History of Indian Medicine (and Ayurveda)

by Shree Gulabkunverba Ayurvedic Society | 1949 | 162,724 words | ISBN-13: 9788176370813

The History of Indian medicine and Ayurveda (i.e., the science of life) represents the introductory pages of the Charaka Samhita composed of six large sections dealing with every facet of Medicine in ancient India in a Socio-Historical context. Caraka is regarded as one of the pioneers in the field of scientific healthcare. As an important final a...

Chapter 7 - Marriage and Procreation

Procreation is the result of the sexual act. All religions hold that it is the very purpose of the sexual act, though in practice sense indulgence may range from planned birth-control to anti-social and licentious behaviour. The ancient Aryan law-givers held very idealistic views regarding the sexual act, which was considered to be the means to an end viz., procreation A distinction, however, was made between sexual maturity and the period fit for the act of reproduction. In the male, the 16th year is recognised as the starting period of the sexual impulse but the reproductive age is laid down to be 25 Similarly in the female, the sexual urge starts expressing itself with the appearance of menstruation i.e. the 12th year, but the age for reproduction is laid down to begin from the 16th year.

[Carakasaṃhitā Cikitsāsthāna 2(4).40]

“It is not proper for a man desirous of long life to copulate with a woman when he is under sixteen or over seventy years of age”.

[Suśrutasaṃhitā Śārīrasthāna 3.11]

“The menstrual discharge which begins from the twelfth year onwards continues till the fiftieth year when the body gets affected by senescence”

[Aṣṭāṅgasaṃgraha Śārīrasthāna 1.3]

“The man twenty-five years of age should (wed and) approach the young woman of sixteen years of age with a view to make progeny”.

Thus we find that the ages of males and females are fixed as under

  Male Female
Marriage age 21 12
Sexual urge 16-70 12-50
Beginning of Reproductive age 25 16


The idea behind this age limit was that the fertilizing elements both in the male and the female might be fully mature in order to generate the best progeny.

The most dominant ambition we find in ancient Aryan people was to produce better and still better offspring, especially the male offspring. The concept of the immortality of the soul and its continuity through re-birth might have led the ancients to believe in the continued existence of one s own self in one’s male child, hence the procreation of a male child was given the greatest sanctity and was considered the moral obligation of every human being Childless condition was considered to be very deplorable and sinful and was looked down upon as a pity

The ideological emphasis on procreation as a religious duty led to the development of the science of Eugenics. The meticulous care of the mother and other factors taken before, during and after the procreation process is significant of the superb understanding of eugenics that the ancients possessed.

This concept is a marvellous example of the combination of Eugenics (Eu-good, Gen-breeding), Eutechnics (eu-good, technic-work, the improvement of occupation) and Eutonias (eu-good, topos-place, the amelioration of environment).

The Aryans studied the science of eugenics in such detail and with so much accuracy that they were able to evolve a specific procedure of procreation where they were quite definite of the success of the procreative act.

The science had progressed one step further than the mere certainty of success of the procedures. It prescribed special procedures for generating progeny bearing a particular sex. This procedure should begin from the day the woman begins her pre-gestatory menstrual season. In chapter 8th of Sharirasthana detailed description and injunctions are given as to how a woman should, during her menstrual period abstain from sexual congress, sleep on the floor and avoid toilet. On the fourth day she should be massaged, bathed shampooed and attired in white raiment. She should not have over-eaten or been famished, she should be free from anger and over-passion. Any woman tainted with abnormality should be eschewed. Then follows a detailed description of the posture, the Mantra to be recited, diet, raiment, ornaments etc pertaining to her at mating with her husband.

Special rites are prescribed for those who want a male issue

[Carakasaṃhitā Śārīrasthāna 8.17]

“Of the man and woman whose bodies have been treated in the manner described above and who have paired together, the unvitiated sperm coming into contact with the unvitiated plasma in the unimpaired uterus through the unobstructed vaginal passage, gives rise, of a certainty, to conception”.

[Carakasaṃhitā Śārīrasthāna 8.16]

“The factors that determine the different psychological endowments of children are the various mental traits of the parents the impression received by the pregnant woman, the influence of ones own past actions and special mental habits in the previous life”

The coming into existence of the embryo is attributed to various factors:

[Carakasaṃhitā Śārīrasthāna 3.14]

“This embryo comes into existence from the coming together of these various procreative factors like a tent from the assemblage of various materials, or like a chariot from the combination of various parts of the chariot. Therefore did we assert this that the embryo is mother-born, father-born, spirit-born, concordance-born and nourishment-born. There is over and above, the connecting agent the mind.”

