Vedic Embryology Garbhopanishad

The scriptures of the Hindus, Vedas speak of Embryology.


There are references in the Puranas to Embryology.


1.Dadisi’s Stemcell was taken from his backbone, when Dadisi gave his backbone to Indra, Chief of Devatas to enable him to create a Powerful weapon, Vajrayadudha.


2.Sage Agasthya was born in Pot, with Semen being kept in it.


3.Lord Krishna taught Abhimanyu the Chakravyuha., a Battle formation.


There are more instances, I shall be posting on this in detail.


I have published an article on Human Conception Embryology in The Vedas where I have dealt with references to Bhagavatham and Charaka Samhita.


We have a Upanishad fully devoted to Embryology.


It is Garbhopanishad by Paippalada.


Here is the Translation.



Om ! May He protect us both together; may He nourish us both together; May we work conjointly with great energy, May our study be vigorous and effective; May we not mutually dispute (or may we not hate any). Om ! Let there be Peace in me ! Let there be Peace in my environment ! Let there be Peace in the forces that act on me !
The body is fivefold in nature (the five elements), existing in the five, depending on the six (tastes of food), connected with the six qualities (kama etc.,), seven Dhatus, three impurities, three Yonis (of excretion) and four kinds of food.
Why say ‘Fivefold in nature ?’ The five elements Earth, Water, Fire, Wind and Ether. In this body, whatever is hard is of Earth, liquid is water, warm is fire, whatever moves about is air and space-enclosed is ether. The function of the Earth is to support, water is to consolidate (digestion etc.,). Fire is to see, wind is for moving, Ether is to give space (for vital functions).
The eyes are used in seeing form, ears for sound, tongue for taste, the skin and nose for touch and smell respectively; genital for pleasure, Apana is for evacuation (of bowels). The person cognises through the intellect, wills with the mind and speaks with the tongue.
The six-fold support is the six tastes (of food): sweet, acid, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent.
1-7. Sadja, Risabha, Gandhara, Panchama, Madhyama, Dhaivata, Nisadha – these are the seven agreeable and disagreeable sounds. White, Red, Black smoke-coloured, Yellow, Tawny and Pale-White – these are the colours of the seven Dhatus (primary Humours). Why ? For Devadatta (any person) there springs up in his mind desire for enjoyment of objects. From relish of food blood is born, from it is flesh, thence fat, bones, marrow, semen; by the combination of semen and blood the foetus is born.
Vital warmth springs up in the womb and the belly. In the seat of the warmth bile, Prana flows – at the proper season ordained by the creator.
8. The embryo lying (in the womb) for (a day) and night is a confused mass; after seven days it becomes a bubble; after a fortnight, a mass and in a month, it hardens. In two months develops the region of the head; in three months, the feet; in the fourth, belly and hip; in the fifth, the backbone; in the sixth, nose, eyes and ears; in the seventh the embryo quickens with life and in the eighth month, it becomes complete.
9. By the dominance of the father’s semen, the child becomes male; the mother’s – female. When equal, a eunuch. If, at the time of impregnation, the parents are agitated, the child will be blind, crippled, hunch-backed or stunted in growth. If the couple have vital-air-trouble, the semen enters in two parts resulting in twins.
10. In the eighth month, in conjunction with the five vital airs the Jiva gets the capacity to know its past affairs (of past births), conceives of the imperishable Atman as Om, through perfect knowledge and meditation. Having known Om he sees in the body the eight Prakritis derived from it the five elements, mind, intellect and ego and the sixteen changes [see Prasnopanishad].
11. The body becomes complete in the ninth month and remembers the past birth. Actions done and not done flash to him and he recognises the good and bad nature of Karma.
12-17. ‘I have seen thousands of wombs, eaten several kinds of food and sucked many breasts; born and dead often, I am immersed in grief but see no remedy. If I can get out of this, I will resort to Sankhya-Yoga which destroys misery and yields liberation; or I resort to Maheshvara who destroys misery. Or I resort to Narayana, who destroys misery. If I did good and bad deeds for the sake of my dependants, I shall myself be burnt for the deeds – the others who enjoyed the fruits go away (unaffected).
18. The person being squeezed as it were by a machine is touched by all-pervading air and forgets previous births and deeds.
19. Why is the body so called ? It has three fires: the Kosthagni ripens all that is eaten; the Darsanagni helps one see colour etc., the Jnanagni is the mind which helps perform good and bad deeds.
20. The Daksinagni is in the heart; Garhapatya in the belly and Ahavaniya in the mouth; the intellect is the performer’s consort, contentment is Diksha, sense organs are the utensils, head is the jar, hair is the sacred grass, the mouth the interior of the altar etc.

Here ends the Garbhopanishad belonging to the Krishna-Yajur-Veda.

*Translated by Dr. A. G. Krishna Warrier
Published by The Theosophical Publishing House, Chennai.


Date of Garbhopanishad.

Moore hints at amazement with the Garbha Upanishad in almost the same breath. Regarding this text, he writes:
A brief Sanskrit treatise on ancient Indian embryology is thought to have been written in 1416 B.C.

This scripture of the Hindus, called Garbha Upanishad, describes ancient ideas concerning the embryo.

It states:
From the conjugation of blood and semen the embryo comes into existence.

During the period favorable to conception, after the sexual intercourse, (it) becomes a Kalada (one-day-old embryo).

After remaining seven nights it becomes a vesicle.

After a fortnight it becomes a sperical mass. After a month it becomes a firm mass [12]

Pre-2000 BCE
The first question concerns the date of the Garbha Upanishad. Since it is ascribed to Pippalāda, we need to determine this sage’s place in the Vedic tradition, although it is believed that the text may not be as old as the sage. Pippalāda is also the instructing sage of the Praśna Upani¬ad and the author of the Atharvaveda śākhā named after him (Paippalāda śākhā). As a principal arranger of the Atharvaveda, he should be assigned to at least the middle of the second millennium BCE, if the ›gveda is to be taken to be no later than 2000 BCE, as is suggested by hydrological evidence related to the drying up of the Sarasvatī river around this time, and the fact that the ›gveda celebrates this river as the great river of its time, flowing from the mountains to the sea.
According to the Purāªas, Pippalāda was the disciple of the ›¬i Vedasparśa, and he instructed Yudhi¬−hira in the significance of the A¡gāravrata, which is based on a dialogue between ˜ukra and Virocana.
The physiological knowledge in the Garbha Upani¬ad is consistent with that found in the oldest Upani¬ads. Like the other texts, it speaks of recursion, but it doesn’t list as many channels (veins and nerves) as the other texts do. This indicates that this Upani¬ad may be older than what has been assumed.
Pippalāda answers six questions in the Praśna Upani¬ad, a number that is reminiscent of the six darśanas. The six questions touch upon six different aspects of reality: forms (nyāya), basis of life (mīmā÷sā), origins (sā÷khya), devas within (yoga), next world (vedānta), and modifications (vaiśe¬ika). This is not an argument for the lateness of the Praśna Upani¬ad, but rather for the remote antiquity of six bases to reality, which mirroring the six directions..



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