Soma and Indian linguistic area -- EJVS by kalyan97

VIEWS: 881 PAGES: 125

									The Soma-Haoma problem: Introductory overview and
observations on the discussion - James E.M. Houben

Vol. 9 (2003) Issue 1a (May 4) (©) ISSN 1084-7561

Guest editor : Jan E.M. Houben, Leiden University







(1a) 1. The Soma-Haoma problem: Introductory overview and
observations on the discussion (J.E.M. Houben)

(1b) 2. Report of the Workshop (J.E.M. Houben)

(1c) 3. Report concerning the contents of a ceramic vessel found in
the "white room" of the Gonur Temenos, Merv Oasis,
Turkmenistan (C.C. Bakels)

(1d) 4. Margiana and Soma-Haoma (Victor I. Sarianidi)

(1e) 5. Soma and Ecstasy in the Rgveda (George Thompson)

* 6. Contributors to this issue, Part I



This volume of EJVS is edited by our guest editor, Jan Houben. He has
organized the Leiden conference whose (partial) outcome are the papers
presented here. Incidentally, this volume follows up, in certain respects,
the discussion, begun in Vol. 8-3 by Philip T. Nicholson, about specially
induced states of mind, as seen in Vedic texts. A rep[ort on te recent
Somayaaga in Keral will follow soon.

The transcription in this issue follows the Kyoto-Harvard System with
minor, self-evident modifications (especially in the initial characters
of proper names, such as .R = capital vowel R), and some special
characters for Avestan: E = e, E: = long e, /e = schwa, T = theta, D =
delta, G = gamma, :n = ng, ^s = sh, :x = xv, etc. Accents are
represented as follows: udATTa by / and Svarita by \ .

We sincerely thank Jan Houben for all work undertaken to bring out this
special issue.





Note: The Soma-Haoma issue of the EJVS, of which this is the first part,
presents the direct and indirect outcome of a workshop on the Soma-Haoma
problem organized by the Research school CNWS, Leiden University, 3-4 July



The Soma-Haoma problem:
Introductory overview and observations on the discussion[1]
Jan E.M. Houben

Je suis ivre d'avoir bu tout l'univers ...
Écoutez mes chants d'universelle ivrognerie.
Apollinaire, 1913

It is no sign of scientific honesty to attempt
to claim for what is in reality a branch of
historical research, a character of
mathematical certainty.
... it is only the rawest recruit
who expects mathematical precision where,
from the nature of the case, we must
be satisfied with approximative aimings.
F. Max Mueller, 1888, p. xiv.

1. Introduction
Practically since the beginning of Indology and Iranology, scholars have
been trying to identify the plant that plays a central role in Vedic and
Avestan hymns and that is called Soma in the Veda and Haoma in the Avesta.
What is the plant of which the Vedic poet says (.RV 8.48.3)[2]:
*/apAma s/omam am/rtA abhUm/a-aganma jy/otir /avidAma dev/An / k/iM nUn/am
asm/An k.rNavad /arAtiH k/im u dhUrt/ir am.rta m/artyasya //*
"We just drank the Soma, we have become immortal, we have come to the
light, we have found the gods. What can enmity do to us now, and what the
mischief of a mortal, o immortal one?"
And which plant is addressed by Zarathustra (Y 9.19-20) when he asks divine
blessings such as "long life of vitality" (*dar/eGO.jItIm
u^stAnahe*)[3][4], "the best world of the pious, shining and entirely
glorious" (*vahi^st/em ahUm a:Saon/am raoca:nh/em vIspO.:xATr/em*), and
requests to become "the vanquisher of hostility, the conqueror of the lie"
(*-tbaE:SO tauruu:A druj/em vanO*)?

2.1. Early ideas and guesses on Soma and Haoma
Already Abraham Rogerius, the 17th century missionary from Holland, was
familiar with the word *soma*, as he writes in his Open Deure tot het
Verborgen Heydendom (1651) that it means "moon" in the language which he
calls "Samscortam" [5]. But it seems that it was only in the second half of
the 18th century that Europeans started to gather more detailed
informations about Vedic rituals, including the use of Soma (in the meaning
of the plant and the inebriating drink created from it). In an abridged
text of the Jesuit Father Coeurdoux which remained unpublished but which
was apparently the unacknowledged basis of J.A. Dubois' well-known work on
the customs, institutions and ceremonies of the peoples of India (Abbé
1825), we read that Soma is the name of a certain liqueur of which the
sacrificer and the Brahmins have to drink at the occasion of a sacrifice
("Soma est le nom d'une certaine liqueur dont lui [= celui qui préside à la
cérémonie, J.H.] et les autres Brahmes doivent boire en cette occasion",
Murr 1987: 126).

>From Anquetil-Duperron (1771) [6] and Charles Wilkins (1785) [7] onward,
the identity of the Avestan Haoma and of the Vedic Soma started to receive
scholarly and scientific attention. In 1842, John Stevenson wrote in the
preface to his translation of the SAmaveda that in the preparation of a
Soma ritual (somayAga) one should collect the "moon-plant". He identifies
(p. IV) the plant as Sarcostemma viminalis. He moreover notes (p. X) that
"[s]ince the English occupation of the Marátha country" the SomayAga was
performed three times (viz., in Nasik, Pune and Sattara). In 1844, Eugène
Burnouf observed in a study (p. 468) that the situation of the Avestan
Haoma, the god whose name signifies both a plant and the juice pressed from
it, is exactly parallel with the Soma of Vedic sacrifice. Windischmann
(1846) discussed ritual and linguistic parallels between the Soma- and
Haoma-cult in more detail. He reports (1846: 129) that Soma is known to be
Sarcostemma viminalis, or Asclepias acida (the latter nowadays also known
as Sarcostemma acidum Voigt), to which he attributes a
narcotic-intoxicating ("narkotisch-berauschende") effect.

2.2. Soma-Haoma and the development of modern botany
The botanical identity of Soma and Haoma became problematized in the second
half of the nineteenth century in a time when botany was coping with the
challenges of various exotic, newly encountered floras. The use of the
plant Sarcostemma brevistigma in recent Vedic sacrifices was acknowledged,
but was this identical with the Soma which had inspired the ancient authors
of the Vedic hymns? Max Mueller expressed his doubts in an article
published in 1855, in which he referred to a verse about Soma that appeared
in a ritualistic commentary (dhUrtasvAmin's commentary on the Apastamba
/SrautasUtra) and that was itself allegedly quoted from an Ayurvedic
source. Adalbert Kuhn 1859, being primarily interested in Indo-European
mythological parallels, accepts Windischmann's conclusions that the
Soma-Haoma was already current among the proto-Indo-Iranians before they
split into a Vedic and Iranian group. He leaves open the possibility that
only the mythology and outward appearance of the Soma and Haoma are similar
while the plants may be different. In 1881 Roth discussed in an article,
"Ueber den Soma", the nature of the plant that was used in modern times,
the plant of olden times, the development in which the plant became rare
and inaccessible to the Vedic people, and the admission and prescription of
surrogates in later Vedic texts. He thinks it is likely that the ancient
Soma was a Sarcostemma or a plant belonging, like the Sarcostemma, to the
family of Asclepiadeae, but not the same kind as the one used in current
sacrifices. Roth's article was the starting signal of a discussion by
correspondence in an English weekly review of literature, art and science,
The Academy of 1884-1885; apart from Roth and Mueller botanists such as
J.G. Baker and W.T. Thiselton-Dyer participated. Julius Eggeling (1885:
xxiv ff) gave a brief report of this discussion, which later on appeared
again in Max Mueller's Biographies of Words and the Home of the Aryans
(1888: 222-242). From the title which Mueller gives to the whole
discussion, "The original home of the Soma", it is clear which aspect of
the problem interests him most: the possible indication that the plant's
identity might give about "the original home of the Aryans". Eggeling
notices that an official inquiry is undertaken by Dr. Aitchison, "botanist
to the Afghan Boundary Commission" (Eggeling 1885: xxiv). A few decades
later, Hillebrandt (1927: 194ff) gives a more detailed report of the same
discussion and adds references to a few later contributions to the
Soma-Haoma problem. As in the case of Eggeling, Hillebrandt cannot reach a
final conclusion regarding the identity of the plant Soma and Haoma in the
ancient period. Suggestions noted by Hillebrandt vary from wine (Watt and
Aitchison) and beer (Rajendra Lal Mitra) to Cannabis (B.L. Mukherjee).[8]
In a footnote, Hillebrandt writes about a "Reisebrief aus Persien" by
Bornmueller according to whom the "Soma-twig (also called Homa and Huma)"
in the hand of a Parsi priest in Yesd could be immediately recognized as
Ephedra. A few years earlier, Jivanji Jamshedji Modi, in his work on the
"religious ceremonies and customs of the Parsees" (1922: 303, footnote 1),
reported that "a few twigs of the Haoma plant used by the Indian Parsis in
their ritual" were sent to Dr. Aitchison (spelled by Modi as Aitchinson)
and identified by him as "twigs of the species Ephedra (Nat. order
Gnetaceae)." Aitchison publishes his botanical descriptions of plants
encountered at his trip through the "Afghan boundary" area in 1888. In the
valley of the Hari-rud river he notices (1888: 111-112) the presence of
several varieties of Ephedra, including one which he and a colleague are
the first to determine, as well as the Ephedra pachyclada, of which he
reports as "native names" Hum, Huma and Yehma.[9] Without committing
himself to a candidate for the "real Soma plant", Oldenberg (1894: 177 and
366ff) argued that the Vedic Soma plant was a replacement of an earlier,
Indo-European substance inebriating men and gods: mead, an alcoholic drink
derived from honey.

2.3. Soma-Haoma, the biochemistry of plants, and human physiology
At the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century,
another strand starts to be woven in the Soma-Haoma discussion. An active
substance of the Ephedra plant, the alkaloid ephedrine, was found in the
chinese herb Ma Huang (Ephedra vulg.) in 1885 by Yamanashi. In 1887 and
1892, it was isolated from the plant by Nagai, who gave it the name
ephedrine.[10] In World War I, ephedrin and a number of other alkaloids
(quinine, strychnine, yohimbine and harmaline), were tested on a group of
soldiers; it was found that ephedrine worked most strongly on muscle
strength as well as on the will to overcome fatigue.[11] In his 1938
Lehrbuch der biologischen Heilmittel (Textbook of biological remedies),
Gerhard Madaus (1938: 1259-1266) refers to a large number of studies on the
effects, toxicity etc. of ephedrine appearing in German and American
scientific journals, and notes their employment in the treatment of asthma
and low bloodpressure. In the period between the two world wars, chemical
substances (amphetamines) were explored which were close to ephedrine both
in chemical structure and in physiological effects (Alles 1933, Fawcett and
Busch 1998: 504). In World War II it were the amphetamines that were widely
used on both sides.

2.4. A growing public for knowledge and experience of
psychoactive substances
A book that we may now call a textbook of psychoactive substances was
published in 1924, with an enlarged edition in 1927: Louis Lewin's
Phantastica: Die betäubenden und erregenden Genussmittel für Ärzte and
Nichtärzte (Phantastica: narcotics and stimulants, for medical doctors and
non-doctors). Having researched several of the plants (the mexican
"mescal-button" cactus) and substances (e.g. cocaine) himself in the
preceding decades, he gives detailed discussions of the uses and abuses of
a wide range of narcotics, stimulants and popular remedies that were either
available in Europe from all parts of the world or that had been studied
abroad by ethnographers. He is aware (1927: 216) of the Soma-discussion,
and of the main proposals, Periploca aphylla, Sarcostemma brevistigma and
Ephedra vulgaris, which, however, he does not see as capable of "producing
the effects described with regard to the Soma" ("Keine von diesen Pflanzen
kann Wirkingen veranlassen, wie sie von dem Soma geschildert werden"). He
rather thinks that it may have been a "strong alcoholic drink created by
fermentation from a plant."[12] An English translation of Lewin's book was
read by Aldous Huxley in 1931, and it inspired him to write Brave New World
(1932), the satirical fiction of a state where, with an inversion of Marx'
statement, "opium is the religion of the people". The "opium" in Huxley's
novel is a chemical substance which he calls "Soma" and which, dependent on
the dose, can bring someone a happy feeling, ego-transcending ecstasy, or a
deep sleep like a "complete and absolute holiday" [13]. In a 1931 newspaper
article in which he refers to his discovery of that "ponderous book by a
German pharmacologist" (i.e., Lewin's 1927 "encyclopaedia of drugs"),
Huxley says that "probably the ancient Hindus used alcohol to produce
religious ecstasy" (in Huxley 1977: 4), a statement apparently deriving
from Lewin's hasty and unconvincing suggestion for the identification of
Soma with alcohol. The same book also informed him that "the Mexicans
procured the beatific vision by eating a poisonous cactus" and that "a
toadstool filled the Shamans of Siberia with enthusiasm and endowed them
with the gift of tongues." In 1958: 99, however, Huxley mentions another
plant as the possibly real Vedic Soma: "The original Soma, from which I
took the name of this hypothetical drug, was an unknown plant (possibly
Asclepias acida) used by the ancient Aryan invaders of India in one of the
most solemn of their religious rites." His novel Island of 1963 gives a
description of a more positive Utopian world in the form of a community
that uses a drug not called Soma but "Moksha", and made out of
"toadstools". It provides "the full-blown mystical experience."[14]

2.5. The main Soma-Haoma candidates until the 1960'ies
In the meantime, indologists, ethnologists, botanists and pharmacologists
had continued discussing and researching various candidates for the "real
Soma-Haoma". The main plants discussed are Ephedra, Sarcostemma
brevistigma, and Rhubarb. In the latter theory, defended e.g. by Stein
1931, the reddish juice of the plant is thought to be the basis of an
alcoholic drink. In the introduction to his translation of the ninth
maNDala of the .Rgveda (Geldner 1951, vol. III), K.F. Geldner says that the
Soma-plant "can only have been a kind of Ephedra." Geldner (1853-1929)
worked on the translation of the ninth and tenth maNDalas in the last years
of his life. He justified his view by noting that a sample (apparently of a
plant used in the Haoma-ceremony) given to him in Bombay by Parsi priests
was identified as Ephedra by the renowned botanist O. Stapf; he also
referred to a publication of Aitchison (Notes on Products of Western
Afghanistan and North Eastern Persia, not available to me) and to Modi
1922: 303. In earlier publications such as the one on the Zoroastrian
religion (1926) and his textbook on Vedism and Brahmanism (1928), Geldner
had remained quite silent on the botanical identity of the Haoma-Soma, he
only presented the two as identical. Geldner's German .Rgveda translation
became widely available only several years after World War II, but then it
became the scholarly standard translation for the next so many decades.

3.1. The fly agaric (Amanita muscaria): a new candidate
presented, criticized and defended.
An altogether new theory was launched by R. Gordon Wasson in a book that
appeared in 1969.[15] Wasson (1898-1986) was an English banker as well as
ethnobotanist and mycologist.[16] Together with his wife, he earlier
published a book on "mushrooms in Russian history" in 1957. Wasson's 1969
book on a "mushroom of immortality" as the original Soma presents an
impressive array of circumstantial evidence in the form of ethnographic and
botanic data on the use of the Amanita muscaria ("fly-agaric") by isolated
tribes in the far north-west of Siberia. In other words, what was literary
fiction in Huxley's novel Island appears now as a scholarly hypothesis.[17]
However, what should count as substantial evidence in Wasson's hypothesis
remains utterly unconvincing. Wasson wants to take only the .Rgvedic hymns
into account, from which he selects statements that would describe the
Soma-plant. The hymns, however, are employed in the context of elaborate
rituals and are generally directed to certain gods, e.g. Indra, Agni, Soma.
The praises of the god contain references to mythological elements
regarding his powers, feats and origination. To the extent that hymns to
Soma contain references to concrete events - that is, to the extent they do
not refer to cosmological themes or to microcosmic implications - these
usually concern the ritual sphere. Wasson takes these references as
detailed descriptions of the plant in its natural habitat, which is
demonstrably incorrect. By isolating short phrases eclectically, Wasson
does indeed succeed in collecting a number of statements which can be
applied to the fly-agaric and its life cycle in nature. While the verses
are apparently formulated so as to be suggestive of additional meanings (to
allow interpretations concerning man and the cosmos), the immediate context
of the isolated phrases usually make a link with the growing mushroom far
fetched while the suitablility for the ritual context remains. Even if
occasionally mention is made of the mountains as the place where the Soma
grows, the hymns of the ninth book of the .Rgveda, which forms the main
source of evidence for Wasson, deal with the Soma in the process of
purification (p/avamAna). As Brough observed in 1973: 22: "the Vedic
priests were concentrating on the ritual situation, and on the plant,
presumably in a dried state, at the time of the ritual pressing. It is thus
improbable that the Vedic 'epithets and tropes' which Wasson believed
reflected aspects of the striking beauty of the living plant were inspired
in this way." [18] A number of reviews of Wasson's book appeared from the
hand of anthropologists, botanists, writers, indologists, and historians of
religion.[19] Those which were too hesitant in accepting Wasson's central
thesis, Kuiper and Brough, received a rejoinder (Wasson 1970 and 1972a),
where, however, we find repetitions of his earlier statements and more of
the same but no indication that the problems pointed out by the reviewers
were understood, let alone that these problems are convincingly addressed

Separate mention is to be made of Part Two of Wasson's book (pp. 93-147),
which is written by indologist Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty and is entitled
"The Post-Vedic History of the Soma Plant". This part is valuable for its
discussion of researches on Soma and Haoma by Western scholars since the
end of the eighteenth century to the time of her writing. The section on
"the BrAhmaNas and the /Srauta-sUtras" (pp. 95-98), concerning a crucial
episode in Soma's "post-vedic history" for which extensive material is
available, is impressionistic and eclectic and hence defective [21], but in
spite of this both Doniger O'Flaherty and Wasson refer to it in their
attempt to prove the absence of direct knowledge of Soma in this period.

Apart from its importance for the study of the use of the fly-agaric by
tribes in distant North-East Siberia,[22] Wasson's book forms an undeniable
landmark in the Soma-Haoma discussion. However, while initially he did
receive more positive reactions to his central thesis from some indological
reviewers (Bareau, Ingalls and Kramrisch), it hardly ever received
full-fledged support from later indologists writing on the subject. One
important point is however widely accepted: the Soma might very well have
been a hallucinogen. The line of reasoning underlying the argument
presented in Wasson 1969 was: in the light of the utterances of the Vedic
authors, Soma cannot have been alcoholic, it must have been a
hallucinogen.[23] In his review of Wasson 1969, Brough (1971: 360f) made an
important observation. Quoting from Wasson's evidence on the consumption of
fly-agaric among tribes in North-East Siberia, Brough points out that there
are repeated references to coma induced by the fly-agaric. Those who
consume the mushroom attain "an ecstatic stupor" or are transported into "a
state of unconsciousness". Being "in a stupor from three sun-dried agarics"
the hero of one of Wasson's sources "is unable to respond to the call to
arms. But time passes and the urgency grows, and when the messengers press
their appeal to throw off his stupor he finally calls for his arms." Brough
rightly observes: "Here, it would seem, is a plant whose effects are
totally unsuitable to stimulate Indra and human warriors for battle." In
his answer to the problem indicated by Brough, Wasson sneers at Brough's
self-admitted lack of specialist qualifications in chemistry and
pharmacology and retorts (1972a: 15): "Wine as one of the Elements in the
Mass is analogous. From earliest times (indeed since Noah's days!) wine has
been known to cause nausea, vomiting, and coma; yet its sacramental rôle
stands unchallenged."

