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The Garuda Purana is an Hindu text. Here is a chapter translated in 1911.

There is a widespread belief among Hindus that it accurate describes the formation of embryos and consciousness, and did so before modern science.

For example, this Quora answer quotes the Garuda Purana:

Viṣṇu said: I will tell you how the mortal is born when the male and female elements are bound together by the union of man and woman.

In the middle of the menstruation period, in the three days on which Indra incurs the sin of Brāmicide, the body of the sinful begins to form.

The creature, in obtaining a body, according to karma, the divine eye, enters the womb of a woman, which is the receptacle of a man's seed.

In one night it becomes a lump; by the fifth night round; by the tenth day like the fruit of the jujube tree, and after that an egg of flesh.

By the first month the head, by the second the arms and other parts of the body are formed; by the third occurs the formation of nails, hair, bones, skin, genitalia and other cavities;

By the fourth the seven bodily fluids; by the fifth hunger and thirst arise; by the sixth, enveloped by the chorion, it moves to the left of the womb.

The bodily substances are formed of the foods and liquids of the mother, and the creature at the time of birth lies in the disgusting hollow of the loins, amid feaces and urine.

All its limbs bitten constantly by hungry worms, it swoons away repeatedly through excessive pain, as they are very tender.

From the beginning of the seventh month, though he gains consciousness, he who is in the womb trembles and moves about because of the parturition winds, like a uterine worm

It claims that this matches modern understanding of embryo development:

1st night it become lump - correlation =2 cells stage

5th night become round - correlation =Blastocyst

10th day Jujube fruit - Probably alot smaller than jujube fruit

1st month head is formed - correlation =The various processes from which face develops can be identified at the end of 4th week

2nd months arms and other part of body - correlation =by the 50th day the elbows and knees are esablished, and the finger and toes are free,

By 3rd month , formation of nail, hair, bone, skin, genitalia and other body cavities -correlation =the first hair to be produced by the fetal hair follicles, and it usually appears around 16 weeks of gestation, primary centers of ossification of long bone is seen around 8 weeks. Prostate begins to develop at the end of 3 month and vagina is canalized by 5 months.

By 5th month hunger - correlation =Does my unborn child feel hunger?

7th month , fetus gain consciousness - correlation =the brain structures necessary for conscious experience of pain do not develop until 29-30 weeks, while the conscious processing of sounds is only made possible after the 26th week.

Does the text describe an understanding of embryology that matches, and yet pre-dates, the modern scientific understanding?

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    It's unclear what you're asking. Your post indicates (IMHO) that you think it's neat there are some similarities between an ancient text and reality. I'd say (again, my opinion) that no he didn't explain it all because I'm pretty sure there is no such thing as "7 bodily fluids" and I never saw "hungry biting worms" on an ultrasound. – Jordy Feb 13 '18 at 9:00
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    Much of this could be deduced by examining the embryos of (non-human) animals. – Daniel R Hicks Feb 13 '18 at 22:57
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    @schmuddi ah, I don't question that. My fears come from how an ancient culture would obtain dead expectant mothers in different stages of pregnancy. Humans can be pretty deranged sometimes... – T. Sar Feb 14 '18 at 9:59
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    Just to put this into perspective: According to Wikipedia, the Garuda Purana is dated to the first millennium of the common era, even if parts of it may be older. In comparison, the Corpus Hippocraticum with its texts on gynecology and embryology is dated to about the fourth century BCE. There's no doubt that at the time the Garuda Purana was compiled, anatomy could look back to centuries of research already. – Schmuddi Feb 14 '18 at 10:27
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    @Oddthinking - My point is that "modern scientific understanding" need not be that modern. Water puts out (most) fires. It was not necessary to wait for the science of thermodynamics to develop for this to be commonly known. – Daniel R Hicks Feb 15 '18 at 2:49
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Yes, this text matches some knowledge about embryos, but it's not scientific knowledge. This information could have been acquired through simple observation.

In one night it becomes a lump; by the fifth night round; by the tenth day like the fruit of the jujube tree, and after that an egg of flesh.

By the first month the head, by the second the arms and other parts of the body are formed; by the third occurs the formation of nails, hair, bones, skin, genitalia and other cavities;

By the fourth the seven bodily fluids; by the fifth hunger and thirst arise; by the sixth, enveloped by the chorion, it moves to the left of the womb.

Most of this simply summarizes knowledge which can be acquired by looking at miscarriages.

The information which is not mere observation, such as the "seven bodily fluids," is inaccurate. Other parts of the quotations are also inaccurate.

The creature, in obtaining a body, according to karma, the divine eye, enters the womb of a woman, which is the receptacle of a man's seed.

Describing the mother as a mere "receptacle of a man's seed," rather than the actual provider of one half of the child's chromosomes, is the standard and inaccurate premodern explanation of how pregnancy works. It would be far more noteworthy if a different explanation was provided.

All its limbs bitten constantly by hungry worms, it swoons away repeatedly through excessive pain, as they are very tender.

Fetuses are certainly soft, but they are not "in constant pain". They are likely not conscious. No hungry worms are involved in the process of childbirth.

In conclusion, this text is only noteworthy if you are surprised that people knew how to observe the world around them before 1700.

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