Pumsavana (Samskrit: पुंसवनम्) is a rite which is performed during pregnancy. It is one of the pre-natal samskaras classified in Shodasha samskaras practiced in Sanatana dharma. The term Pumsavana refers to a process of making something masculine or generation of a masculine. It is a procedure by which the chances of male child birth are increased. After the conception was ascertained, the child in the womb was’ consecrated by the Samskara named Pumsavana.
परिचयः ॥ Introduction
To have a child is naturally the earnest desire of a married couple. It was specially so in ancient times given the socio-economic and dharmik requirements. The male child has specific duties and responsibilities such as
- procuring food for the family
- waging wars for protecting lands and family
- perform the ceremonies after the death of a person
- offer tarpanas and perform shraddha karmas for the pitrs (ancestors)
- support the Grhasthashrama on whom all other sections of the society are dependent
- produce progeny for the continuation of the lineage and relieve the pitrs of the three rnas
- perform yajnas for the welfare of the family as well as the society
In the Rigveda we find suktas, mantras, yajnas asking for blessings from devatas to bestow a son — a powerful and virtuous son — on the man who prays. The Atharvaveda describes mantras, medicinal herbs and social obligations for the man to cohabit with his wife and raise healthy progeny. Traditionally, male progeny have been preferred, as the continuity of the family is maintained through male lineage, and sons are required to perform the necessary rituals that guarantee a safe sojourn for the father and mother after they leave this world.
It is in the Upanishads, that we see prescriptions for obtaining a progeny of choice (male or female) with particular qualities. The Garbhadhana Samskara involved certain processes to bring about conjugal closeness between the newly married couple and rites for begetting children in general, while the Pumsavana Samskara is a specific sacrament for having male progeny. The Brhdaranyaka Upanishad gives a detailed description of putramantha, i. e. a yajna for getting a son. (Brhd. Upan. 5.6.4)
व्युतपत्तिः ॥ Etymology
पुमान् सूयते अनेन इति पुंसवनम्। pumān sūyate anena iti puṃsavanam। पुमान् प्रसूयते येन कर्मणा तत् पुंसवनमीरितम् । (Viramitrodaya)
Male child is born by this rite and therefore it is called Puṃsavanam. गर्भाद् भवेच्च पुंसूते पुंस्त्वरूपप्रतिपादनम्। From the womb a male child is born, a process of making something masculine or generation of a masculine form. 'पुमान्' or a Male is one who helps cross the Naraka named 'पुम्' (Pum) Naraka, hence he is called Putra. During this sacrament the Veda mantras are recited mentioning पुमान् or पुत्र and favor the birth of a son.
पुमांसं पुत्रं जनय तं पुमान् अनु जायताम् । भवासि पुत्राणां माता जातानां जनयाश्च यान् ॥३॥ (Atha. Veda. 3.23.3) पुंसुवनं व्यक्ते गर्भे तिष्येण। (आपस्तम्बगृह्यसूत्रम्, १४.९) puṃsuvanaṃ vyakte garbhe tiṣyeṇa। (Āpas. Gṛhy. 14.9)
The Puṃsuvanam is to be performed when pregnancy is apparent under the star "Tiṣya" (or Puṣyamī). Puṃsavanam and Puṃsuvanam are synonyms.
The wise seers of ancient times studied the a combination of procedures of Dharmashastras and Kamashastra, with a little addition of some magical operations to give rise to the Pumsavana Samskara. The origin of this Samskara has been expressly mentioned by Ashvalayana (I.13.1) in his Grhyasutra.
उपनिषदि गर्भलम्भनं पुंसवनमनवलोभनञ्च १ (Ashv. Grhy. 1.13.1)
Quite clearly it is stated that the Upanishads treat the topics of Garbhalambana, Pumsavana and Anavalobhana.
