Home > History, India, Indian education, Social Trends > Mahabharata & Modern Science: Babies Start Learning While Still in the Womb

Mahabharata & Modern Science: Babies Start Learning While Still in the Womb


A recent study shows that babies start learning while still in the womb – just like Mahabharata says.

Page from an illustrated Mahabharata manuscript - probably 18th century.  |  Source wikipedia.

Page from an illustrated Mahabharata manuscript – probably 18th century. | Source wikipedia.

Many thousand years ago, the story of Abhimanyu was written – a moving story of a young prince, who went headlong into a complex battle formation, the chakravyuh. Tragically, without knowing how to extricate himself from the chakravyuh. It was said that Abhimanyu learnt warcraft while still in his mother’s womb. This was always taken to be a metaphor – but a recent study shows that children do start learning, while still in the womb.

Warcraft or otherwise.

From the Mahabharata, Ahimanyu’s remains a popular story, memorable in the death of Abhimanyu. Then there was also the Ashtavakra narrative – the foetus who knew the vedas and upanishads, while still in his mother’s womb. Ashtavakra was so mortified with his father’s ignorance, that each time his father enunciated the vedas and upanishads wrongly, the Ashtavakra foetus corkscrewed in his mother’s womb. Finally born with eight spinal contortions – hence known as Ashtavakra.

In modern India, too, learning in the womb has remained a popular belief. Can such a belief be verified empirically? In any such study, to make statistical observational correlations, will be fraught with the danger of observer bias.

Nevertheless …

Babies start to learn language before they are even born, scientists have discovered.

Previously, it was believed that newborns begin to discriminate between language sounds within their first months of life.

But a new study indicates that babies have the capacity to learn and remember elementary sounds of their language from their mother during the last 10 weeks of pregnancy.

Babies only hours old are able to differentiate between sounds from their native language and a foreign language, scientists have discovered. The study indicates that babies begin absorbing

‘We have known for over 30 years that we begin learning prenatally about voices by listening to the sound of our mother talking,’ said Christine Moon, a professor of psychology at Pacific Lutheran University, who led the research.

‘[But] this is the first study that shows we learn about the particular speech sounds of our mother’s language before we are born.’

Forty girls and boys, about 30-hours-old , were studied in Tacoma and Stockholm, Sweden.

The babies heard either Swedish or English vowels

Patricia Kuhl, co-author and co-director of the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences at the University of Washington, added: ‘We thought infants were ‘born learning’ but now we know they learn even earlier. They are not phonetically naïve at birth.

‘We want to know what magic they put to work in early childhood that adults cannot.

‘We can’t waste that early curiosity. The mother has first dibs on influencing the child’s brain.

‘The vowel sounds in her speech are the loudest units and the fetus locks onto them.’

via Babies begin learning language from their mothers while they’re still in the womb | Mail Online.


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