Ayurvedic medicine. Indian Watercolour: 'Man of the Medical caste, masseuse’.

Ancient Text Prescribing Ways to Conceive a Baby Boy Included in New University Textbook in India

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A new university textbook in India has included a controversial, ancient recipe that supposedly formulates a sure way to conceive a boy. The text encourages women who want to conceive a boy to find two north facing branches of a Banyan tree that has grown in a stable, take precisely two grains of urad dal and mustard seeds, mix all the ingredients with curd, and consume the mixture.

The Cost of Conception

Despite this sounding like the kind of recipe a con artist would prescribe to a desperate couple, Mumbai Mirror reports that it is actually part of the third-year Bachelor of Ayurveda, Medicine, and Surgery (BAMS) textbook that intends to educate students on techniques to conceive a boy. The text has been copied from Charaka Samhita, the 2nd Century AD treatise on Ayurveda, which can be found in the contemporary BAMS syllabus. According to the textbook, the procedure of creating a male is called “pusanvan”, and any female who wants to give birth to a boy should be "blessed with the pusanvan ritual" as soon as she gets pregnant.

The Ayurvedic Man, showing an Ayurvedic understanding of human anatomy in Nepalese and Sanskrit writing.

The Ayurvedic Man, showing an Ayurvedic understanding of human anatomy in Nepalese and Sanskrit writing. ( CC BY 4.0 )

The ancient recipe is not the only method cited for seeking the birth of a male baby. One of the methods, which is clearly for the more affluent in society, says to: "Create two miniature statues of a man out of gold, silver, or iron after throwing the statues in a furnace. Pour that molten element in milk, curd or water, and on an auspicious hour of Pushp Nakshatra, consume it."

Controversy Raised Over the Methods

The BAMS syllabus in the state is managed by the Maharashtra University of Health Sciences (MUHS) in Nashik, and Dr Dilip Mhaisekar, former dean of the Dr Shankarrao Chavan Government Medical College in Nanded, is the vice-director. However, expression of disapproval and opposition to the textbook's suggestions and content was recently raised by Ganesh Borhade, a member of the district supervisory board of the PreConception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, who is also associated with the Lek Ladki Abhiyan supervised by advocate Varsha Deshpande. "Doctors with BAMS degrees have a thriving practice not just in rural areas, but also in cities such as Mumbai, Pune, and Nashik. Many people shun allopathy in favor of Ayurveda, and if this is what medical students are being taught, God help this society," Borhade told Mumbai Mirror .

A ghulum (bath attendant) providing a customer with two Ayurvedic procedures – an oil massage (to nourish the nervous system) and hot steam (flushing toxins from the body).

A ghulum (bath attendant) providing a customer with two Ayurvedic procedures – an oil massage (to nourish the nervous system) and hot steam (flushing toxins from the body). (  CC BY 4.0  )

Borhade notified PCPNDT Act authorities in the state about the textbook’s material, but it seems quite impossible for such content to be erased from the textbooks in the coming academic year.

Dr Asaram Khade, the Maharashtra PCPNDT Act consultant, said as Mumbai Mirror reports , that a letter has already been sent to the joint secretary, public health, Government of India regarding the syllabus in violation of the PCPNDT Act, even as Borhade warned that the Centre had less than a month to act. "The academic year starts in July, and such content supports female foeticide," he says.

Will the Authorities Remove the Controversial Content?

Borhade highlighted a specific chapter of the textbook, which he claimed had no scientific sources or any credibility from a scientific point of view. The controversial part of the content mentions, "Cook rice flour with water, and while cooking, the woman should inhale the steam. Then add water to the cooked flour, and soak a ball of cotton in it. The woman should lie on the threshold so that her head touches the ground. Then, with that cotton ball, the liquid should be poured in her nostrils. It should not be spit out, instead it should be swallowed."

MUHS Vice-Chancellor Dr. Mhaisekar stated that the BAMS curriculum was dictated by the Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homoeopathy (AYUSH), and also pointed out that he had written to the ministry regarding the controversial content. "We are awaiting a reply from the ministry. The MUHS doesn't have the right to add or delete from the syllabus. There are seven members from Maharashtra in the Central Council of Ayurveda and all of them are aware of this content," he told Mumbai Mirror . The controversy over the “old-fashioned” content continues.

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