s. kalyanaraman s._kalyanaraman at
Thu Feb 23 08:39:52 UTC 1995

     Re: soma in the veda and the 'slaying' of vrtra who encloses the 
     There is one personage in the Rgveda who seems to provide a recurrent 
     counterfoil to Indra: vrtra.
     Is he a demon? or is he also part of the allegory that seems to be 
     SOMA process. It would appear that many names of gods and demons are 
     'inanimate objects or things' used in the metallurgical process.
     The attached note expounds on the example of vrtra. 
     PS. Dr. Dominik, if. a la Bhartrhari, I had quoted sentences for each 
     word, the number of pages for the attachment would have made it into a 
     book-sized monograph! Hence, pardon the pithy lexical entries. 
     I look forward to receiving critiques of the basic thrust of the 
     that vrtra is an earthen covering on a smelting apparatus (pots and 
     pans) on a vedi, to extract 'soma rasa' i.e. electrum (gold-silver 
     Dr. S. Kalyanaraman 20/7 Warren Road, Mylapore, Madras 600-004; Tel. 
     91-44-493-6288; Fax. 91-44-499-6380 (After 1 March 1995).

Vrtra is a masculine form personified in the Veda; pl. vrtraaNi. 

The semantic substratum (sememe: v-r) of this morpheme (in the bhaashaa) relates to three 'meaning' or 'image' (hence, metaphor) clusters: 

(1) earthen embankment, sand bank, bund; covering, surrounding;
(2) frame of smoke-hole; and
(3) choosing. 

Perhaps (1) and (2) may be combined as one 'meaning' category: enveloping, restraining, frame. Cluster (3) is clearly a distinct semantic stream.

(1) Embankment, earthen bund

vaLai = to surround; surrounding region (Tamil); varampu = causeway,
ridge of a field, boundary (Tamil); barangayi = boundary, shore (Tulu);
cf. barangay = region (Pilipino.Tagalog); vrappi = ridge; varam = bund
within or outside field (Telugu); varai = to restrain (Tamil). In terms
of Pali grammar: samvuta (pp. of samvarati) = closed, restrained;
samvara = restraint (Diigha 1. 57, 70, 89); vaaraNa = obstruction
(VibhangaA 194 = nivaaraNa); vaareti (caus. of vuNaati) = to obstruct,
hinder. aaworu = covered, surrounded (Kashmiri).

vaaraNa = embankment of a tank (Kannada). samvaraNa = dam, mound
(RaamaayaNa); samvara = dam, mound (Skt. BhaTTi-kaavya); obstacle
(Prakrt); havura, avura, avraa = dam, earthwork; aavirili = wall
(Sinhalese); aatapa-vaaraNa = sun-shade (Pali, DaaThaa-vamsa 1.28)
sambRao, sambhRao = to hold or keep together, to protect, to restrain,
to check; sambhe = a ferrule put on the end of a piece of wood to
prevent it splitting; beRhae, beRhaete = to encircle, all round
(Santali). vareti, bareti, bareta = a sand bank in a river, an island
of sand (W. Punjabi); varaNah = a rampart, surrounding wall; a bridge;
surrounding, covering, encircling (Skt.); s~ambala = a bank, shore
(Skt.); samvarah = a dam, bridge, causeway; samvr = to wrap up,
envelope (Skt.); nivara = covering (RV.); niyara = dike, dam between
rice-fields (Sinhalese).

vrtra = the demon who encloses waters, apO vavrivaamsam (Rgveda: RV.
ii.14.2); conquering vrtra is a fundamental battle of the vedic
episodes elaborated with terms such as the following: vrtra-khaada,
vrtra-tara, vrtra-tur, vrtra-turya, vrtra-ha, vrtra-hatya, vrtra-hatha,
vrtra-han; cf. epithets of Indra: vrtr-aarih, vrtra-dvish,
vrtra-s~atruh; enemy of Indra (RV. viii.96.7).

vavr-vaams (RV. ii.14.2) = having enclosed; vavri = hiding place (RV. x.5.5); vara = enclosing (RV. iii.23.5); varas = breadth, space, room (RV. i.190.2); 

samvaraNa = covered, enclosed place, sacrificial place (RV. vii.3.2)
yadaa mahah samvaraNaad vyasthaat 'nirodhaat', Taittiriiya Samhitaa
iv.4.3.3, ix.107.9 samudram na samvaraNaanyagman = like into the sea
they (somas) went into the kumbhaa (cf. kubh aacchaadane = samvaraNe)
i.e. soma-vat; treasure-house RV. x.77.6 pra yad vahadhve marutah
paraakaadyuuyam mahah samvaraNasya vasvah = when ye O Maruts bring
forth from afar riches from the great vault (i.e. treasury); vaara =
treasure, property, good things (RV. i.128.6) vaaramrNvati
'varaNiiyamannaadikam' [cf. semantic junction between two concepts: vr
= choose and vr = cover].

(2) (Earthen?) frame of smoke-hole

There is an extrordinary and specific morpheme in the bhaashaa, related
to a 'smoke-hole': saberane = frame of smoke hole (D.umaaki) [semantic
cognate: samvaraNa = mound, earthwork]; vrtra, vitra, vrtta = darkness
(Kannada). oRRa, oRa = ring of baked clay used in the construction of a
well, well-tube (Telugu); uRai = burnt clay used for the construction
of a well (Tamil).; or = cover of pot (Kota). vivara = hole (RV.
Prakrt.Pali); biiwar = hole under ground (Kumaoni) ubaarnaa = to
release (Hindi); uvvaarEi = releases (Prakrt).

Is the morpheme, saberane = frame of a smoke-hole, an intimation of the
metallurgical/smelting process related to soma? cf. sambhaara =
assemblage of things required for any purpose; samvaraNe, sauraNe,
savaraNe id.; aakaara-samvaraNe = dissimulation (aakaara, form, shape)

(a) The allegory of vrtra:

Expanding on the allegorical theme of soma, the slaying of vrtra may be
related to the oxidation/reduction/removal of baser minerals/earths in
the pyrite ores (maakshikaa) in the process of purification/smelting or
metallurgical process to produce: soma, electrum.

If a somanala-yantra is 'visualized', the allegory becomes vivid: the
(vrtra) earthwork is burst, with a wind-blast of emitted sparks
(marut), to release the purified 'extract' of 'soma rasa'. [samanom =
an obsolete name for gold (Santali); marut = emitting sparks; maru =
sandy waste (Vedic). ?maraLu to bubble up, boil fiercely; maral = sand,
gravel (Kannada)]

vrtrasya s~vasathaadiishamaaNaah: fleeing from the snorting of Vrtra;
evaaya vaayuh ed dhatam vrtram (s~atapatha braahmaNa) vaayu came:
behold vrtra was dead. [cf. the metaphor of 'snorting' and the
concordant 'image' of 'smoke-hole' in a smelting process.]

(b) Vrtra an apparatus in the soma smelting process:

Vrtra may be deciphered as part of a smelting apparatus (perhaps, an
enveloping earthen or clay moulding or simply, sand bank), part of the
complex which includes agnii-shomanii = the rik or vessel used in
consecrating agni and soma, a ceremony in the jyotishToma sacrifice (a
soma sacrifice considered as the type of a whole class of ceremonies;
agnishToma is a chief modification also involving soma offering, which
continues for 5 days, involving 16 priests; cf.
agniishomiiya-puroDaas~a, cake sacred to agni and soma baked in eleven

Dr. S. Kalyanaraman 20/7 Warren Road, Mylapore, Madras 600-004; Tel. 91-44-493-6288; Fax. 91-44-499-6380.


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