The situation is, however, not the same. The "ecstatic stupor" and "state
of unconsciousness" appear in Wasson's anecdotes of the use of fly-agaric
as quite regular effects appearing quite soon after the consumption of
doses that according to the descriptions are the normal ones (cf. also
Nyberg 1995: 391). In the case of wine normal consumption seems rather
accompanied by a whole range of effects from exhileration to drowsiness,
while "nausea, vomiting, and coma" befalls only those who consume it in
great excess (or who drink bad wine). It is also striking that
hallucinations and visions are reported in a considerable number of
Wasson's Amonita muscaria anecdotes; they apparently occur quite soon after
the consumption of the active substance of the mushrooms, and seem to be
part of the experience actually sought by the consumer. Brough (1971: 361)
draws attention to Ephedra, and to ephedrine isolated from Ephedra sinica
(Ma Huang). Ephedrine, according to Brough, "is a powerful stimulant, and
would thus be a more plausible preparation for warriors about to go into
battle than the fly-agaric, which is a depressant."
In Wasson's presentation the choice was between alcohol and a hallucinogen.
In Brough's formulation we have to choose between a hallucinogen and a
stimulant, whereas an alcoholic drink is for him not a suitable candidate
for the substance causing the Vedic people to attain exhileration (m/ada).
These seem to be the major options taken into consideration in the
post-Wasson era of the Soma-Haoma discussion. In 1975 Frits Staal appended
a discussion of the Soma-issue to his book on the exploration of mysticism.
Staal is quite impressed by Wasson's argument (1975: 204: "his
identification stands in splendid isolation as the only, and therefore the
best, theory"). But he demonstrates to be not entirely unaware of its
methodological shortcomings (1975: 202): "The only weakness that seems to
be apparent for Wasson's theory is a certain unfalsifiability. A good
theory should be liable to falsification. Theories which are true come what
may and which can never be refuted by facts are uninformative, tautologous,
or empty. In fact, apparent counterexamples to Wasson's theory can always
be interpreted as consistent with the theory. When opponents point out, for
example, that there are descriptions in the Veda which do not fit a
mushroom, Wasson replies that the identity of the Soma was intentionally
hidden by the Brahmans, or that these descriptions fit creepers or other
substitutes." Staal thus saw that Wasson takes the Veda at once as the
document on the basis of which the Soma can be identified as a mushroom,
and as a testimony of concerted attempts of Brahmins to mystify and hide
this identity: a very flexible employment indeed of a source taken as
crucial evidence.[24] Staal here distinguishes between only two options for
Soma, alcohol and a hallucinogen, thus neglecting the relevance of
psychoactive substances which have a primarily stimulant and ecstasy
promoting effect (without excluding the occurrence of hallucinations or
visions). In his book on the Agnicayana ritual (1983, I: 106), he
formulates his position with reference to Wasson's thesis as follows:
"Wasson's thesis implies, but is not implied by, a weaker thesis, namely
that the original Vedic Soma was a hallucinogenic plant [i.e., not
necessarily a mushroom, J.H.]. I regard this as the most important part of
Wasson's hypothesis ... " The restriction of possible psychoactive
candidates to substances known as hallucinogens, however, is unjustified.

A substitute for Soma mentioned in some of the ritual texts is Puut/iika.
The Puut/iika is also one of the additives in the clay of the Pravargya pot
- an object that is central in an esoteric, priestly ritual, the Pravargya
(cf. van Buitenen 1968, Houben 1991 and 2000). In an article published in
1975 (later appearing as the third chapter in Wasson et al. 1986), Stella
Kramrisch sought to prove that this Puut/iika was a mushroom having
psychotropic effects. According to her (1975: 230), "Puutika [sic], the
foremost, and possibly the only direct surrogate for Soma, is a mushroom.
When the fly-agaric no longer was available, another mushroom became its
substitute. ... The identification of Puutika [sic], the Soma surrogate,
supplies strong evidence that Soma indeed was a mushroom." Kramrisch'
identification goes via the mushroom called Putka by the Santals in Eastern
India. As Kuiper (1984) pointed out, the linguistic connection suggested by
Kramrisch does not hold. As pointed out in Houben 1991: 110, the ritual
texts prescribing the Puut/iika as an additive to the clay of the Pravargya
pot present it as an /oSadhi (KaTha-AraNyaka 2,11+) and as something
providing a firm basis from which he can attack the demon V.rtra
(TaittirIya-AraNyaka 2.9-10). Like other additives such as the animal hairs
and the material of an ant-hill, it was not exclusively symbolic as
Kramrisch believes, but had no doubt a pragmatic basis in providing extra
strength to the clay pot which is to withstand extremely hight temperatures
in the ritual of the heated milk offering. There is hence no basis to
regard the PUtIka as a mushroom, which takes away the additional evidence
that Soma were a mushroom.

Rainer Stuhrmann 1985 briefly reviews the Soma-discussion since Wasson
1969. He notes that critics of Wasson are right in maintaining that it is
not possible to classify Soma, but that they went too far in entirely
excluding a mushroom. He points out that even if the colour pictures which
Wasson attaches to phrases from the .Rgveda are seducingly suggestive, the
questionable nature of Wasson's interpretation of the verses must be
apparent to anyone who reads Geldner's or Renou's translation of the hymns
in their entirety. According to him, there are nevertheless three points
that can be considered settled:
(1) From the BrAhmaNas on, the original Soma was replaced by several other
plants, and such substitution is already indicated in the tenth book of the
(2) The original Soma cannot have been alcoholic, because there would not
have been time for the fermentation of the sap after the pressing;
moreover, both the .Rgveda and the Avesta contrast the effects of
Soma-Haoma with the alcoholic s/urA.
(3) The plant grows in the mountains.

Stuhrmann emphasizes that it is important to investigate the type of
intoxication produced by Soma and to conclude on that basis what type of
plant was used as Soma. He observes that several characteristics of the
Soma-hymns, such as their "formless tangle of images and mystic fantasies
[25]", importance of optic qualities in epithets of Soma, can be well
explained by hallucinogenic influence. Hence he concludes that in case Soma
would not be the fly-agaric it must at least be a plant containing

Stuhrmann's argument is carefully phrased, but it is in several respects
imprecise and contains a few crucial nonsequiturs. Stuhrmann states that
from the BrAhmaNas onwards the Soma was replaced by substitutes - a
distorted representation of facts that goes back to Wasson and Doniger
O'Flaherty: as we have seen, it is true that substitutes are mentioned, but
there is also still an awareness of the real Soma and of the fetching of
Soma from near by in case the "top quality" Soma of mountain MUjavat is
stolen. The view that substitution would have started at the time of the
composition of the tenth book of the .Rgveda is also already found with
Wasson, and likewise, Wasson supports his statement with a reference to
.Rgveda 10.85.3
*s/omam manyate papivAn y/at sampiMSanty /oSadhim /
s/omaM y/am brahm/ANo vidur n/a t/asyA/SnAti k/a/S can/a //
"One believes to have drunk the Soma when they press out the herb.
The Soma which the Brahmans know, no-one consumes of that one."
It is difficult to draw from this verse the conclusion that the Soma is not
a herb, as Stuhrmann tries to do (1985: 91 note 3), apart from being
something more abstract in the knowledge of Brahmans. Since the word
/oSadhi 'herb' would otherwise contradict Wasson's mushroom theory, he was
forced to see in the first two pAdas of the verse a reference to a
substitute, and in the last two pAdas a reference to the real Soma held
secret by the Brahmans. This in itself is already a quite contorted
interpretation. In the larger context of the hymn it proves to be
untenable. The first verse of this well-known hymn of the marriage of
sUry/A (fem.) with Soma (masc.) says that Soma is placed in heaven, and
hence makes it immediately clear that verse three presents a contrast
between the pressing of the Soma-plant on the earth and the Soma as moon
which latter cannot be consumed directly. There is no suggestion of a
substitute, only of an additional insight of the Brahmans with regard to a
plant (*/oSadhi*) which can be known and seen by all.

As for the exclusion of alcohol: the contrast with s/urA is indeed there.
Some process of fermentation or alteration of substances in the Soma plant
can nevertheless not be entirely excluded in the period between their
plucking and the employment in the ritual where the Soma-stalks are
sprinkled on a number of consecutive days preceding the pressing. As for
the mountains as the place of the Soma, it is clear that this applies to
top-quality Soma. The Avesta (10.17) speaks of Soma occurring on mountains
and in valleys (where the latter may, indeed, still be on high altitudes).

Next, Stuhrmann wants to infer the type of relevant plant-substance from
the type of intoxication produced by Soma. Stuhrmann refers here to .Rgveda
10.119 which is generally interpreted as the self-praise of Indra who
became drunk from drinking Soma. The speaker in the poem makes statements
such as: after having drunk the Soma, one of my wings is in heaven and the
other is being dragged on the earth. While the whole hymn could be seen as
poetic fiction, one may indeed see here a reference to a hallucination or
distorted perception, and the Soma would have a place in the causal nexus
leading to it. This does not mean that Soma must have been a hallucinogen
in the strict, modern sense of the term, especially because references to
Soma outside this exceptional hymn are not normally indicative of serious
hallucinations on the part of the authors. The latter point was argued by
Falk (1989), who, however, went too far in trying to completely exclude the
possibility that .Rgveda 10.119 points to a hallucinatory experience. Even
if we follow for the moment Stuhrmann in his acceptance of a hallucinogenic
effect of Soma, his conclusion at the end that the Soma plant must have
contained alkaloids is both too wide and too narrow. Even if alkaloids have
often psychoactive properties, instead of being predominantly hallucinogen
they also may have quite different properties such as CNS-stimulant,
sleep-inducing etc. On the other hand, hallucinations may have a basis in
other substances than alkaloids: any substance that can interact with the
biochemistry of the brain may induce distorted perceptions (among modern
products petrol or gasoline would be an example; cf. already Lewin 1927:
268f). In addition, a lack of nutritients through fasting and thirsting may
induce hallucinations as well. The same applies to the deprivation of
sleep. Most importantly, whether a substance or the absence of substances
does indeed produce a hallucination will usually depend to a large extent
on the physiological and psychological condition of the subject, whereas
the nature of the hallucination or vision will depend on his psychology and
cultural background.

That the Soma was not a hallucinogen but a stimulant, probably from a
species of Ephedra, was the view elaborated and defended by Harry Falk in
1987 at the World Sanskrit Conference in Leiden. In his paper (1989) he
places previous theories in three categories: (1) Soma is hallucinogenic;
(2) Soma needs fermentation and is alcoholic; (3) Soma is a stimulant.
Emphasizing the Vedic indications for a stimulant effect of Soma which
contributes to staying awake all night [26], he concludes that Soma-Haoma
must again be identified with Ephedra. To establish his position he not
only points out the properties of Ephedra and places in Vedic literature
indicating wakefulness and aphrodisiac effect in connection with Soma, but
also argues that the .Rgveda contains no references to hallucinations, not
even in .Rgveda 10.119 that is normally taken in that sense. (In the
present issue George Thompson argues, convincingly I think, for a
restoration of the "hallucinatory" character of this hymn.)

3.2 A fresh look at the Iranian evidence and a new hallucinogenic candidate
The same year 1989 saw the publication of the book Haoma and Harmaline by
David Stophlet Flattery and Martin Schwartz. Here the authors base
themselves mainly on Iranian evidence and provide an extensive and careful
argument that the Haoma- and Soma-plant was in fact Harmel, which contains
an alkaloid with hallucinogenic properties, harmaline (as well as harmine).
The authors are aware (1989: 67-68) that for centuries Zoroastrians of
central Iran have been using Ephedra - which they call *hom* - together
with another plant - parts from a twig of the pomegranate tree - in their
Haoma rituals. From the fact that in Nepal Ephedra is called *somalatA*
('Soma creeper') they infer that Ephedra was the plant used as Soma before
it was replaced by Sarcostemma which grows in tropical areas of India and
which was in use by Brahmins encountered by the Europeans in nineteenth
century India (1989: 69). Yet, they think that Ephedra cannot have been the
Haoma-Soma itself. For this, they have one main reason: we do not see that
contemporaneous Zoroastrian priests using Ephedra become intoxicated.
According to Flattery's and Schwartz's judgement, "sauma must have been
commonly known in ancient Iranian society as an intoxicating plant in order
for the credibility of the sauma ceremonies, and the authority of Iranian
priests claimed from them, to have been maintained. Despite being commonly
designated *haoma* (and the like), Ephedra is without suitable psychoactive
potential in fact (and is not regarded in traditional ethnobotany as having
any psychoactive properties at all) and, therefore, it cannot have been
believed to be the means to an experience from which the priests could
claim religious authority or widely believed to be the essential ingredient
of an *intoxicating* extract." They conclude that (1989: 74) "It is
therefore neither likely that Ephedra was a substitute for sauma
[Soma-Haoma] nor that it was sauma itself, yet, according to both Iranian
and Indian traditions, Ephedra was essentially linked with the extract
drunk during the ceremonies. The only way of reconciling this fact with the
considerations of the preceding paragraphs is to view Ephedra as an archaic
additive to the extract. Thus, Ephedra too would have been a soma-/haoma-
'pressed out (plant)', though not the only (or fundamental) one." The
argument is carefully structured. However, it may be observed that their
information regarding the properties of Ephedra and its alkaloids such as
Ephedrine was apparently incomplete or outdated. It is true that Ephedrine
and related alkaloids are best-known for their use in the case of asthma as
well as low blood-pressure (hypotension), but it is since long known that
it is also a general stimulant of the central nervous system. Hence its
psychiatric use, e.g. in manic depressive disorder.[27] What the authors
may not have been aware of in 1989 is that Ephedra would soon be marketed
as the "natural" (hence supposedly safe, and in any case less restricted
and regulated) alternative for the popular designer drug Ecstasy (XTC).[28]
It is not clear on which impressionistic basis they conclude that the
priests are not "intoxicated" nor what would qualify in their eyes as
"intoxication," i.e. the *maDa* of the Avestans and the *mada* of the Vedic

3.3 The evidence from brahmanic texts and ritual
In 1990 the renowned specialist in /Srauta-literature C.G. Kashikar
published his Identification of Soma, in which he argues for Ephedra as the
original plant used in the Vedic and Zoroastrian rituals.[30] The main
importance of this publication lies in the discussion of evidence of Vedic
ritual texts which are chronologically immediately following the .Rgveda
(the latter forming the point of departure for Wasson's identification).
Several Yajurvedic SaMhitAs, BrAhmaNas and /SrautasUtras not only refer to
the ceremonial purchase of Soma (where the seller is asked whether it comes
from the mUjavat mountain), but also to the contingency that the Soma is
snatched away before the sacrifice starts. In that case new Soma is to be
procured from the nearest spot. Only if Soma cannot be found the texts
prescribe that substitutes are to be resorted to.[31] It may be assumed
that the Soma that is procured from near by is of lower quality than the
stolen Soma from mountain MUjavat, otherwise it would have been employed in
the first place. Several /SrautasUtras prescribe Soma-juice in the daily
offering of the Agnihotra for those sacrificers who desire the lustre of
Brahman. This points on the one hand to authors being settled near the
northern part of the Indian subcontinent where Soma was still within reach;
on the other hand it is clear that Soma is a plant that has a wider habitat
than only a few mountains. The daily Soma of the Brahmins can hardly have
been the precious top-quality Soma from mount MUjavat required in the
AgniSToma. As for the botanical side of the issue, Kashikar relies mainly
on research of Qazilbash and Madhihassan (their publications, mainly
appearing between 1960 and 1986, were unavailable to me at the moment of
concluding this introduction).

In a review of Kashikar 1990, Thomas Oberlies (1995) makes some important
remarks, apart from giving additional bibliographic references. Oberlies
accepts with Kashikar that the BrAhmaNas and /SrautasUtras are aware of
*some* plant being the real Soma. However, there is insufficient evidence
for a positive identification. Referring to Brough 1971, Kashikar had
rejected Wasson's identification of Soma as the fly-agaric a mushroom. He
then simply takes the three main remaining plants that have been suggested
by scholars as being the Soma, and by exclusion of the first two,
Sarcostemma brevistigma and Periploca aphylla, he arrives at the conclusion
that it must have been Ephedra. Even when the BrAhmaNas and /SrautasUtras
seem to suggest awareness of *some* plant as the unequivocally real Soma,
Oberlies doubts whether it can be assumed that this was also the plant used
in the .Rgveda. This would only apply if there were an uninterrupted
continuity between .Rgveda and Yajurvedic texts. Oberlies mentions three
problems with the identification of Soma with Ephedra:
(1) The reddish-yellow (rot-gelb) colour is lacking (only the berries of
Ephedra are red but the berries are not mentioned in the texts).
(2) Juice pressed from Soma does not have a milky character, whereas the
.Rgveda speaks of "milking the (Soma-)stalks" and of Soma as the cow's
first milk after calving (pIy/USa 'beestings').
(3) Oberlies' most fundamental problem with the Ephedra-identification is
that Ephedra does not have the required hallucinogenic effect that is
attested in the .Rgvedic hymns.

Oberlies concludes his discussion with the observation that it is the
interpretation of the Soma-intoxication on the part of the Vedic poets in
the context of their referential frame which should receive more interest
and attention, rather than to lay excessive emphasis on the nature of the
substance (Cf. Oberlies 1998: 166). Similarly, Tatjana Elizarenkova (1996)
has emphasized the importance of the style and structure of .Rgvedic texts
behind which there are insufficient traces of the direct impact of a
psychoactive substance to make identification possible. Indeed, the
importance of the cultural "construction" of textual representations of
personal, including mystical, experience should not be underestimated. And
what applies to the study of mystical experience will apply equally to a
large domain of experiences resulting from psychoactive substances. After
earlier generations of authors with what may be called various
"essentialist" and "perennialist" approaches to mystic experience (William
James, Rudolph Otto, Mircea Eliade, Aldous Huxley), a constructivist
paradigm found wide acceptance in academic scholarship in the latter half
of the twentieth century; it has found committed and persistent expression
in a series of collective volumes on mysticism directed by Steven T. Katz
(1978, 1983, 1992, 2000).

In spite of his affinity to a constructivist approach when he argues for
studying the Vedic poet first of all in his religious context, from
Oberlies' third, most fundamental ("wesentlichste") problem, it is clear
that it is his unpronounced presupposition that indications for
hallucinations in the .Rgveda point directly to the use of a substance
having hallucinogenic effects. As we have seen above, convincing
indications for hallucinations, apart from the quite explicit .Rgveda
10.119, are rare, and even if these should not be explained away, they are
to be weighed against other indications which point to an absence of
hallucination, but rather to a powerful stimulant suitable to divine and
human warriors that cannot afford to perceive things that have no basis in
objective reality.

