On soma in the veda - Part 3

s. kalyanaraman s._kalyanaraman at mail.asiandevbank.org
Fri Feb 10 09:21:02 UTC 1995

Re: Soma as an allegory or metaphor
From: s._kalyanaraman at ctlmail.asiandevbank.org (until 28 Feb. 1995); 20/7 Warren
Road, Mylapore, Madras 600004, India; Tel. 91-44-493-6288; Fax. 91-44-499-6380 
(After 1 March 1995)

Let me cite some texts:

uta syaa vaam madhuman maakshikaarapan madey somasyausijo huvanyati (To you, O 
Aswins, that fly betrayed the soma: RV 119.9); maakshika = pyrite ores; fly. cf.
"maakshikam (pyrites), digested hundred times with juice of plantain leaves, and
then steeped for three days in oil, clarified butter and honey, and then heated 
strongly in a crucible yields its essence" (alchemical treatise: Rudrayamala 
Tantra, cited in P.Ray, History of Chemistry in Ancient and Medieval India, 

somam adrau; cf. "it is plucked from the rock by the falcon (RV. 1.93.6); soma 
comes from the mountains, girishthaam: RV V.43.4; soma seated on the mountain 
top: RV IX.18.1 [Notes: why the reference to adrau, in dual, two stones? maybe, 
silver ore and gold  ore co-mingled in electrum? cf. Marshall's notes re: the 
silver content of the ore from Kolar gold-fields which might have been used by 
the Indus-Sarasvati valley artisans circa 2500 B.C.]

amsu is the shape of soma : RV I.137.3; amsu means a shoot, stalk (not only 
plants have this attribute, but also ore-blocks); cf. soma with sharpened horns 
(tigma srngo): RV IX.97.9; with his thousand knobs, he conquers mighty renown 
(sahasra bhrshtir jayati sravo brhat): RV IX.86.40; soma stalk... seated on the 
mountain top : RV IX.62.4; your fingers grow on the back of the earth: RV 
IX.79.4; it was pounded with stones or in a mortar: RV I.83.6;

color of soma is babhru (greyish brown): by night it appears silvery white and 
by day it is hari (color of fire): RV IX.97.9; 

soma is not suraa; it is gods' drink; the process is the key: adribhih sutah 
pavase pavitra aan indav indrasya jatharesv aavihan (pressed by the pressing 
stones, thou clarifiest thyself in the filter, O soma juice, when penetrating 
into the entrails of Indra): RV IX.86.23; "thy filter, O agni, equipped with 
flames, may it cleanse us, cleanse us with the fruits of sacred songs! with 
these both, the filter and the fruits (of song), O god Savitr, cleanse me 
through and through: RV IX.67,22-25; so, agni is the filter! Baudhaayana 
(Taittireeya rescension) provides a list of substances used in the pravargya: 
skin of black antelope, earth grubbed by a boar, earth from an ant-hill, 
potsherds from a deserted place, hair from the skin of a black antelope, hair of
a goat, a clump of ootikaa or aadaara plant, milk of goat, lumps of dung of a 
stallion (cf. asvamedha; imagine a drink using these for filtering! they are 
reducing/oxidizing agents or kshaara in a metallurgical process);

soma is not a drink of mortals: "one thinks to have drunk soma, when they crush 
the plant. Of him (soma), which the braahmanas know, no one ever tastes.": RV 
X.85.3; same hymn in AV. XIV.1.3; "No earthly one eats you." : RV X.85.4; soma 
is for Indra: "Boldy drink soma from tbe beaker, Indra!...": AV VII.77; 
[Hillebrandt and Oldenburg treat soma as a metaphor for the moon or the sun]

Falk, Harry, Soma I and II in BSOAS, Vol. LII, Part I, 1988; this is an 
outstanding bibligraphical essay on over 40 decipherments of soma.

It is extraordinary that soma is referred to in dual, or plural (re-inforcing 
the allegorical nature of the descriptions): "with those two forms" (RV 
IX.yy.2,3,5); "the forms (plural, not dual) that are thine" (RV IX.66.3); "the 
shining rays spread a filter on the back of the heaven, O soma, with (thy) forms
(plural, not dual)" (RV IX.66.5); the dual reference is to the ore-form and the 
purified/processed form.


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