The tanmatras, the subtle elements, are the objects of the five senses. The five tanmatras are sound, touch, form, taste, and odor or smell; the five senses are hearing, tactile perception, vision, taste, and smell. The tanmatras are the ways in which the objective world is sensed.
The five elements have functional integrity with the five sensory organs, which allows us to perceive the external environment. Their presence is the reason for the existence of the senses themselves.”
“The tanmatras form the Common Ground for the expression of the objective world and the entire world exists on this Ground. Another meaning of tan is mother, and matra also means matter — the mother of matter. The Mother of this whole world is the tanmatras. The tanmatras are in the womb of the Cosmic Mother, Prakruti.
It is this energy that gives rise to the objective five elements. Each element is related primarily to one tanmatra but can contain a portion of the others as well. Ether comes out of shabda tanmatra (sound); Air out of shabda and sparsha tanmatras (sound and touch); Fire out of shabda, sparsha and rupa tanmatras (sound, touch and sight); Water out of shabda, sparsha, rupa and rasa (sound, touch, sight and taste); and Earth out of shabda, sparsha, rupa, rasa and gandha (sound, touch, form, taste and odor).”