The second point is to be studied against the background of .Rgvedic poetic
usage, where among other things thoughts can be obtained from an udder
(5.44.13), or where an inspired poem can be compared with a dairy cow
(3.57.1), or where there is no problem in speaking of the "udder of the
father" (3.1.9). To satisfy the literalists who insist that, even with the
extensive evidence that "milking" is a central and flexible metaphore for
"deriving something precious from", pIy/USa 'beestings' (formerly also
spelt 'biestings', medical name 'colostrum') must absolutely be taken as
having not only relational but also physical characteristics of milk, it
can be pointed out that the long sessions of beating the Soma-plant with
the stampers or press-stones can be expected to give a pulpy-watery mixture
in a first pressing which may have looked like the creamy fluid with
special nutritious and protective ingredients that a cow produces for a new
born calf. Such pulpy-watery mixture is what I saw come forth from the
pounding of the Soma-substitute called Puutiika (probably Sarcostemma
brevistigma) in Soma sacrifices in Maharashtra and New Delhi. Several ideas
may hence underlie the use of the term pIy/USa 'beestings': the first juice
appearing from the pressing is "beestings" by virtue of its being the first
fluid produced from the stalks; it is "beestings" by virtue of its
pulpy-watery, hence somewhat cream-like, character; it is "beestings" on
account of its nutritious and protective potency. Finally, those invoking
the .Rgvedic references to beestings as an argument against Ephedra seem to
have overlooked that the cow's first milk after calving is usually not
white but may have all kinds of colours, from yellowish to greenish and
purple, which does not constitute a contra-indication for its quality. This
applies at least to the cows common in Europe, as I understood from a
well-informed relative.[32] The metaphoric flexibility of terms in the
sphere of "milking" in any case prevents pIy/USa from being an argument
against the Ephedra candidate. As for the problem of the reddish-yellow
colour attributed to Soma: in Oberlies' brief statement, where he mixes up
"reddish-yellow (rot-gelb)" and "red (rot)" or at least opaquely shifts
from the one to the other, there is nothing that would invalidate Brough's
1971 extensive discussion of the colour-term in his criticism of Wasson.

A particularly problematic part in Oberlies' argument lies in his attempt
to disconnect the evidence of BrAhmaNas and /SrautasUtras from that of the
.Rgveda. Oberlies observes (1995: 236) that Kashikar presupposes that the
plant used as Soma according to the BrAhmaNas and /SrautasUtras is
identical with that of the .Rgveda. However, according to Oberlies this
would apply only if there were an uninterrupted continuity from the .Rgveda
to the Yajurveda with regard to beliefs, rituals and cults. Since this
cannot be accepted (Oberlies asks rhetorically: who could seriously believe
this, with exclamation mark), statements in the BrAhmaNas and /SrautasUtras
would prove little for the .Rgveda (with exclamation mark). A few
paragraphs further (1995: 237), he acknowledges that Kashikar's conclusions
provide new insights for the BrAhmaNas. Here, the Soma may have been
Ephedra. But, he adds, this was in all probability not the "original" (with
exclamation mark).

In spite of all the exclamation marks, Oberlies' line of reasoning is
neither self-evident nor convincing. At first, he makes the *general
statement* that we cannot assume there was an uninterrupted continuity from
the .Rgveda to the Yajurveda with regard to beliefs, rituals and cults. On
the next page, it is suddenly *most probable* that there is no continuity
*in the specific case* of the knowledge of the Soma-plant. This is like
observing first that one cannot be sure that traffic rules in Italy are the
same as in France, and next that it is most probable that when the French
drive on the right side of the road the Italians must drive left. It is
well known that there are indeed important distinctions between the .Rgveda
and the Yajurveda and subsequent sources, including with regard to the
ritual. However, these distinctions appear only against the background of a
massive flood of elementary and structural continuities, which in many
cases extend even to proto-Indo-Iranian times. It is also well-known that
especially ritual has a tendency to be conservative, even when
interpretations and belief systems change. In the beginning days of
Indology, scholars like Roth have emphasized the independence of the
.Rgveda from the later ritual texts. Vedic hymns would be expressions of
"natural" lyrics which had little to do with the detailed liturgical
practice as found in later texts. Close studies of scholars have in the
meantime shown that there are numerous continuities and that the large
majority of .Rgvedic hymns suit ritual contexts which are still part of the
"classical" ritual system as found in the Yajurvedic texts (cf. Gonda 1975:
83ff and 1978). In addition, in several specific cases such as the animal
sacrifice (Bosch 1985) and the Pravargya (Houben 2000), the basic
continuities and structural changes have been demonstrated in detail. In
the case of the Soma-ritual, pervading not only the ninth maNDala but the
entire .Rgveda, a comprehensive study and reconstruction of its .Rgvedic
form is still a desideratum even if we have an important preliminary study
in the form of Bergaigne's "Recherches sur l'histoire de la liturgie
védique" (1889; cf. also Renou 1962 and Witzel 1997: 288ff). In the light
of this background of continuities, Oberlies' gratuitous assumption that
there must be discontinuity in the case of the plant that is central in the
most dominant .Rgvedic Soma ritual is unsound. In the light of what we know
of ritual in general and Vedic ritual and culture and of ritual in
particular a much more reasonable starting point will be to assume that
there is continuity unless there is an indication to the contrary. Such
indications pointing to a rupture in the knowledge of a specific
Soma-plant, as briefly indicated in Kashikar 1990, are not found in
classical Yajurvedic texts which continue to refer back the practicing
Brahman to an identifiable real Soma-plant even if he is occasionally
allowed to sacrifice with a substitute.

A position somewhat parallel to the view of Oberlies was adopted by Frits
Staal, who recently devoted an article to "the case of Soma" (Staal
2001).[33] In his usual challenging and stimulating style, Staal argues
that the elaborate Soma ritual as known from classical sources replaces an
earlier phase where the "real" Soma was known, and where ritualization was
much less than later on. Hence the title of the article: How a psychoactive
substance becomes a ritual. Again, in my view without sufficient basis two
specific changes are assumed in the transition from .Rgvedic ritual to the
ritual of the /SrautasUtras: a loss in the knowledge of the original Soma
and an increase in ritualization. He summarizes his main hypothesis in the
form of a mathematical formula:

ritualization * psychoactivity = S
where S is a constant. Unfortunately, no data are offered to substantiate
this formula. The fact that the /SrautasUtras are later than the .Rgveda
neither means that ritual was absent in .Rgvedic times nor that it was
"less" (in whichever way one may want to measure it) - even if there have
been undeniable *transformations* as for instance in the transition from
family-wise to school-wise organised ritual and religion, and the
transition in the direction of a more Yajurveda dominated ritual. Even when
there seems to have been more room for .Rgvedic poetic creativity in
earlier times, the activity of these poets was following strict ritual
patterns and rules now not known in detail but reflecting in regularities
in the poetic productions. Since a substance may be "psychoactive" in
various dimensions, nothing can be said about its general relation with
ritualization - if at all we would have sufficient data about the latter in
different stages of its development, and if at all, with all those
hypothetical data, the latter would be quantifiable. The terms
ritualization and psychoactivity remain unquantified in Staal's article and
are probably fundamentally unquantifiable the way they are used. Staal's
formula may hence be understood in a "metaphorically mathematical" sense, a
bit like Bierstadt's proposal to take political and social power to be the
product of "men * resources * organization" (Bierstadt 1950 as referred to
in Rappaport 1999: 473 note 13). Even in such a "metaphorically
mathematical" sense, Staal's formula remains problematic - but can it
perhaps be split into acceptable subformula's? One disturbing factor
interfering with the phenomenon which Staal tries to catch in a formula is
that ritual structure, including ritual utterances of linguistic forms, may
itself be conducive to "psychoactive" results.[34] More substantial
problems arise on account of the fact that there are psychoactive
substances which produce effects in a specific dimension such that its
increase is correlated not with a decrease but with an *increase* of a
subject's need for "ritualistic" or "compulsive" actions.[35] There are,
moreover, wider theoretical problems with the hypothesis and formula. Even
when precise data generally become less and less if we go further back in
time, there are theoretical reasons to assume that ritualization was more
rather than less if we gradually approach the pre-human stage in the
evolution of the human animal. Staal himself (1989: 110ff, 279ff) argued
that ritual, which man shares with birds and other animals, precedes
language as we know it with its lexical meanings, characteristic for
humans. After having pointed out similarities between syntactic rules in
language and ritual, he finds various reasons to believe that ritual is the
cause: "this suggests that the recursiveness which is the main
characteristic of the syntax of human language has a ritual origin" (Staal
1989: 112). In language, syntax would be older than semantics (Staal 1989:
112). Referring to the "unenunciated chant" of the SAmavedins and to
meditation mantras, Staal observes: "I am inclined to believe that what we
witness here is not a curious collection of exotic facts, but a remnant or
resurgence of a pre-linguistic stage of development, during which man or
his ancestors used sound in a purely syntactic or ritual manner" (Staal
1989: 113). Staal also argued in detail that the similarity between Vedic
mantras and bird songs are greater than that between mantras and ordinary
meaning (Staal 1989: 279-293). The continuity with animal ritual has been
argued for and demonstrated from quite a different angle by Walter Burkert,
who took ancient Greek ritual as his starting point (cf. Burkert 1979 and

Against this theoretical background it is not convincing to let the
.Rgvedic Soma-ritual start in a romantic era in which man has direct
religious experience through psychoactive substances and is not yet living
a life replete with ritualizations.

An additional problematic point in Staal's article is the suggestion (Staal
2001: 771) that the descriptions found of Soma growing on high mountains
would disqualify the "ubiquitous" Ephedra (the latter, in fact, not being
all that ubiquitous: it does not occur in mid- and South India, and has a
preference for high altitudes). The argument would be tenable only if our
sources presented the Soma as growing on high mountains *exclusively*,
which is not the case. The ritualist's question to the Soma-seller "is it
from mount Mujavat", as we have seen, asks for Soma-plants of top-quality,
and it is presupposed that second-rate Soma-plants are more readily

4.1. Parameters of the Soma-Haoma problem
In the present state of knowledge, any claim that the Soma has been
identified is either rhetorical or it testifies to the methodological
naivety of the author. In reviewing some of the more recent contributions
from Wasson onwards I have not hidden my own direction of thinking. In
spite of quite strong attempts to do away with Ephedra by those who are
eager to see Soma as a hallucinogen, its status as a serious candidate for
the .Rgvedic Soma and Avestan Haoma still stands. For more than the serious
candidacy of Ephedra (or more generally of a stimulant), however, there are
at present no arguments; and alternative candidates cannot be excluded. The
attention paid to the nature of the psycho-physiological state induced by
the Soma, most dramatically emphasized by Wasson, is justified. The trap,
however, in which Wasson and most scholars defending or attacking him have
fallen is to assume that this psychophysiological state must be attributed
straightly to a psychoactive substance which brings about a similar state
in modern, western, well-fed, and possibly smoking and drinking subjects.
It must be clear that this is a shortsighted, anachronistic
presupposition.[36] It is generally forgotten that participants in a Vedic
ritual have undergone preparations which include fasting, restraining
speech, sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation by spending the day in a
dark hut, etc. According to the /SrautasUtras, the sacrificer has to fast
"until he has become lean". Less is known about the specific preparations
of the priests for the sacrifice. I am not sure whether such preparations
are simply not current among modern Brahmins performing in Vedic (/Srauta)
rituals, or whether they have been mainly neglected by observers. (I do not
find a reference to such a practice in Staal's overview of the preparations
to the Agnicayana in Kerala, 1975, see Staal 1983, I: 193ff.) In any case,
Stevenson, in the preface to his translation of the SAmaveda (1842:
VIIIff), mentions references in a BrAhmaNa of the SAmaveda to extensive
austerities (including living on restricted food for months and complete
fasting for several days) to be undergone by the priest-singers of the
SAmaveda in preparation for a performance. It is well known that fasting
alone is a suitable preparation for the physiology to receive visionary
experiences. Of the North-American Indians of the Plains it is known that
they undertake their vision quests without the help of specific
psychoactive substances (except for some who recently adopted the use of
substances used by Mexican Indians), but subject themselves to rigorous
fasting and thirsting.[37]

The human capacity for imagination, vision and hallucination seems to have
been underestimated by Wasson and others. Just because Apollinaire
(1880-1918) published the "visionary" poem Vendémiaire in his collection
Alcools we do not put the label "hallucinogen" on alcohol. A frequently
quoted phrase from William Blake (1757-1827), the poet who was influenced
by Emanuel Swedenborg in his enlightened Christian views, is "To see a
world in a grain of sand, and a heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in
the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour" - but there is no reason to
assume that Blake's visions, reflected in his poetry and life anecdotes,
were induced by a psychoactive substance.

Thus, with little .Rgvedic evidence for hallucinations in the strict sense
of the word - i.e., perceptions without any objective basis - and with
otherwise a wide spread of .Rgvedic statements pointing in the direction of
a stimulant, the case for a substance which we label as a hallucinogen is
far from compelling. Apart from 10.119, most examples which should testify
to hallucinatory experiences of the authors can be easily explained as
expressions in a professional tradition of poetic imagery.[38] On the other
hand, the case for a stimulant still stands,[39] even with the evidence for
occasional hallucinations and visions in the .Rgveda, because (a)
hallucinations and visions may occur even on account of the absence of
consumption of food or the deprivation of sleep rather than on account of
the consumption of specific additives; (b) stimulants allow subjects to
remain without food more easily (hence their use in weight-loss programs),
and by virtue of this they may be deemed to be able to contribute to
hallucinations and visions; (c) in higher doses and under suitable
circumstances (e.g., exposure to rythms and music), stimulants such as
cocaine and MDMA (XTC) are reported to lead to ecstasy and

Apart from the distinction between stimulant and hallucinogen, a case can
be made for a substance with more subtle psychoactivity than the
sensational fly-agaric proposed by Wasson,[41] in combination with an
elaborate structure of beliefs, interpretations, and physiological
preparations (fasting, silence) of subjects. Especially since Wasson,
scholars interested in the identification of Soma have been overly focused
on the single parameter of the psychoactive substance in the Soma-plant,
and neglected the contributions of the ritual and the belief system to the
construction of experiences reflected in .Rgvedic hymns. Others did
emphasize the belief system and the construction of experience, e.g.,
Elizarenkova and to some extent Oberlies, and they declared the search for
the identification of Soma to be more or less hopeless. No convincing
attempt has so far been made to balance the available indications for all
major dimensions of the issue.

4.2 "Hummel's miracle" and other desiderata
In a posthumously published review of Wasson's book, Karl Hummel (1997: 90)
once expressed the hope that perhaps some time, thanks to a miracle, a
prehistorical find will give us pressing stones or wooden stampers with
remains of the Soma-plant that can be investigated microscopically. As long
as this does not happen, there are still useful fields of investigation to
be explored in connection with Soma and Haoma. As for the "circumstantial"
ethnobiological evidence, at present the evidence of the use of fly-agaric
by tribes in distant North-East Siberia (according to Nyberg 1995 in the
context of recreational use and by second rate shamans) may be regarded as
cancelled by the evidence closer by of early and recent finds of mummies
accompanied by bundles of Ephedra just across the Himalaya, as discussed,
e.g., in Barber 1999 (esp. chapter 8) and Mallory and Mair 2000: 138, 152,
185-187. (For Soma and the life hereafter cf. .RV 9.113.) A more critical
evaluation of the evidence than the references by Mallory and Mair is
needed with regard to the identification of Ephedra by various
archeologists.[42] An investigation of the Vedic ritual and knowledge
system, with much attention to the hymns on Soma, is one thing which has
now received an important recent contribution from the point of view of
religious science by Oberlies (1998 and 1999). Caland & Henry's description
of the AgniSToma on the basis of Vedic texts (1906 and 1907) is still the
basis for the study of the ritual context of the Soma; it would deserve
elaboration and updating in the light of new developments, e.g. new texts
that have become available. Kellens 1989 and Skjaervo 1997 give overviews
of achievements and issues in the study and interpretation of Avestan
texts. A detailed description of the Yasna ritual in which Hom is prepared
and offered appeared from the hand of Kotwal and Boyd (1991). Apart from
occasional and dispersed remarks on similarities in structure and detail of
the Vedic and Zoroastrian rituals (e.g., Hillebrandt 1897: 11), little has
been done on the systematic comparison of the two. Next, the
psycho-physiology of religious, and visionary or hallucinatory experiences,
whatever their cause or occasion, is an important relevant field to be
explored. The psycho-physiological effect of psychoactive substances and
their possible role as catalysts for such experiences are to be
investigated, taking into account the specific preparations undergone by
the participants in the ritual. From the overview of the discussion it must
have become clear that it has been suffering from a definite lack of
terminological and conceptual precision, especially with regard to terms
such as hallucination, vision, stimulant, and psychoactive. A noteworthy
proposal with regard to psychoactive substances was made by classicist Carl
A.P. Ruck and was accepted by Wasson in his later publication Persephone's
Quest: it is better to speak of "entheogen" rather than of "hallucinogen",
as the latter implies a judgemental falseness deriving from our modern
outside perspective.[43] But it is not likely that terminological
improvements alone are sufficient. Digging deeper, we stumble at profound
philosophical problems regarding the comparability of experiences,
including mystical experiences, which can be understood as results of
cultural and linguistic construction. Is there any experiential basis
"beyond language" left, once we find ourselves able to formulate
explanations of linguistic and cultural construction for diverse
experiences related to the use of the same chemical substance in different
cultural contexts?[44] In a comprehensive study of the Soma issue its
implications for the theory of the "entheogen" origin of all religions
should also be evaluated. According to this theory for which Soma as
understood by Wasson was a major example and support, man would originally
have known the psychoactive properties of plants, and religions would be
based on the visions produced by these substances (cf. Wasson 1986 and a
considerable number of recent books in the category "New Age"; only
recently I found references to a publication, Spess 2000, where an argument
is made for new candidates for Soma: the Nelumbo nucifera and members of
the Nymphaea genus: cf. As we have seen, due to
the "constructed" nature of cognitive events even when incited by
psychoactive substances, one cannot assume the connection between substance
and vision was as simple and straightforward as propounders of the theory
have suggested.

An additional field to be explored is the history of research into the
identity of Soma-Haoma, and the interaction of this research with
subsequent states of ethnobotanical and psychophysiological knowledge, as
well as with popular experience with psychoactive substances - starting end
18th century, through the 19th century, the 20th century before and after
World War II, up to the present. An evaluative and bibliographic overview
of the type Harry Falk (1993) wrote on the subject of the development of
writing in ancient India would be most welcome and most useful to bring the
discussion of the Soma-Haoma issue on a higher level (cf. Lehmann 2000 as
an example of a recent publication characterized by a blissful neglect of
textual evidence, positions held by various scholars and the arguments used
to support them [45]). It is hoped that the present Introduction may serve
as a small step in the direction of such an evaluative overview.

4.3 "Hummel's miracle" in Central Asia?
Under the circumstances sketched above, it was natural that something that
almost seemed like the miracle hoped for by Hummel (1997) attracted wide
attention. The relevant archeological find was not made in India but in
Central Asia. The claim was that ancient ritual objects contained traces of
plants, including some with well known psychoactive properties: poppy seeds
and Ephedra stalks. This "Hummel's miracle" was presented in publications
of Victor I. Sarianidi (e.g., 1994, 1998), and his conclusions on the
findings of Ephedra have been received positively, though not uncritically,
e.g., by Parpola (1995) and Nyberg (1995). The latter had already
investigated specimens provided by Sarianidi but could not confirm
Sarianidi's claims. He concludes a long review of textual evidence and
pharmacological and ethnobiological data with the conclusion that "ephedras
best meet both the textual and pharmacological requirements for the
botanical identification of soma/haoma," but points to the need of "further
archeological discoveries" before conclusive evidence can be provided.

