(‘killing the foetus’)

The topics of puṇya (merit or virtue) and pāpa (demerit or sin) have been dealt with in great detail in the purāṇas and the dharmaśāstras. The origin of these concepts can be found even in the Ṛgveda.

Pāpas (also called pātakas) or sins have been classified as mahāpātakas (heinous sins) and upapātakas (minor sins). ‘Bhrūṇahatyā’ is one of the sins included in these lists.

The word ‘bhrūṇa’ has three senses:

  1. a learned brāhmaṇa;
  2. a brāhmaṇa who is a Vedic student and
  3. the foetus or the unborn baby. In all these senses, bhrūṇahatyā has been listed as a heinous sin, with practically no expiation.