Prajapatya as in Vedas
Early references to rituals aimed at masculinizing the foetus are found in the Atharvaveda and Samaveda-Mantra-Brahmana. Masculinizing the fetus is related to life of the developing baby. Atharvaveda dedicates Sukta 11 in Kanda 6 to Prajapatya (or Pumasavana).
पुंसि वै रेतो भवति तत्स्त्रियामनु षिच्यते । तद्वै पुत्रस्य वेदनं तत्प्रजापतिरब्रवीत्॥२॥ (Atha. Veda. 6.11.2)
Meaning: Man possesses the seed (semen), he discharges it in the womb of a female. That (along with the use of asvattha) gives rise to the male child with certainty. This is what Prajapati, the sustainer of humanity has said.
As per Dr. Tulsiram, this sukta says two things for the birth of a male child: the powder of five parts of a peepal (asvattha) tree rooted and grown on a shami tree when taken by the woman produces certain chemical and genetic conditions in the woman for the birth of a male child. Secondly, the man should be virile, and the wife should be sober at heart and graceful in culture and conduct.
Another version of explaining the above Atharvaveda mantras - it has been said that a worship conducted by placing the sticks of Shami tree below the sticks of Ashwattha tree signifies the holy union of male and female which results the male offspring.
In a rite called Prajapatya, the husband prays for the wife, “Unto the womb, let the foetus come, a male one as an arrow to a quiver; let a hero be born unto thee here, a ten-months’ son. Give birth to a male, a son; after him let a male be born; mayest thou be mother of sons, of those born and whom thou shall bear etc.” It appears that medicinal herbs were also given to the pregnant woman while this mantra was chanted. “The plants of which heaven has been the father, earth the mother, ocean the root, let those herbs of the gods favor thee, in order to acquire a son".
Pumsavana as in Grhyasutras
Subsequent references to the ritual, which came to be known as Pumsavana are found in the Grhyasutras. Quite contrasting to what we learn of Puṁsāvana in the Vedic period, the performances by the time of Gṛhyasūtra had grown much elaborate attaching to it the astrological calculations and predictions, as for choosing the day of a male Nakṣtra, and then associating it with the infusion of essence of the medicinal plants which might be crucial in begetting a male child.
These texts prescribe that the Pumsavana ritual be conducted in the third or fourth month of pregnancy, on a day when the moon was on a male constellation, especially Pusya, to ensure the masculinization of the foetus. Paraskara Grhyasutra states
यदहः पुंसा नक्षत्रेण चन्द्रमा युज्येत.... पूर्ववदासेचनं हिरण्यगर्भोऽद्भ्यः संभृत इत्येताभ्याम् ३ (Para. Grhy. Sutr. 1.14.3)
उपयुक्तकालः ॥ Suitable Time of Performance
The time prescribed and generally approved by all seems to be the third month of pregnancy. As an option to the third month, Paraskara suggests the second month, or rather before the garbha (foetus) begins to move, while Bharadvaja and Jaimini extend it to the fourth month. According to Gobhila, the first half of the third month is desirable, Baudhayana and Apastamba do not prescribe any particular month, but allow the rite to be performed as soon as the signs of conception are visible. Manava and Kathaka alone advise the rite to be performed in the later months of pregnancy.
The rationale given is that the time the samskara should be performed as early as possible, before the foetus in womb could move; and looking to the belief that the Samskara could effect the generation of a male child, the early period of pregnancy is more justifiable for the Samskara than the advanced months of pregnancy.
संस्कारविधिः ॥ Samskara Vidhi
According to one version, Pumsavana samksara is a threefold rite, namely,
Ashvalayana (1.13) has given all the three aspects of this Samskara in due proportion. The wife should fast and then (on the next day?) the husband should give her to eat, with curds made from the milk of a cow which has a calf of the same colour as herself, two beans (masa) and one barley grain (yava) for each handful of curds. To his question
“What dost thou drink ?” she should thrice reply “Birth of a male child.”
