Sushruta Samhita, volume 3: Sharirasthana

by Kaviraj Kunja Lal Bhishagratna | 1911 | 36,821 words

This current book, the Sharira-sthana (english translation), deals with anatomy, the human body, cosmology, embryology and various other subjects. The Sushruta Samhita is the most representative work of the Hindu system of medicine. It embraces all that can possibly appertain to the science of medicine. Susruta-samhita is recognized as the first a...

Chapter III - Pregnancy

Now we shall discourse on the Sharira which treats of pregnancy,etc. (Garbha-Vakranti-Sharira). 1.

The male reproductive element (Sukra) is endowed with Soma-guna (i.e., thermolytic properties) the female element artava) presents the opposite property and is therefore Agni-guna (i.e., thermogenetic properties). The principles of earth, water, fire, air and ether are also present in men in their subtile forms and contribute to the formation of the material parts by their molecular adjustment in the way of supplying nutrition and in way of the adding to their bulk. 2.

Combination of Self with the impregnated matter:—

The local Vayu (nerve- force) heightens or aggravates the heat generated by the friction of the sexual organs in an act of copulation. The Vayu and heat thus aggravated tend to dislodge the semen from its sac or receptacle in a man which enters into the uterus of a woman through the vaginal canal and there it mixes with the ovum (artava) dislodged and secreted by similar causes. The combined ovum and semen are subsequently confined in the uterus (Garbhashaya). After that, He who is known by the epithet; of Self-conscious, impressioner (creator of sensations and perceptions), toucher, smeller, seer, hearer, taster, Self or Ego, creator, wanderer, witness, ordainer, speaker, though eternal, unmanifested and incomprehensible in his real nature, takes hold of the five subtile or essential material principles contributed by the united impregnating matter, assumes a subtile shape throughout, marked by the three fundamental qualities of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas, and led away by the Vayu, lies confined in the uterus to be subsequently evolved out in the shape of a god, animal, or monster, as determined by his acts in the former existence. 3.

Factors which determine sex:—

The birth of a male-child marks the preponderance of semen over the ovum (in its conception); the birth of a daughter shows the preponderance of the maternal element. A child of no-sex (hermaphrodite) is the product when ovum and sperm are equal (in their quality and quantity). The first twelve nights after the cessation of the flow should be deemed as the proper period for conception, as being the time during which the ova are secreted. Certain authorities hold that there are women who never menstruate to all appearances 4—5.

Memorable verses:—

The face of a woman (lit: a woman of undetected menstruation) becomes full and lively. A moist and clumsy deposit is found on the body, face, teeth and gums. She feels a desire for sexual intercourse and speaks sweet words. Her eyes, hair, and belly droop down. A sort of distinct throbbing is felt in her arms, thighs, mamme, umbilicus, perineum and buttocks. Her sexual desire grows intense and prominent, and its gratification gives her utmost joy and pleasure. These symptoms will at once indicate that a woman has menstruated (internally). 6.

Just as the petals of a full blown lotus flower are gathered up during the night, so the uterus (Yoni) of a woman is folded up (i. e., os of the uterus is closed) after the lapse of the menstrual period (ie. fifteen days from the date of the flow). The menstrual flow, accumulated in the course of a month, is led in time by the local Vayu through its specific duct (Dhamani) into the mouth of the uterus (Yoni) whence it flows out odourless and blackish. 7.

Period of Menstruation:—

The process (menstruation) commences at the twelfth year, flowing once in every month, and continues till the fiftieth[1] year when it disappears with the sensible decay of the body. 8

A visit[3] to one’s wife on even days during the catamenial period (twelve days in all from the cessation of the flow) leads to the conception of a male child while an intercourse on odd days results in the birth of a daughter. Hence a man, seeking a male-issue, should approach his wife for the purpose in a clean body and with a quiet and calm spirit on an even date. 9.

A sense of fatigue and physical languor, thirst, lassitude and weariness in the thighs, suppression of the flow of semen and menstrual secretion (Sukra and Sonita) out of the uterus (Yoni), and throbbing in the organ (after coition) are symptoms of a recent fecundation. 10.

Signs of Pregnancy (M. T.):—

A black rash (areola) around the nipples of the mammae, the rising appearance of a row of hair (as far as the umbilicus), contractions of the eye-wings, sudden vomitings, nausea which does not abate even on smelling perfumes, water-brash, According to Bhoja, a son is born from intercourse on even days and a daughter is born from that on odd days. The birth of a male issue is due to the preponderance of semen virile and that of a female sex is due to the preponderance of menstrual secretion. If both the secretions be equal (in quality and quantity) a hermaphrodite is issued.

and a sense of general lassitude are the indications of pregnancy. 11.

