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


Ordinarily we do classify plants according to their habitat. Thus we speak of water-plants, wild-plants, desert-plants and cultivated-plants. In rare cases we also know of mountain-plants, the pine being such. And a pine forest is usually a pure forest, with the pine tree enjoying a monopoly. Now ephedra would be almost as good and it also belongs to the pine family. Here verse RV. 9.18.1 addresses. "Thou Soma, dweller on the hill." We do know of hill tribes as hardy-people. Likewise 9.95.4 speaks of "the stalk (as) the steer which dwells on mountains even as a (strong) bull." Moreover verse 9.62.4. speaks of the plant as "strong, mountain-born, the stalk had been pressed in the streams of rapturous joy." The main idea here is that mountain embodies strength of the highest degree. Mountain-born, as a hill-tribe man, the plant is also strong. The virtue of the mountain has passed into the plant growing there. Then, consuming its juice, the strength finally enters the system of the one who drinks it. Such as idea was well admitted by the ancient thinkers. Thus preference was given to plants that grew on the highest hill or on a site characterizing strength in some way. An ideal spot would be the ridge of a hill which easily imparts the sense of solidity. Thus verse 4.20.4 says, "Drink god-like Indra of the meath we offer thee and delight thee with food that came the meath we offer from the mountain rid&es. Griffith comments that, "Soma was said especially to grow on mountain ridges." The real fact is that ridges of mountains are very indicative of strength and solidity, comparable with mountain tops or pinnacles. Such habitats indicate strength. Now if we accept ephedra to be the Soma plant, it grows better on drier soils and under stringent conditions produces more alkaloid. Even coffee and tea plantations are located in hilly regions. For instance in India, Nilgri tea and Dargilling tea come from hilly regions. Correspondingly the consumers of Soma would have imagined that they were drinking "Mujavant Soma." If Mujavant be a mythical mountain, RV.8.7.29 informs us that "Sushoma, Sarvanavan and Arjika full of homes, have they, these heroes sought with downward car. "Griffith observes that "Arjika is said by Sayana (the earliest commentator) to be the name of a district and Sushoma an adjective qualifying it." Then like Burgendy wine, named after a district, here would be Arjika-Soma. It however requires knowledge of ancient geography to identify the district Arjika. At any rate it is not mythical like the Mujavant Mountain. The Iranians using ephedra have their corresponding mountainous sources of supply of Haoma. Modi (1972;302) writes that, "Haoma juice was produced best from plants on Elbruz mountains. Plants growing on the heights are found to be (most) invigorating." Now if the active principle is ephedrine, this alkaloid, like cocaine or caffein, is found best in plants growing in a hilly region.When such information is forthcoming I do not understand how Kapadia (p.35) could regret that, "we do not know where Soma grows." It seems to be a mere echo of Roth asking "Wo wachst der Soma, Z.D.M.G. 19884:38:134. The answer to the above question, where does Soma grow, comes from plant ecology. There can also be another from plant geogrpahy. Then if we have not even a hypothetical idea of what the plant is no legitimate question can be formulated. If Soma is accepted as ephedra, there are several species growing wild in China, Central Asia, Persia and Afghanistan and on the Western borders of Pakistan. "Thus the genus, ephedra, is widely distributed. As such one of its habitats is the Himalaya region and this Kapadia himself mentions (writing on p.48) that "by the time of these Vedas the Aryans had migrated from the Himalayas, the habitat of the Soma-plant."

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

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