5. The Leiden 1999 Workshop on Soma-Haoma
It was in order to subject these indications for a "Hummel's miracle" in
Central Asia to closer scrutiny that a workshop was organized in Leiden in
1999. Since Sarianidi's claims with regard to early Zoroastrian and Vedic
religion focused on the presence of Ephedra, this candidate for the
original Soma and Haoma was central in the workshop - which was a workshop
in the real sense of the word: the contributors were not required to
present a finished paper but were rather invited to share with others in
the development of their thought on the subject. At the workshop (see the
brief report below) Prof. Sarianidi presented his case, and he moreover
generously offered to send some specimens of the material (a sediment in a
pitcher) in which he claimed traces of Ephedra, papaver and hemp were
present. The specimens arrived a few weeks after the workshop, and Prof.
C.C. Bakels, paleobotanist and specialist in papaver cultivation around the
Mediterreanean and in ancient Europe, enthusiastically undertook their
investigation in spite of her busy schedule. After a few months I received
messages indicating that no proof could be found of any of the substances
indicated by Sarianidi. Rather than hastily sticking to this conclusion,
Prof. Bakels made efforts to show the specimens to other paleobotanists
whom she met at international professional meetings. At the end of this
lengthy procedure, no confirmation could be given of the presence of the
mentioned plants in the material that was investigated. The traces of
plant-substances rather pointed in the direction of a kind of millet. Since
it was felt that proceeding with a publication on the basis of the
presentations in the workshop was not useful as long as Bakels' research
was in progress it was postponed till her results appeared, that is, till
2002. In the meantime only a few contributors of the 1999 workshop were
left who were intending to offer a paper for publication. On the other
hand, we are happy that George Thompson, with a longstanding interest in
the Soma-Haoma problem, was found willing to contribute a paper although he
did not participate in the 1999 workshop.

The general report of the workshop, the research report of C.C. Bakels, and
George Thompson's paper on "ecstasy in the .Rgveda" are now published,
together with the present introduction, in this first part of the EJVS
Soma-Haoma issue. The second part of this issue is to contain a reworked
version of the paper I presented in the 1999 workshop, as well as,
hopefully, some other forthcoming papers and possible reactions to the
present part.

Some relevant sites and links:
( for the
.Rgveda and other Vedic Texts.
B. ( for Avestan texts with
(often antiquated) translation.
C. Materials for the study of Vedic ritual (
introduction and overview of the Soma-ritual, example translation of first
hymn of the Soma-book .Rgveda 9
( and
videoclip of Soma-pressing and of a SAman sung at a Soma-ritual.
D. Amanita muscaria or Fly-agaric:,
E. Peganum harmala or Syrian rue, Photograph by Henriette Kress:
F. Flora of Asclepiadaceae, by Li Ping-tao, Michael G. Gilbert, W. Doublas
Stevens (incl. information but no photos on Periploca, Sarcostemma):
G. Soma-substitute "Puutiika" used in Soma-sacrifice in Barsi, Maharashtra,
2001, probably to be identified as Sarcostemma acidum (Roxburgh) Voigt
(Asclepias acida Roxburgh, Sarcostemma brevistigma Wight & Arnott), photo
(© J.E.M. Houben):
H. Species of Ephedra: Photographs by Henriette Kress:, under Ephedra
equisetina and Ephedra sinica; Christopher J. Earl's Gymnosperm Database
hosted by Univ. of Bonn, Dep. of Botany:; a creeper of the
family of Ephedra - of interest in the light of references in post-Vedic
texts that Soma were a creeper - is known as Vine Ephedra (I don't have
information on possible similar kinds of Ephedra creepers in Asia):
; healthnotes online on Ephedra:

Bibliographic references:

Abbé, Jean Antoine. 1825. Moeurs, institutions et cérémonies des peuples de
l'Inde. Paris.
Aitchison, J.E.T. 1888. Transactions of the Linnean Society of London. 2nd
Ser. Botany. Vol. III, Part I: The Botany of the Afghan Delimitation
Commission. London: The Linnean Society.
Anquetil-Duperron, Abraham-Hyacinthe. 1771. Zend-Avesta, ouvrage de
Zoroastre, contenant les idees theologiques, physiques & morales de ce
legislateur, ... Paris: Tilliard.
Apollinaire, Guillaume. 1913. Alcools. Lecture accompagnée par Henri Scepi.
Paris: Gallimard, 1999.
Barber, Elizabeth J. Wayland. 1999. The Mummies of Ueruemchi. New York:
W.W. Norton and Company.
Bareau, André. 1969. Compte-rendu de Wasson 1969. Journal Asiatique 257:
Barfoot, C.C. (ed.) 2001. Aldous Huxley between East and West. Amsterdam:
Bartholomae, Christian. 1904. Altiranisches Woerterbuch. Nachdruck: Berlin:
Walter de Gruyter, 1961.
Bergaigne, Abel. 1889. "Recherches sur l'histoire de la liturgie védique."
Journal asiatique, Janvier: 5-32, Février-Mars: 121-197.
van den Bosch, Lourens P. 1985. "The AprI hymns of the .Rgveda and their
interpretation." Indo-Iranian Journal 28: 95-122, 169-189.
Bronkhorst, Johannes. 2001. "The Perennial Philosophy and the Law of
Karma." In: Barfoot 2001: 175-189.
Brough, John. 1971. "Soma and Amanita muscaria." Bulletin of the School of
Oriental and African Studies 34.2: 331-362.
Brough, John. 1973. "Problems of the «Soma-mushroom» theory." Indologica
Taurinensia 1: 21-32.
Burkert, Walter. 1979. Structure and History in Greek Mythology and Ritual.
Berkeley: University of California Press.
Burkert, Walter. 1996. Creation of the Sacred: Tracks of Biology in Early
Religions. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press.
Burnouf, Eugène. 1844. Études sur la langue et les textes zends. IV: Le
Dieu Homa. Journal Asiatique, 8è série, no. 4, Décembre, p. 449-505.
van Buitenen, J.A.B. 1968. The Pravargya: An ancient Indian iconic ritual,
described and annotated. Poona: Deccan College.
Caland, W. (ed.). 1915. De Open-Deure tot het Verborgen Heydendom van
Abraham Rogerius. Uitgegeven door W. Caland. 's-Gravenhage: Martinus
Nijhof. (Re-edition of Rogerius 1651.)
Caland, W. and V. Henry. 1906. L'AgniSToma: description complète de la
forme normale du sacrifice de soma dans le culte vedique. Tome premier.
Paris: Ernest Leroux.
Caland, W. and V. Henry. 1907. L'AgniSToma: description complète de la
forme normale du sacrifice de soma dans le culte vedique. Tome II. Paris:
Ernest Leroux.
Doniger O'Flaherty, Wendy. 1969. "The Post-Vedic History of the Soma
Plant." In: Wasson 1969: 93-147.
Eggeling, Julius. 1885. /Satapatha-BrAhmaNa according to the text of the
mAdhyandina school. Part II: Books III and IV. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Elizarenkova, Tatjana. 1996. "The problem of Soma in the light of language
and style of the Rgveda." In: Langue, style et structure dans le monde
Indien. Colloque international pour le Centenaire de la Naissance de Louis
Renou (ed. par N. Balbir et G.-J. Pinault): 13-31. Paris: Unité de
Recherche Associé 1058 "LACMI".
Falk, Harry. 1989. "Soma I and II." Bulletin of the School of Oriental and
African Studies 52: 77-90.
Falk, Harry. 1993. Schrift im alten Indien. Ein Forschungsbericht mit
Anmerkungen. Tuebingen: Gunter Narr Verlag.
Fawcett, Jan and Katie A. Busch. 1998. "Stimulants in Psychiatry." Textbook
of Psychopharmacology, Second Edition (ed. by A.F. Schatzberg ad C.B.
Nemeroff): 503-522. Washington D.C.: The American Psychiatric Press.
Fischman, Marian W. 1987. "Cocaine and the Amphetamines." In:
Psychopharmacology: The Third Generation of Progress (ed. H.Y. Meltzer):
1543-1553. New York: Raven Press.
Flattery, David Stophlet, and Martin Schwartz. 1989. Haoma and Harmaline.
The Botanical Identity of the Indo-Iranian Sacred Hallucinogen "Soma" and
its Legacy in Religion, Language and Middle Eastern Folklore. Berkeley:
Univerity of California.
Forman, Robert K.C. (ed.) 1990. The Problem of Pure Consciousness. New
York: Oxford University Press.
Furst, Peter T. (ed.) 1972. Flesh of the gods: the ritual use of
hallucinogens. New York: Praeger Publ. Reissued with changes Waveland
Press, Prospect Heights, Illinois, 1990.
Geldner, Karl F. 1926. Die Zoroastrische Religion . Tübingen:
J.C.B. Mohr.
Geldner, Karl F. 1928. Vedismus und Brahmanismus. Religionsgeschichtliches
Lesebuch, 9. Tübingen: Mohr.
Geldner, Karl F. 1951. Der Rig-Veda: aus dem Sanskrit ins deutsche
übersetzt und mit einem laufendem Kommentar versehen. Teil I-III.
Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Geldner, Karl F. 1957. Der Rig-Veda: aus dem Sanskrit ins deutsche
übersetzt und mit einem laufendem Kommentar versehen. Vierter Teil: Namen-
und Sachregister zur Uebersetzung dazu Nachtraege und Verbesserungen. Ed.
Johannes Nobel. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Gonda, Jan. 1963. The Vision of the Vedic Poets. The Hague: Mouton.
Gonda, Jan. 1975. Vedic Literature. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
Gonda, Jan. 1978. Hymns of the .Rgveda not employed in the solemn ritual.
Amsterdam: North-Holland Publishing Company.
Halbfass, Wilhelm. 1988. India and Europe: An Essay in Understanding.
Albany: SUNY-Press.
Halbfass, Wilhelm. 2001. "Mescaline and Indian Philosophy: Aldous Huxley
and the Mythology of Experience." In: Barfoot 2001: 221-235.
Hillebrandt, Alfred. 1891. Vedische Mythologie. I: Soma und verwandte
Goetter. Breslau: Koebner.
Hillebrandt, Alfred. 1927. Vedische Mythologie. Breslau: M. & H. Markus.
Houben, Jan E.M. 1991. The Pravargya BrAhmaNa of the TaittirIya AraNyaka:
an ancient commentary on the Pravargya ritual. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.
Houben, Jan E.M. 2000. "The ritual pragmatics of a Vedic hymn: the 'riddle
hymn' and the Pravargya ritual." Journal of the American Oriental Society
120.4: 499-536.
Hummel, Karl. 1997. Review of Wasson 1969. Studien zur Indologie und
Iranistik 21: 79-90.
Huxley, Aldous. 1932. Brave New World. London: Chatto and Windus.
Huxley, Aldous. 1959. Brave New World Revisited. London: Chatto and Windus.
Huxley, Aldous. 1977. Moksha: Writings on Psychedelics and the Visionary
Experience, 1931-1963 (ed. by M. Horowitz and C. Palmer). London: Chatto
and Windus.
Ingalls, Daniel H.H. 1971. Remarks on Mr. Wasson's Soma. Journal of the
American Oriental Society 91.2: 188-191.
Kashikar, C.G. 1990. Identification of Soma. Pune: Tilak Maharashtra
Kashikar, C.G. and Asko Parpola. 1983. "/Srauta Traditions in Recent
Times." In: Staal 1983, Vol. II: 199-251.
Katz, Steven T. (ed.) 1978. Mysticism and Philosophical Analysis. London:
Sheldon Press.
Katz, Steven T. (ed.) 1983. Mysticism and Religious Traditions. New York:
Oxford University Press.
Katz, Steven T.(ed.) 1992. Mysticism and Language. New York: Oxford
University Press.
Katz, Steven T. (ed.) 2000. Mysticism and Sacred Scripture. Oxford: Oxford
University Press.
Kellens, Jean. 1989. "Avesta." In: Encyclopaedia Iranica (ed. by Ehsan
Yarshater), Vol. III, p. 35-44.
Kotwal, Dastur Firoze M. and James W. Boyd. 1991. A Persian Offering: the
Yasna: A Zoroastrian high liturgy. Paris: Association pour l'avancement des
études iraniennes.
Kramrisch, Stella. 1972. Review of Wasson 1969. Artibus Asiae, 34: 263-267.
Kramrisch, Stella. 1975. "The mahAvIra vessel and the plant pUtika [sic]."
Journal of the American Oriental Society 95.2: 222-235. [Reprinted as
chapter 3 in Wasson et al. 1986.]
Kuhn, Adalbert. 1859. Die Herabkunft des Feuers und des Goettertranks.
Berlin: Ferd. Duemmler's Verlagsbuchhandlung.
Kuiper, F.B.J. 1970. Review of Wasson 1969. Indo-Iranian-Journal, 12.4:
Kuiper, F.B.J. 1984. "Was the Puutiika a mushroom?." In: Am.rtadhaaraa:
Professor R.N. Dandekar Felicitation Volume (ed. by S.D. Joshi): 219-227.
Delhi: Ajanta.
Lehmann, 2000. "Die urspruengliche rigvedische Somapflanze war weder gruene
Pflanze noch Pilz: Gepresst wurden Bienenwaben. Sicht eines Entomologen."
In: Indoarisch, Iranisch unddie Indogermanistik: Arbeitstagung der
Indogermanischen Gesellschaft vom 2. bis 5. Oktober 1997 in Erlangen
(herausg. v. B. Forssman und Robert Plath): 295-314. Wiesbaden: Reichert
Lewin, L. 1927. Phantastica: Die Betaeubenden und erregenden Genussmittel
-- fuer Aerzte und Nichtaerzte. Berlin: Georg Stilke.
Lowie, Robert H. 1954. Indians of the Plains. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Mallory, J.P., and Victor H. Mair. 2000. The Tarim Mummies: Ancient China
and the Mystery of the Earliest Peoples from the West. London: Thames &
Mayrhofer, Manfred. 1992. Etymologisches Woerterbuch des Altindoarischen.
Heidelberg: Carl Winter Universitaetsverlag.
Modi, Jivanji Jamshedji. 1922. The Religious Ceremonies and Customs of the
Parsees. Bombay. Reprint: New York, 1979.
Mueller, Friedrich Max. 1855. "Die Todtenbestattung bei den Brahmanen."
Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenlaendischen Gesellschaft, 9: I-LXXXII.
Mueller, Friedrich Max. 1888. Biographies of Words and the Home of the
Aryans. London: Longmans, Green & Co.
Mukherjee, Braja Lal. 1921. "The Soma Plant." The Journal of the Royal
Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland for 1921: 241-244.
Mukherjee, Braja Lal. 1922. The Soma Plant. Calcutta: Weekly Notes Printing
Murr, Sylvia (ed.). 1987. L'Inde philosophique entre Bossuet et Voltaire -
I: Moeurs et coutumes des indiens (1777). Un inédit du Père G.-L. Coeurdoux
s.j. dans la version de N.-J. Desvaulx. Paris: Ecole Française d'Extrème
Nyberg, Harri. 1995. "The problem of the Aryans and the Soma: the botanical
evidence." In: The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South-Asia: Language, Material
Culture and Ethnicity (ed. by George Erdosy): 382-406. Berlin: Walter de
Oberlies, Thomas. 1995. Review of Wasson 1969. Wiener Zeitschrift fuer die
Kunde Suedasiens, 39: 235-238.
Oberlies, Thomas. 1998. Die Religion des .Rgveda. Erster Teil: Das
Religiöse System des .Rgveda. Wien: Institut der Indologie der Universität
Oberlies, Thomas. 1999. Die Religion des .Rgveda. Zweiter Teil:
Kompositionsanalyse der Soma-Hymnen des .Rgveda. Wien: Institut der
Indologie der Universität Wien.
Oldenberg, Herman. 1894. Die Religion des Veda. Berlin: Hertz. (2nd,
revised edition 1917: Stuttgart, Cotta.)
Parpola, Asko. 1995. "The problem of the Aryans and the Soma:
Textual-linguistic and archaeological evidence." In: The Indo-Aryans of
Ancient South-Asia: Language, Material Culture and Ethnicity (ed. by George
Erdosy): 353-381. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.
Rappaport, Roy A. 1999. Ritual and Religion in the Making of Humanity.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Renou, Louis. 1962. "Recherches sur le rituel védique: la place du Rig-Veda
dans l'ordonnance du culte." Journal asiatique 250: 161-184.
Rogerius, Abraham. 1651. De Open-Deure tot het Verborgen Heydendom Ofte
Waerachtig vertoogh van het Leven ende Zeden, mitsgaders de Religie ende
Godsdienst der Bramines op de Cust Chormandel, ende de Landen daar ontrent.
Leyden. Second edition: Caland 1915.
Sarianidi, Victor. 1994. "New Discoveries at ancient Gonur." Ancient
Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia 2.3: 289-310.
Sarianidi, Victor. 1998. Margiana and Proto-Zoroastrism. Athens: Kapon
Shulgin, Alexander T., and David E. Nichols. 1978. "Characterization of
three new psychomimetics." The Psychopharmacology of Hallucinogens
(Proceedings of a two-day workshop held in Bethesda, Maryland, Dec. 21-22,
1976) (ed. by Richard C. Stillman and Robert E. Willette): 74-83. New York:
Pergamon Press.
Skjaervo, Oktor P. 1997. "The State of Old Avestan Scholarship." Journal of
the American Oriental Society, 117.1: 103-114.
Spess, David L. 2000. Soma: The Divine Hallucinogen. Rochester (Vermont):
Inner Traditions. (Reference according to
Staal, Frits. 1975. Exploring Mysticism: A methodological essay. Berkeley:
University of California Press.
Staal, Frits (ed.). 1983. Agni: The Vedic Ritual of the Fire Altar. Vol. I
and II. Berkeley: Asian Humanities Press. [First Indian Edition: Delhi:
Motilal Banarsidass, 2001.]
Staal, Frits. 1989. Rules without Meaning: Ritual, Mantras and the Human
Sciences. New York: Peter Lang.
Staal, Frits. 2001. "How a psychoactive substance becomes a ritual: the
case of Soma." Social Research, vol. 68.3: 745-778.
Stein, Aurel. 1931. "On the ephedra, the Húm plant, and the Soma." Bulletin
of the School for Oriental and African Studies 6:501-14.
Stevenson, John. 1842. Translation of the sanhitá of the Sáma Veda. London:
Stuhrmann, Rainer. 1985. "Worum handelt es sich beim Soma?" Indo-Iranian
Journal 28: 85-93.
Wasson, Valentina Pavlovna and Robert Gordon Wasson. 1957. Mushrooms,
Russia and History. New York: Pantheon Books.
Wasson, R. Gordon. [1969.] Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality. [New
York:] Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich. [No publication date is indicated on
the title or copyright page of the book available to me; in Wasson 1972a
Wasson gives 1969 as the date of publication; we often also find the book
mentioned as appearing in 1968.]
Wasson, R. Gordon. 1970. "Soma: comments inspired by Professor Kuiper's
Review." Indo-Iranian-Journal, 12.4: 286-298.
Wasson, R. Gordon. 1972a. Soma and the fly-agaric. Mr. Wasson's rejoinder
to Professor Brough. Cambridge, Mass.: Botanical Museum of Harvard
Wasson, R. Gordon. 1972b. "What was the Soma of the Aryans?" In: Furst
1972: 201-213.
Wasson, R. Gordon et al. 1986. R. Gordon Wasson, Stella Kramrisch, Jonathan
Ott, and Carl P. Ruck. Persephone's Quest: Entheogens and the Origins of
Religion. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Wezler, Albrecht. 2001. "'Psychedelic' drugs as a means to mystical
experience: Aldous Huxley versus Indian reality." In: Barfoot 2001:
Wilbert, Johannes. 1972. "Tobacco and Shamanistic Ecstasy Among the Warao
Indians of Venezuela." In: Furst 1972: 55-83.
Wilkins, Charles. 1785. The Bhagavat-geeta, or, Dialogues of Kreeshna and
Arjoon : in Eighteen Lectures, with Notes, Translated from the original, in
the Sanskreet, or Ancient language of the Brahmans. London: C. Nourse.
Windischmann, Fr. 1846. Ueber den Somacultus der Arier. Abhandlungen der
Philosoph.-philologischen Classe der Koeniglich Bayerischen Akademie der
Wissenschaften. IV.2: 125-142.
Witzel, Michael. 1997. "The Development of the Vedic Canon and its Schools:
The Social and Political Milieus." In: Inside the Texts - Beyond the Texts:
New Approaches to the Study of the Vedas (ed. Michael Witzel): 257-345.
Cambridge, Mass.: Dept. of Sanskrit and Indian Studies, Harvard University.