Prohibited conducts during gestation:—

Immediately on the ascertainment of her pregnancy, a woman should avoid all kinds of physical labour, sexual intercourse, fasting, causes of emaciation of the body, day-sleep, keeping of late hours, indulgence in grief, fright, journey by carriage or in any kind of conveyance, sitting on her haunches, excessive application of Sneha-karmas etc., and venesection at an improper time (i.e, after the eighth month of gestation), and voluntary retention of any natural urging of the body. 12.

Metrical Text:—

The child in the womb feels pain in the same part of its body as the one in which its mother feels any; whether this (pain) may be from an injury or through the effect of any deranged morbific principle (Dosha) of her organism. 13.

Development of the Fetus:—

In the first month of gestation a gelatinous substance is only formed (in the womb); the molecules of the primary elements (Mahabhuta—air, fire, earth, water, and ether) being acted upon by cold (Kapha), heat (Pitta) and air (Vayu or nerve-force) are condensed in the second month. A lump-like appearance (of that confused matter) indicates the male-sex (of the embryo). An elongated-like shape of the matter denotes that the fetus belong to the opposite sex; whereas its tumourlike shape (like a Shalmali-bud) predicts the absence of any sex (i e. a hermaphrodite). In the third month, five lump-like protuberances appear at the places where the five organs—namely the two hands, two legs and the head—would be and the minor limbs and members of the body are formed in the shape of extremely small papille. In the fourth month all the limbs and organs (of the body of the embryo) become more potent and the fetus is endowed with consciousness owing to the formation of viscus of the heart. As heart is the seat of consciousness, so a; the heart becomes potent, it is endowed with consciousness and hence it expresses its desire for things of taste, smell etc. (through the longings of its mother). The enciente is called double- hearted (Dauhrida) at the time, whose wishes and desires—not being honoured and gratified—lead to the birth of a paralysed, hump-backed, crooked-armed, lame, dwarfed, defect-eyed, and a blind child. Hence the desires of the enciente should be gratified, which would ensure the birth of a strong, vigorous and long- lived son. 14.

Memorable Verses:—

A physician should cause the longings of a pregnant woman (Dauhrida) to be gratified inasmuch as such gratifications would alleviate the discomforts of gestation; her desires being fulfilled ensure the birth of a strong, long-lived, and virtuous son. A non-fulfilment of her desires during pregnancy, proves injurious both to her child and her ownself. A non-gratification of any sensual enjoyment by its mother;Dauhrida) during gestation tends to painfully affect the particular sense-organ of the child.

Longings and its effects during pregnancy:—

An enciente longing for a royal interview during her gestation (fourth month) gives birth of a child, who is sure to be rich and to hold a high position in life Her longing for fine silks, clothes, ornaments etc. indicates the birth of a beautiful child of esthetic taste. The birth of a pious and self-controlled child is indicated by its mother’s longing for a visit to a hermitage. The desire of a pregnant woman to see a divine image or an idol, predicts the birth of a child in her womb who would grace the council of an august assembly in life. Similarly, a desire to see a savage animal on the part of a pregnant woman signifies the presence of a child of savage and cruel temperament in her womb. A desire for the flesh of a Godha indicates the presence of a sleepy, drowsy person in her womb who would be tenaciously fond of good things in life. Similarly a longing for beef on the part of the mother (during gestation) indicates the birth of a strong and vigorous child capable of sustaining any amount of fatigue and physical pain A longing for buffalo-meat of the mother indicates the birth of a hairy, valiant and red-eyed child (in her womb,); a longing for boar-flesh indicates the birth of a drowsy child though valiant; a longing for venison indicates that of an energetic, determined and sylvan-habited child; a longing for Srimara-meat indicates that of a distracted person; a longing for the flesh of Tittira bird indicates that of a child of timid disposition; whereas a desire on the part of an enciente for the flesh of any particular animal indicates that the child in the womb would be of such stature and would develop such traits of character in life as are peculiar to that animal. The desires of a woman during her pregnancy are determined by ordained fate and effects of the acts of the child in its prior existence (that are to be happened during the present life). 15.

Development of the Fetus:—

In the fifth month the fetus is endowed with mind (Manah) and wakes up from the sleep of its sub-conscious existence. In the sixth month cognition (Buddhi) comes in. In the seventh month all the limbs and members of its body are more markedly developed. The Ojo- dhatu (in the heart of the fetus) does not remain silent in the eighth month.[3] A child born at that time (eighth month) dies for want of Ojo-dhatu soon after its birth, a fact which may be equally ascribed to the agency of the malignant monsters. Hence (in the eighth month of gestation) offerings of meat should be made to the demons and monsters (for the safe continuance of the child). The parturition takes place either in the ninth, tenth, eleventh or twelfth month of conception, otherwise something wrong with the fetus should be apprehended. 16.