In the fourth chapter of Sharira-sthana, the gradual development of the embryo from month to month, the forces that promote there influences which are conducive to the rise and growth of conception and those inhibitive of conceptipn and its subsequent development are described in detail. Factors determining the sex are carefully noted providing a clue to the choice of sex by the control of these factors.

The partner of the sexual act resulting in the ultimate noble goal of procreating of progeny, healthy physically, mentally and spiritually, was not to be procured at random. Caraka’s ideals of the selection of a wife exceed those of even the most aesthetic and amourous concepts of a poet specialising in amorous faculty (śṛṅgāra) These ideals depict a biological and instinctive affinity of human attraction. The author conceives of natural love at first sight.

He does not mention caste or creed, but only taboos the marriage in the same clan (tulyagotra) or with a diseased woman Vagbhata gives rather a detailed description of the factors regarding the selection of a wife. He not only narrates in details the positive factors in the girl as a wife, but also mentions the negative factors in order to red-signal the wrong choice. These are very interesting and instructive and appear to be quite scientific even in modern times. These show how careful and accurate were the ancients in their power of observation.

[Aṣṭāṅgasaṃgraha Śārīrasthāna 1.2]

“Now the man of the age of 21 years should, according to best rites, marry a virgin who is of alien clan, of equal high birth, born in a family without hereditary diseases, possessed of good form, morality and physiognomic marks, who is not dificient [deficient?], who has not lost a tooth, lip, ear, nose, nail, hair or breast, who is delicate, not of a diseased constitution, who is neither reddish nor tawny, who has neither superfluous limb nor is deficient of limb, who is about 12 3 ears of age, who does not bear the name either of a god, serpent, river, mountain, tree bird, constellation, low caste or a servant or a name which is not terrifying who is devoid of sin and who is not the object of censure”.

Caraka gives the positive qualities necessary in a bride thus:

[Carakasaṃhitā Cikitsāsthāna 2(1?).7.15]

“The woman who is good looking, young, endowed with auspicious physiognomic marks, amiable and is skilled in fine arts, acts as the best virilific.

The qualities of beauty etc., in the woman develop suitably to the nature of the husband. They are found either as a result of their destiny or as a result of the varied tastes of people. She, who is the best of woman for a man, and endears herself to him quickly by virtue of her age, form, speech and gestures either as a result of destiny or the merits of action in this very life, who is the delight of his heart, who returns his love in equal measure, who is akin to him in mind, who is amenable to and is pleased with his advances, who enthralls all his senses by her excellent qualities, separated from whom he feels the world to be desolate, joyless, but for whom he feels his body a burden and as if devoid of its senses, at the sight of whom he is untouched by grief, distress, depression or fear, approaching whom he gains confidence, seeing whom he gets greatly elated, whom he approaches daily with great eagerness as if for the first time, and uniting with whom in sex repeatedly he remains yet unsatisfied, such a woman is the best of virilifics to him, and men indeed are of varied temperaments”.

These rules prescribed by medical authorities were accepted by the society in general as will be seen by the code of selection of a wife given in Manu-smrti.

[Manusmṛti 3.7-10]

“One which neglects the sacred rites, one in which no male children (are born), one in which the Veda is not studied, one (the members of) which have thick hair on the body, those which are subject to hemorrhoids pthisis, weakness of digestion, epilepsy, or white and black leprosy.

Let him not marry a maiden (with) reddish (hair), nor one who has a redundant member, nor one who is sickly, nor one either with no hair (on the body) or too much, nor one who is garrulous or has red (eyes), nor one named after a constellation, a tree, or a river, nor one bearing the name of a low caste, or of a mountain, nor one named after a bird, a snake, or a slave, nor one whose name inspires terror.

One should not resort to a woman who is very corpulent, very lean, very long (tali), very short (dwarfish), old in age, bereft of any limb and who is quarrelsome

Let him wed a female free from bodily defects, who has an agreeable name, the (graceful) gait of a Hamsa (swan)or of an elephant, a moderate (quantity of) hair on the body and on the head, small teeth and soft limbs”.

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