[1] This Introduction is an elaboration of introductory remarks in my paper
presented at the Leiden seminar on the Soma-Haoma issue (Leiden, July 3-4,
1999). For this seminar, support was received from the Research school CNWS
- School of Asian, African, and Amerindian Studies (Leiden University). My
own research in connection with the topic of the seminar was funded by the
Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), of which I was a
research fellow from July 1999 till March 2003. I am grateful to the
participants in the workshop for their contributions in the form of papers,
remarks and discussions. Leonid Kulikov deserves special mention for his
kindness to assist in occasional translations from Russian, and after the
workshop to mediate between Leiden and Professor Sarianidi when the latter
was staying in Moscow. Michiel de Vaan kindly helped me get hold of some of
the publications I needed. I am indebted to Frits Staal and George Thompson
for their critical reading of an earlier version of this introduction. I
thank Michael Witzel for accepting to devote an issue of the Electronic
Journal for Vedic Studies to the discussion on the Soma-Haoma problem.
[2] The transcription of Sanskrit follows the conversion table for Old
Indic/Sanskrit of TITUS (Thesaurus Indogermanischer Text- und
Sprachmaterialien),, with the
exception that names that do not appear in quotations or references to the
Sanskrit word have their first letter capitalized. This creates occasional
ambiguities which, however, disappear against the background of a general
basic knowledge of Vedic/Sanskrit.
[3] The transcription of Avestan follows the conversion table for Avestan
of TITUS (Thesaurus Indogermanischer Text- und Sprachmaterialien), .
[4] A regular epithet of Haoma, *dUrao^osa*, has been interpreted as
"Todtwehrer" or the one who keeps 'destruction' or 'perdition' (*ao^sa*)
'far away' (*dUra*) (cf. Bartholomae 1904 s.v.). Stuhrmann's suggestion
(1985: 87 and 92 note 20) that the word derives from *dru-oSa
"holzbrennend" does not seem convincing in the context where it occurs;
Flattery and Schwartz (1989: 130) want to understand it as "keeping
destruction far away" in connection with apotropaic powers of the
Haoma-plant which it would especially have when it is burnt. However, if
the association with burning is part of the term's synchronic semantics it
would not suit contexts such as the beginning of Y 9 where there is no
burning but a pressing and libation of Haoma. See for further references to
the discussion Mayrhofer 1992: 733.
[5] Rogerius, Open Deure tot het Verborgen Heydendom, ed. Caland 1915 p. 3:
in a discussion of the Somowansjam [*somavaM/Sa*], the name of a royal
dynasty, Rogerius writes "inde gheseyde Tale beteyckent Somo de Maen".
Rogerius' work was translated into English, German and French and remained
for more than a century an important source of knowledge on India and
Indian religion.
A valuable discussion of early ideas, guesses and philological research on
Soma is found in Doniger O'Flaherty 1969, where the reader will find
references to a few additional contributions left out by me as they seemed
less significant or influential. On the other hand, I mention here a few
authors skipped or overlooked by Doniger O'Flaherty, or not available to
[6] Anquetil-Duperron 1771, vol. 2, p. 535. The classics are
Anquetil-Duperron's frame of reference when he associates the Parsis' Hom
(Haoma) with the ámOmos of the Greek and the amomum of the Romans.
[7] Wilkins 1785, in note 42 (p. 143) to the verse in "Lecture IX" of the
bhagavadgItA in which reference is made to "followers of the three Veds,
who drink of the juice of the Som" (traividyA[H] ... somapAH), observes
that "Som is the name of a creeper, the juice of which is commanded to be
drank at the conclusion of a sacrifice, by the person for whom and at whose
expense it is performed, and by the Brahmans who officiate at the altar."
[8] When Hillebrandt (1927: 201) writes that Mukherjee rejects the
identification of Soma and Cannabis (Bhang), he seems to have misunderstood
Mukherjee's rhetorical question (1921: 244) "From what has been stated
above, may we not conclude that the weight of evidence is in favor of the
identification of Soma with Cannabis (Bhâng)." Mukherjee's view appears in
more detail in a paper that appeared in 1922 (the 9-page booklet present in
the Leiden University library is perhaps an offprint of the paper Mukherjee
announces at the end of his 1921 article as appearing in the Bulletin of
the Indian Rationalistic Society of Calcutta; the name of this journal is,
however, nowhere mentioned in the paper).
[9] Aitchison (1888: 87) also discusses the Periploca aphylla (like the
Sarcostemma belonging to the Asclepiadaceae) which he found in northern
Baluchistan. He notices the native names "Um, Uma; Punjabi Batta." J.G.
Baker suggested it as a candidate for Soma in a letter to the Academy in
[10] See Madaus 1938: 1261.
[11] Madaus1938: 1264.
[12] Lewin thus passes over - is probably unaware of - the fact that
neither the Vedic nor the Iranian ritual have any place for a process of
distillation which would be required to achieve a drink deserving to be
called "strong alcoholic".
[13] In his Brave New World Revisited (1959: 99-100) Huxley states in
retrospect: "The Soma of Brave New World had none of the drawbacks of its
Indian original. In small doses it brought a sense of bliss, in larger
doses it made you see visions and, if you took three tablets, you would
sink in a few minutes into refreshing sleep."
[14] Two papers appearing in a recent volume on Aldous Huxley (Barfoot
2001) are of considerable, direct importance for the Soma-problem: Albrecht
Wezler's confrontation of Huxley's ideas on 'psychedelic' drugs in India
with presently available data and theories on the use of drugs, especially
Soma, and, from quite different contexts, Bhang (Cannabis), as means to
mystical experience; and Wilhelm Halbfass' profound analysis of
philosophical problems related to drug-induced mystical experiences
according to Huxley and in Indian philosophy. Relevant for, though not
directly dealing with, the *interpretation* of the Soma-experience by
Huxley is Johannes Bronkhorst's discussion of Huxley's theory of a
*philosophia perennis* consisting of features which all or most religions
would share.
[15] The book is also often referred to as appearing in 1968. In the copy
in the library of the Kern Institute I searched in vain for the publication
date. In Richard Evans Schultes' foreword in Wasson 1972a we read that "Mr.
R. Gordon Wasson" brought out his SOMA Divine Mushroom of Immortality on
April 15, 1969. But in 1986 Wasson writes (p. 26): "At the end of 1968 or
the beginning of 1969 our SOMA finally apeared ... " I will stick here to
1969 as its publicaton date.
[16] J. Brough (1971: 332 note 1) notes that "Mr. Wasson ... was for 10
years a Research Fellow of the Botanical Museum of Harvard University, now
Honorary Research Fellow; also Honorary Research Associate and former
member of the Board of Managers of the New York Botanical Garden."
[17] Huxley and Wasson knew each other quite well. Cf. Wasson in a
autobiographical passage, 1969: 175: "I do not recall when the Soma
possibility first drew my attention ... From 1955 on I was in intermittent
correspondence with Aldous Huxley, and often when he visited New York he
would come down to Wall Street and have lunch with me." And cf. Huxley, in
a letter to a friend written in 1957 (in Huxley 1977: 132): "While I was in
New York, I lunched with Wasson [. . . .] [H]e has put an immense amount of
work into his subject, and the material brought together in his vast tomes
is very curious and suggestive. However, he does, as you say, like to think
that his mushrooms are somehow unique and infinitely superior to everything
else. I tried to disabuse him. But he likes to feel that he has got hold of
the One and Only psychodelic - accept no substitutes, none genuine unless
sold with the signature of the inventor."
[18] Similarly, Kuiper 1970: 282: "Generally speaking, his [Wasson's]
interesting attempt to interpret the Vedic evidence in the light of his
novel theory encounters difficulties when the separate passages are
considered in the context of Vedic mythological and ritualistic thought."
Kuiper illustrates the point with Wasson's interpretation of .Rgveda
9.86.44c (Wasson 1969: 41) and of .Rgveda 9.97.9d (Wasson 1969, plate VIII
a and b). Brough discusses Wasson's interpretations of 9.97.9d, 9.71.2d,
9.70.7d, 9.75.2 and of notions recurring in .Rgveda-translations such as
"the udder and Soma", "Soma's 'head'", "the single eye", "mainstay of the
sky", "the filtres", and the Vedic sah/asrabh.r.s.ti.
[19] A list of "principal reviews" of Wasson 1969 appears at the end of
Wasson 1972a.
[20] Wasson goes so far as to indulge in near-abusive rhetorics on the
reviewers who do not accept his hypothesis. Thus, in 1972a he writes:
"These two statements, Brough's and Kuiper's, reveal the absurd isolation
in which some Vedic scholars live by choice." Before embarking on his
investigation of the points presented by Wasson, Brough (1971: 331)
discusses the state of the art in the Soma-Haoma discussion before Wasson
1969 and observes " ... and the opinion is widely held that the problem is
insoluble." In almost paranoiac fashion Wasson (1972a: 10) perceives here a
conspiracy of "Brough and other Vedic scholars" to be satisfied with the
"anonymity of Soma" as "a built-in element in Vedic studies" and to want to
keep it like that. As for the statement of Kuiper that enraged Wasson, it
is: "This means that the search for 'the original Soma' might lead us far
beyond the field of Indo-Iranian studies proper" (Kuiper 1970: 284). As
linguist and as mythologist of the Indian area and of Indo-European
cultures, Kuiper himself is habituated to "go beyond the field of
Indo-Iranian studies proper". Immediately preceding this statement Kuiper
is discussing aspects of Nordic myths relevant to the Soma-issue. The
implication which Wasson connects with this statement is hence
preposterous: " ... as though such excursions were dangerous temptations to
be avoided." Apparently in a more balanced state of mind and with a strong
sense of the importance of his own researches he writes elsewhere in a
recapitulation of his argument for non-indologists (1972b: 208): "Professor
F.B.J. Kuiper of Leiden is a thousand times right in saying that 'the
complexities of the problem should not ... be underestimated.' He adds that
the identification of Soma must take the seeker far beyond the confines of
Indo-Iranian studies proper. This is where I have gone." It is in any case
ironic that Kuiper's review which infuriated Wasson in 1972a was read as an
acceptance of Wasson's thesis as probable by Frits Staal in 1983, I: 106.
Kuiper does conclude his discussion on a non-committal but quite positive
tone when he writes: "Wasson, with his unique knowledge of the use of
hallucinogens in Eurasia, may be perfectly right in assuming that the
original Soma plant was the Amanita muscaria, but to prove this the
evidence of the Rigveda would seem to lack decisive force."
[21] While Kashikar 1990 does more justice to the important and extensive
branch of literature of this period, a comprehensive overview and study of
relevant passages is still a desideratum.
[22] Wasson's enthusiastic presentation on the use of the fly-agaric with a
view to identify them with the Vedic Soma may have to be amended in some
respects. Cf. the conclusion of Nyberg 1995: 392-393 on Amanita muscaria as
a candidate for Soma, especially his third point: "In my opinion, *Amanita
muscaria* is unsuitable for any identification with *soma/haoma* on the
following grounds: 1) The mushroom produces visions, sleep and/or a
peaceful state of intoxication; the duration of effects is short; 2)
*soma/haoma* is prepared from stems or stalks, which most probably should
be regarded as fibrous (Brough 1971; Falk 1989) while the fleshy stems of
*A. muscaria* contain only very small amounts of the pharmacologically
active compounds, which are concentratred instead in the mushroom cap
(these are the only parts of the mushroom used in northern Siberia); 3)
culturally, the use of *A. muscaria* occurs only among the shamanistic
peoples of northern Eurasia and it is neither a required part of any
shamanistic rite, nor regarded as holy in them. On the contrary, only the
'weak' shaman or a 'recreational user' has to resort to the use of the
mushroom (Eliade 1964: 210; Saar 1991); 4) the mushroom must have been rare
in any of the proposed Indo-Iranian homelands. In contrast, when the use of
*soma/haoma* began, the Aryans seem to have been inhabiting a region where
the to-date unidentified plant was abundant."
[23] See especially Wasson 1969, Part One, chapter IV: "Soma Was Not
[24] In his 1969 book Wasson's strategy is to distinguish between the
.Rgveda and later texts, and between a later part of the .Rgveda and an
earlier one (the latter comprises the ninth or Soma-Ma.n.dala). In his
answers to Brough, however, he suggests (1972a: 14) that the crucial
episode of the pressing of the Soma-plants with stones or stampers is
adventitious, even if references to the pounding and the pressing stones
and stampers occur dispersed throughout the different sections of the
.Rgveda. including those which Wasson uses for his positive
[25] Stuhrmann 1985: 91 quotes here Oldenberg's expression (1894: 182)
"formloses Gewirr von Bildern und mystischen Phantasmen".
[26] Falk extends his argument too far when he says (1989: 82) not only
that Soma creates wakefulness, but also that it originally must have been
offered to Indra during the night.
[27] Cf. Madaus 1938: 1263; on the modern use of stimulants in psychiatry
with brief references to their history as well as to Ephedra: Fawcett and
Busch 1998.
[28] Cf. the discussion of 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) and its
pharmacological properties by Shulgin and Nichols 1978. The authors are
aware of its "occasional and erratic appearance in the illicit street drug
market", but apparently not yet familiar with its later popular name
Ecstasy or XTC. Briefly on the relation between chemical structure and
psychopharmacological effects of MDMA and related compounds: Fawcett and
Busch 1998: 505-506.
[29] Cf. note 36 below.
[30] Together with Asko Parpola, Kashikar published an overview of recent
/Srauta traditions in India in Vol. 2 of Staal's Agni, and remarked
(Kashikar and Parpola 1983: 248) that for the original Soma "[t]he most
likely candidate seems to be some species of Ephedra."
[31] Doniger O'Flaherty's brief section on the BrAhmaNas and /SautasUtras
in her discussion of the post-Vedic history of the Soma-plant, was
therefore misleading in that she presented these texts as only speaking of
substitutes whereas it is clear that their authors presuppose those who
employ the texts to be well aware of the distinction between the real
Soma-plant and its substitutes.
[32] A Maharashtrian sweet dish made out of beestings is reported to have a
light yellowish collor (Madhav Deshpande, Indology Discussion Archive
11-02-2003, and, off-list, Vishal Agrawal 12-02-2003, in response to a
question I asked on the Indology list - 11-02-2003
[33] I thank the author for kindly sending me this paper on a subject about
which we have discussed at a few occasions.
[34] In fact, this is a point in Staal's own argument 26 years earlier:
Staal 1975, e.g. p. 195: "So far, the following causes may be assumed to be
conducive to mystical experiences: birth, meditation, asceticism, drugs,
mantras, yantras, special devices like kaSiNa, *rituals*, devotion to a
deity" (my emphasis, J.H.).
[35] Cf. already Lewin 1927: 180 on the effect of alkaloids in Belladonna
and Datura: "Ein Schneider, der unter den Einfluss von Belladonna und
Datura gekommen war, zeigte die übliche Pupillenerweiterung neben Krämpfen.
Nachdem diese nachgelassen hatten, setzte er sich im Bette so zurecht, als
wäre er auf einem Schneidertisch, und manipulierte, als wenn er mit seiner
Arbeit beschäftigt wäre, die Nadel oft einfädeln müsste usw. Dabei hörte
und sah er nicht. Das Bewusstsein fehlte. Dieser Zustand hielt fünfzehn
Stunden an." Cf. also Fawcett and Busch 1998: 507: "In humans, both cocaine
and amphetamine produce behaviors characterized by repetitious arrangement
of objects. Such behaviors may be analogous to stereotyped behaviours
induced by amphetamines in animals (K.S. Patrick et al. 1981)."
[36] See also the criticism on Flattery and Schwartz uttered by Nyberg
1995: 399: "To say that the effects of ephedras are "of insufficient
intensity" or "too inconsistent in character" (in Flattery and Schwartz
1989: 72) seems to reflect a tendency to apply modern methods of clinical
drug evaluation to an ancient culture having a very different psychological
pattern and way of life when compared with modern Western culture."
[37] Lowie 1954: 157: "Woodland and Plains Indians deliberately went out to
a lonely spot in order to obtain a revelation. ... the normal procedure was
to go into solitude, fast and thirst for four days, and supplicate the
spirits to take pity on the sufferer." Blackfoot specialist L.M. Zuyderhout
kindly drew my attention to the sections on visions and shamans in Lowie
1954, and informed me (email 27.01.2003) on the basis of her extensive
fieldwork that also women may go on a vision quest and fast and thirst
although there are hardly published sources on this. In addition, women had
to fast in connection with the Blackfoot Sun Dance.
[38] Soma is connected with poetic inspiration and with dh/I or 'vision'
(cf. Gonda 1963: 41, 51, 69, 73ff), but generally these cannot be regarded
as "hallucinations"; browsing through Geldner's Register to his .Rgveda
translation, we find listed as the effects of Soma (Geldner 1957: 248-249)
that it incites thought (1.129.6 m/anma r/ejati, 6.47.3 manIS/Am ...
ajIgaH), it is able to engender poetical thought (9.95.1 mat/Ir janayata),
is the progenitor of poetical thoughts (9.96.5 janit/A matIn/Am), opens the
doors to the thoughts (1.46.5 AdAr/a, 9.10.6 /apa dv/ArA matIn/Am ...
.rNvanti [s/omAsaH]).
[39] Cf. in Geldner's Register to his .Rgveda translation, among the
effects of Soma (Geldner 1957: 248-249): Soma keeps awake (8.2.12 jarante,
said of the Soma juices; 3.37.8 j/Ag.rvi said of the Soma); it gives
strength (9.90.2 vayodh/A). Apart from this useful but quite incomplete
thematic index cf. also statements such as 9.1.10ab asy/ed /indro m/adeSv
/A v/i/SvA v.rtr/ANi jighnate "In the exhilerations of this (Soma), Indra
destroys all obstructions and obstructors"; 9.113.1 /SaryaN/Avati s/omam
/indraH pibatu v.rtrah/A b/alaM d/adhAna Atm/ani kariSy/an vIry\am mah/ad
"At the /SaryaN/Avat (lake), Indra the V.rtra-killer must drink the Soma,
putting strength in himself, about to perform a great heroic feat."
[40] Cf. from Fischman's (1987: 1544) summary of the general effects of
stimulants, in this case specifically cocaine and amphetamines -note their
correlation with stereotyped behaviour (ritualization), my emphasis:
"Humans given single moderate doses of cocaine and amphetamine generally
show a decrease in food intake and fatigue and an increase in activity,
talkativeness, and reports of euphoria and general well-being. At higher
doses *repetitive motor activity (stereotyped behaviour)* is often seen,
and with further increases in dose, convulsions, hyperthermia, coma, and
death ensue.
The effects of cocaine and amphetamine in most non-human species parallel
those seen in humans. At lower doses, animals are active and alert, showing
increases in responding maintained by other reinforcers but often
decreasing food intake. Higher doses produce species-specific *stereotyped
behavior patterns*, and further increases in dose are followed, as in
humans, by convulsions, hyperthermia, coma, and death."
[41] The case for a more subtle psychoactive substance as candidate for
Soma and Haoma can be supported by contrasting the modern, "secular" use of
tobacco in recreational smoking, with its use among the South-American
Warao when communicating with the supernatural (Wilbert 1972). What is
experienced as a light relaxing influence in modern society was associated
with communication with a different world among the Warao. Wilbert 1972:
55: "Even if it is not one of the 'true' hallucinogens from the botanist's
or pharmacologist's point of view, tobacco is often conceptually and
functionally indistinguishable from them." As for the Soma and the Soma
ritual, with a more subtle psychoactive substance as candidate for Soma it
will be easier to explain the gradual, noiseless disappearance of "the real
Soma" in the ceremony devoted to its celebration (imagine a marriage where
no-one notices that the bridegroom has silently disappeared ...), after an
intermediate phase in which substitutes were occasionally permitted.
[42] On problems regarding Stein's finds in the 1930'ies cf. Flattery and
Schwartz 1989: 73 note 6; and on problems in connection with Ephedra in the
Bactria-Margiana archeological complex cf. Bakels in the present issue.
While the references by Mallory & Mair are frequent but marginal, Barber's
discussion (1999, chapter 8) of the Ephedra found with the mummies is more
elaborate, takes notice of the re-identification of some samples of
mummy-Ephedra as Equisetum, and forms part of an argument for the ethnic
identification of the mummies. Just as Mallory & Mair she takes Sarianidi's
conclusions regarding the use of Ephedra in Margiana for granted - Bakels'
contribution shows that such easy acceptance is unwarranted.
[43] Cf. Wasson in Wasson et al. 1986: p. 36-37: "Some of us formed a
committee under the Chairmanship of Carl Ruck to devise a new word for the
potions that held Antiquity in awe. After trying out a number of words he
came up with *entheogen*, 'god generated within', which his committee
unanimously adopted, not to replace the 'Mystery' of the ancients, but to
designate those plant substances that were and are at the very core of the
Mysteries." Unlike Wasson I see no reason to restrict the term to
substances currently labeled as hallucinogens, but I would include
psychostimulants, as well as alcohol and hashish which Wasson wants to
exclude on account of their use as recreational drugs (he forgets that they
have been and often still are used as instruments in mystical quests, cf.
Wezler 2001, whereas, on the other hand, his fly-agaric is also in use as
recreational drug, cf. Nyberg 1995: 392-393 quoted in note 22), and tobacco
(cf. previous note).
[44] With regard to K.C. Forman's question (1990: 5): "Are there some
experiences, or some specifiable aspects of human experience, that are not
'constructed' by our language and belief?" the answer suggested by
cross-cultural experience with psychoactive substances from tobacco and
alcohol to CNS-stimulants and hallucinogens would seem to be that only very
general aspects of the experience (e.g., euphoria, hallucination,
synesthesia) have a stable correlation with specific substances, whereas
the actual "contents" of the experience are entirely constructed. An
analysis of the category of "experience" in the encounter between India and
the West was given by Wilhelm Halbfass in 1988: 378-402. With regard to
Huxley's interpretation of Indian traditions Halbfass points out (2001:
233) that "'Experience' is the common denominator in Huxley's fascination
with drugs and his interest in Indian philosophy"; he observes that it is,
however, only in Neo-VedAntic thought that experience, rather than
traditional authority, starts to play the decisive role accepted by Huxley.
When Bronkhorst (2001) attempts to find shared features in the religions
adduced by Huxley to establish his "perennial philosophy" it is significant
that it is precisely the category of "experience" that he leaves out.
[45] According to Lehmann, the Soma of the .Rgveda was pressed not from a
green plant or from a mushroom but from honeycombs, especially from those
of the Indian giant or rock bee. The significant difference with
Oldenberg's honey-theory is that the latter saw evidence that already in
proto-Indo-Iranian times the honey was replaced by a plant (to whose sap
honey was added in the ritual!). Lehmann does not address the question why
the knowledge of Soma as honeycomb and the techniques to press the honey
out of them would have got lost over the centuries whereas honey itself
remained a familiar product. As a bee from flower to flower, Lehmann (2000:
195: "Mir fehlen Kentnisse des Sanskrit") jumps from the one to the other
far-fetched text-interpretation that he deems "possible", and happily
concludes his paper with the statement that the Soma-problem is now solved.
Still of interest is the attention he pays to the story of the monkeys in
the Madhuvana ( 5.59-61), and the state of *mada* they attain
when consuming the available honey. It is possibly the earliest extensive
literary description in the Sanskrit tradition of a *mada* in all its
shades from happy exhileration to aggressive behaviour towards the guards
of the "honey grove".

