Three Cheers to Soma! A Cocktail for May 4

May 4, 2020

It is May 4, Liberation Day or Enslavement Day - Depending on which side of alcohol or sobriety divide you stand. Soma, which was withdrawn from its devotees for forty days is giving its darshan today. It is an occasion to recall its ancestry down the ages and highlight the cocktail of facts and comments on it.

To start with, it was named Soma in Hindu puranas. It was a fermented juice drink that was believed to have been consumed by Hindu gods and their ancient priests, the Brahmins, during rituals. Thought to be an elixir, its consumption healed illness. Soma is personified by the god of the same name. The drink is famously described and praised in a Mandala of Rigveda.

Soma, the intoxicating drink, was perhaps first used in ancient Persia. Soma juice may have been derived from the fermented milky sap of Asclepias acida, a climbing plant that thrived in mountain areas. Other candidates for the origin of the drink, or partial ingredients therein, included hallucinogenic mushrooms, honey, cannabis, blue lotus, milk and pomegranate.

In Indian mythology, the gods gained their immortality by drinking Soma and it was the favourite tipple of the great Indra. They then gave the drink to the archer-god Gandharva for safe-keeping but one day the fire-god, Agni, stole it and gave it to the human race. Not only drunk by priests for its sacred nature it was also credited with uplifting qualities, giving the drinker a boost in energy and alertness. These effects meant that the drink has been considered divine since ancient times; a beverage that brought humans closer to the divine. It was also commonly offered in libations to the gods by worshippers. According to Wikipedia, the go-to source of information, Soma is regarded as the deity who supervises Hindu religious sacrifices.

The drink was personified as the god Soma who was considered primeval amongst the gods and a bringer of health and wealth; in many ways, he is similar to the Greek and Roman gods of wine - Dionysos and Bacchus - while the drink is the equivalent of ambrosia in those traditions. In the Puranas religious texts, Soma is described as riding a chariot with three wheels, which is drawn by a team of ten pure-white horses.

There is more to Soma. But, I will now serve a cocktail of view on Soma and its different avatars down the ages and invite readers to add to the cocktail.

Drinking will make a man quaff,

Quaffing will make a man sing,

Singing will make a man laugh,

And laughing long life doth bring,

Says old Simon the King.

Found in Durfey’s Wit and Mirth or Pills to Purge Melancholy

Drinking and drunkards have been the butt of jokes. An imitation of the above has it that drinking takes the drunk to heaven. If you drink, you go to sleep. If you sleep, you do not sin. If you do not sin, you go to heaven – Rather quickly if the drunk develops cirrhosis of the liver.

Jokes apart, alcoholism and weaning alcoholics from the deadly drink and staying them sober has been/is a prime concern of society. There are rehabilitation centres with degrees of success. Now we are told about a new chemical which seems to offer a sure cure. But, I will return to the subject another time. For now more additions to today’s cocktail.

'I drink when I have occasion, and sometimes when I have no occasion' – Cervantes in Don Quixote.

'Prudence must not be expected from a man who is never sober' – Cicero (Here, as elsewhere, ‘man’ embraces ‘woman’ (Who is no stranger to Soma)

'Drink today and drown all sorrow; You shall perhaps not do it tomorrow' – Fletcher.

'Where drink goes in, there the wit goes out' – Herbert.

'I will appeal to Philip but to Philip Sober'. – Valarius Maximus.

'There are more old drunkards than old physicians' - Rabelais.

Finally, an illustrated poster in a bar: 'A camel can go without a drink for a fortnight. But, who wants to be a camel?'



By John B Monteiro
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Comment on this article

  • James Fernandes, Barkur Chicago

    Tue, May 05 2020

    If you are stopped for drunk driving all you have to plead saying, "Oh Jee. Why do have to repeat your very first miracle on me? Now?"

  • Dan M, Dubai / Mangalore

    Mon, May 04 2020

    God The Father on be wise enough to do all you can to avoid exposure or give into carelessness.

    May 3, 2020

    Once again, I (Maureen) see a Great Flame that I have come to know as the Heart of God the Father. He says: "Children, take a deep breath and continue to shelter in place. Do not be fooled by the invisible enemy. The virus, which you cannot see, is still just as deadly as when it first began. Your will not to succumb to it is not your protection from it. You must be wise enough to do all you can to avoid exposure to this enemy. Do not take foolish chances - unnecessary chances."

    "I need you in the front lines of prayer and sacrifice. This virus is Satan's attempt to 'thin out' the population and to take souls who are unprepared for their final judgment. Be wise enough to see Satan's hand in all of this. Protect yourselves with the shield of Truth which I am handing you today. Do not listen to Satan's lies trying to persuade you to give into carelessness. I, your Eternal Father, invite you into the Truth."

    Read Ephesians 6:10-17+

    Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having fastened the belt of Truth around your waist, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the Evil One. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

    * The Messages of Holy and Divine Love

  • Stephen, Bangalore/Bahrain

    Mon, May 04 2020

    Dear John - Thank you for the interesting and factual article on SOMA perhaps the often misinterpreted Nectar of all AGES. Keep Writing Sir

    I narrate below a common Irish Joke to coincide with this auspicious or inauspicious date May 4, 2020

    An Irishman goes into a bar in America and orders three whiskeys. The barman asks: "Would it be better if I put all three shots in one glass?" he Irishman replies: "No! I have two other brothers back at home, so every time I come into a pub, I order a shot for them both."

  • John B. Monteiro, Bondel Mangalore

    Mon, May 04 2020

    Thank you Mangalorian for your bony response.
    I came across an interesting extension of sharab while filling in the form for licence for drinking sharab:" Name of the Shararabi" which could mean name of the drinker or drunkard!

  • Mangalurian, Mangaluru

    Mon, May 04 2020

    Another interesting article, Mr Monteiro. Thank you.

    With India having the ancient names of Soma and Sura, how come the local gadangs came to be known as Sharaabu Angadi?

    Sharab (يشرب) is an Arabic word - and means just drink, with no linkage with alcohol.

    Perhaps some Arab turned up looking for some drink when the Indian babu was wondering how to give a sophisticated name for a humble gadang?

    Regardless, in my opinion, alcohol consumption must be banned altogether. It serves no purpose other than - for a few - to lose their inhibitions.

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