The Concept of Genetics and Heredity in Ayurveda

Dr. Amandip Kaur (M.D. Scholar: Department Of Sharir Rachna)

Abstract: Genetics holds crucial role in understanding constitution of body. Therefore, the
study of genetics has attained central importance in the field of all life sciences. Ayurveda has
covered various aspects of science. The concept of heredity and genetics have been explained
at various places and by various ways. The terms beeja, beejabhaga and beejabhagavayava1
have been used to indicate the components of heredity. The diseases that arise by their vitiation
have been described in Sushruta Samhita and Charak Samhita. Different factors responsible for
manipulating the traits of foetus have been mentioned which are still untouched by the modern
science. Pumsavan samsakaar2 is procedure to alter the sex of the offspring. Acharaya have
mentioned the concept of dauhrida and deformities that arise because of ignorance of desires of
mother during this period.

Introduction:
Ayurveda texts behold immense treasure of science and philosophy. It is advanced and
sophisticated in its own way. The concept of Genetics is well known and widely accepted by
the world. Genetics is the study of genes. It was introduced in the contemporary world by
Augustinian monk Mendel in 1866 as the Model Of Constant Factor of trait. But the ancient
Ayurveda texts give the evidence of wide knowledge about elements of heredity which were
written before Christ. The concept of Beej, Beejabhaga, Beejabhaagavayava, Dauhrida,
Swabhaava, Prakriti, deformities have been described at various places in the Brihatatriye.
Acharaya Charak has considered that the beej or part of beej is responsible for formation of a
particular organ.3 This article aims to put together some factors in Ayurveda which direct
toward the basis to genetics and heredity. The above said factors will be discussed in brief in
the presenting article.
The Basics of Genetics and Heredity:
Heredity is defined as the sum of all biological processes by which particular characteristics are
transmitted from parents to their offspring. Whereas Genetics is the study of heredity. It is also
defined as the study of the variation of inherited characteristics.
The Mendel’s model of constant factor states that one constant factor controls one specific
phenotype in progeny. He stated that each parent will inherit one copy of allele to the offspring.
So, the offspring will have half of the genetic material from mother and half from the father. He
also stated that different traits assort independently of one another in gamete production.
In ayurveda similar concept can be studies as follows :
Beeja, Beejabhaaga And Beejabhaagavayava:4

10 The mother inherits expiration. SVABHAAVA:8 Formation of foetal parts and sub-parts takes place by svabhaava.9 Foetuses having face of serpent. lame. In the pregnancy the diet and conduct of mother can effect the genetic make up of the child. The nearest term in the parlance of modern Genetics is the Gene. dull.   Beeja generally means a division of the ovum or sperm. 6 Deformities arise due to suppression of the desires of dauhrida. unrighteous past deeds and aggravation of vaata. 12 The concept of svabhaava in the texts clearly reflects the effect of genotype on phenotype and the deformation of foetus due to the natural cause which indirectly signs towards the inheritance and genetic factor. moves inside the body and destroys or deforms the foetus in the formative stage. Teratological deformities take place due to atheism of parents. A Chromosome is a structure of DNA. movements and sleep to the foetus. The nearest term in the parlance of modern genetics is allele. falling and re-appearing of teeth and absence of hair on palm and soles. Beejabhaagavayava is a fraction of a part of beeja. . An allele is an alternative form of gene (one member of a pair) that is located at a specific position (locus) on a chromosome. scorpion. Beejabhaaga means a part of the beeja. The foetal desires are reflected in the heart of pregnant woman and the mother longs for the objects desired by the foetus. the foetus may either be destroyed or deformed. with deformed hands. dwarf. State of mind of the mother can have an impact on the health of the foetus. If such desires are ignored. the vaata gets vitiated. Genes are the functional units of heritable material that code for specific aspect of the phenotype. with deformed eyes or no eyes and muffled voice. the lady would deliver a child with hump.11 Svabhaava is considered responsible for arrangement of body parts. Gene is the unit of genetic information that controls the synthesis of one polypeptide or structural RNA molecule. 5 By the suppression of the longings. gourd and other deformities are caused by excessive unrighteous behaviour of woman. she delivers powerful and long lived son otherwise there is risk to foetus and herself. protein and RNA found in cells. If the desires of mother are ignored. The nearest term in the parlance of modern Genetics is the Chromosome. inspiration. DAUHRIDA STATE: 4 As soon as senses are manifested in the embryo. If the desires are fulfilled.7 This concept is an example where the genotype of the foetus can be altered by the conduct of mother. the condition of mother is called dauhrida.