This sipping of curds should be repeated three times. Here ends the magic part. Samkhyayana (1.20) and Kausitaki, omit this magical form altogether and ordain that instilling the sap of the Nyagrodha tree should be done with recitation of mantras. Ashvalayana grhyasutra states that the Prajapati and Jivaputra sukta have to be recited. The Nasya-vidhi, is very ancient, and is referred to in medical treatises (Ashtangahrdaya. 2.1.37-42).
As per this vidhi the shoot from the fag-end of a branch of Nyagrodha (Banyan tree) is to be crushed and the juice has to be dropped in the right nostril of the wife by husband, while reciting some Mantras, prescribed.
The religious part includes the ritual by prescribing a homa where a cooked mess of food for Prajapati (Prajapatya Sthalipaka) is offered and the touching of the wife’s heart with a mantra “ What is in your heart, 0 woman, with well-parted hair, (yat te susime hrdaye),— which is unknown to the Rigveda.
In the Yajurveda sutras we find that the magical rite using the curds has not been mentioned, but a few homas and Brahmana bhojana has to be performed. It should be noted that only the salient ritualistic differences between Vedas and their shakas are discussed here.
अधिकारः ॥ Adhikara
The Puṁsāvana like conception was to performed by the husband in first place and he was the natural performer. The Garbhadhana Saṁskāra was outsourced to either the brother in law or Sapiṅda or Sagotra person in the absence of the husband, a practice though put to rest in the later stages. But Puṁsāvana being less intimate rite, which did not involve the direct approach of the performer and the one being performed at, was allowed with certain set of instructions. Raghunathnanda also advices that this Saṁskāra could be performed by others in the absence of right person.
Is Pumsavana performed in every pregnancy?
The Smrtis also discuss the question whether this samskara should be performed in every pregnancy or not According to Saunaka this rite should be repeated in every conception, because by touching and feeding, the foetus becomes purified ; moreover by the force of the mantras recited one obtains the "memory of the past lives. So, it is prescribed in every conception. In the Mitaksara on the Yajnavalkya, we find an eliminating tendency where Vijnanesvara says,
एते च पुंसवनसीमन्तोन्नयने क्षेत्रसंस्कारकर्मत्वात्सकृदेव कार्ये न प्रतिगर्भम् ।
These Pumsavana and Simantonnayana being, Ksetra Samskaras should be performed only once and not during every pregnancy.”
Progeny is the ardent desire of every couple. The structure of the family involving the parents and children maintains a social identity. Every patent has a definite longing for the male and female children. Particularly at the moment of exploring the controls on population and binding socio economic conditions, the parents would definitely like to limit the number of their children and would expect to have choice of the sex of the child before his birth. Therefore, it may not be astonishing that the intellectual medicos of the society put some scientific efforts in this direction to fulfill the desires of the parents. Such endeavors do not seem to have arisen only today. It definitely has a long trail of history backing it. The cultural and spiritual ideologies and performances of our society are quite evident for this notion. The ancient scriptures of the Veda also provide the historical support.
In the Vedas a the ritual called ‘Straishuya’ which causes the birth of a female child are described. This process has been mentioned in Harita Samhita as per Hetal Amin and Rohit Sharma. Atharvaveda also mentions the term ....स्त्रैषूयमन्यत्र दधत्पुमांसमु दधदिह ॥३॥ (Atha. Veda. 6.11.3) in the context of engendering the foetus in the womb.
However, due to certain social beliefs it seems that the Pumsavana procedure became more popular than the straishaya procedure. Putresti Yajna is also described in Charaka Samhita. The methodology also includes administration of some drugs through the nose as well as the oral route for the pregnant lady. Such method of transforming the sex of the foetus is yet to be explored in the present scientific world. Only a few researches were undertaken for trial and no such methods are presently observed in practice. Therefore, the Pumsavana Samskara not only provides a histological basis of the medical science but also faces a challenge ahead.
Ayurveda which is called as the science of life and which is an upaveda of Atharvaveda also gives definite attention to the topic of Pumsavana and deals with the technicalities involved in this samskara.
