Justice T.U.Mehta

Transfer of Embryo

This great soul of Mahavira was born in sixth century B. C. Some scholars accept 526 B. C. as the year of his birth while to some it was 599 B. C. Born in Kasyapa Gotra of Jnatr clan of Ksatriyas, he was also known as ‘Nataputta'. His father was Siddhartha and mother was Trisala, the sister of Vaisala king Cetaka. His parents were the followers of 23rd Tirthankara Parsva. ‘Svetambaras' (one of the dominant Jaina sects) believed that Mahavira was first conceived in the womb of one Devananada, a Brahmin lady. The embryo was later transferred to the womb of ‘Trisala' as the gods thought that Tirthankaras were not born in Brahmin families. ‘Digambaras' (another dominant Jaina sect) do not subscribe to this story of transfer to embryo. The story as to what the ‘gods' thought about the eligibility of a Brahmin family to give birth to a Tirthankara is undoubtedly jingoistic and not warranted by the basic principles of Jainism, and mission of equality which the lord himself carried during his life time. But the possibility of the transfer of foetus by some surgical operation cannot be ruled out. It may be noted in this connection that Bhagavati-sutra, the 5th anga of Jaina scripture containing a vivid picture of the life and work of Mahavira contains a story that after Mahavira became famous as an impressive preacher and masses were flocking to have his ‘Darshan’, a Brahmin couple named Devananda and Rsabhadatta came to see him. On seeing Mahavira, Devananda was overwhelmed by motherly emotions for him and milk began to flow from her breasts. When Gautama, the chief disciple, saw this and asked the master the reason for this state of Devananda, the master replied that this was because Devananda was his real mother. However, ‘Bhagavati-sutra' does not contain the story about the change of embryo. It is therefore reasonable to infer that Mahavira might have been adopted by the Ksatriya family of Siddhartha and Tri-sala, This controversy about the birth is not of any importance. What is of real importance, is the life and work of this great soul.