Garbhadhana (गर्भाधानम्)

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Garbhadhana (Samskrit: गर्भाधानम्) is classified as the first of the sixteen Samskaras followed by people practicing Sanatana Dharma. The rite through which a man placed his seed in a woman has been called Garbhadhana. Saunaka gives the similar definition though in slightly different words: the rite by the performance of which a woman receives semen scattered (by her husband) is called Garbhalambhanam or Garbhadhana.[1]

One of the prenatal sacraments, this Samskara of impregnation was performed at the time when the couple are mentally and physically fit to take part in the procreative process.[1]

परिचयः ॥ Introduction

Procreation is a natural act. A human pair copulated, whenever there was a physical demand for it, without any anticipation of progeny, though it was a usual consequence. The Garbhadhana Samskara, however, presupposed a well established home, a regular marriage, a desire of possessing children and a religious idea that a benevolent divine cause helped men in begetting children. So the origin of this Samskara belongs to a time when the civilization was far advanced from primitive social conditions.[1] Garbhadhāṇā, the ceremony of conception is not only about encouraging the procreation and keep the cycle of life on earth moving, rather it is about giving the free vent to natural tendency of any beings, to replicate, to reproduce, create family, community and ultimately a niche which could make things a lot easier from the perspective of leading life.[2]

There are many siddhantas involved in the development of an organized society and the role of a family as the fundamental unit of a society. Just like Upanayana is a required Samskara for initiation into education, Vivaha samskara is required as a foundation for the family support system. Begetting children was regarded as a sacred duty binding on every individual and the couple lacking children could not be relieved of their debt to their forefathers. We see that parental instincts found their expression in many Veda mantras containing prayers for being blessed with children. The family having many children was an indicator of their prosperity.[1]

पु॒त्रासो॒ यत्र॑ पि॒तरो॒ भव॑न्ति॒ .... (Rig. Veda. 1.89.9) प्र॒जां च॑ ध॒त्तं द्रवि॑णं च धत्तम् । (Rig.Veda. 8.89.10)

Thus the idea and perhaps a simple ceremony marking that of conception were of importance even during the Vedic times. The ritual procedure adopted in the Garbhadhana must have assumed a fairly ceremonious shape before the codification of the Samskaras in the Grhyasutras.[1]

व्युतपत्तिः ॥ Etymology

Literally it means "implanting an embryo (into wife)". The name suggests the first sexual intercourse of husband and wife. It can be traced to Atharvaveda (5.25) and Bṛhadāraṇyakopaniṣat (6.4.21).

चतुर्थिकर्मा गर्भाधानम् वा ॥ Chaturthikarma or Garbhadhanam

संस्कारस्य नाम ॥ Name

The rite is called Chaturthikarma because it is performed on the fourth day of the marriage. Nearly all Sutrakaras ordain that after marriage the couple should refrain from conjugal intercourse at least for three nights. The following facts could be noted as a help in determining how the samskara came to be called over time.

  1. In the Brh. Up. it is given under the name Putramantha.
  2. In Grhya Sutras Chaturthi-karman and Garbhadhana are two different rites. (They have never used the name Garbhadhana for Chaturthi-karman.)[3]
  3. In the Vaikhanasa Grhyasutra the word Rtusamgamana has been used and another term Kshetra Samskara is mentioned with little clarity in usage.[2]
  4. The Smrtis have used the name Garbhadhana.
    • Manu (II.16) has used the word “Niseka”.
    • Yajnavalkya (II.11) has mentioned the word Garbhadhana.
    • Gautama (VIII.1) has also mentioned the word Garbhadhana.[3]

उपयुक्तकालः ॥ Suitable Time of Performance

It was the boon of Indra to women that they could copulate with their life partner as and when they pleased.