Brief report of the
The Soma/Haoma-cult in early Vedism and Zoroastrism:
Archeology, Text, and Ritual
LEIDEN, 3-4 JULY 1999
Jan E.M. Houben

This workshop was organized and hosted by the Research school CNWS,
University of Leiden, to deal with a 'perennial' problem in Indology and
Iranology: the nature of the Soma/Haoma plant and the juice pressed from
it. Soma/Haoma plays an important role in Vedic and Zoroastrian ritual and
mythology. Recent discoveries at Margiana, modern Turkmenistan, showed the
remains of a temple-cult in which several plants were employed. According
to the archeologist Prof. V.I. Sarianidi, working on sites in Margiana
since more than a decade, these plants include papaver and Ephedra. As
early as in 1922, the Ephedra has been mentioned as the best candidate for
the plant from which juice is extracted and consumed in the Vedic
Soma-ritual, as well as in the Avestan Haoma-ritual (Modi 1922:301-5).
After a period of investigations of all kinds of other candidates - e.g.
alcoholic drinks based on rhubarb (Stein 1931) or honey or millet; a
mushroom, Amanita muscaria or fly-agaric (Wasson 1968); the Syrian rue
(Flattery & Schwartz 1989) - several recent studies have again arrived at
Ephedra as a plant which could very well have been used in the
Soma/Haoma-rituals. The recent discoveries in Margiana would lend
additional support to the identification of Soma/Haoma as Ephedra. The
complex problem of the Soma/Haoma-cult involves the archeological
interpretation of material remains (making use also of botanic and medical
knowledge), the philological understanding of ancient Vedic and Avestan
texts, and an anthropologically sound reconstruction of an evolving ritual
system connected with the material remains and the texts. Scholars with
diverse academic backgrounds and specializations had been invited to
present a paper at the workshop.
After the opening address of Prof. J.C. Heesterman, the first
lecture was given by the archeologist of the Iranian world Dr. W. Vogelsang
(research school CNWS, Leiden University). In his lecture, "The advent of
the Indo-Iranians: the Minefield of Archeological Interpretation," Dr.
Vogelsang dealt with the implications of the findings in Margiana for the
large problem of the presence of the 'Indo-Iranians' in the northwest of
the Indian subcontinent and the Iranian world, at least from ca. 1
millennium B.C. onwards. The common view is that the Indo-Iranians are a
'branch' of nomadic or semi-nomadic Indo-Europeans, who entered the Iranian
world from the north. In his recent book, Margiana and Proto-Zoroastrism,
V.I. Sarianidi argues that the temple-cult for which he found indications
in Margiana is a predecessor of the Zoroastrian rituals centering around
Haoma and fire. The inhabitants of the building complexes in Margiana and
Bactria (BMAC) would have been Indo-Europeans, ancestors of the Iranians
and Vedic Indians. Vogelsang, however, argues that it is not likely that
the nomadic or semi-nomadic Indo-Europeans got settled in the BMAC
buildings, though they may have been in close contact with this urbanized
culture, and may have been influenced by their rituals, perhaps including
rituals in which Ephedra and other plants were employed.
Dr. A.F. de Jong (Leiden University, Faculty of Theology),
specialist in Zoroastrism and religions of antiquity, gave the next lecture
entitled "Triple Haoma in the Development of Zoroastrian Traditions." Dr.
de Jong emphasized the importance of mediaeval developments in Zoroastrism,
which determine to a great extent our perception of the earlier phases. In
this later Zoroastrism, the physical Haoma plays a minor role, while the
mythological and eschatological Haoma is of great importance. Finally, the
problem of the interpretation of the 'triple Haoma' which is mentioned in
later texts was addressed.
The last morning lecture was a presentation by Prof. V.I.
Sarianidi, in which he gave information about the archeological findings in
Margiana, including the most recent ones of this spring. Prof. Sarianidi
illustrated his lecture with numerous slides. He could demonstrate quite
convincingly that some special buildings were used for purposes which
involved the use of various plants. Stylized drawings suggested that plants
including papaver, hemp and Ephedra were of importance to the former
inhabitants of the archeological complexes.
In the afternoon, Indologist Prof. Harry Falk (Berlin) gave a
lecture entitled "Decent drugs for decent societies," in which an overview
was provided of the major current arguments for the identity of the Soma.
Some new considerations were added to the arguments which Prof. Falk
presented 12 years ago (also in Leiden, at the 8th World Sanskrit
Conference) in favour of the Ephedra-thesis. Especially the type of
behaviour to be expected after employment of different types of drugs, and
its suitability or otherwise in a certain type of society and ritual,
received Prof. Falk's attention in this lecture. It was argued that the
effects of the fly agaric (initially sopoforic, later increased
aggressivity, deteriorated ability to formulate sentences), are very
contrary to what is to be expected from Soma (stimulating wakefulness,
poetic inspiration; no aggressivity). The effects of Ephedra would suit
much better the references in the hymns and the employment in the ritual.
The second afternoon lecture, by Dr. Jan E.M. Houben (Kern
Institute, Leiden), was devoted to a hymn in the .Rg-Veda which refers to a
rare way of Soma-preparation quite different from the elaborate and solemn
form known from the ritualistic texts and also presupposed in numerous
other Ùg-Vedic hymns. This exceptional Soma-preparation, obsolete for about
two millennia, is undertaken privately with household mortar and pestle as
its simple instruments. Typologically it may be regarded as an intermediary
between two well-known types: the Zoroastrian (simple, with mortar and
pestle) and the Vedic (elaborate, with special stones and boards). Current
treatments of the hymn such as the one by K.F. Geldner do not bring out
satisfactorily its relevance for the ritual practice reflected in it.
The last afternoon lecture was by Drs. Friso Smit, who is
specialising in ethno-pharmacognosis at the department of medicinal
chemistry, Utrecht University. In his presentation, "The Soma-Haoma problem
from ethno-farmaco-gnostical perspective" Smit enlightened the participants
about chemical and pharmacological aspects of the Ephedra-plant and related
drugs, and about their use in various ethnic communities. The
pharmacological effects of ephedrine generally suit the effects ascribed to
Soma and Haoma (including negative effects with too high doses).
The next day a video-film on the Zoroastrian Yasna ceremony
(produced by Prof. Dr. J. Boyd, Colorado State University) and parts of The
Pravargya Ritual: performances in Delhi (produced by J.E.M. Houben and
Nandini Bedi) were shown and discussed. Next, the results of the lectures
of the previous day were further discussed. As for the main topic of the
workshop, the identity of the Soma/Haoma, most participants could accept
Ephedra as a serious candidate. Diverging views were held, and continued to
be held, regarding implications for problems of the social, cultural and
linguistic situation of ancient South and Central Asia-problems which are
both theoretically and ideologically very sensitive. Professor Sarianidi
graciously offered to send some specimens of the material containing plant
remains to Leiden for further investigation.
The contents of ceramic vessels in the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological
Complex, Turkmenistan
C.C. Bakels, Faculty of Archaeology, University of Leiden

Vessels found in the "white room" of the Gonur temenos and in Togolok-21
revealed part of their original contents as holes in a gypsum and clay
deposit on their bottom. (See Sarianidi 1998, page 34 Fig. 9, for Map of
Bronze Age sites of Bactria-Margiana.)

The holes are the negatives of plant matter which itself has decayed. The
white layer of gypsum and clay has been separated from the ceramic fabric
of the vessels and parts of it have reached my laboratory for an
identification of the plants, which have left their imprints.

Of the plant remains it was said that they had already been described and
published by N.R. Meyer-Melikyan and N.A. Avetov (1998). The photographs in
the publication (Fig. 46) suggest that the objects seen by me concern
indeed the same material as far as the material from the Gonur temenos is

The white substance shows on the section several layers, as has been
described by the authors mentioned above. Some of these are very thin, with
a thickness of more or less 1 mm, others are thicker, but the thickness of
the whole does not exceed 1.5 cm. N.R. Meyer-Melikyan and N.A Avetov
succeeded in separating the layers and could describe different contents
for each of them. I did not succeed in separating layers with significantly
different aspects. It might be that I did not obtain quite the same
material as what was published, or a different part of the deposit in the

Most of the impressions are round to oval. A small minority has clearly
been left by stems. The round impressions have been published as having
been left by hemp seeds (Cannabis sativa) and the stems by Ephedra. The
material sent to me reveals, however, neither of these. The impressions
caused by seeds are not of hemp. They are too small, for instance, do not
have the right shape nor the right type of surface pattern. The long,
grooved stems are not incontestably identifiable as Ephedra. The original
contents consisted in my opinion of broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceum)
and the stems might also belong to this cereal, although that cannot be
proven. Some of the round impressions still contain a cell layer resembling
a cell layer of broomcorn millet husks. They are preserved because of their
high silica content. My interpretation is that the vessels were filled with
not yet dehusked broomcorn millet.

To obtain a second opinion I showed the material to Sietse Bottema and René
Cappers from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. They had in
their reference collection small-seeded hemp from Iran, but these were
still too large, and again, the overall form and the surface pattern did
not fit. Both colleagues were of the opinion that the impressions were left
by a millet, presumably broomcorn millet.

In addition I had the opportunity to show the material to Mark Nesbitt from
the Centre for Economic Botany, Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, Great
Britain, who is familiar with material from the Merv oasis and to Dorian
Fuller from the Institute of Archaeology, London, Great Britain, who is an
expert on Asian millets. Both colleagues came to the conclusion that
broomcorn millet provides the best fit.

The original publication mentions also pollen, hemp pollen grains in large
quantities, but also pollen from other plants. I did not succeed in
extracting pollen from the white substance. Sietse Bottema tried again with
two different methods but failed as well. Our opinion is that pollen has
not been preserved.

We all wonder now whether we have looked at the same material as published
by N.R. Meyer-Melikyan and N.A Avetov. The material we examined contained
broomcorn millet. This cereal is known from the Merv oasis, at least from
the Bronze Age onwards (Nesbitt 1997). The crop plant most probably has its
origin in Central Asia, perhaps even in the Aralo-Caspian basin. It is a
cereal that can be cooked, made into a heavy bread, or used to prepare a
fermented drink. The latter can be done with undehusked grain.


Meyer-Melikyan, N.R. and N.A. Avetov. 1998. Analysis of Floral Remains in
the Ceramic Vessel from the Gonur Temenos. In: Sarianidi 1998, Appendix I
(pp 176-177)

Nesbitt, M. 1997. Plant use in the Merv Oasis. In: G. Herrmann, K.
Kurbansakhatov, S.J. Simpson, The international Merv project, preliminary
report on the fifth season. Iran 35 (pp 29-31)

Sarianidi, Victor. 1998. Margiana and Protozoroastrism. Athens: Kapon

Picture 1:
Two pieces of material found within a vessel in Togolok-21 of the BMAC,
sent by Prof. Sarianidi in July 1999 (photo by Jan Houben).

Picture 2:
Photograph of the material from Gonur temenos under a microscope (photo by
Prof. Bakels).

Picture 3:
Photograph of the material from Togolok-21 under a microscope (photo by
Prof. Bakels).
Victor Sarianidi

