Two oft-mentioned Vedic drinks are Amrita and Soma. Amrita is for the immortal body and Soma is for the immortal soul. Soma was a ritual drink of importance both in the Vedic and greater Persian culture when it was part of Bharatam. The Vedic gods Indra and Agni are said to have consumed Soma in rather large quantities. In the scriptures, Lord Soma and the plant are interchangeably used to cause ambiguity. In the Vedic ritual, Agnistoma or Somoyaga, Soma is to be presented as the main offerings to the presiding deity. Various mythological events about unfold from the Vedas. This makes it difficult to comprehend the deity: first as a plant; secondly as inspiration to those seeking and finally as the Moon God. Hindus do not differentiate between the divergent aspects – they were the same Lord Soma.
Soma is also the Moon God. The Moon was thought to be the storehouse of the elixir. A waxing moon was also symbolic in that, Soma was recreating himself, ready to be drunk again. Thus Soma represents and animates the juice of the soma plant. In the Vedic hymns, praise of the Moon God and soma, the actual juice are not distinct. According to Vedic and Puranic accounts, all the gods drank Soma.
The Puranas have it that Lord Brahma created seven rishis to aid him in his creation by engaging in procreation. They are Vashista, Marichi, Pulatsya, Atri, Angiras and Kratu. Atri was married to the virtuous Anusuya. Brahma, Vishnu and Siva wanted to test her virtues and appeared before her, asking that she serve them food provided she appears naked. The Trinity is transformed into infants and she began feeding them. Narada brings this news to the Devis. They come running to plead that the infants be reverted to their divine Trinity forms. Upon reversion, the Trinity and the Devis were pleased with Anusuya’s virtuousness and offered a boon. The childless couple asked for a son who will be remembered forever by mother earth and one who will prove useful to all forms of life.
The boon gave the couple, Soma or Chandra, Durvasa and Dattatreya were born. Durvasa mastered the Vedas, did penance and became a great sage. Dattatreya became a Deva and equaled the status of Indra, Vayu, Varuna, Kubera and Yama. Thus he became a part of Devalokha. Soma obtained the status of Navagraha and thus came into being the origin of the Lunar Dynasty. Soma performed severe penance and received several boons from the Trinity.
Among the boons, one was to permeate and influence the human mind and fermentation, influence the human psyche and subconscious, be a giver of life force, influence the growth and yield of medicinal herbs, influence the happy and sad part of all life forms and provide moonlight at night. The blessings of Lord Vishnu conferred the title to Soma as Lord Chandra.
Chandra is said to have 27 wives, the daughters of Daksha, the son of Lord Brahma. Symbolically these are the 27 lunar Nakshatras or stars. At the time of marriage, Daksha asked for a promises that Chandra would not look down upon any of the wives. However, Rohini becomes his favourite wife. Due to this partiality, the rest of the wives returned to their father. Soma asks for the return of the 26 wives. The father in law stipulates a condition of impartiality. This promise was apparently breached.
This Purana gives a different version. But one can say it is an addition to the story. Lord Soma gets appointed as monarch of the stars and plants; sacrifices and of penance. At the time of writing of this Purana, intoxicants were strictly forbidden. So here Soma as the god of soma juice was no longer praised. According to this Purana, Soma was the son of Atri, therefore the grandson of Brahma. He performs a Rajasuya Yagna or Fire-sacrifice. He went to Devalokha to invite the Gods and Devas. He also requested Vrihaspati, the Deva Guru to preside as the main priest. Indeed it was Vrihaspati who taught Chandra and Vedas and the divine skills. However Vrihaspati could not go and asked his wife Tara to preside over the yagna.
During the yagna, Soma begins to attain more beauty. He acquires the glory of the yagna and becomes arrogant. His divine beauty kept increasing and the ladies could not keep their eyes away from him. Asparas, the devalokha angels, the other Devalokha women and his own guru, Vrihaspati’s wife, Tara, began to fall for Soma. Indeed some of the husbands became jealous and left the yagna. Some of the Deva women stayed back to have physical relationship but later left for devalokha. Tara was the last to leave as she truly fell in love with Soma. Her love was not lust. He too admired Tara’s beauty and in his assumed licentiousness, he sweeps her away and engages full-time house-hold.
Vrihaspati was the preceptor of the Gods. He tries to regain his wife. Soma informs Vrihaspati that Tara is staying with him on her own volition and willfulness. In modern terms we say 'consent by adults.' She can leave anytime she pleases, said Soma. The matter is brought to Lord Shiva, threatening a war. His anger affects the panchabhootas. There is suffering to come in all three worlds. Indra and other Gods support Vrihaspati.
Soma makes an alliance with the demons. He is supported by the sage Usanas. Lord Indra seeks Brahma’s assistance to stop the war. Tara too appeals to Brahma for protection. Lord Brahma curses Soma to be a sinner and commands him to return Tara. Soma stops the war to have the curse reversed. Now, there is a twist. Tara is pregnant. Problemo! Vrihaspati would only receive her after the child is born. Brahma has it that the child is born on the spot! Surprise, surprise, it is a damn pretty child, so both Vrihaspathi and Soma claim paternity.
