Purana and Itihasa texts convey knowlege in the form of stories. The latter is predominantly based on actual incidents. The Mahabharatha is one of the two well known Itihasa texts. In it we find the the story of the birth of hundred sons of queen Gandhari. Let us consider the incidence on which this story is based in the context of biology literature of today.

Queen Gandhari prematurely and forcefully delivered a hard ball of flesh in place of a hundred sons who were destined to be born as her sons. Sage Vyasa separated the ball of flesh into individual fetuses, each 1-2 inches long. Queen’s servants placed the fetuses in a dark cool place in fluids within individual containers until they matured into offsprings. The queen had carried the fetuses for two years and it took another two more years for them to develop fully.

Multiple births have been increasing since 1970 with the advent of in vitro fertilization (IVF) methods. Pregancies of upto fifteen fetuses have resulted from IVF. But the chances of the survival of all fetuses is extremely poor past six fetuses. Over the years, physicians have developed and refined methods to prevent preterm deliveries. Betamemetics class of drugs are administered to delay preterm deliveries. Ancient medicine men and sages may have known about alternate ways.

The size of a fetus towards the second month, two years in the case of queen Gandhari, of pregnancy is 1-2 inches long. Cartilage is turning into bones by this time. Mahabharatha text describes the lump of flesh (māṁsapeśī) which the queen delivered to be an assembly of hard aṣṭhīla, a word which is formed by asthi+ la, meaning something resembling a bone.

Herbs likely prolonged Gandhari’s pregnancy to allow each of the hundred fetuses to grow properly. We find comprehensive healthcare regiment for pregnant women in Ayurvedic texts. Rishis who wrote texts such as the Garbhopanishad (knowledge about the embryo) surely knew of ways to protect a preterm fetus into full maturity.

tāṁ māṁsapeśīṁ bhagavānsvayameva mahātapāḥ॥ 1-130-6(5773)śītābhiradbhirāsicya bhāgaṁ bhāgamakalpayat।yo yathā kalpito bhāgastaṁta dhātryā tathā nr̥pa॥ 1-130-7(5774)ghr̥tapūrṇeṣu kuṇḍeṣu ekaikaṁ prākṣipattadā।

kauravasyāparijñātaṁ yatnena mahatā svayam।udaraṁ ghātayāmāsa gāndhārī śokamūrchitā॥ 1-129-27(5705)tato jajñe māṁsapeśī lohāṣṭhīleva saṁhatā।dvivarṣasaṁbhr̥tā kukṣau tāmutsraṣṭuṁ pracakrame॥ 1-129-28(5706)

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