The time prescribed for the rite is mentioned either as the fourth night or more specifically the second part of the fourth night as mentioned in Apastamba grhyasutra - यक्ष्मगृहीतामन्यां वा ब्रह्मचर्ययुक्तः पुष्करसंवर्तमूलैरुत्तरैर्यथालिङ्गमङ्गानि संमृश्य प्रतीचीनं निरस्येत् १० (Apas. Grhy. 3.9.10), or simply as 'after a lapse of three nights' after marriage. After marriage usually after the fourth day of the menstrual cycle of the wife is prescribed for this samskara.[3] Many texts agree that the proper time for conception was from the fourth to the sixteenth night after the monthly course of the wife. While a majority of the Grhyasutras and Smrtis consider the fourth night ceremoniously pure for conception, Gobhila Grhyasutra takes a rational view where it prescribes conception to take place after the stoppage of the flow of the impure blood.[1]

Preference of nights: Only nights were prescribed for conception and day time was prohibited. The reason given for it was that the vital airs of one, who cohabits with his wife in the day time, leap out; one approaching his wife in the night time is still a Brahmachari ; one should avoid coition in the day time, because from it unlucky, weak short-lived children are born. There are exceptions to this rule, however.[1]

Preference of days farther away from menstruation: The Sutras also mention that children conceived later from the fourth night after purificatory bath are regarded meritorious and prosperous. The rationale of this belief was that conception, farther removed from the contact of monthly impurity, was purer and more meritorious.[1]

Gender of the child: The sex of the would-be child was believed to be determined by the "number of night" on which the conception took place. Even nights were selected for the birth of a male child and odd ones for a female child.[1]

Tithis prohibited for conception: Certain tithis of the month were prohibited for, conception. The eighth, the fourteenth, the fifteenth and the thirtieth, and all the Parvans were specially avoided.

पर्ववर्जं व्रजेच्चैनां तद्व्रतो रतिकाम्यया । । ३.४५ । । (Manu. Smrt.3.45)[4]

A twice-born householder observing the above rule was regarded to be ever a Brahmachari. The Vishnupurana stigmatizes these nights and damns the persons, guilty of approaching their wives on those nights, to hell. Manu taboos the ekadashi (eleventh) and the trayodashi (thirteenth) days also. These days were meant for religious observances, and therefore any sexual act was eschewed on them.

तासां आद्याश्चतस्रस्तु निन्दितैकादशी च या । त्रयोदशी च शेषास्तु प्रशस्ता दशरात्रयः । । ३.४७ । (Manu. Smrt.3.47)[4]

But there may be other reasons why these nights were forbidden. The ancient Hindus were well conversant with astrology and astronomy. When they could fix the paths of the sun and the moon, they would have observed that their conjunction on different dates produced different effects on, the earth. It is a common-place knowledge of physical geography that, owing, to the attraction of the moon and increase of the watery substance, the physical condition of the earth becomes abnormal on the Parvan (amavasya and purnima) tithis and consequently the health of the animal world is not sound. So it was thought advisable that such an important act as the Garbhadhana should not, be performed on these tithis.[1]

संस्कारविधिः ॥ Samskara Vidhi

In the Vedic period we find that many mantras have been expressed to contain prayers for begetting children as well as for their wellbeing. Having heroic sons was regarded as a boon from the devatas. The ceremonies were observed to secure the child in the mother's womb. We come across many prayers in the veda-mantras pointing to the act of conception and the development of a child in the womb. One such is a short three mantra Sukta 184 in Mandala 10 of the Rigveda.

विष्णु॒र्योनिं॑ कल्पयतु॒ त्वष्टा॑ रू॒पाणि॑ पिंशतु । आ सि॑ञ्चतु प्र॒जाप॑तिर्धा॒ता गर्भं॑ दधातु ते ॥१॥ (Rig. Veda. 10.184.1)

Let the all-pervading Vishnu prepare the womb; let Tvastra prepare the various parts of the form; let Prajapati sprinkling of the veerya (seed material); O Stree! let Dhata bear the embryo for you.[5]

One reason why the Garbhadhāṇā Saṁskāra is not elaborated in the ancient times, in texts or evident in any other form could be that it was attached to the marriage sacrament and did not function as an independent ceremony. The reference to the garbha will also occur in the Vedanta literature, as is clear from the Brihadaranyaka Upaniṣad. The later texts, as Saṁskāratattva of Raghunathnanda are crucial and reliable in this context as to learn more of this rite. The period of Gṛhyasūtras witnessed development to great extent in philosophy and psychology of the Garbhadhāṇā sacrament. Now the sacraments were recognised for their domestic orientation and they were systematically institutionalised.