Tara was too shy to reveal the real father. Now, the child becomes indignant. ‘Unless, one of you declare to be my father, I will sentence you to such a fate as shall deter every female from hesitating to speak the truth’. That is pretty ghastly so Brahma interferes to trouble shoot. He appeals to Tara to speak the truth as to who was fiddling with her to the point of conception. ‘Vrihaspati or Soma?’ asked Brahma. She looked up and said blushingly ‘Soma!’ Soma runs to the child and embraced his son ‘well done my boy, verily thou art wise’ he said. The boy is named Budha. He becomes the regent of the planet Mercury. This Budha is not to be confused with the Buddha of Buddhism. One ‘d’ is missing, if you notice well!
The child is brought to his wives. Only Krittika and Rohini care for the baby. Rohini gives special attention to Budha and Soma reciprocates his love in a differing manner, preferring Rohini. The rest feel neglected as Soma has breached a promise to be impartial to Daksha’s daughters. Daksha’s curses that Soma be depleted of his beauty. By the time Soma approaches Lord Siva for help to remove the curse, he had already lost 14 days beauty and was left only one day to completely look miserable. He completely surrenders himself to Lord Siva.
At this stage, Lakshmi, also born of the ocean milk and part of the other divine drink, the Amrit, approaches Parvathi to enlist Siva’s support. Lord Siva agreed to honour Soma. Vrihaspati declared that Shiva was dishonouring the company of gods. Later Brahma declared in favour of Vrihaspati.
Lord Siva feels pious and kind upon hearing Soma’s plea and takes and keeps him on his matted hair. There he remained forever, with the last part of his beauty and Daksha’s curse could not affect him further except that Soma’s shine would increase for 15 days and deteriorate each day according to Daksha’s curse. Thus the Moon God shines in resplendent glory on the 15th day as Pournima and loses radiance to be a no-moon day as Amavasya. Either way, Anusuya’s boon remains that Soma would be remembered forever.
In Hindu thoughts all days are given a Vedic name. Monday is referred to as Somavaram. There are special Mondays such as Shravana Somavara and Karthikai Somavara. According to Skanda Purana, vrat is observed on the Mondays of Karthikai month. On these days, one meditates on the Supreme Siva. Couples worship Parvathi-Parameshwara. Saluting these couples, they observe vratam. They visit temples to pray to Uma-Mahesrwara. There they annoit the Lord with panchamirtham and other pleasant offerings such as bilva leaves. This vrat is said to be a way towards Kailasham. The moon apparently observed this vrat to get its ‘moonness’. Thereafter the moon saluted Lord Gauri-Shankara and requested that this vratam be called Somavara Vratam.
In Hinduism, the Soma drink, also referred to as Chandra or the Moon God, was depicted as a bull or bird, and sometimes even as an embryo, but rarely as an adult human. Modern art sometimes depict the drink as mushroom! This deity evolved into a lunar deity. Hence, the full moon is considered the right time to collect the divine drink. The moon is also the cup from which the gods drink Soma. This identifies Soma even more with the Moon God, Chandra. Lord Soma rides through the sky in a chariot drawn by ten white horses or antelopes. As he travels the atmosphere, he is represented as a copper-colored man, trailing a red pennant or nautical flag behind his three wheeled chariot. He has in his hands, a cup and a lotus.
It is to be noted that Soma, the elixir of immortality is for God’s and Deva’s consumption and not subscribed for ordinary mortals. Soma, the god in the juice is said to clothe the naked and heal the sick. He is addressed as the god in the highest strains of adulation and veneration. He was described to be divine and immortal and also confer immortality on gods and men. In later periods, the name of Soma was still attached to the Moon. There are writings to state that Soma seems to be used in both senses: as god of the intoxicating juice and as the moon ruling in the night. Soma is the moon and food of the gods; the Sun has the nature of Agni and the moon of Soma.
Rig Veda refers to Soma as God for Gods to give preference over Indra the God of Gods: RV 9.42. The soma plant of the Rig Veda, is said to be asclepias acida. It is a creeping plant, almost destitute of leaves. It has a small white fragrant flower collected round the extremities of the branches. The plant is said to yield purer milky juice than any other plant and is mild and acidic in nature. Soma drink is identified with extraction of juice from the stalk of the soma plant. It is personified as a divinity. The exact identity of the plant is not known. In modern terms it is said to be species of Ephedra or variously hypothised to be a psychedelic mushroom, cannabis or peganum harmala. These plants are said to form a mythological unity something similar to the Greek ambrosia.
The composition of Soma has given rise to many interpretations. It is said to lead to divine exhilaration, perhaps with added hallucinogenic substance such as hemp. The composition varies according to the type and place of ritual. This beverage is not to be confused with ad-hoc substitutes prepared by priests, even in other faiths. Here and there one reads of juice from the roots of plants such as ‘nyagradha’ which grows on hills. The secret of the genuine Soma drunk by Gods and Devas remains in the Vedas and Puranas. It was an initiate of the descendants of the maharishis, the real Agnihotris or the initiates of great Hindu mysteries. That soma drink made a new personality of the initiate; he is reborn and transformed and his spiritual nature overcame his physical giving him divine power. It is a plant and at the same time a god. It forcibly connects the inner, highest spirit of man, which spirit is like the mystical Soma as he soars above his physical nature and ineffable glory of Bliss. Soma juice, is not man or priest to be supplied commercially in little bottles. And is most certainly not something obtained from the local pharmacy!
