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Books - The History and Natural History of Ephedra as SOMA
Written by S. Mahdihassan   


The stage starting with the plant and ending with the god Soma would be the following.
1. The plant yielding a drink which is an energizer, euphoriant and antisomnolent. 2. It becomes associated with fire, Soma as "Grocer" and fire as "Cook" 3. Soma consecrates fire as Agni. 4. Soma prolongs the stay of a middle aged Aryan in the tribe postponing his asceticism and thereby conferring longevity 5. Soma is the only drug recognised and is raised to the level of a panacea. 6. As potentially red and obviously evergreen it becomes a source of making fire ever-burning and human life ever-lasting. There is a corresponding reference in Avesta. 7. A legend is created around it. 8.Soma becomes a divine plant.
In order to show what species of ephedra the Aryans must have known first and which they never forgot altogether, we must have some conception of the periods into which the early history of Aryans can be divided. The following is a provisional attempt for which obviously my knowledge is far from adequate. (1) The Aryan ascetic learns the •use of Soma from the Chinese ascetic. The Aryan nomads learn to use Soma. The word Soma enters Sanskrit about 4000 B.C. (2) Soma having proved indispensable, there arose an Agni-Soma cult of immortality. The myth of Mead stolen from Heaven 3500 B.C. (3) The partition of Indo-Europeans. The word Sura enters Sanskrit 3000 B.C. (4) The partition of Irano-Aryans.The Indo-Aryans enter Afghanistan 2500 B.C. (5) Indo-Aryans in the Punjab. Rigveda completed, 2000 B.C. No word for rice or for wheat. (6) Atharvaveda completed, 1500 B.C. It contains words for Lac and for Rice but not for Wheat. The drink Parishrut is also recorded there for the first time. See articles on Rice, (Mandihassan, 1951) and on Lac, ' (Mandihassan 1980). Rice has not been found at Mohinjodaro while wheat has been. Its absence in Atharvaveda therefore, requires to be explained. The Sanskrit name Godhuma, for wheat, is also traceable to Chinese, and an article upon it in the press. Lal (1954) came across rice in his excavations at Hastanipura. Upon it he writes that, "the present discovery at Hastanipura takes the history of rice to about 1000 B.C. and the age of the Atharvaveda is about the same." What can be archealogically dated 1000 B.C. can easily be taken earlier to its literary record at about 1500 B.C. in Atharvaveda. Lal does not refer to my earlier article on rice of 1951.
We have learnt that Soma has survived both in name and in reality. Its Vedic name, Soma, is current in Chitral, and its Avesta name, modified in Pehlavi, as Horn, is current in Afghanistan. Soma as drug holds a position in folk-medicine in Afghanistan and as drink of longevity is administered to Zoroastrian children even today. All this goes to show that Soma was believed to have been a very powerful drug to be able to persist up to the present. As regards the earliest significance attached to Soma usage, we have shown this to be intimately related to life's two main problems, food and longevity. With regard to the first, P. Radin (1952;22) observes that, "primitive mans often lives close to the starvation level How to make his food supply secure is the core around which his cultural integration has been built up to give to the quest of the food supply its heightened interest." It is further maintained that the significance of Soma as energizer and euphoriant declined for the Aryan with the change in his life-style from hunter to agriculturist. It was this want of necessity that led to the eventual disuse of Soma as a popular drink.

Our valuable member S. Mahdihassan has been with us since Sunday, 24 March 2013.

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