Apastamba Grhyasutras declares that wife after the menstrual cycle is over, having taken bath, should invite her husband for cohabitation pronouncing the thirteen mantras categorised as Visnuryonim. And this should not be done just once rather repeated in every cycle[2]

According to Baudhayana Grhyasutra (1.7)[6] the rites of Garbhadhana have the following features.

Since marriage the husband was required to approach the wife in every month, when she was ceremoniously pure after her monthly course. But before the conception, one had to, observe various vows according to the desire of possessing different types of sons-Brahmana, Srotriya (one who has read one Shakha), Anuchana (who has read only the Vedangas), Rsikalpa (who has read the kalpas), Bhruna (who has read the sutras and the Pravachanas), Rsi (who has read the four vedas) and Deva (who is superior to the above).

The timing of the vow differs from each kind of son desired. For example, the couple desiring a Rsikalpa as their son should keep the vow for one month. At the end of the vow, cooked food was offered to the fire.

चतुर्थ्यां स्नातायां निशायामलङ्कृत्य शयने ऽभिमन्त्रयते विष्णुर्योनिं कल्पयतु त्वष्टा रूपाणि पिंशतु ।आसिञ्चतु प्रजापतिर्धाता गर्भं दधातु ते ।३७। (Baud. Grh. Sutr. 1.7.37)[6]

After this, the pair were prepared for cohabitation. When the wife was decently decorated, the husband recited Vedamantras containing similes of natural creation and invocations to devatas (for helping the woman in conception). Then embracing began with mantras containing metaphors of joint action of male and female forces, and the husband uttering the mantras expressing his fertilizing capacity (Baud. Grhy. Sutr. 1.7.42). After embracing, conception proper took place with prayers to the deity Pusan and an indication to scattering semen. The husband, then, touched the heart of the wife, reclining over her right shoulder with the mantra invoking the blessings for leading a long life together.[1]

यत्ते सुसीमे हृदयं दिवि चन्द्रमसि श्रितम् । वेदाहं तन्मां तद्विद्यात्पश्येम शरदः शतं जीवेम शरदः शतं शृणुयाम शरदः शतमिति ९ (Para. Grhy. Sutr. 1.11.9)

Samskara Prayojana

The conception has been discussed in the context of father, forefathers and the descendants, in ancient Indian texts. The first such reference comes from the Ṛgveda, Maṅdala-I, where the blessing of the gods is sought for long life referring to the sons and further their descendants.

पु॒त्रासो॒ यत्र॑ पि॒तरो॒ भव॑न्ति॒ मा नो॑ म॒ध्या री॑रिष॒तायु॒र्गन्तो॑: ॥९॥ (Rig. Veda. 1.189.9)

Now, sons have a peculiar role and characteristics in the Ṛgveda, in particular, and in other Saṁhitās as well, as they inherit not only the wealth of their fathers but the obligations and responsibilities, therefore biggest human assets, from economic point of view. Also, the sons qualify for the sacred duties towards their fathers and forefathers (pitṛ) which qualify men for highest spiritual standards, attaining moksha.

A term mentioned in Ṛgveda (10.142) explains it all; sons are treated as Ṛinachyuta, the one who settles the three great rnas (debts) of an individual. Therefore, the want of such merit could not be ignored by anyone, explaining as to why begetting offspring, especially sons was made a mandatory act.

It has been said in the Gṛhyasūtras that as the individual gains consciousness of the relevance of procreation, he rises above the influences of lust and carnal pleasures, rather his energy is focused on the significant percept of life. Therefore, the authorities suggest, that Garbhadhāṇā should neither be perceived as yet another pursuit of carnal pleasure, nor is it the act of sadism, savagery or brutality imposed upon the opposite sex, hence was it regulated by certain guidelines and regulations.

