On soma in the veda - Part 1

s. kalyanaraman s._kalyanaraman at mail.asiandevbank.org
Fri Feb 10 09:18:18 UTC 1995

Re: Soma in the veda and Indian alchemy

Let me get to the key issue on which I need your help and suggestions on who 
else I can contact. Please feel free to forward this short note to interested 
scholars who may be able to throw some more light.  I note that there are over 
50 decipherments of SOMA, not excluding those that call it bhang, ephedra, 
aphrodisiac, mushroom, etc. I have a monograph on the subject (which is being 
published in India), which was precised in the late Prof. Debirprasad 
Chattopadhyaya's History of Science and Technology in Ancient India, Vol. II. 
This has also been translated into Japanese in an alchemical work by Prof. 
Tomatsu Sato. This monograph of 300 pages extensively documents archaeological, 
literary (veda, brahmanas, arthasaastra and epigraphs) and ancient historical 
evidence to support my radical new interpretation that SOMA is electrum.

This is, in my opinion, of fundamental importance in understanding the major 
component of the Rks, in fact, the entire Book 9. Without cracking this soma 
problem, the entire corpus of Rks lies in the realm of the 'mysterious' or 'in 
ruse' to quote the not-so-charitable phrase of Renou. Renou's phrase has to be 
interpreted more carefully; the Rks DO NOT try to dodge or deceive or engage in 
a wily subterfuge; it is our inability to understand the cryptic code (and the 
lingua franca used) that is to be faulted, removed as we are by the sheer 
distance in time of not-so-few millennia. BraahmaNas are a different issue. A  
larg part of the Rks have been deciphered during this century thanks to many 
magnificent translations and concordances published by erudite scholars. Prof. 
Subhash Kak goes beyond and searches an astronomical substratum-code. 

I am referring to the only PROCESS elaborated in the Rks. with exquisite 
precision, like a chemist's code or manual: the process of soma transformation 
(or transmutation?) 

I located an intriguing etymon in Carl Darling Buck, A DICTIONARY OF SELECTED 
Heading 9.64, p.609; I quote: 

"Lat. aurum (> Romance and Celtic words, also Alb. ar), fr. *AUSOM (Sab. AUSUM, 
Festus); OPruss. AUSIS, OLith. AUSAS, Lith. AUKSAS; here also prob. Toch. WAS 
'gold' beside WSI 'yellow'; all prob. as 'reddish' fr. *AUS-(WES-) in words for 
dawn, Skt. Ushas-etc. The view that the Baltic words were borrowed in very 
ancient times fr. Lat. *AUSOM is improbable. Walde-P. 1.27. Ernout-M.94.Walde-H.

NOW TO THE SEMANTIC PROBLEM: I have noted elsewhere that SOMA, ASSEM (Old 
Egyptian acc. to Needham) connoted electrum (silver-gold ore). somnakay (Gypsy) 
is gold. [It is notable that gypsies were the common tinkers or smiths or metal 
workers; 'tinker' is the common New English name for a Gypsy in Scotland.] 
soma-maNal (Tamil) is sand containing silver ore. Can there be a link between 
SOMA/ASSEM and *AUSOM? [References: Ernout-M. A. Dictionnaire etymologique de la
langue latine, 2nd ed.; Walde-H. Lateinisches etymologisches Worterbuch, 3te 
Aufl., von J.B.Hofmann] Of course, Rigveda refers to ayas prob. as 'bronze'; 
Lat. aes copper, bronze; aurichalcum brass; Rumanian. arama copper. *AUSOM could
be a compounded aes + som? sommu (Telugu) is treasure; Rum. comoara, fr. Slavic,
SCr. komora 'chamber, treasury', Slov. komora chamber, etc. fr. Latt. camara, 
camera vault, arch, in VLat. room, treasure room. Tiktin 396. Berneker 555f. 
loc. cit. Buck, p. 777. These semantic expansions are fascinating and, to say 
the least,  intriguing. 

cf. V.A. Smith's work, Coins of  Ancient India and A.S. Altekar's Catalogue of 
the Gupta 
     Gold coins in the Bayana Hoard (1821 coins!): In these works, there is 
     an enumeration of gold coin types; particularly, Kumaragupta (AD 
     414-55) and Samudragupta (AD 326-75) is reported to have issued a 
     number of asvamedha type gold coins which vary in size from .75 in. to 
     .9 in., in weight from 112.5 grains to 119 grains. As you know, in all 
     vedic ceremonies dakshinas were given by means of gold pellets known 
     as suvarna which was replaced after coinage was introduced. Is there 
     anyway, we can unravel the reference to asvamedha in these types of 
     coins (of course, we are dealing with the historical periods). Rgveda 
     refers to hiranya 174 times (Atharvaveda has 91 references almost as 
     as an adjective, golden); other synonyms used are: chandra, 
     jaataroopa, harita and suvarna. Deities have eyes, tongues and teeth 
     of gold (RV I.35.8; VI.71.3; V.2.3); Indra, Mitra, Varuna are golden 
     in hue (RV I.46.10; X.20.9 etc.), driving from golden seats (RV I.22.5 
     etc.), in golden chariots (RV I.30.16 etc.), wheels and axles all 
     bright as gold (RV I.64.11 etc.), with golden reins for horses (RV 
     VIII.22.5 etc.) which had golden manes (RV VIII.32.29) and with golden 
     ornaments (RV IX.86.43, RV I.122.14, RV VII.56.13 etc.) Gold was 
     desired (RV VI.47.23, VII.78.9); sun was as gold (RV I.46.10), 
     Prajaapati was hiranyagarbha (RV X.121.1), soma juice was fountain of 
     gold (RV IX.78.4); the sacrificial place was golden (RV V.67.2, 
     IX.64.20); Sindhu is rich in gold (RV X.75.8), it is path of gold (RV 
     VIII.26.18). How do we interpret Satapatha Brahmana verse 
     (XIII.1.1.3): "Now, when the horse was immolated, its seed went from 
     it and became gold; thus, when he gives gold (to the priests) he 
     supplies the horse with seed"? Satyaasaadha Srautasutra, 7.2 has this 
     commercial transaction recorded, so do other sutras such as 
     Baudhaayana, Kaatyaayana etc.: "After having handed over king Soma to 
     the Soma-seller, the Adhvaryu should ask him: 'O soma-seller, is your 
     soma available for purchase?' He should reply: 'It is availble for 
     purchase'. The Adhvaryu should (offer to) purchase it for ten 
     (objects), (namely) seven cows and the three (objects, that is to 
     say), gold, a piece of cloth, and a she-goat..." Gold and silver are 
     intertwined in the adhvaryu's transaction: cf. Bhaaaradhvaaja 
     srautasutra, 11.1.1-9.3:"...(the adhvaryu should further put down) two 
     sheets-- (one) of silver and (the other) of gold. They should be 
     (each) one hundred manas in weight..." Laatyaayana srautasutra 
     (III.1.9 cited in Agniswami's commentary on Anandachandra 
     vedaantavaageesa) says that gold was obtained from the ore by 
     smelting. "Gold is the first offspring of fire..." says a copper plate 
     inscription of Raja Maha Sudevaraja (J.F.Fleet, Corpus Inscriptionum 
     Indicarum, Vol. III, p.200, no.41, Pl. XXVII).

s._kalyanaraman at ctlmail.asiandevbank.org FAX. 632-741-7961 Manila, Philippines. 
After 1 March 1995: 20/7 Warren Road, Mylapore, Madras 600004, India; Tel. 
91-44-493-6288; Fax. 91-44-499-6380


More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list