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Test Tube Babies in Ancient India

Research reveals that Ayurvedic physicians in ancient times not only understood precise details about chromosomes and fertility, they were able to practically apply this knowledge in surprising ways.


In "Test Tube Babies in Ancient India", published in the 1979 edition of Chikitsa, an Indian Ayurvedic magazine, researcher and journalist P.V. Vartak speculates that the first real test tube babies were created in India at least 7,500 years ago. Describing a series of experiments that are narrated in the Mahabharata, India’s epic tale of an ancient family feud that led to world war, Vartak suggests that these stories are neither metaphors nor legends, but real experiments that were conducted by the ancients using Ayurvedic knowledge of what we in the modern era would call genetics and embryology. Here we extrapolate the essence of P.V. Vartak’s theory as presented in his fascinating article:

The inspiration for P. V. Vartak’s article is a report on scientific advances in England during 1978. At that time, doctors successfully fertilized an egg in a test tube and then implanted it in a woman’s uterus so that an infertile couple was able to have a child.

Pointing out that in the modern experiment only fertilization was done in the test tube and the embryo was then implanted in the mother’s womb, Dr. Vartak compares this with more advanced research that was done in ancient India to create children outside the womb. Wishing to establish precedence for embryology and the knowledge of chromosomes in Vedic culture, P.V. Vartak outlines the situation that gave rise to a genetic experiment in the royal family of King Drupada.

King Drupada had been defeated in battle by Dronacharya. Although the king had several sons, none of them was strong enough to send out against the invincible warrior, and so Drupada wanted to have a son who would have the qualities and the power to defeat Dronacharya.

As it turns out later, the reason Dronacharya could not be defeated was that he himself had not had a normal birth and was not subject to a normal death, having been created in a vessel by the sage Bharadwaja, but more of that later.

King Drupada’s desire was for an exceptionally strong male child. As P.V. Vartak reminds us, even today (he is speaking in 1979) it is not possible to choose the sex of an unborn child, let alone select his character traits. So Drupada wandered throughout India in search of a sage who could help him to achieve his difficult goal.
Finally he came across the sage Yaja and his brother Upayaja. They accepted the challenge and the king paid them an advance of 80,000 cows, with another 10 crores to come when they were successful.

The story unfolds as the king follows the instructions of the sages and receives treatment from them to improve the quality of his semen. Later the sages collect the semen and process the sperm by some secret method. Then they invite the queen to join in the experiment.

Things take a more interesting turn when the queen refuses to have anything to do with it. The brother sages say they don’t need her anyway and they proceed, as Vartak says, with creating their baby in a vessel, or, another possibility is that they implanted the processed sperm in the womb of a cow. All of which, he says, “show that the ancient Indian sages had the knowledge of sperm, chromosomes and genes, and they knew how to develop a baby outside the human uterus. They also knew how to create a baby from only a sperm.”

According to Vartak, the story in the Mahabharata fits well with the concepts of modern science. He quotes descriptions of the characteristics and functions of the X and Y chromosomes, giving the number as 24 and the name as Gunavidhi, which translates as ‘characters’ and ‘functions’. In another text, Srimad Bhagavatam, they are numbered as 23, but the Mahabharata adds the cell proper to make 24, and Vartak finds this proof of knowledge as “the cell itself does take part in controlling the functions and characters. . . . It is also clearly stated that hereditary diseases and genetic diseases like Asthma, Migraine . . . Epilepsy, Diabetes, etc., occur in the individuals due to a defective gene.” And for more detailed information he refers us to his books in the Marathi language, Swavambhu and Vastava Ramayana.

According to modern science, the sperm is mostly nuclear material and the ovum is food material. So it is possible to create a human being only from sperm if proper nourishment is supplied to it. Similarly, it is possible, as in “parthenogenesis,” to create an animal only from an ovum if that ovum is stimulated by some means. This phenomenon is also described in the Mahabharata when the sage Vasishtha says that an embryo can develop only from the female and, more emphatically, that the whole body of an offspring can develop only from sperm without the involvement of the female. And Vasishtha may say this with conviction because he himself was born without the help of a mother. The sage Agasti, his “twin,” was “born” at the same time out of the same kumbha, or pot. In this, the first of such successful experiments, the scientists Mitra and Varuna mixed their sperm and processed it in a pot and produced human male twins in about 10,000 BC, in the age known as Satyayuga, the Age of Truth.

Five thousand years later, in another series of experiments, the sage Gautama produced Kripa and Kripi, who took their names from the container, similar to a sheath of arrows and closer in shape to the modern ‘test tube,’ in which they were created. And Bharadvaja created the famous male child Dronacharya, named after the method of his birth in a vessel known as drona. It was said that as Drona was produced only from a sperm, there was no female element in him and so he became undefeatable.

And so it was, considering all of these aspects, that the sage Yaja selected one sperm with an X chromosome and another with a Y chromosome and created in a special vessel, yajna kunda, both a female and a male child for King Drupada: the famous Draupadi, who features prominently as the wife of Arjuna and his four Pandava brothers, and her brother, the warrior Dhrstradyumna. Neither of them could die a natural death.

The author does not give us the end of the story; we do not hear of the fight between Dronacharya and Dhrstradyumna, except to say that both eventually were assassinated, and so did not die from natural causes. Draupadi, he says, died of her own will. But he traces the similarities and differences of the two experiments, ancient eastern and modern western, and makes two observations: First, he finds the older experiment to have been more efficient as the babies were created outside the womb. Of perhaps even greater significance is the similarity that he reports: In both cases, the children were not shown to the public, and details of the process were kept secret as both sages and scientists saw the great dangers involved in continuing such experiments.
According to P.V. Vartak, the sages decided not to indulge in such work or to teach these techniques to their students, seeing the consequences as disastrous to mankind and to the balance of nature.

The amazing revelation of Dr. Vartak’s article is that such research into advanced genetics was being carried out thousands of years ago, and that Ayurveda has knowledge not only of this branch of science, but possibly many others that are just being ‘discovered’ or rediscovered today.

In their work with Ayushakti Ayurveda, the Narams use the ancient knowledge of their lineage to help couples who would otherwise be childless to have the blessing of healthy normal children.
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