Soma finds frequent mention in the Rigveda. Interestingly, the Ninth Mandala of the Rigveda, which consists of hyms addressed to Soma Pavamma, is known as the Soma Mandala. In some of the hymns he is extolled as the Creator or Gather of the Gods. At that time he must have been a popular deity. Then Indra was also a worshipper of Soma.
Indra gets hold of the plant brought to him from a mountain. In some places it is said that the drink Soma was kept by King Soma who dwelt with the Gandharvas. They were a race of demi-gods or minor deities who formed the royal choir in Indra’s court. The celestial gods learnt of the soma juice, wished to obtain it. They did not know how to get possession. Vac, the goddess of speech enters to scene to advise of the Ghandarvas’ weakness for women and volunteered the assignment. The gods are hesitant to let Vac go. I will obtain King Soma and be wherever you want me to, she said.
In another version, Soma is in the sky while the gods are living on earth. Wishing to possess Soma, they sent Brahma’s daughter, Gayatri, to fetch it. She goes in the form of a bird. While she was returning with soma, the Ghandarvas seized it and gave it to Goddess Vac. When soma was handed to the gods a dispute arose as to who was to get ‘hit’ first. A race was organized for the winner to taste the soma first. Apparently Vayu reached the goal and Indra being second. Indra tried to a ‘compromise’ so Vayu could have two thirds of the drink. This was not agreeable so but finally Indra got to drink a quarter peck!
They are the most important of the Lingas and twelve in number. The names are Somnatha, Mallikarjuna, Mahakala, Omkara, Kedara, Bhimshankara. Vishvanatha, Tryambaka, Vaidynatha, Nagesha, Rameswara and Ghushnesha. Somnatha is the name of Shiva in the town of the same name situated in Prabhas Patan in Saurashtra in the state if Gujarat in India. It is connected with the story of Daksha’s curse to Chandra or Soma who is the moon god in Hindu mythology. Daksha was one of the patriarchs and Soma was his son-in-law. The story of Daksha’s curse and the waning of the moon are hereinbefore told.
The human heart is like a sky. Thoughts are moving in and out. They will also cover the Sun symbolising the intellect. Chandrama manaso hjahata – the moon was born out of the mind. The mind is a bundle of thoughts. The moon reflects the mind’s nature. Our own thoughts of desire form the dark clouds. When there is too much dark clouds both the sun and the moon are hidden. Clouds also symbolise sankalpas – resolutions and vikalpas – indecisivenss. The mind and intellect shine brightly when thoughts are controlled. There is close affinity between the mind and waxing moon; both are subject to decline and progress. The waning moon symbolises the waning of the mind. So the mind has to be controlled, reduced and finally destroyed. Sadhana is directed towards the killing of Manohara, the mind and Maya, the veil of delusion. Chathurdasi, the fourteenth night, is the weebit of the moon left. The sadhaka has to make an effort on that day. The dark half of Chaturdasi is called Sivarathri. This hour is to be spent on japa and syana od Siva, preferably observing vratam. Mahashivarathri comes onece a year. Shavan,corpse becomes Shivam, God by the removal of the clouds in Manas.
The word Soma’s true identity is the Moon. This lustrous crescent Moon is depicted on Siva’s forehead to represent the blissful radiance flooding the brain when Kundalini is aroused and sends the powerful stream of prana up the spine. Kundalini is also known as Serpent Power. Mythologically, the serpent represents a being of great power and wisdom. The most overt system designed to awaken Kundalini is the Tantras. One of such Tantric practices involves sexual arousal and the development of the ability to convert sexual essence and send them to the brain rather than expressing sexual energy outwardly. These rituals are diverse and linked to meditation and rituals. Copulation and bliss is referred to in obscure and symbolic terms. Tantra as a spiritual science is best understood by a guru’s instructions.
NB: Swami Hamsananda Saraswati : The moon is associated to the vegetable principle. In Asia soma rasa (soma drink) is not known any more. Only in Brazil they know how to do it. It is The vine known by the scientific name of BANISTERIOPSYS KAAPI, along with the PSYCHOTRYA VIRYADIS, or even the ANNACARDIUN OCIDENTALIS leaves. It is science how to prepare and an even more difficult science to conduct it as kundalini. It is the most fast and powerful method of KUndalini awakening. We used it at large in Brazilian Ashrams. The plant is found in wild state at Amazon Rain Forest, just where we are doing saddhana. It is a powerful tool to awaken also Chandra Nadi, Soma Nadi, Ida Nadi! Therefore it must be taken with wisdom otherwise the mind, the soma flow of the prana gets unbalanced one becomes mad, crasy! All abt Soma DEva is but a symbol of that all. A very wise archetipe.
Yogi Ananda Saraswathi..