Various Implications of Garbhadhana Samskara

जीवशास्त्र उपलक्षितविषयाः॥ Biological Implications

Vedas are rightly said to be the treasure trove of knowledge. We find valid pramanas to prove that our ancient literature was replete with various references of biological and scientific processes. For example, the references from Atharvaveda are as follows in the health point of view.[7]

  1. For easy parturition (delivery) (1.11) a prayer to the deity Pushan,
  2. Protection of the foetus from life threatening diseases (2.25), a prayer to Prshniparni, a divine herb.
  3. Promote fertility by creating motherly potential, removing the causes of infertility, bearing brave sons (3.23)
  4. The seed from the male is deposited in the female, prayer to deities Sinivali, and Sarasvati, and Ashvini devatas. Dhata the sustainer of universe, is prayed to sustain, promote and mature the foetus in the womb, the Prajapati for nourishment and energy (5.25 and 6.17).
  5. Conjugal love and role of parents in protecting the womb (6.81).
  6. Medicinal herbs (Baja and Pinga) are prayed to protect the foetus until maturity. A physician is prayed for protection from womb destroying germs and life destroying agents (8.6).
  7. Protection from infections of the female reproductive organs and prevent miscarriage (20.96) using the udumbhara wood.

Some of the texts have perceived the question of Rtusamagama with scientific approach, prescribing the time of performance, which is most appropriate from the fertility point of view. That is the time when women were ovulating and would readily conceive once she receives the male semen. In other scenario, the semen shall have to wait for the ovulation to occur and by that time the health of the sperm could degrade, resulting in the poor consequences directly bearing upon the progeny. It is bit amazing as well that the authorities could acquire the knowledge how the ovulation was important for conceiving the child and when did it actually occur, else why would they specifically point out to the performance of ceremony in her Rtu, the time when she was physically prepared to conceive, the time from fourth to sixteen nights after the monthly menstrual cycle. It is evident from the Gṛhyasūtra texts that the later days were preferred to the earlier ones owing to the high chance and rate of fertility which could ensure the better chances of conception.[2]

सामाजिकशास्त्र उपलक्षितविषयाः॥ Social Implications

The time prescribed for the Garbhadhana samskara shows that the age of the bride used to be fit for intercourse and that she was not of a very tender age, when married. When a girl is married at a tender age, the rites are naturally postponed, till she attains puberty. The development of the custom of child-marriage separated this rite from the marriage ceremony and evolved it into a special rite. Being no longer performed on the fourth day of the marriage, the name Chaturthikarma was thought to be inappropriate and so a more appropriate name, Garbhadhana, came into use. Most of the Sutras have treated this rite as a part of the marriage, and named it as Chaturthikarma, while the name Garbhadhana is first found in Yajnavalkya-Smjti (1.11) and then in Grhya-samgraha (I.2).[3]

We can summarize the following characteristics from the above discussion to dispel some myths pertaining socio-cultural and biological aspects related to this samskara

  1. Child marriage was not prevalent in ancient societies as evident from the prescribed Garbhadhana samskara 3 days after the vivaha samskara. This shows that post-puberty girls who were physically and mentally capable of childbearing were given in marriage.
  2. From the Rigvedic times people were well aware of the biological processes (details about human copulation are found in Shatapatha Brahmana) - knowledge of maturity age of girls, healthy state of the reproductive organs, menstruation in women, process of copulation, medicines and herbs for the physical and mental health of both the mother and child, child delivery, concept of continuing the lineage though the male children (now explained in human genetics) are documented way before any civilization has recorded it.
  3. Women were treated with respect for their unique ability to bear the future generation as is evident from the man's entreatment to join him in the procreative processes.
  4. Women's health was of utmost importance as mentioned in Rigveda and Atharvaveda mantras, evident from concepts where medicinal herbs are described and mantras are prescribed to remove the evil spirits.

Related to Menstruation

Menstruation period of a woman is looked upon as due to some evil spirit, for example, in the Rigveda we find that maidens are in possession of the Gandharvas, the chief of whom is Vishvavasu. Apastamba describes the placing of the staff of an udumbara wood, anointed with perfumes and wrapped round with thread or garment, between the sleeping places of the husband and the wife. This staff is supposed to represent the Gandharva Vishvavasu. For, while taking it up and putting it away the two mantras, in Rigveda (10.85.21 and 22), invoking Visvavasu to leave the bride, are recited. The removal of this Gandharva is intended so as to remove the evil substance, residing in the wife, before an intercourse is to be had with her.[3]

मनस्शास्त्र उपलक्षितविषयाः ॥ Psychological Implications

The ceremony of impregnation instils ethical confidence in the minds of married couples to have sex and reproduce properly. In the individual consciousness, depending upon psychosomatic urges, they should be in a preparedness, mentally and physically, to satisfy the needs of the above obligations.