It is a well-known fact that at all times everywhere in the world when
people wanted to forget the hardships of their everyday life they used
intoxicating drinks made of different local plants. For most of them this
habit became a routine part of their life style; but in Zoroastrianism it
acquired a special place in the religion. The intoxicating drink was used
as a cult drink and had an important ritual meaning. In the Avesta they
called this drink "haoma" and in the Rigveda - "soma"; to this drink they
dedicated the most poetic hymns, a fact that speaks for its special place
in Zoroastrianism and Vedism.
Zoroastrianism is known to have originated in an Iranian
environment and, more precisely, in a society of "Iranian paganism". It is
logical then to assume that the soma-haoma cult appeared in this society
and that later Zoroaster included it in his new religion.
For a long time searches for "Iranian paganism" were fruitless and
only in the last decades the signs of it were found in the territory of
Outer Iran, more precisely in Bactria (northern Afghanistan) and especially
in Margiana (east Turkmenistan). Archaeological discoveries in Margiana,
the country mentioned in the Beihustan script under the name of Margush,
have yielded material that pointed to the ritual cult of the intoxicating
drink of haoma which took a central place in the religious ideas of local
Most representative are the monumental temples (Togolok-1,
Togolok-21, temenos Gonur), their sizes and elaborate principles of the
layout easily comparable to the famous temples of Mesopotamia. The
Togolok-21 temple (Fig.1) can be looked upon as a kind of "cathedral" that
served the needs of the whole ancient country of Margush (Sarianidi 1998a:
In each of these three temples the main place is occupied by the
so-called "white rooms" with a common layout principle. Along the walls of
these rooms there are located low brick platforms with dug-in vessels that
are fixed in the platforms and that contain thick layers of gypsum. The
vessels contain the remains of ephedra, canabis and poppy, in other words,
substances which are known to be used for making narcotics. There is no
doubt that in ancient days these plants were also used for an analogical
purpose (Meyer-Melikyan, in Sarianidi 1998a: 176-179).
It should be mentioned that some scientists doubt the contents of
these vessels (Hiebert 1994: 123-129; Parpola 1998: 127). This doubt is
based on the negative results of the analyses of some samples from the
Gonur temenos that were received in the laboratory of the Helsinki
University. This negative result may be easily explained by the fact that
the samples for this analysis were taken from the vessels that for five
long years were exposed to the direct influence of the sunlight, rain and
snow and this must have had a major influence on the remains of the
vessels. In summer of 1999 on the request of the Leiden University new
samples from the Gonur temenos were sent for another independent analysis.
So, for the first time in the world archaeological practice,
monumental temples were found in which intoxicating beverages of the
soma-haoma type were prepared for cult ceremonies. Two of them, the
Togolok-21 and Gonur temenos, had fire altars as well, that were always
located in secret places inside the temples and were hidden behind high
blind walls. Their location speaks for their secondary status compared to
the soma-haoma.
In the Gonur temenos there was found a separate "tower complex"
also related to the preparation of the cult beverage (Sarianidi 1995:
296-299, fig.5). In one room on the floor there was a large basket lined
inside with a thick layer of gypsum. Next to it was the half of a so-called
miniature stone column and a hand-made vessel typical for the nomads of the
Andronov culture (Fig.2, No 2). It is significant that fragments of the
same type were also found in the temples of Togolok-1 and 21 testifying to
the existence of contacts between the agricultural and nomadic tribes of
Margiana, at least in the field of the preparation of cult beverages. But
this statement needs additional research.
Each of the Margiana temples has a specific set of finds related to
the process of producing a drink of the soma-haoma type. Such sets may be
looked upon as an illustration to what was written in the Avesta and
Rigveda. It is quite significant how these written sources are supported by
the archaeological data from the excavations of the Margiana temples
As already mentioned, the excavations documentally proved that
poppy, cannabis and ephedra were used for making the soma-haoma drinks, and
thickets of these plants were found in excess in the vicinity of the
excavated temples of Margiana.
Since these alkaloid plants had an unpleasant smell they were first
wetted in water. The archaeological excavations of the Margiana temples
have yielded huge vats, "small baths" (and sometimes weaved baskets) that
are plastered inside with gypsum layers and were used for this purpose. On
the bottom of these containers there were preserved remains of alkaloid
plants, cannabis, first of all. In this respect the excavations of the
Gonur temenos are very significant. There, around a small temple there were
scattered a lot of private houses the inhabitants of which were engaged in
the everyday service of the temple. Over twenty five rooms found in these
private houses have yielded either large vats or "small baths" made in the
special brick platforms (Fig.4). In these vessels also there were found
remains with the offprints of seeds, ephedra stems and cannabis, mostly
The hymns of the Avesta and Rigveda described how these alkaloid
plants were processed. First they soaked these plants in liquid, then they
ground them on stone plates, using stone pestles and grinders. The
archaeological finds support these written data. Numerous stone articles
connected with grinding of the alkaloid plants were found in all
Margianian temples (Fig.3, No.8). One can only guess what a complicated
ritual has accompanied this process! In the Avesta, for example, they speak
about the "first priests of mortar", while in the Rigveda many hymns
describe the process of soma making.
According to the hymns, the moment of squeezing out the juice was
hardly the most important in the whole process of the preparation of this
intoxicating drink. To obtain this the alkaloid plants that were previously
roughly ground by pestles and grinders were squeezed out with the help of
special pressing stones (the word "haoma" in the Avesta is translated as
"the thing that is squeezed").
All three temples of Margiana and especially the Gonur temenos
yielded the archaeological material that documentally illustrate the
process frequently mentioned in the Avesta and Rigveda. In one of the rooms
of the Gonur temenos, next to the vat that was obviously connected with the
process of soaking the alkaloid plants, a round and flat pressing stone was
found with a half-spheric projection in the centre (Fig.3 No.4). It is easy
to imagine that this stone coupled with another similar one that had a
corresponding deepening in the centre could be ideally used for squeezing
the juice out of the plants previously soaked.
It is important to mention that besides Margiana the excavations of
the settlement of Ulug Tepe near Dushak in south Turkmenistan in the Late
Bronze layers (Fig.3, No.11) have yielded one complete "pressure set", that
consisted of a huge stone mortar and a pestle, a pressing stone with a
half-spheric projection in its centre and next to it a similar one with a
half-spheric deepening. This find shows that the preparation of a
soma-haoma juice was spread not only in Margiana but in south Turkmenistan
as well, where related tribes of the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological
Complex were living.
According to the Avesta and Rigveda on the final stage the soaked
plants were mixed with barley, milk (sour milk as well), then water was
added and the whole mixture was kept for several days in special vessels
for fermentation.
The archeological finds show that this final stage of the
preparation of the cult beverage took place in the above-mentioned "white
rooms" of the Margiana temples (Fig.3, No.1) since all of them along their
walls had brick platforms with dug-in vessels that contained remains of
alkaloid plants.
After the fermentation process was finished they had to separate
the intoxicating drink from stems and seeds and special strainers were used
for this purpose. On the bottom of each strainer there was a hole covered
with a piece of wool, a fact that is mentioned in detail in the Rigveda.
The excavations have yielded the so-called ceramic stands found in
all three temples of Margiana,as well as special strainers with centrally
located holes (Fig.3, No.6). Of outstanding interest was a large room in
the Gonur temenos that was located next to the white room. There on the
floor and benches along the walls were found five intact round ceramic
stands (Fig.3,No.9) and fragments of three more (Sarianidi 1995: 293), as
well as large fragments of conic strainers with centrally located holes.
It seems quite natural to suppose that such strainers with holes
covered with pieces of sheep wool were placed on the above-mentioned
"ceramic stands". Then the juice together with stems and seeds that was
prepared in the neighbouring "white rooms" was strained through the piece
of wool and it dripped down into the cup placed under the strainer (Fig.3,
According to the Zorostrian texts the ready-made juice was poured
into cult vessels, and this process was accompanied by the music of
eulogistic hyms. Later this juice was used during ritual ceremonies, cult
libations first of all.
These textual data were supported by archaeological finds. In all
three Margianian temples vessels were found with long spouts as well as
vessels with frail sculptural friezes along the rim. Especially the latter
finds have an important meaning since their decorated rims deny their
everyday usage and most likely indicate their cult purpose. The vessels
with four spouts and sculptured images of goats standing by the "tree of
life" were most probably connected with the cult of libation as well
(Fig.3, No.2).
The central place among such sculptured friezes was undoubtedly
occupied by coupled figures of people (men and women) clearly in fighting
position. The men are usually standing in the "fighter's" pose with widely
spread arms and women in a clearly humble position have their arms behind
(Fig.6, No.1-2). In Bactria was found a cult vessel with sculptured image
of a man and a woman (judging by their different hair-does), who are
purposely shown in what is obviously a fighting position (Fig.7, No.1).
From the Togolok-1 temple comes an intact cult vessel with a
sculptured frieze in which the central place is occupied by two standing
human figures. One of them, supposedely, is a man with a baby on his chest
and the other is a woman in a clearly humble position with her arms behind
her back and her head turned down (Fig.6, No.2). Though these personages
have no sexual signs it is worth to mention that on the Togolok-21 there
were found two similar figurines, one of them is clearly female also with
arms behind her back and the other one is obviously male with arms on the
chest (Sarianidi 1998a: 102-103, fig.50).
These sculptured friezes constantly repeated on the cult vessels in
the territory from Bactria to Margiana most likely reflect some definite
myths that were spread in these two related historic areas. Keeping in mind
that these vessels were used for cult drinks of the soma-haoma type, one
may assume that the sculptured friezes reflected the myths and stories
related to this drink and widely spread in Bactria and Margiana (Fig.8).
In this connection especially significant is one myth from the
Rigveda about Soma who was a son of Parjanya and of Mother Earth. Parjanya
is the god of Rain in the Rigveda, but in an Indo-european perspective his
name suggests he is a god of Thunder. The Soma God is most likely
representing the soma plant (Elizarenkova 1972: 300-301; and from the brief
references in the Rigveda it can be inferred that Parajanya took their
common child from the Mother Earth (presumably against her will), and
brought him to the heaven to join him to the family of Gods.
It should be added that one cult vessel from Bactria had a male
figure with arms spread in a "fighting" pose and an axe at the belt (Fig.7,
No.3), pointing to Parjanya as Thunder-God. The subject frieze on the cult
vessel from Togolok-1 (as well as some others from Bactria) may be looked
upon as one that reflects the definite myth of soma (Fig.9) [Fig.7? J.H.].
It is not at all accidental that every "white room" is accompanied
by a corresponding vast "courtyard surrounded by corridors" that are
connected by common passages. This shows that functionally these premises
were interlinked (Fig.9). The courtyards are believed to be used for
conducting ceremonies connected with cult libations. This assumption is
supported by the finds of some small bone tubes that contained remains of
poppy pollen (according to N.R.Meyer-Melikyan). One such tube was found at
the entrance to the big altar of the Togolok-21 temple and exactly
resembled the one that was found in the "white room" of the temple. Similar
bone tubes were found in other temples of Margiana, their surfaces
polished like mirrors due to their frequent and long usage (Fig.10). The
poppy pollen found in them makes one assume that the tubes were used for
drinking cult drinks. Significantly, these tubes are decorated with images
of eyes with exaggeratedly big pupils. According to Prof.
N.R.Meyer-Melikyan such pupils may belong to those who constantly use
narcotics (Meyer-Melikyan and Avetov in Sarianidi 1998a: 177).
The seals and amulets with numerous images of poppy, ephedra and
presumably of cannabis testify to the fact that the alkaloid plants took a
special place in Bactria and Margiana (Sarianidi 1998, A.,fig. ).[Number
not given, not clear whether 1998a or b is intended, J.H.]
It has been argued that the country of Margush has appeared as a
result of the arrival of tribes from north Mesopotamia that got mixed with
a few local south Turkmenian tribes (Sarianidi 1998 [a or b, J.H.]). It is
likely that long ago these newly arrived tribes practiced the cult
libations of intoxicating drinks of the soma-haoma type in their previous
motherland, and that they brought these traditions to the new land. And it
was this cult drink or, more precisely, the corresponding deity, to whom
they dedicated such monumental temples as the Margianian temples of
Togolok-1 and 21, as well as the Gonur temenos.
The remains of the fossil poppy found in the area of eastern
Mediterranian and Anatolia (Merlin, 1984) may indirectly prove that from
there with the migration of the Indo-European tribes it began to spread all
over the Old World. Some specialists (Tseiner, Kritikos, Papadakis)
consider Greece and Asia Minor the motherland of the poppy cultivation.
It should also be mentioned that besides Margiana, the cult vessels
with sculptured friezes on the rims in the whole system of the Near East
were widely spread only in Anatolia (Kul Tepe) and in the Aegean world,
mostly in Cyprus (Sarianidi 1998, A.,fig.1). Perhaps it is not accidental
that in the same region, mainly in Cyprus, there were found small bone
tubes with images of faces (Morris,1985, fig.263-268; Pl.190) that resemble
very closely the Margianian ones.
Very representative in this connection are the ritual dishes from
Cyprus in the form of altars or temples. One of them shows a man with a
vessel, this scene probably depicting the process of libation (V.
Karageorghis, 1982). Speaking of such Cyprian dishes it should be mentioned
that similar ones were found in Elam and Shahdad (Iran). Although they were
found in illegal excavations, one can assume that they were locally made
though strongly influenced by the Cyprian cult dishes. Some of them
represented exact copies of those of Cyprus (Sarianidi, 1998a: 36 Fig.10,
The intermediate point that marks the area where these vessels were
spread is Allalah that yielded a vessel with an animal figure "seated" on
the rim and some others with snakes crawling out of vessels (Woolley, 1955,
Pl.LVII). Also representative are the finds from Tell Brak that represent
vessels with modelled snakes similar to those from Bactria and Margiana
(Sarianidi, 1998b, fig.1). They are shown crawling out and trying to reach
the rims of vessels (Mallowan 1947, Pl.LXX).
In the Zoroastrian religion haoma had a triple image, that is haoma
as the ritual narcotic drink, haoma as the plant used for making the
intoxicating drink, and haoma as the diety or legendary priest: the
personification of the plant and drink. As shown above so far only in
Margiana and Bactria there were found material proofs of the usage of the
alkaloid plants (ephedra, cannabis and poppy) for the preparation of the
intoxicating drink of the soma-haoma type. And finally, it should be
mentioned that only in Margiana the local tribes built monumental temples
in honour of the intoxicating drink soma-haoma (more precisely, in honour
of the Soma-haoma god), which do not leave any doubts about its divine
Another proof of the divine character of Soma-haoma is the fact
that three out of four Margianian monumental temples were dedicated to the
cult of this drink. It is clear that the above-mentioned direct
archaeological proofs make one believe that the soma-haoma cult in the
Zoroastrian religion found its origin among the related cults that were
spread in "Iranian paganism", precisely in Margiana and in Bactria in
particular. At the same time one should not concentrate only on these two
historical regions. The area where this cult drink was spread includes the
whole of "Outer Iran" from eastern Iran and up to the Indus valley. This
statement is supported by the accidental finds from Godari-Shah and Quetta
Thus, it was in Margiana (and partially in Bactria) that for the
first time in the world archeological practice, a certain factual material
has been found that illustrates the written sources of the Avesta and
Rigveda. Besides, as already noticed, "...among the Iranian deities there
were hardly found any other ones with the characteristics that in the
Iranian and Indian tradition would correspond so much to the descriptions
of haoma from the Avesta and Soma from the Veda" (Dresden, 1977: 351). And
it seems very likely that on the Indian subcontinent future studies will
also bring to light similar finds.
It is very significant that neither the Rigveda nor the Avesta
mention the presence of temples. This is an indirect indication that the
libation cult was brought to Central Asia by the tribes that came from the
faraway west and that later in their new motherland they reformed it and
included it in the Zoroastrian religion. Based on the fact that the
"cathedral temple" of Togolok-21 dates back to the last centuries of the
second millennium B.C., one may assume that this reform took place some
time later, in the period between the first centuries of the first
millennium B.C. and the seventh century B.C. This also corresponds to the
linguistic data.


Dresden.M.1977. Mythology of Ancient Iran. Moscow.
Hiebert F., 1994, Origins of the Bronze Age Oasis Civilization in Central
Asia, Cambridge.
Elizarenkova T. 1972. The "Rigveda". Moscow.
Karageorghis, 1982, Cyprus, London.
Meyer-Melikyan N., 1998, Analysis of Floral Remains from Togolok-21// in
V.Sarianidi, Margiana and Protozoroastrianism, Athens, 1998.
Meyer-Melikyan and Avetov, 1998, Analysis of Floral Remains in the Ceramic
Vessel from the Gonur Temenos // in V.Sarianidi, Margiana and
Protozoroastrianism, Athens, 1998.
Merlin V. 1984, On the Trail of the Ancient Opium Poppy, London.
Morris D. The Art of Ancient Cyprus. Oxford.
Parpola A. 1998, Aryan Languages, Archaeological Cultures and Sinkiang:
Where Did Proto-Iranian Come into Being, and Did it Spread?//The Bronze Age
and Early Iron Age Peoples of Eastern Central Asia. Journal of
Indo-European Studies Monograph, v.26, n.1, Washington.
Sarianidi V. 1994. Temples of Bronze Age Margiana: Traditions of Ritual
Architecture // Antiquity, v.68, n.259.
Sarianidi V. 1995, New Discoveries at Ancient Gonur// Ancient Civilization,
2,3, Leiden.
Sarianidi V. 1998, a, Margiana and Protozoroastrianism. Athens.
Sarianidi V. 1998, b. Myths of Ancient Bactria and Margiana on its Seals
and Amulets. Moscow.
Woolley, 1955 - Woolley L. Alallakh, Oxford.
Illustrations << see extra files>>

Fig.1. Temple of Togolok-21. Plan (No.1) and Reconstruction (No.2).
Fig.2. Ceramics of the nomadic Andronov type. Temple of Togolok-1 (No.1)
and the Gonur Temenos (No.2).
Fig.3. Summary Table.
Fig.4. "Small baths" with the inner gypsum layer from the rooms of the
Gonur Temenos.
Fig.5. "Small baths" and fragments of the gypsum layer with the offprints
of canabis.
Fig.6. Cult vessels with the sculptured friezes from the temple of
Togolok-1 (Nos. 1,2,3) and Togolok-21 (No.4).
Fig.7. Bactria. Sculptured friezes from the cult vessels.
Fig.8. Togolok-1. Frieze on the cult vessel (1--Nos.1,2,3). Summary table
of the small anthropomorphic statuettes from the Bactrian cult vessels
Fig.9. Margiana. "White rooms" and "courtyards surrounded by corridors"
from the temples of Togolok-21 (No.1), Togolok-1 (No.2) and Gonur Temenos
Fig.10. Small bone tubes with facial images from the temples of Margiana.

Note of the editor:
When preparing Prof. Sarianidi's paper for publication I encountered
several points where I wished to consult the author but communication
between Leiden and Moscow was hardly possible and most of my editorial
questions have remained unanswered. I was especially puzzled by the word
"alcohoid" occurring nine times in the submitted paper and not known to
English dictionaries. Although Prof. Sarianidi speaks of fermentation of
the plants and a link with "alcoholic" could be intended, I finally decided
that the word must stand for "alkaloid" and changed the occurrences
accordingly. Otherwise I have only corrected a few apparent typing errors
and made some minor improvements in English style. A few editorial remarks
have been inserted on cross-references that were unclear (which does not
mean that each reference where I did not place a remark was clear to me). I
of course had to leave unchanged statements which I find problematic, such
as that the Avesta and Rigveda refer to a period of several days for the
fermentation of the soaked plants "mixed with barley, milk (sour milk as
well)" -- which must be based on some misunderstanding as the rituals
hinted at in these texts seem not to leave room for such a fermentation.
Regarding my question on the identity of the publication Dresden 1977 I
received (summer 2000) an additional reference to Mythologies of the
Ancient World, ed. by S.N. Kramer. New York 1961, Preface: I.M. Diakonov. I
want to conclude this editorial note with the expression of my sincere
gratefulness to Prof. Sarianidi for taking the effort to explain his
findings to a group of partly enthusiastic and partly sceptic scholars in
Leiden, and now to the readers of the EJVS. Even if it was so far not
possible to confirm his identifications and conclusions in all details,
Prof. Sarianidi's excavations in Margiana are of the greatest interest for
the cultural and religious history and prehistory of Central Asia, Iran and
India. J.H.
Soma and Ecstasy in the Rgveda
George Thompson

-- For Frits Staal, gurudakSiNA

(Note: the author has represented Sanskrit according to the Harvard-Kyoto
table, well known to readers of EJVS.)
I took up the perennial and seemingly intractable problem of Soma more than
a year ago, after a desultory, richly stimulating conversation with Frits
Staal and Michael Witzel that ranged over many, many topics having to do
with the recent revelations about the Bactrian-Margiana Archaeological
Complex (BMAC) [cf. Sarianidi 1998 and 1999]. We all agreed at that time
that Victor Sarianidi's claim that the BMAC was a proto-Zoroastrian culture
was certainly provocative and important, but perhaps quite a bit premature.
But there was less agreement among us, and much less certainty, concerning
the significance of Sarianidi's apparent discovery of traces of ephedra at
various BMAC sites. On the one hand, such traces seemed to confirm the
well-known and influential thesis of Harry Falk, which asserted that the
Vedic sacred drink Soma, and thus also Avestan Haoma, was an extract from
an ephedra. On the other hand, Sarianidi claims to have found at BMAC sites
traces of other pollens as well -- hemp, poppy, and cannabis among them --
and he repeatedly characterizes Soma/Haoma as a hallucinogenic beverage.
Such claims would seem to directly contradict Falk's view that "there is
nothing shamanistic or visionary either in early Vedic or in Old Iranian
texts" [Falk, 1989, p.79]. Furthermore, Sarianidi implicitly characterizes
this Soma/Haoma beverage as a "concoction" consisting of a probably
variable number of extractions. This characterization of course runs
directly against the grain of the current opinion among Vedicists that
there must have been one, and only one, soma-plant. It is puzzling
therefore that in spite of these rather glaring disagreements, the
consensus that was established by Falk's article seems not to have been
troubled at all, and it is even more puzzling that Sarianidi's work
continues to be cited in support of it.(1)

I will admit at the outset that I have no adequate alternative to the
ephedra-theory, at least when it comes to an identification of the ur-plant
from which the sacred drink Soma was extracted. I will admit also that in
my intrepid youth I was charmed, as I think many of us were at the time, by
the mushroom-theory of R. Gordon Wasson [Wasson 1968]. But I quickly became
an agnostic after reading Brough's very persuasive critique of that theory
[cf. also Kuiper 1970], and ever since then I have been more or less
agnostic about the identity of the sacred drink Soma [adopting a position
rather like those of Elizarenkova 1996 and Oberlies 1998] I also
acknowledge the influence of David Flattery and Martin Schwartz [Flattery &
Schwartz 1989], whose book identifying Soma/Haoma as peganum harmala, a
mountain rue, I have found illuminating, particularly in their insistence
on the importance of the Iranian evidence. In fact, it has taken me fifteen
years to come to terms with their rather counter-intuitive insistence [so
it seemed to me at the time] that the Vedic evidence was not as important
in this matter as the Avestan evidence. I have come to think that they may
have been right after all about the secondary value of the Vedic evidence.
But I have also come to the conclusion that the Avestan evidence may be
"secondary" as well. But that is the matter for another paper, so I won't
pursue it here.

