Breast Milk is Best: Atharva Veda and Akbar! (Post No.3262)


Written by London Swaminathan


Date: 17 October 2016


Time uploaded in London: 21-05


Post No.3262


Pictures are taken from various sources; thanks. (Picture is used only for representational purpose; no connection with the current article.)




There is an interesting story in a hundred year old book:-

On a fine evening Akbar and his minister Birbal went through an avenue of trees in Delhi, enjoying the delicious breeze. The conversation turned on various topics. They talked of the glories of the tropical sky, of the grandeur of the sunset, as it would appear when it viewed from one of the highest palaces, of the calm repose of the huge trees whose foliage rustled by a little by gentle breeze and of the birds of the variegated plumage which were seeking their night shelter. They reflected on the goodness of the Creator who was the author of the sky and the rainbow coloured clouds.


As they walked along a gurgling gushing brook attracted their attention. On approaching it they were charmed by the weird, twisted picture of the sky, clouds and trees which the brook in its tortuous course mirrored forth. They sat for a while on its bank inhaling its cool air laden with the fragrance of thousand forest flowers.


Then as they were leaving this pleasant spot, Akbar asked Birbal to name to him the best milk the best milk, the best leaf, the best flower, six things, the best fruit, the best king and the best sweetness.


Birbal stood up and answered,

“Mother’s milk is the best as the child grows to be a great man on it. The pan (betel leaf) is the most useful among leaves as everyone eats it. Of the flowers, that of the cotton plant claims the foremost rank as it clothes everyone. A dutiful son is indeed the best fruit as the virtues of the ancestors continued to live in him.


Indra is the most benevolent among kings as he sends down rain which nourishes the whole earth. Sweetness of kind words is the most pleasing, as one wins the affection of people thereby without spending any money!”


Breast Milk in the Atharva Veda

Atharva Veda is dated around 1000 BCE. So the earliest reference to breast milk comes from it.

In the famous Bhumi Suktam (Hymn to the Earth), we find,

“Earth, in which the Asvins measured out and Vishnu strode,

Which Indra, Lord of Might,

Made free from foes for himself

May she pour out milk for me – a mother to her son”.

(sa nobhumirvi srujatam mata putraya me payah)


Famous classical poet Kalidasa, refers to breast milk, in several places in his dramas and poems. He says in his epic poem Raghu Vamsam,

Devadaru tree was adopted as a son by Shiva. “Just as a son is brought up with the feed of milk issuing from the mother’s brests, similarly, Pravati reared the tree (the adopted son) by water issuing from gold pitcher (Raghu Vamsam 2-36)

Manaikkavasagar, one of the Four Great Tamil saints, describes the kindness of Lord Shiva to the breast feeding mother. He says that Siva is kinder than a mother who breast feeds the baby time to time, without it asking for it.

Hindus considered the breast milk as the best milk available to human beings. The second position was given to the cow’s milk.





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