Confusion about Vedic Soma Plant

Confusion about Vedic Soma Plant

Soma  was the famous plant used by the Vedic priests to make juice for the fire sacrifice. The whole of Ninth Mandala of Rig Veda (RV) is devoted to its praise. We have more references in other Mandalas too. The seers described Soma as the King of Herbs. They attributed divinity to it.


Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita praised Soma Juice. Two thousands year old Sangam Tamil Literature praised Soma Juice. Ninth century Tamil Copper plates praised Soma Juice. But foreign scholars sowed the seeds of doubts in the Indian minds. They dubbed it as hallucinative or psychotropic drug. They were very happy to dub the Vedic seers as drug addicts and drunkards. Indian Ph.D walas felt happier when they found some stuff to grind in their Mill of Falsehood. They wanted to get their Ph.D.s by hook or crook. Now, who should we believe?


Have we to believe Shankara and Sayana who purified them by drinking Go Mutra (cow’s urine) on the day of their baptism? Or Have we to believe pork and beef eaters who drank wine on the day of their baptism and use whisky and brandy after their meals every day as a routine? Have we to believe a set of seers who do not know what a drug is, what alcohol is or we have to follow whose generations were floating and swimming in alcoholic drinks and piping tobacco and opium polluting the earth?

Picture of Sarcostemma

Tamils praise for Somarasam

Ninth Century Copper Plates of Pandya King Paranthaka Veera Narayanan praised Kataka Somyaji of Somasikurichi village as one who drank Soma juice and purified himself. The impression that the Tamil and Sanskrit literature left in the minds of Hindus is Soma juice is a purifier; purifier of the mind.

‘’Somapana manosudhdha Kataka Somayaji’’

The other name of Soma is Pavamana meaning of which is that which flows, that which purifies.

Avvaiyar, the grand old lady of Tamil literature, praised a Choza king on the day of successful completion of Rajasuya Yagna by the great Choza king Rajasuyam vetta Peru Narkilli (Reference: Pura Nanuru verse 367). Not only she praised the Cholza king, but also was extremely happy to see the three great Tamil kingdoms united under one banner. She saw the great Pandya and Chera kings along with the Choza king and greeted them to live longer like this. Tamils were a fighting race. They killed one another just to show heroism. But the poetess did not like war mongering kings. Rajasuyam is called Rajasuyam because the king/Raja presses the King of the Plants- Soma and drinks it. So Tamils used Soma rasam (Juice) 2000 years ago.


Krishna’s View on Soma plant

Krishna gave qualified support for Soma drinking. It won’t take you to your final goal of Mukti, but gives the joy of Indra Loka, says Krishna.

In Bhagavad Gita (9-20), he says,

‘Trividya mam somapah putapap……….’

Meaning : the knowers of the three Vedas who drink the Soma juice are cleansed of sin, worshipping Me with sacrifices, pray for the way to heaven they reach the holy world of Indra and enjoy the heavenly pleasures of the gods.

Sri Suktam also (verse 23) also glorified Soma Juice. ‘Let Indra drink Soma juice. Let the Devas who enjoyed drinking Soma juice give me enough wealth to do more Soma Yagas. It links Soma juice with Garuda, the eagle.

Soma is mythically reported to be brought by an eagle to the Vedic people, and even to their gods, from its place of origin:

Eagle/ Garuda reference: RV- I-80:2; 93-6; RV. III 43-7; IV 18-13, 26-4/7, 27-3/4; V-45-9; VI-20-6; VIIII-82-9; 100-8; IX 68-6, 77-2, 86-24, 87-6;X-11-4; 99-8;144-4/5.

The guardians of Soma tried to attack eagle and it escaped, according to Rig Veda(RV). Gandharvas also linked with the Soma plant in many verses. Mandalas of Kasyapa, Angirases and Bhrgus have more verses on Soma than others.

The Rig Veda and Avesta (Yasna Ceremony) agree on many points regarding Soma (Haoma plant).

Foreign scholars kept quiet about this Eagle-Soma link. They couldn’t explain it because it went against their views. Why should an eagle bring a plant? Eagle may even be a tribe’s name or their totem symbol.

Foreign scholars couldn’t explain another point as well. If it is an intoxicating drink why should they waste it by pouring it in to fire instead of fully consuming it? They did not explain why in the whole world only priests were drinking it? The herb sellers must have also used it and danced if it is an intoxicating drink.

Identification Confusion

Mr.Lassen identified it with Sarcostemma viminale or brevistigma, Mr Roth with Sarcostemma acidum, Mr George Watt with Afgan grape, Mr.Rice with sugarcane, Mr.Max Muller with a species of hop. Mr.Hillebrandt said that it was unidentifiable.

What we know from the Vedic literature is the colour of the shoots was brown, it grew on Mujavant mountain. it was purchased from the Gandharvas or hill tribes. They soaked it in water and pressed it for juice and filtered it. The Vedic seers mixed it with milk and drank it. Since it was difficult to get, they used alternate plants. If it was really an intoxicating one, they would have found many alternates. None of the ones we knew of intoxicating.

Prof.N.A.Quazilbash and Dr C.G.Kashikar Identified  Soma with Ephedra. If it is really Ephedra, lots of other plants with the chemical  Ephedrine are available even today and they would have used them as alternates. This plant is known as Uma in certain parts of the world and that is the basis for this identification!

R. Gordon Wasson identified Soma with a mushroom known as Amanita muscaria (Fly Agaric) used in Siberian Shamanism.

Whenever foreign scholars got stuck up and could not give reasonable explanation they simply hid behind something else. If they couldn’t find anything to support their theories they simply dubbed them as outside the Vedic tribes. Vedic deity Tvastr was linked with the far away areas of soma plant. Hillebrandt escaped by saying Tvastr came from outside the Vedic Tribes.

 Sura and Soma

Hieratic Soma is eulogised by Bramana literature

Alcoholic Sura is always denounced.

Satapata Brahmana remarks,” Soma is truth, prosperity and light; sura is untruth, misery or vice and darkness ( S.B. 5-1-2-1-10)

“satyam sri jyotih somah, anrtam, papma tamah sura”.

A Brahmana is enjoined not to drink Sura (wine) because it is unpropitious for him (S.B.12-8-1-5)

By drinking wine one becomes violent in temper (SB 12-7-3-20)

Tatriya Brahmana compares Soma with men and Sura with women.

Latest interpretation on Indus seals identifies the Stand in front of animals in the seals as soma juice filter.

Books for further reading: Identification of Soma by Dr.C.G Kashikar,Pune, 1990; The Rig Veda- A Historical Analysis—Shrikant G.Talageri, New Delhi, 2000; Life in Brahmana Period.

Pictures are taken from Wikipedia and other sites.Thanks.



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1 Comment

  1. Soma rasa is neera, the fresh toddy juice, before fermentation, in the early hours it is a medicine, after sunrise, the fermentation makes it intoxicate. The chemical made, commercial toddy is dangerous, be ware of to get protected from health hazards.

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