Soma And Its Effects Essay

2507 words - 11 pages

Soma and its Effects
Throughout India's long and colorful history, there have been a considerable variety of groups who have left their mark on the land and its people. One of the most influential, however, were the Aryans. In fact, some of the Aryan customs still remain in modern-day India, such as cattle demanding great respect, which stems from the Aryan tradition of using such animals as currency (Chamberlain). The Aryans were mainly pastoral, relying on agriculture to survive (Bentley and Ziegler 94). They did not have any sort of writing system; instead, what is known about them is rooted in oral traditions.. This raises the question of religion. The Aryans believed in various gods ...view middle of the document...

(The Rig Veda).
This demonstrates the helpful benefits of Soma. According to this passage, among others contained in the Rig Veda, Soma gives its users feelings of great freedom and a general sense of expansiveness. After ingesting the drug, the user is also said to “know no limits” (Rig 238). This can help promote a healthy mindset as it relieves feelings of stress. Additionally, even gods are depicted in the Rig Veda as having been helped by the effects of Soma.
One of the traditional stories about Soma concerns Indra, the “Aryan war god and military hero...who ravaged citadels, smashed dams, and destroyed forts...” (Bentley and Ziegler 94). One significant feat, however, deals with Indra's defeat of a dragon who “lived in the sky and hoarded water in the clouds” (Bentley and Ziegler 87). Prior to the defeat, Indra satisfies his thirst by ingesting copious amounts of Soma. According to the story, after doing this, Indra goes into battle with the dragon and defeats it by throwing thunderbolts at it. The dragon, then, releases its storage of rain, which “fill seven rivers that flow through northern India and [bring] life-giving waters to the inhabitants of the region” (Bentley and Ziegler 87). As a pastoral people, the Aryans most likely tell this oral story to celebrate the rain, as their survival depends on it. From this perspective, Indra's defeat of the dragon is seen as a positive event. Prior to the defeat, however, Indra consumed large amounts of the drug Soma. The fact that this was specifically included in the oral tradition goes to show that it must bear some significance. If the user of the drug, who, in this case, is Indra, proceeds to perform some task favorable by the Aryan people, we can conclude that the story of Indra's defeat of the dragon is meant to celebrate the falling of the life-giving rain as well as say something about the rewarding effects of Soma. According to Bentley and Ziegler, “In the early days of their migrations [the Aryans] took Indra as their chief deity [and] told dozens of stories about Indra...” (87). Bentley and Ziegler further state that, “The earliest of [the Aryan oral traditions] were the Vedas...the earliest and most important of which is the Rig Veda...” (94). Since both the story of Indra's defeat of the dragon as well as the Rig Veda seem to have been composed among the early Aryan migrants, we can presume the authors of both compositions to be from the same group. Since we have established that whoever came up with story of the dragon's defeat also believes that Soma can lead one to perform great things, then we can conclude that whoever came up with the hymns concerning Soma in the Rig Veda also believe that Soma is beneficial to one's health and overall well-being.
The profitable effects of Soma become even more apparent when one considers the way the Aryans were arranged among their neighbors in early India. Among the Aryan societal makeup were hundreds of chiefdoms. According to Bentley...

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