The umbilical chord (Nadi) of the fetus is found to be attached to the cavity of the vein or artery of its maternal part through which the essence of lymph-chyle (Rasa) produced from the assimilated food of the mother, enters into its organism and fastens its growth and development, (a fact which may be understood from the analogy of percolation or transudation of blood). Immediately after the completion of the process of fecundation, the vessels (Dhamani) of its maternal body which carry the lymph-chyle (Rasa) and run laterally and longitudinally in all directions through it, tend to foster the fetus with their own transudation all through its continuance in the womb. 17.

Different opinions on the formation of the fetal body:—

Shaunaka says that probably the head of the fetus is first developed since head is the only organ that makes the functions of all other organs possible. Kritavirya says, it is the heart that is first developed since heart is the seat of Manah and Buddhi (mind and intellect). The son of Parashara says that the developmeut of the umbilical region of fetus must necessarily precede (that of any other part of its body) inasmuch as it is through umbilical chord that an embryo draws its substance from mother’s body. Markandeya says that the hands and feet of a fetus are first te be developed since they are the only means of movements in the womb. Shubhuti Gautama says that the development of the trunk is the earliest in point of time since all other limbs and organs lie soldered to and imbedded in that part of the body. But all these are not really the fact. Dhanvantari holds that the development of all the parts of the body of an embryo goes on simultaneously; and they can not be perceived or detected in their earlier stages of development in the womb owing to their extremely attenuated size like a mango fruit or sprouts of bamboo. As the stone, marrow, pith etc. of a ripe and matured mango-fruit or the sprouts of bamboo, cannot be separately perceived in the earlier stage of their growth but are quite distinguishable in the course of their development, likewise in the early stage of pregnancy the limbs and organs of the body (fetus) are not perceptible for their extremely attenuated stage but become potent (and therefore they are distinctly perceived) in the course of time for their development. 18.

Factors respectively supplied by the paternal and maternal elements:—

Now we shall describe the parts and principles of the body of a fetus which are respectively contributed by the paternal element, maternal factor, the serum (Rasaja),the soul (atmaja), the natural (Sattvaja) and the innate physiological conditions (Satmyaja). The hairs of the head and body, beard and moustaches, bones, nails, teeth, veins (Shira), nerves, arteries (Dhamani), semen and all the steady and hard substances (in the organism of a child) are contributed by the paternal element in the conception Pitraja; whereas flesh, blood, fat, marrow, heart, umbilicus, liver, spleen, intestines, anus (Guda) and all other soft matters in the body owe their origin to the maternal element (Matrija); strength, complexion, growth, rotundity and decay of the body are due to the serum (Rasaja). The sensual organs, conciousness, knowledge, wisdom, duration of life (longivity), pleasure and pain etc. are the outcome of the spiritual element in man (Atmaja). We shall describe the Sattvaja features of the body in the next chapter. Valour, healthfulness, strength, glow and memory are the products of a child naturally born with physiological conditions of the parents (Satmyaja). 19.

Signs of male and female conception:—

An enciente, in whose right mamme the milk is first detected, who first lifts up her right leg at the time of locomotion, whose right eye looks larger, or who evinces a longing largely for things of masculine names, dreams of having received lotus flowers (red and white), Utpala, Kumuda, Amrataka, or flowers of such masculine denomination in her sleep, or the glow of whose face becomes brighter during pregnancy, may be expected to give birth to a male child; whereas the birth of a daughter or a female child should be pre-assumed from the contriety of the foregoing indications. An enciente whose sides become raised and the forepart of whose abdomen is found to bulge out will give birth to a sex-less (hermaphrodite) child. An enciente, the middle part of whose abdomen becomes sunk or divided in the middle like a leather-bag, will give birth to a twin. 20.

Memorable verses:—

Those women who are devout in their worship of the gods and the Brahmins and cherish a clean soul in a clean body during pregnancy are sure to be blest with good, virtuous and generous children; whereas a contrary conduct during the period is sure to be attended with contrary fruits. The development of the limbs and the members etc. of a fetus in the womb is natural and spontaneous, and the qualities and conditions which mark these organs are determined by the acts of the child which are anterior to its genesis and were done in its prior existence. 21–22.


Thus ends the third Chapter of the Sharira Sthana in the Sushruta Samhita which treats of the generation and pregnancy.

Footnotes and references:


Some are of opinion that the menstruation continues up to the sixtieth year.


According to Videha, menstrual secretion flows less on even days, hence a son is born if the sexual intercourse be made on those days; whereas menstrual secretion becomes more on odd days, so a daughter is born if the intercourse be made on odd days.


Sometimes it passes irom the body of the child to that of the mother and vice vena.

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