery of water:
"...I am the taste of water..." BG. 5.8
"...of bodies of water I am the ocean..." BG. 10.24
"...of flowing rivers I am the Ganges..." BG. 10.31
Although we learned at school water is, "comprised of just 2 atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen bonded together", thinkers write articles like The Mystery, Art, and Science of Water - indicating there is a lot more about water we don't know yet.
3. AIR or VAYU is the thrid element. Again it has two levels as earth and water i.e.eternal atom and perishable Karya. One can feel air, as we breath in or out.We feel the storm or strong breeze which are temporary but air at atomic level remains around us eternally. In the Purana there is a mention of 49 types of Maruts or winds.Seven are important namely 1. Pravaha 2 Avaha; 3,Udvaha 4. Samvaha; 5 Vivaha; 6 Parvaha and 7.Paravaha. The wind which takes the water from the ocean is called Udvaha.
4. FIRE or AGNI is the fourth element of Indian Panchabhuta. Again it has eternal and perishable elements as we have seen above. The essential character of Fire is to generate heat.According to Hindu Mythology, Agni is one of the Eight guardians who guards our universe and is known as Asta- dik-palakas (Asta-eight, dik--Zone,Palaka-Guardian). The Fire is posited in the South East of the Universe.
5. SPACE :
Then comes the last of the Panchabhuta or five elements which is Space or sound or ether.
Aristotle defines space as - A container of things- a sort of succession of all- inclusive envelopes, from what is ‘within the limits of the sky’ to the very smallest, rather like Russian dolls. "Space is, therefore, of necessity, a hollow, limited externally and filled up internally." There is no empty space everything has its position, its location, its plane.
Our Vedic Insight provides a beautiful hypothesis of relationship of (time) Kala and Space. This leads to basic principle of creation, i.e., sculpture, architecture, music, etc. Space is the ultimate substance, which is filled with minutest particles called Paramanu (nucleus). Every paramanu is a minute space possessing energy. It is absolute or abstraction of all visual and aural phenomena of the universe or the ultimate form. The space is luminous, as the particles are always emitting light. This is called foetus or germ, the basic material for the emergence of subtle forms in the micro as well as macro spaces.
The effective force of the space is called Kala, the absolute Time. This happens to be the intrinsic property of space. This is contained in all animate objects of nature. What is actually experienced by the space is vibrated into a form within. This space is sensitive enough to order these vibrations into rhythms and to evolve itself into the desired forms—rhythmically structured & aesthetically alluring. This is its unique quality.Ether is unique as it has only one character i.e. eternal. Ether is the carrier of sound be it man made or otherwise. One can hear it. As ether is the only eternal element of the five elements.