Modern psychologists assert that 'Development Psychology' starts from the conception and the list of Samskaras also puts Garbhadhana on the very top. Very minute details have been given as to why, when and how it should be performed for perfect impregnation to bear a perfect child at the right time.[8] Vedic references emphasizing the importance of the mental state of the woman during conception can be found.

  1. The anecdote of Varuthini and Pravara, where even though she was deceived by the gandharva, Varuthini, who had her heart set on Pravara and was constantly meditating on him at the time of conjugal union with the gandharva has given birth to a Svarochisha having the same qualities as Pravara (and not the gandharva).
  2. That the mind of the developing child can be directed to dharmic activities can be inferred from the story of Prahlada, who became an enlightened person at birth due to the teachings of Narada Maharshi while he was in the womb.
  3. In the Adiparva of Mahabharata, we are reminded about how Dhritarashtra was born blind as his mother Amba closed her eyes out of fear during union with Vyasa Maharshi. Ambalika had gone pale and hence her son, Pandu Maharaja was born pale and unhealthy. Vidura, born of a maid, who was in acceptance of the union

Sacred and Compulsory duty

In Pārāskara Gṛhyasūtra (1.11), it has been established that once the husband has led his wife to house, he should cohabit with her after each of her monthly periods.

तामुदुह्य यथर्तु प्रवेशनम् ७ यथाकामी वा काममाविजनितोः संभवामेति वचनात् ८ (Para. Grhy. Sutr. 1.11.7-8)

It is also advised that given her will for pleasure, he should allow himself to be indulged in intercourse for sexual pleasures.[2]

As mentioned previously, after the initial garbhadhana samskara and ceremonious rites, the husband and wife are to cohabit every month after the purificatory bath of the wife. That is, the rtusamagama was prescribed but without the ceremonial rites.[1]

According to one version,[2] the wife is obliged to approach husband post her menstrual cycle, after taking bath for Ṛtusaṁgaman, which is what makes one think, that Garbhadhāṇā was typically a conceiving sacrament marked by ritualistic performances whereas the Ṛtusaṁgaman seems less significant marking the repeated union of the couple.

ऋतुः स्वाभाविकः स्त्रीणां रात्रयः षोडश स्मृताः । चतुर्भिरितरैः सार्धं अहोभिः सद्विगर्हितैः । । ३.४६ । । तासां आद्याश्चतस्रस्तु निन्दितैकादशी च या । त्रयोदशी च शेषास्तु प्रशस्ता दशरात्रयः । । ३.४७ । । (Manu. Smrt. 3.46-47)

Meaning: Always faithful to her for sexual pleasures, let him visit his wife during the menstrual period avoiding the days of the parva and when not observing a vow. The period is said to last for sixteen days including the four days of flow which are condemned by the wise.[2]

Parashara, also asserts that the husband should approach the wife in every Rtu, and one who, despite being in good health, does not comply, attains the papa (sin) of causing abortion.[2] The above compulsion represents the condition of an early society, when a large number of children was a great help to the family, both economically and politically. The ancestral debt could be paid only in the form of children, and the extinction of the family was regarded to be a sin. These circumstances were responsible for making the Garbhadhana a compulsory Samskara.[1]

In the Dharmasutras and the Smrtis, we find similar rules regulating the performance, e.g. when the conception should take place; recommended and prohibited nights; astrological considerations; how a polygamous man should approach his wives; conception a compulsory duty and its exceptions; the right of performing the Samskara etc. We have Puranic references where conjugal union at inappropriate times of the day leads to the birth of children who have undesired qualities, eg., the birth of Hiranyakasipa and Hiranyaksha, the sons of Diti and Kashyapa Maharshi had asuric qualities.

