The Unknown Inheritance

Indian civilization is one of the oldest civilizations in the world and its history leaves us in absolute awe. This civilization has passed on to mankind mathematical proofs, common words in several languages, an array of fruits and vegetables, mouth watering cuisines, architectural wonders, the 6 yard beauty of the saree and much more.Known to be the amalgamation of several cultures, the glacier to the very confluence, I daresay, would be the Vedic Era. The period spanning over 1500 BCE to 500 CE, was the time when our religious texts, culture and food habits were formulated. The known legacies of the Vedic era are the rich culture and literature including scriptures, Smritis and other epics. This is what we have visibly inherited.

A part of our tangible inheritance also includes the delicate sciences of medicine, weapon-making and aeronautics. What is actually fascinating is the fact that there is  a lot more than what meets the eye. Our culture is one that is primarily defined by story tellers and bards who used to roam around narrating stories from age old epics. Two of the most famous and celebrated epics are the Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Starting with medicine and surgery, texts like Charak Samhita and Sushruta Samhita have presented the world with the techniques of plastic surgery, cataract removal among other scientific methods. However, what is new to our knowledge is that our epics have hinted at ideas that are now not only prevalent but some of them are yet to be achieved by modern science.Modern science is now discovering new obstetric techniques, but to our surprise, there are techniques hinted at during the Vedic period, in our epics that speak of processes still unknown to modern medicine, i.e. the process of IVF and Parthenogenisis.

It is astounding as to how these epics were far ahead of their times. And standing as testimonies are tales from these very epics.Extra-uterine manipulation or In-Vitro Fertilization was first hinted at in the Mahabharata. Gandhari, the mother of the Kauravas, had a prolonged gestation (now a medically known condition) and had given birth to a lump of flesh. A disheartened kingdom called upon Rishi Vyas for help. Rishi Vyas divided the fetus into a hundred pieces, which were put in jars to which ghee (clarified butter) was added, and incubated. Finally, 101 children were born, one by one, the first one being Suyodhan (later named Duryodhana, for his misdeeds).All this clearly hints at IVF or extra uterine manipulation. Moreover, if we give it a further thought, the children were grown in pots which hints at Extra Uterine Gestation (clearly not surrogacy) or growing a fetus outside the mother’s womb.

Another such tale which proves that these epics were far ahead of their times was the birth of the Pandavas. Parthenogenisis or asexual reproduction without fertilisation of the ovum is also mentioned in the same epic with the birth of the Pandavas. The sage Durvasa had blessed Kunti, daughter of King Kunti Bhog, with a boon. He gave her a unique mantra, through which she could invoke any divine being to provide her with a son. Kunti conceived Karna, from Surya, the Sun God, and had to abandon him. Later her children, Yudhishtra, Bhima, and Arjuna were conceived using this mantra at the behest of her husband, Pandu who had been cursed. The same mantra was used by her co-wife, Madri, to conceive Nakula and Sahdeva. The “fathers” of the five Pandavas were Yama, Vayu, Indra and the twin Ashwins.

“The divine birth or asexual reproduction detailed in the Mahabharata, is an example of parthenogenesis, which is frequently encountered in comparative endocrinology. Parthenogenesis is suggested to be an evolutionary adaptation in vertebrate species by some”, said Dr B G Matapurkar, a surgeon at Maulana Azad Medical College. Surprisingly, even this scientific intervention was apparently known to them or at least the technique had been envisioned then.The ideas are what we unknowingly inherited, with scientists all over the world getting food for thought and inspiration for inventions and discoveries. Clearly the key to our future lies in our past.Who knows what our oral and written history has in store for us. It’s almost like opening a box of treasures.

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