15 The foetus gets afflicted by the dominant doshas associated with these factors and this dominance of doshas determine the prakriti. E. The example of leprosy is worth considering. So. food and regime of mother. As presence or absence of sense organs is determined by the effect of past action. in adults pitta is dominant and in elderly vaata is dominant. No two individuals are similar. Kulaprasakataa (family): birth in a particular type to family alters the genotype and phenotype of a foetus. Pratyaatamanitaa (individual): certainly there is difference in genotype and phenotype of each individual. Prakriti depend upon distinctive features of:16 Jaatiprasakataa (caste): birth in particular caste defines the characteristic disposition of an individual. The progeny of leper will not always be a leper. One change the sex of the child by the pumsavana procedure14 before manifestation of the gender of the foetus. Time has made alterations in the genetic makeup of an individual. There might be vitiation of the particular organ depending upon the vitiation of the specific beej. Another procedure is adopted to procreate a child of desired sex. season and condition of uterus. This factor is determined by sperm and ovum. PRAKRITI: Prakriti is the natural disposition or constitution of an individual. E. Such elements a microscopic and the causes of their vitiation is either due to doshas or due to misconduct of the parents.g.g. The progeny of blind person will also not necessarily suffer from blindness.13 This regimen is an excellent example in Ayurveda text where selection of desired traits is done before conception. this will result in the vitiation of the respective organ. nature of mahabhootas comprising the foetus.g. Few example are as follows:    If part of the beej which is responsible for the formation of the particular organ is vitiated. Deshaanupaatini (locality): the individuals of a particular locality share some common features. It varies from person to person. Kaalaanupaatini (time): time has great impact on the genotype of individuals. Purity among Brahmans.       Pre-conception regimes and Vedic rites can be adopted for procreating a child of excellent qualities. there would be no vitiation of the particular organ either. E. If it is not vitiated. . Vaayunupaatini (age): in various age groups the status of doshas is effected. This is an example where Ayurveda has an approach to alter the genotype at the initial stage of the foetus.g. E. HEREDITY DEFECTS AND DEFORMITIES:17 The Ayurveda various conditions are described which arise due to vitiation of elements of inheritance. This procedure is exclusive of Ayurveda text. Such a progeny will be a leper only if the parental seed is also affected by doshas causing leprosy. both the possibilities are there. Birth in a good family automatically leads to good conduct and character of an individual as compared to the birth in a family of thefts. In ancient times people had better physique as compared to present era. In children kapha is dominant.

skin. When the beejabhaagavayava in the ovum which is responsible for the uterus and portions of beejabhaaga which are responsible for production of organs that characterise a female viz. blood. kidney etc. Ch. Beej. one or many of the organs of the foetus derived from maternal source get deformed.22 (e.20   Hereditary ( aadibala pravritta) and Congenital (janam According to Acharaya hereditary ( aadibala pravritta) are the diseases that are caused by vitiated sperm and ovum. When the beejabhaaga in the ovum of the mother which is responsible for the production of the uterus is excessively vitiated.23) When the part of the beej which is responsible for the production of the sperm is excessively vitiated. then putiprajaa (who delivers dead foetus) is produced.21  Svabhaavaja and sahaj vyaadhian signify the inherited diseases. Sa 3/3 Defects in beej lead to sterility. piles etc. If the woman conceives when her ovum and uterus were not completely vitiated but simply afflicted by doshas. there is significant and ample description about genetic and hereditary diseases in all texts of Ayurveda. the Mendelian law of inheritance is justified. heart. then she gives birth to sterile child.( hereby. genital organs etc. Kulaj Roga are quoted in the context of prameha. Ch. this kulaj diseases of son is incurable due to vitiated beej. then mother gives birth to a sterile child. In the ovum gets excessively vitiated then vaartaa (who is not complete female but only having feminine characteristics) Parallel defects are seen in male child. They can be maternal or paternal.24 Conclusion: Thus. Breasts.        Various pathologies can be seen which arise due to vitiation of genes. . When the beejabhaagavayava in the ovum which is responsible for the uterus is excessively vitiated. Sa 4/28 There is special reference of balapravritta) diseases. Such as leprosy. The a diabetic father has diabetic son. beejabhaagavayava and the concept of prakriti and svaabhava are the various forms by which gentic and hereditary disorders can be studied and researched on. Congenital ( janamabala pravritta) diseases occur due to unwholesome behaviour of the mother. beejabhaaga.g.) Unimpaired beej is prerequisite dominant factor for producing a healthy progeny.

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