Ayurvedic Perspectives

Garbhadhana is the process of containing a new life's seed in a womb. This is the first step in producing a new life and it can also be called as the process of conception. Entire wellbeing of the new life in womb depends on this first step. Thus Ayurveda acharyas have given considerable attention to this. As a first step, they have defined the age at which a man and a woman should unite in order to produce a new life which would be of good qualities.

Age appropriate for garbhadhanam

Ayurveda scholars have set up the minimum age for conception for woman at 16 the yrs of age and 25yrs of age for a man. It is believed that, generally at this age, a man and a woman have developed fully and can give birth a new life smoothly without much complications.[9]

पञ्चविंशे ततो वर्षे पुमान् नारी तु षोडशे | समत्वागतवीर्यौ तौ जानीयात् कुशलो भिषक् ||१३|| (Sush. Samh. 35.13)[9]

Garbhadhana pre-requisites

Along with the age, there are few criteria set by the scholars which are believed to be helpful in developing a healthy new life. Those are as follows,[10] [11]

  • Atulya-gotra (अतुल्यगोत्र): The man and woman should not be from the same Gotra (गोत्र clan).
  • In the fertile period of cycle (रजःक्षयान्ते) : Menstruation of the woman should have stopped i.e. after 3 to 4 days of her menstruation only, they should unite not during menstruation.
  • Man and a woman should be physically and psychologically stable and fit (सर्वदोषवर्जितौ- devoid of any defect /disorder स्त्रीपुरुषौ-woman and a man संसृज्येयाताम्-unite): With the term devoid of any defect/disorder, it is suggested that physical as well as mental health of the couple is of utmost importance for successful conception. A man or a woman who have overeaten or hungry, thirsty, scared, stressed, anxious, angry or do not have liking for each other etc either can not conceive or give birth to a child which might have some abnormalities. Also the woman who does not fit into the age criteria set above, who his suffering from some chronic disease or not in good health due to some ailment should refrain from indulging into this act for giving a child birth for her as well as the progeny's better health. If any such issue is evident, it is mandatory to get it cured first and only then attempt for garbhadhana for mother and baby's wellbeing.

गर्भाधान विधिः॥ Garbhadhana vidhi

Garbhadhana literally means conception and thus the details related to the act of union for increasing the chances of conception and saw the seeds of healthy progeny into mother's womb are included under this vidhi (procedure).

  • Place: A couple should unite in a private place
  • The ideal position for coitus has also been suggested. The female is advised to receive the sperm lying on her back. When the union/conception occurs in this position all the doshas are at their own place and in the state of normalcy meaning they wont infiltrate the product of conception and harm or hamper its quality.
  • Cleaning with cold water (पर्याप्ते चैनां शीतोदकेन परिषिञ्चेत् ) is recommended.
  • Other important factors affecting conception: High emphasis has been laid upon the mental state of the partners in this entire process of conception. The couple is advised to unite only after the sufficient arousal. They should have had wholesome diet which they relish but at the same time the food should be not be overeaten. Ambiance of the place is also taken into consideration and it is advised that one can make use of various fragrances of choice and comfortable bed to make things go well.
  • When all the above mentioned conditions are considered and followed, a couple is advised to copulate for producing a new life. Acharya Vagbhata also gives a vedic verse that generates an environment and a call to the new life energy (atman) that is going to enter the product of conception to bring it to life. This sutra is to be uttered before the act. The sutra is as follows,

तत्र मन्त्रं प्रयुञ्जीत-

अहिरसि आयुरसि सर्वतः प्रतिष्ठाऽसि धाता त्वा ददतु विधाता त्वा दधातु ब्रह्मवर्चसा भव इति|

ब्रह्मा बृहस्पतिर्विष्णुःसोमःसूर्यस्तथाऽश्विनौ| भगोऽथ मित्रावरुणौ वीरं ददतु मे सुतम् इत्युक्त्वा संवसेयाताम्||८|| (Char. Samh. 8.8)[11]

Meaning: Then, they should recite the mantra meaning: ‘Thou art the day; Thou art the life; Thou art well established from all sides. May the supporter endow Thee; may the dispenser dispense to Thee: be Thou born with Brahmic splendor’. May Brahma, Brhaspati, Visnu, Soma, Surya and the two Ashwins, as also Bhaga, Mitra and Varuna, bless me with a heroic son.’ Having uttered this, the couple should commence the sexual act.[12]

A detailed regime (related to diet, lifestyle and activities) to be followed a week before conception and even after that for some period of time has also been suggested in Ayurveda literature. All these external environmental factors play important role in increasing the chances of conception, sustenance of a pregnancy and well-being of a mother and baby. A trained Vaidya can guide the interested couples in this regard.