Ayurveda acharyas have expounded a detailed procedure of Pumsavana. Instillation of certain herbs or herbal mixtures via oral or nasal route has ben suggested to perform Pumsavana samskara. Specific time during pregnancy, time and day in a month according to the constellation has also been advised to perform this vidhi. Pumsavana is to be performed once the pregnancy is confirmed and thus this samskara can be included under Garbha-samskaras or Suprajanana Samskaras. Ayurveda scholars had identified that constitutional characteristics of male and female gametes (ovum and semen), day of sexual union, diet of male and female partners have considerable impact on the sex or gender determination of the fetus but at the same time, certain procedures can also alter the sex/gender of the foetus if performed in a prescribed manner. These are described under Punmsavana.
Time to perform Pumsavana
Time to perform Pumsavana according to the constellation and month of pregnancy has been denoted.
- Considering the woman as pregnant she should be administered pumsavana before the foetus is manifested. The embryo when formed does not have a definite gender. It is called as a mass of cells without a specific gender. The action of Pumsavana is to be done immediately after signs of pregnancy viz., nausea, abdominal pain, appetite changes are noticed. It means immediately on confirmation of pregnancy pumsavana can be performed as early as 2 or 3 months.
- The herbs should be given to the pregnant woman on a day when there is Pushya constellation.
The procedure include following different methods,
- Curd along with two good quality black gram or white mustard seeds and two undamaged tender leaf-buds/root caps of a banyan tree should be mixed and made into uniform paste like mixture. The banayan tree selected to take its root caps should have grown in a common place. The paste/fluid mixture is to be put in pregnant woman's right nostril on the day having pushya constellation. For female baby the mixture can be put into the other nostril.
- Other herbal mixtures:
- The paste of herbs namely jivaka(Icrostylis wallichi Lindl.), Rishabhaka (Icros - tylis muscifera Lindl.), Apamarga (Chyran-thes aspera Ridl.), Saireyaka (Arleria prionitis L.)– collectively or individually as required, added with milk should be used for pumsavana.
- A type of fish with handful of water to be given to drink to the woman for, pumsavana has also been mentioned.
- Four herbs viz. Lakshmana (Pomoea sepiaria Roxb.) Vatangura (Cicus bengalensis Linn.) Sahadeva or Vishvadeva (Vernonia cinerea Less.) are crushed together with milk and the resultant mixture is given for nasal instillation. 
- Acharyas also describe one method wherein small and fire-colored man-shaped pieces of various metals like gold, silver or iron are heated and put in various liquids like curd, milk or handful of water. And then such liquid should be taken wholly on pushya constellation day by a pregnant woman.
- In the pusya star itself, she can inhale the steam coming from the preparation of sali rice while being cooked.
- After having said that Acharyas also advice to follow any other measures known to experienced elderly women or other experts for pumsavana. Definitely the measures should be followed when those are coming from the authentic and trustworthy source and in today's world as advised by a vaidya treating the woman. Otherwise any fake measure might endanger the life and health of a baby and mother both.
Mantra to be recited
During the process, the following mantras from the Atharva Veda are chanted:
आ ते योनिं गर्भ एतु पुमान् वाण इवेषुधिम् । आवीरोऽत्र जायतां पुत्रस्ते दशमास्यः ॥२॥
पुमांसं पुत्रं जनय तं पुमान् अनु जायताम् । भवासि पुत्राणां माता जातानां जनयाश्च यान् ॥३॥
यानि भद्राणि बीजान्यृषभा जनयन्ति च । तैस्त्वं पुत्रं विन्दस्व सा प्रसूर्धेनुका भव ॥४॥ (Atha. Veda. 3.23.2-4)
Meaning: “may a male embryo enter your womb, as an arrow into aquiver. May a son be born after ten months.”
