Info on Himalayas

Dominik Wujastyk dom at
Sun Feb 12 10:13:25 UTC 1995

Pramit Bhasin said:
> 4. The constitution of India is written in 15 different languages.

Out of curiosity, is one of them Sanskrit?  If so, that would make an
amusing/interesting reading excercise for the end of a first-year class.



> From s._kalyanaraman at 11 95 Feb MNL 09:39:37
Date:  11 Feb 95 09:39:37 MNL
From: "s. kalyanaraman" <s._kalyanaraman at>
Subject: Soma in the veda - Part 4

     Re: Soma metaphor soma earth, electrum, alchemy (contd.)
     Why do I call the references to soma in the veda an allegorical essay? 
     Because, Yaska said it; Sayana said it. 
     "Soma is a plant; the word is derived from (the root) su (to press): 
     it is pressed again and again. Its character (as a deity) is mostly 
     secondary and only rarely primary. In order to point out its (primary 
     use) in the hymns relating to soma-juice while it is being purified, 
     we shall quote... be pure with thy sweetest and most gladdening 
     stream. O soma, thou are pressed for Indra to drink. The stanza is 
     explained by the mere reading of it. Now here is another stanza 
     addressed to him or to the moon, as follows. Because they grind the 
     herbs together, one thinks that he has drunk the soma. Of the soma 
     which the braahmaNas know, nonw whatsoever partakes..." (Niruktam 
     11.2; 11.3; 11.4). May we, with an active mind, partake of thy pressed 
     soma, as if it were paternal property, pitrasyeva dhanasya... 
     (Niruktam 4.7); maujavatah: grown on Moojavat, a mountain (Nir. 9.8) 
     [cf. sum = earth, soil (Gaw.Bshk.Tor.Phal.Sh. Dardic languages); com = 
     wealth; cOma-ticai = Kubera's quarter, north (Tamil); synonyms of soma 
     in Sabdasangraha of Kannada: saaranga = gold, camphor (Etymological 
     Dictionary of South Asian Languages: 3597)]
     "The meaning of expressions of the vedic sanskrit and of the popular 
     speech is not different: vaakyaartho lokavedayoraviSiSTah 
     (Poorva.Meemaamsa.1.31)... abhidhaane rthavaadah: there is a 
     FIGURATIVE DESCRIPTION in such expressions (of describing such 
     lifeless things as grass, stones, and axe as if they were living 
     beings)" [SayaNa's preface, p.3]
     "There is no such contradiction, because even one Rudra by his 
     greatness can take on a thousand forms... guNaadavipratiSedhah syaat: 
     on account of the FIGURATIVE DESCRIPTION, there will be no 
     contradiction." (Poorva.Meemaamsa.i.2.47)
     "Electrum (Egyptian assem) was by the ancients considered as a 
     distinct metal -- just as silver and gold were distinct metals. It is 
     supposed that it was first known to the Egyptians in the form of an 
     alloy, either native, or as the product of the working of a naturally 
     occurring ore... In Pliny's time, the word was also in use, though 
     recognized as an alloy of gold and silver. In all gold, says Pliny, 
     there is some silver... an 'artificial' electrum, he says, is made by 
     mixing gold and silver... he considers the native quicksilver as 
     different from that obtained by heating 'minium' (cinnabar)... Pliny, 
     like all other ancient Latin writers, uses but one term 'aes' to 
     designate copper, bronzes, and brass... Gold, as obtained by the 
     Egyptians, was often especially rich in silver, so that the color was 
     notably light, and was considered by them as a different metal-- a 
     white gold or 'asem'. Beada and gold leaf of the twelfth dynasty 
     (perhaps 2000 BC), analyzed by Berthelot, gave 82.94 percent gold to 
     16.56 percent silver, and 85.92 percent gold to 13.78 percent silver." 
     (John Maxson Stillman, The story of alchemy and early chemistry, New 
     York, Dover Publications, Inc., 1924, p. 64-65; p.u). cf. the silver 
     content recorded in gold jewellery in Marshall's Mohenjodaro 
     (Indus-Sarasvati civilization) excavation reports.
     "... Egyptian recipes in the Leyden Papyrus (discovered in a tomb at 
     Thebes in Egypt; written in Greek at c. 300 AD) deal mainly with the 
     production of imitations of an alloy of gold and silver which is 
     called by its old Egyptian name asem (the Greek elektron and Roman 
     electrum), which was regarded as a separate metal... and were even, 
     better than the real." (J.R. Parrington, A short history of chemistry, 
     London, Macmillan, 1960, p.17)


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