पुत्रीय विधिः ॥ Putreeya vidhi

Ayurveda Acharyas have also expounded a Yajna (यज्ञः) or a sacrament wherein man and woman (couple) together they should perform the holy oblation to fire expressing their longing for a progeny. This is called as Putreeya vidhi. [13] After explaining all the details regarding arrangement and preparation of yajna procedure, acharyas describe the actual procedure. It is suggested that, the woman, desirous of progeny, should sit with her husband on the west side of the altar, while the priest should sit to the south, and together they should perform the holy oblation to fire expressing their longing for a progeny. Then, the priest, addressing the God of procreation (Prajapati) for the fulfilment of her desire in her womb, should perform the ‘boon bestowing rite’, by chanting the said hymn ‘May devata Visnu bless the womb and make it fertile’. Then, the priest should prepare a bolus of cooked rice in an earthen pot by mixing the oblation with ghee, offering it to the holy fire thrice according to the prescribed methods. He should then give the sanctified pot of water to the woman to be used for all her purposes.

On the completion of the rite, she should, placing her right foot first, walk around the fire keeping to her right and accompanied by her husband. Then, after taking the the blessing of the brahmanas, the couple should consume the remains of the sacrificial ghee - first the husband and then the wife - taking care not to leave any leftovers. On completion of this ritual, they shall cohabit for a period of eight nights, wearing the dress etc., as prescribed earlier. In this manner they will be able to beget a progeny, as desired.

With this vidhi, they believe that one can get a child with desired qualities e.g color of eyes, complexion, physical features etc provided all the directions are strictly followed. Also, along with this, the woman who is going to bear a child in womb, is advised a proper code of conduct to get a child with desired psychological traits. (This is can be taught to the woman or a pregnant lady under Suprajanana Samskara सुप्रजनन संस्कारः by a trained Vaidya वैद्यः).

In this way, Putreeya vidhi has been described which includes rituals that couples desirous of a healthy progeny (of the attributes of their liking) should follow.

फलम् ॥ Phalam

यथोक्तेन विधिनोपसंस्कृतशरीरयोः स्त्रीपुरुषयोर्मिश्रीभावमापन्नयोः शुक्रं शोणितेन सह संयोगं समेत्याव्यापन्नमव्यापन्नेन योनावनुपहतायामप्रदुष्टे गर्भाशये गर्भमभिनिर्वर्तयत्येकान्तेन| यथा- निर्मले वाससि सुपरिकल्पिते रञ्जनं समुदितगुणमुपनिपातादेव रागमभिनिर्वर्तयति, तद्वत्; यथा वा क्षीरं दध्नाऽभिषुतमभिषवणाद्विहाय स्वभावमापद्यते दधिभावं, शुक्रं तद्वत् ॥ (Char. Samh. 8.17)[13]

Meaning: When a couple, whose body and mind are purified by above mentioned methods, engages in sexual intercourse, the undamaged sperm unites with the healthy ovum in a clean genital tract and the healthy uterus is home to an embryo with all the desired characters. Just as a well-washed cloth catches the colour of good dye instantly or milk, when mixed with drops of curd, transforms into curd leaving its original characters, the seeds acquire the positive attributes of the parents and the environment.[14]