In case of the Pumsavana Samskara procedure, various measures have been advised as described above, but the action of these drugs and the procedures has not been mentioned anywhere. Mode of action or rationale behind the procedures and drugs is not known to anybody clearly. Possibly it is beyond the reach of science and scientific brains of today's time. It can be considered that these drugs may act in changing the sex by their Achintya Shakti or the Prabhava.
Sayanacharya, the greatest commentator on the Vedas, remarks that the above mantra signifies that as an arrow is placed comfortably in a quiver, so would the child live peacefully in the womb. Additionally, it is also a prayer for the child to complete his full term of ten months in the womb, thus precluding the possibility of premature birth. This Samskara strengthens the bond between husband and wife, bound together by a common desire for male offspring. At this crucial and difficult juncture of her life, this sharing and support is psychologically highly comforting to the wife.
The methodology of Pumsavana Karma does not limit to more scientific explanation or ritualistic performance. At the hour of population explosion, there is definitely a need to have the control over the population in a planned manner by which the ration between the populations be maintained. This is very much necessary to guard the social status and behaviors. Though many of the parents desire to limit their number of children but, however it becomes difficult for them due to the lack of facilities which either determined the sex in before hand or due to lack of known scientific basis to obtain a child of desired sex. However, the recent development in medical science has discovered a procedure by which the sex of the child in the womb can be determined which is well known as amniocenteses. This is resulted, however, in as bad practice of killing in numerical female foetus. Therefore, the safest measurement still remains negatively at large. On other hand, the science has absolutely no record of any of the in vitro method which can change the sex of the foetus as desired. Therefore, a methodology like Pumsavana Samskara is a needed entity for the present society. By proper understanding of the scientific background and its known implications will definitely receive rousing welcome from the educated individuals.
All conscious parents wish that the child in the womb - whether son or daughter should be full of strength and vigor; should be healthy, disease-free, long-lived, intelligent and good looking. The second ritual - the Punsavan sanskara is performed with this objective, two to three months after the foetus is placed in the mother's womb. (Sharma, 2016)
The experiments on the Punsavan sanskara have revealed startling results: the mothers, who were prone to abortion or whose earlier issues were subjected to metabolic system's deficiencies or to some genetic disorders since birth, have delivered healthy babies after this sanskara. It has now been accepted by the researchers that the herbal preparation processed under the vitally charged vapors of yagya affects the cellular and molecular (including genetic) systems. (Sharma, 2016)
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Deshpande, Kamalabai (1936) The Child in Ancient India. Poona: Aryasamskrti Press (Pages 28-43)
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Pandey, Raj Bali. (1949) Hindu Samskaras, A Socio-religious study of the Hindu Sacraments. Banaras: Vikrama Publications. (Pages 99-104)
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Dr. Tulsi Ram (2013) Atharvaveda, Vol 1. Delhi: Vijaykumar Govindram Hasanand
- ↑ Devi Chand. The Atharvaveda, Sanskrit text with English translation. Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd. (Page 217)
- ↑ Chahal, Mandeep (2020) Ph.D Thesis Titled: Samskaras in the Grihyasutras historical account of Jatakarma Upanyana Vivaha and Antyeshti. (Chapter 2)
- ↑ Yajnavalkya Smrti with Mitakshara Vyakhya
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 7.2 Amin, Hetal & Sharma, Rohit. (2016). Pumsavana Samskara: Myth or Science? World Journal of Pharmacological Research and Technology. 4. 209-212.
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 Charaka Samhita (Sharirasthanam Adhyaya 8)
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 Sushruta Samhita (Sharirasthanam Adhyaya 3)
- ↑ Shailaja U et. al. Principles and practice of Pumsavana Karma. Joinsysmed 2016, vol 4(3), pp 161-164
- ↑ Chandrakar, R., Kumar, K., & Verma, S. (2016). The psycho-spiritual effects of punsavan sanskara on pregnant mother and foetus. International Journal of Science and Consciousness; 2(3): 1- 12.