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A History of Sanskrit Literature by MacDonell

Soma also awakens eager thought


Owing

to the yellow colour of the juice, the physical quality of Soma mainly dwelt upon by the poets is his brilliance. His rays are often referred to, and he is frequently assimilated to the sun.

The exhilarating and invigorating action of soma led to its being regarded as a divine drink that bestows everlasting life. Hence it is called amrita, the "immortal" draught (allied to the Greek ambrosia). Soma is the stimulant which conferred immortality upon the gods. Soma also places his worshipper in the imperishable world where there is eternal light and glory, making him immortal where King Yama dwells. Thus soma naturally has medicinal power also. It is medicine for a sick man, and the god Soma heals whatever is sick, making the blind to see and the lame to walk.

Soma when imbibed stimulates the voice, which it impels as the rower his boat. Soma also awakens eager thought, and the worshippers of the god exclaim, "We have drunk soma, we have become immortal, we have entered into light, we have known the gods." The intoxicating power of soma is chiefly, and very frequently, dwelt on in connection with Indra, whom it stimulates in his conflict with the hostile demons of the air.

Being the most important of herbs, soma is spoken of as lord of plants or their king, receiving also the epithet vanaspati, "lord of the forest."

Soma is several times described

as dwelling or growing on the mountains, in accordance with the statements of the Avesta about Haoma. Its true origin and abode is regarded as heaven, whence it has been brought down to earth. This belief is most frequently embodied in the myth of the soma-bringing eagle (cyena), which is probably only the mythological account of the simple phenomenon of the descent of lightning and the simultaneous fall of rain.

In some of the latest hymns of the Rigveda Soma begins to be somewhat obscurely identified with the moon. In the Atharva-veda Soma several times means the moon, and in the Yajurveda Soma is spoken of as having the lunar mansions for his wives. The identification is a commonplace in the Brahmanas, which explain the waning of the moon as due to the gods and fathers eating up the ambrosia of which it consists. In one of the Upanishads, moreover, the statement occurs that the moon is King Soma, the food of the gods, and is drunk up by them. Finally, in post-Vedic literature Soma is a regular name of the moon, which is regarded as being consumed by the gods, and consequently waning till it is filled up again by the sun. This somewhat remarkable coalescence of Soma with the moon doubtless sprang from the hyperbolical terms in which the poets of the Rigveda dwell on Soma's celestial nature and brilliance, which they describe as dispelling darkness. They sometimes speak of it as swelling in the waters, and often refer to the sap as a "drop" (indu). Comparisons with the moon would thus easily suggest themselves. In one passage of the Rigveda, for instance, Soma in the bowls is said to appear like the moon in the waters. The mystical speculations with which the Soma poetry teems would soon complete the symbolism.


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