Why Garbhadhana/ Putreeya vidhi and modern day perspective

  • Low fertility rate: Global fertility rates have reduced considerably since the 1970s.[15] According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), one in every four couples in developing countries is affected by infertility. A study says that, total fertility rate varied from below replacement (2·1 children per women) in 36 of the 932 subnational regions (mainly located in India, Myanmar, Colombia, and Armenia). Therefore infertility has become a serious health issue worldwide. Of 60–80 million couples suffering from infertility every year worldwide, probably between 15 and 20 million (25%) are in India alone. The magnitude of the problem calls for urgent action.[16] Therefore samskaras like garbhadhanam and the procedures and instructions described under it might serve to address this issue to some extent. This could be a cost effective, easily accessible and safe modality which can be practiced by couples trying to conceive to increase the chances of conception.
  • Designer babies : A “designer baby” is a baby whose genetic make-up has been selected or engineered to ensure certain traits are present and/or to eliminate particular effects/defects. The demand for designer babies is high in today's world and it is expected that this prenatal demand for designer babies will grow dramatically over next decade. [17][18] Designer baby is a child who is developed from an embryo that had been genetically altered. The changes would affect every cell in that child's body, and be passed to all their children and their children's children. This process has become known as heritable genome editing. Although genetic modification of babies to make child with desirable qualities looks modern, it appears to be false. The desire to have a baby who would be superior to the parents and will be having all the desirous qualities was prevalent in ancient times as well. Therefore samskaras might have been used as tools to develop babies with superior qualities in past times. Samskaras like Garbhadhana provide a guideline for increasing the chances of conception, enhancing the quality of the embryo and ensure its prenatal wellbeing. Various instructions given by Ayurveda scholars under all prenatal samaskaras like garbhadhanam and procedures like Putreeya vidhi (described earlier on this page) might have a strong impact on overall quality of a baby in mother's womb. Moreover the tools and the methods used to bring about the desired modifications are completely ethical and sustainable. Thus Garbhadhana is one of the first important steps to produce children of desired qualities. This could be the ancient way for indirect genetic modifications in babies to produce a superior future generation.

References

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 Pandey, Raj Bali. (1949) Hindu Samskaras, A Socio-religious study of the Hindu Sacraments. Banaras: Vikrama Publications. (Pages 79-98)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Chahal, Mandeep (2020) Ph.D Thesis Titled: Samskaras in the Grihyasutras historical account of Jatakarma Upanyana Vivaha and Antyeshti. (Chapter 2)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Deshpande, Kamalabai (1936) The Child in Ancient India. Poona: Aryasamskrti Press (Pages 16 - 27)
  4. 4.0 4.1 Manusmriti (Adhyaya 3)
  5. Pt. Sripad Damodar Satvalekar (1985) Rigveda ka Subodh Bhashya, Part 4. Parady: Svadhyaya Mandal. (Page 329)
  6. 6.0 6.1 Baudhayana Grhyasutras (Prashna 1 Adhyaya 7)
  7. Dr. Tulsi Ram (2013) Atharvaveda, Vol 1. Delhi: Vijaykumar Govindram Hasanand
  8. Ramakrishna Rao, K. V. (1994) The Psychology of Samskaras. Article in Vivekananda Kendra Patrika. (Pages 56-65)
  9. 9.0 9.1 Sushruta Samhita (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 35 Sutra 13)
  10. Charaka Samhita (Sharirasthanam Adhyaya 2 Sutra 3)
  11. 11.0 11.1 Charaka Samhita (Sharirasthanam Adhyaya 8 Sutra 6-9)
  12. Available from charakasamhitaonline.com
  13. 13.0 13.1 Charaka Samhita (Sharirasthanam Adhyaya 8 Sutra 10-17)
  14. Available from charakasamhitaonline.com
  15. Pezzulo C. et al. Geographical distribution of fertility rates in 70 low-income, lower-middle-income, and upper-middle-income countries, 2010–16: a subnational analysis of cross-sectional surveys, The Lancet Global Health,2021; 9 (6): e802-e812,ISSN 2214-109X
  16. Katole A, Saoji AV. Prevalence of Primary Infertility and its Associated Risk Factors in Urban Population of Central India: A Community-Based Cross-Sectional Study. Indian J Community Med. 2019;44(4):337-341. doi:10.4103/ijcm.IJCM_7_19
  17. Demand for 'designer babies' to grow dramatically. The Times.
  18. Designing a Baby: the Market and the Concerns. Available from https://web.colby.edu/st112wa2018/2018/04/28/designing-a-baby-the-market-and-the-concerns/