Soma in the veda - Part 5

s. kalyanaraman s._kalyanaraman at
Wed Feb 15 07:53:13 UTC 1995

Re: soma: glue, juice or alchemy?

Why is soma referred to as rasa? Is it a glue or juice of a plant or a metal 
extract? The following etyma may throw some light, re-inforcing the decipherment
of soma as electrum (silver-gold ore): rasa = juice of soma and the like (RV 
viii.3.20: indriyo rasah: 'rasaatmakomrtamayah somah'; sacrificial drink RV 
i.71.5: mahe yat pitra ii rasam 'havih'; essence RV v.43.4 madhvo rasam; rasaa 
moisture, flood ((RV ix.97.14); rasin = sharp soma: rasavaan somah. One of 
several meanings of the term 'rasa' in Pali (apart from taste, sensual stimulus,
sentiment): fine substance, semi-solid semi-liquid substance, extract; thus 
paThavii rasa = essence of earth; pabbata rasa = mountain extract, 
rock-substance; suvaNNa rasa = gold dust. rasaain = substance (e.g. wax or lac) 
put in the joint of a water-vessel to prevent it leaking (Nepali); rahan = 
varnish (Assamese); rasaan = ingredients in working metals (Bengali); rasaaNa = 
substances for polishing metals (Oriya); rasyuuNo = to solder (Kumaoni); 
rasaaunu id. (Nepalii); rasvu~ id. (Gujarati); rasaavvu~ = to gild (Gujarati); 
rassu = juice, essence (KonkaNi). rasa s~aastram = science of alchemy; rasa 
s~odhanah = borax, purification of mercury; rasa siddha = skilled in alchemy; 
rasa siddhih = skill in alchemy; rasa sindhuuram = a cinnabar made of zinc, 
mercury, blue vitriol and nitre; rasaayanam = alchemy or chemistry; rasa indrah 
= mercury; the philosopher's stone the touch of which is said to turn iron into 
gold (Sanskrit) ?racatam silver (Tamil) = rajata (Sanskrit); iraca vaadam = 
transmuting baser metals into gold; alchemy (Tamil); iraca lingam = red 
suophurate of mercury (Tamil) [The reference to rasa indrah 'philosopher's 
stone' is intriguing; could indrah have meant such a 'commodity'? It will be 
interesting to search through the semantics of 'indra' words in many languages, 
to unravel the 'indra' metaphor further.]

The common semantic strand associating 'rasa' and alchemy in many languages 
attest to the possible, ancient meaning of 'soma rasa' as 'metallurgical extract
of electrum'.


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