My interest in examining the Soma-problem was re-kindled by Frits Staal's
insistence that the ephedra-theory was not at all persuasive. In a recently
published article he has presented a criticism of the ephedra-theory with
which I generally agree, and to which I will attempt to contribute a few
more arguments in this paper. I must acknowledge publically that when Staal
insisted that the matter must be reconsidered, and when Michael Witzel
suggested that it would be a good project for me to look into the matter, I
quickly backed away from it. I knew that it would be an enormous task, and
I knew that it would be a difficult one to complete. Nevertheless, the
importance of the matter eventually lured me into the task. As I have
observed elsewhere [in Festschrift Staal], one of Staal's great
contributions to Vedic studies has been his resolute determination to
question received opinion. It is in recognition of his remarkable
independence of thought that this paper is offered to him, as a

Rather than summarizing the ephedra-theory [which I trust will be
unnecessary for most of this journal's readers], I would like to respond in
detail to a few points in Falk's paper, which is in my opinion the best
articulation of the ephedra-theory, and one of the best summaries of the
Rgvedic material that we have. The first point is his insistence, rather
surprising to me, that there is no evidence of shamanic or visionary
experience in Vedic, and no evidence whatsoever also that the Soma-drink
was hallucinogenic, itself also surprising [not that I claim that Soma
*was* hallucinogenic; rather, I reject the suggestion that it could not
have been so]. Much of what Falk says in this article rings absolutely true
to me, but these two claims don't ring true at all, and it is the primary
goal of this paper to argue against them.
Of course, the ephedra-theory has been around for a long time(3), primarily
because of the well-known fact that Parsis have been using ephedra in their
rituals for many centuries, and they have been calling it something like
'um', 'oman', 'hum', 'huma', or 'hom', etc., in Iranian languages [all
obviously from 'haoma'], or in Indic 'som' or 'soma' or 'somalatA', etc.
[all obviously from 'soma'].(4) Flattery & Schwartz were the first to point
out the rather significant implication of this fact: "that ephedra was
called *sauma already in the common ancestral Indo-Iranian language" [p.
68]. Now, for Falk, the obvious conclusion to draw from this is that the
inherited term *sauma referred, as it still does among Parsis, to the juice
or extract of an ephedra plant, which in fact is readily found throughout
the relevant regions.(5) For Falk, then, there is no need to look elsewhere
for the ur-plant: it is straight-forwardly an ephedra [as was assumed much
earlier by Geldner in his still standard translation of the Rgveda]. But
Flattery & Schwartz resisted this conclusion, for one simple reason: in
their view, "ephedra is without suitable psychoactive potential" [p.73].
According to them, the juice that one extracts from ephedra is a rather
mild stimulant, ephedrine [similar in effect to adrenaline] which, besides
providing some relief for those with asthma, is, as Falk rather
dramatically says, "a reliable stimulant for warriors and a great
aphrodisiac" [p.87].(6) Flattery & Schwartz, on the other hand, emphasizing
the frequent association in both Vedic and Avestan between *sauma and *mada
["intoxication"], have insisted that the ur-plant must have contained
psychoactive or hallucinogenic properties. And so Flattery & Schwartz,
seeking a better-fitting candidate, turned to peganum harmala, a mountain
rue also well known in the relevant regions, and which, by the way, also
has names in Iranian languages that derive from *svanta [Avesten spEnta],
'numinous, sacred,' and which therefore has a suggestive linguistic
pedigree of its own.(7)
Falk [p.78-9] has usefully classified the various proposals for identifying
the original *sauma-plant into three general categories, according to the
pharmacological properties of the plant:
the 1st group, that it was hallucinogenic [e.g., hemp, cannabis sativa, the
mushroom amanita muscaria, or the wild mountain rue, peganum harmala; also
opium & mandrake];
the 2nd, that it was alcoholic, fermented from the likes of rhubarb, common
millets, rice, or barley, and even grape;(8)
the 3rd, that it was a stimulant of some sort [besides ephedra, ginseng has
been proposed by Windfuhr, 1986].
Falk has offered strong, largely persuasive, evidence that the Rgvedic Soma
must have been a stimulant [see his extensive discussion of the RV word
jA'gRvi, "alerting," etc, applied to Soma]. Soma was used, for example, at
the night-long atirAtra rites, to chase away sleep, to inspire poetic
thoughts [cf. Kavi Soma as janitA' matInA'm, as RsikR't, etc], as well as
inspiring battle-courage [particularly in the case of Indra] and even as an
aphrodisiac [perhaps especially among women: see RV 8.91.1 & 1.28, cited by
Falk]. Each of these uses can be identified in Avestan texts as well.(9) It
is or should be obvious that Falk has made a renewed, much-strengthened,
case for the old ephedra-theory. However, it seems to me that the evidence
for the claim that the Soma-plant was a stimulant needs to be examined more
This claim rests largely on the use of the term jA'gRvi as an epithet of
the god Soma. [cf Falk, pp. 79f]. The term is attested 23x in the RV: 3x it
is used to refer to the hymns that awaken, inspire, or stimulate Indra
[3.39.1 + 2; 8.89.1]; 9x it refers to the awakening, stimulating virtue of
Agni [1.31.9, 3.2.12, 3.3.7; 3.24.3; 3.26.3; 3.28.5; 5.11.1; 6.15.8;
8.44.29]; 11x it refers to the awakening, stimulating effects of Soma
[3.37.8; 8.92.23(10); 9.36.2; 9.44.3; 9.71.1; 9.97.2; 9.97.37; 9.106.4;
9.107.6; 9.107.12; 10.34.1]. Admittedly, such a distribution would seem to
confirm Falk's claim that this epithet suggests that the Soma-plant is a
But in fact this distribution raises interesting questions. First of all,
notice that there are no attestations of the word at all in three of the
family books [Books 2, 4, and 7], and it is attested only once in two of
them [Books 5 and 6]. Also noteworthy is the fact that jA'gRvi occurs only
once each in the two large later addenda to the RV, Books 1 and 10. This
suggests that there is no chronological significance to the distribution.
In light of the rareness of this word in the vast majority of the RV, it is
very striking indeed that it occurs as many times in Book 3 as it does in
Book 9 [8x each], especially when one considers that Book 9 is almost twice
as long as Book 3. In Book 3 the word occurs as an epithet of Agni 5x, of
the hymn 2x, and of Soma 1x. In Book 8 meanwhile its three attestations are
distributed equally to Agni, to the hymn, and to Soma (though transferred
to Indra) [1x each]. Now, it is conceivable that the Soma hymns that have
been extracted from the family books and collected into Book 9 could have
been drawn from any of those books, and this might explain why the word
jA'gRvi is so poorly attested in them. If this is the case, then this
remarkable distribution would be more or less insignificant, and the high
frequency in Book 9 would simply confirm Falk's view that the term is as
appropriate to Soma as it is to Agni, the two gods who accompany and keep
awake the priests as they perform their atirAtra rites. But this fails to
take into consideration the relatively much, much higher frequency of the
word in Book 3. A better alternative, it seems to me, would be to grant
more weight to the evidence of the older family book, Book 3. There it
would appear indisputable that Agni is the primary recipient of the epithet
jA'gRvi, whereas it is a transferred epithet when applied to Soma and the
hymn [mati']. This is not to say that the term is applied inappropriately
to Soma. No, Falk has convincingly demonstrated its appropriateness.
Rather, it is to suggest that the word might be better understood as an
element within traditional Vedic formulaics. Interpreting jA'gRvi in this
way is consistent with the fact that the other terms cited by Falk in this
context [vi'pra, kavi', RsikR't, etc.] are more frequently attributed to
Agni than to Soma. Furthermore, since it is clear that there was a marked
preference for this divine epithet jA'gRvi(11) among the vizvAmitra clan,
it might be reasonable to suppose that this is the clan to whom we should
attribute the best authority.(12) The attestations of jA'gRvi in Book 9
seem to me to be a secondary extension of a formula that is more
appropriate to formulaics of the Agni-cycle. For this reason, I am not
entirely persuaded that the word refers to the soma-extract as having a
specific psycho-pharmacological effect.
As for RV 5.44.14-15, which Falk [p. 80] cites as perhaps "the most
convincing example" of a passage showing that Soma is a stimulant, the
theme of staying awake and alert through the night is certainly central
there [cf. the extensive repetition of the verb jAgAra in both stanzas].
But the reference there is not to the Soma-plant, but rather to the god
Soma, who asserts that "It is I who am at home in your friendship"
[ta'vAha'm asmi sakhye' ni'okAH], and in fact the one to whom the god Soma
asserts this is the god Agni, as is evident in stanza 15. I have argued
extensively in Thompson 1997a [pp.32ff.] that this pair of stanzas is a
variation on the Vedic brahmodya pattern, and that, in a highly indirect
and riddling way, the poet here [the author of what Geldner considered to
be the most difficult hymn in the RV!] has identified himself with the god
Soma, and his "alert, awake" audience with the god Agni [see the discussion
of stanza 13, which in fact initiates the theme of wakeful alertness, but
in that stanza it refers to a human patron, not a god, and his name appears
to be Sutambhara, "the one who bears the Soma-juice"(13)]. In short, the
many obscurities of this hymn make very problematic the interpretation of
this passage. To use it as secure evidence that the Soma-plant had to have
been a psycho-pharmological stimulant seems to me to be premature.
I think that Falk has also studiously avoided the enormous evidence, in
both Vedic and Avestan, that links *sauma with *mada, "intoxication."
Instead of delving into the interesting question of the very broad semantic
range of the term *mada [and related forms] -- e.g., whether it would cover
all three of the types of soma-theories that have been proposed:(1)
hallucinogenic? (2) alcoholic? (3) stimulant?-- as, in fact, it certainly
does(14)-- instead I will simply point out that in the RV the vast majority
of attestations of ma'da [and related terms] occurs clearly in
Soma-contexts, so it is Soma-mada in particular that we should be concerned
with. As far as I can see, these attestations strongly suggest something
like the sense 'ecstasy', rather than an alcoholic inebriation, or a
general stimulant effect like that of an ephedra-extract. As Brough has
also suggested of ma'da and related terms: "It is difficult to give an
adequate equivalent, but the tenor of the hymns indicates something like
'possession by the divinity', in some way comparable to Greek µ" [Brough,
p. 374; cf. similarly Staal, pp.752, 759, where he glosses the verbal root
mad- as suggesting "rapture or bliss"]. In other words, the physiological
effects of *sauma-intoxication in early Indo-Iranian, as far as I can tell,
cannot easily be reduced to the effects resulting from a rather mild
stimulant, or of an aphrodisiac even of the strongest sort, as ephedrine
seems to be.(15)
Instead of defending in any detail the truth of these claims for the
connotations of so'masya ma'da and related terms in the RV [which I will
attempt in a forthcoming article(16)], I'd like to take a close look at one
hymn from the RV, 10.119, a very well-known and much discussed hymn, the
so-called laba-sUkta, 'song of the lapwing.' And, in doing so, I'd like to
return to Falk's claim that there is no evidence of visionary or shamanic
experience in Vedic, and his view that the Soma-extract was therefore not
likely to have been a drug that induced ecstasy.(17) Here is Falk in his
own rather remarkable words: "The only half-serious reason to expect
hallucination as an effect of Soma-drinking in an Indian context is the
well-known laba-sUkta, RV 10.119" [Falk p.78]. I must say this is an
astonishing remark. First of all, this hymn is not at all "the only reason"
for such a view - whether half-serious or full-serious or not serious at
all. There are many other hymns in the RV which also seem clearly to
indicate visionary experience, or ecstatic experience, whether induced by
Soma or by other means. One obvious example is RV 8.48, which Falk [p.80]
cites only to refer to nidrA', 'sleep,' in stanza 14, while ignoring all of
the evidence in this remarkable hymn for ecstatic and visionary experience.
Another is 10.136, which portrays the kezi'n in ecstatic experience [of
shamanic flight, as I would suggest] induced by the consumption of some
unidentified poison, viSa'. Furthermore, it is likely that visionary
experience may have been induced by entirely non-intoxicant,
non-pharmacological, ritual means, such as the Atmastutis, to be discussed
in what follows. In any case, I do not insist that Soma must have been an
hallucinogen. But I do insist that visionary and ecstatic experience is
well-attested in the Rgveda, and that it is frequently attributed by the
poets themselves to the consumption of Soma. Shouldn't we take the poets at
their word in this matter, since it involves, as I will try to show, their
own personal, very real, experience?
As for 10.119 itself, Falk's argument against its depicting visionary or
ecstatic experience is based on the claim that the hymn describes the
experience of Indra, or at least of Indra in the guise of a bird [laba'],
probably a lapwing - rather than the experience of a human being who is "in
the intoxication of Soma" [cf. so'masya of the hymn's refrain in light of
the formula so'masya ma'de, as well as its variants]. In particular, Falk
calls attention to stanza 11, where, after consuming Soma, "some winged
creature", he says, touches both the earth and the sky with its wing, and
stanza 8, where the bird's body expands beyond the extent of earth and sky.
Falk concludes: "nowhere is it said that human Soma-drinkers feel that they
are growing. To fill the whole cosmos is a feature of several gods [e.g.,
Agni, USas, SUrya, as well as Soma]..." [Falk, p. 78 - parenthesis added].
Therefore, in Falk's view, the hymn does not offer even half-serious
evidence that Soma was hallucinogenic, or that the experience described in
the hymn was ecstatic or visionary. Here, again, I must disagree: there are
good reasons to reject Falk's too-rigid interpretation of the hymn as a
strictly mythological narrative. Let us look at the hymn in detail.
i'ti vA' i'ti me ma'no Yes, yes, this is my intention.
gA'm a'zvaM sanuyAm i'ti I will win the cow, the horse. Yes!
kuvi't so'masyA'pAm i'ti Have I drunk of the soma? Yes!
pra' vA'tA iva do'dhatA Forth like raging winds
u'n mA pItA' ayaMsata The drinks have lifted me up.
kuvi't so'masyA'pAm i'ti Have I drunk of the soma? Yes!
u'n mA pItA' ayaMsata The drinks have lifted me up,
ra'tham a'zvA ivAza'vaH as swift horses lift up the chariot.
kuvi't so'masyA'pAm i'ti Have I drunk of the soma? Yes!
u'pa mA mati'r asthita Inspiration has come to me,
vAzrA' putra'm iva priya'm like a bellowing cow to her precious son.
kuvi't so'masyA'pAm i'ti Have I drunk of the soma? Yes!
aha'M ta'STeva vandhu'ram I, as a craftsman the chariot seat,
pa'ry acAmi hRdA' mati'm I bend around in my heart this inspiration.
kuvi't so'masyA'pAm i'ti Have I drunk of the soma? Yes!
nahi' me akSipa'c cana'- Not even a blink of the eye
achAntsuH pa'Jca kRSTa'yaH have the five tribes seemed to me.
kuvi't so'masyA'pAm i'ti Have I drunk of the soma? Yes!
nahi' me ro'dasI ubhe' Neither of these two worlds to me
anya'm pakSa'M cana' pra'ti seems equal to one of my two wings.
kuvi't so'masyA'pAm i'ti Have I drunk of the soma? Yes!
abhi' dyA'm mahinA' bhuvam I have overwhelmed heaven with my greatness,
abhI'mA'm pRthivI'm mahI'm I have overwhelmed this great earth.
kuvi't so'masyA'pAm i'ti Have I drunk of the soma? Yes!
ha'ntAha'm pRthivI'm imA'M I myself, I myself will set down this
ni' dadhAnIha' veha' vA earth, perhaps here, perhaps there.
kuvi't so'masyA'pAm i'ti Have I drunk of the soma? Yes!
oSa'm i't pRthivI'm aha'm Heatedly will I smash the earth,
jaGgha'nAnIha' veha' vA I will smash it, perhaps here, perhaps there.
kuvi't so'masyA'pAm i'ti Have I drunk of the soma? Yes!
divi' me anya'H pakSo'- In heaven is the one of my two wings.
adho' anya'm acIkRSam The other I have dragged down here below.
kuvi't so'masyA'pAm i'ti Have I drunk of the soma? Yes!
aha'm asmi mahAmaho'- I myself, I am become great, great,
abhinabhya'm u'dISitaH impelled upward to the clouds.
kuvi't so'masyA'pAm i'ti Have I drunk of the soma? Yes!
gRho' yAmy a'raMkRto I go forth a home(18) that is well made,
deve'bhyo havyavA'hanaH a vehicle of oblations to the gods.
kuvi't so'masyA'pAm i'ti Have I drunk of the soma? Yes!

First, some general comments and observations: This remarkable hymn has
received a great deal of attention(19), not only because of what it may or
may not teach us about Soma, but also because of the many difficulties
which it has presented to interpretation. There is considerable
disagreement, for example, about the identity of the assumed speaker,
whether it is Indra, or Agni, or the lapwing itself, the laba to whom the
hymn is attributed by the native tradition, or whether it is Indra in the
guise of a lapwing, or perhaps finally a human poet expressing the
exhilaration induced by the soma that he has consumed. Here is Falk's
summary of his own interpretation of the hymn:
"The traditional explanation of the Laba-sUkta is the only credible one: a
bird, assumed to be Indra in disguise, has drunk from the Soma offered and
is thought to feel the same as the god in his usual, non-material form.
Because all the proponents of Soma as a hallucinogenic drug make their
claim on the basis of a wrong interpretation of the Laba-sUkta, their
candidates must be regarded as unsuitable" [Falk, p.79].
Perhaps an adequate response can be summoned here to this rather peremptory
dismissal of some of the best Vedicists of the past 100 or more years.
One crucial fact about this hymn, it seems to me, has been under-valued by
everyone who has dealt with it, and that fact is that it is an Atmastuti,
that is, a 'hymn of self-praise.' The fact has been noticed, of course [in
particular by Hauschild in his admirable article, and also by Geldner in
his introductory comments on the hymn], but until fairly recently the
Atmastuti, as a significant genre of RV poetry, has been more or less
ignored. The fact that this hymn is an Atmastuti, in my view, makes
superfluous all of the discussion, including Falk's, concerning the
hypothetical identity of the speaker of this hymn. As Toporov [1981] and
Elizarenkova [1995] have pointed out, the RV Atmastutis are marked by the
emphatic use of forms of the first person pronoun, as well as first person
verbal forms. But such formal features also mark clear pragmatic features
of the genre, two in fact, as I've tried to show in Thompson 1997b. One of
these, rather self-evident in fact but to my knowledge never fully
appreciated, is the act of self-assertion which such hymns express, and in
fact which they enact. As is well-known, Vedic poets often find themselves
in a position where boastful self-assertion is more or less obligatory [as
in the case of the respondent in a brahmodya dialogue: cf. Thompson 1997a].
An interesting instance in the RV of direct self-assertion [independent of
verbal contests] is RV 10.159, in Geldner's words a "Triumphlied einer
Frau." This hymn dramatically conveys the "Selbstverherrlichung" of a wife
over her rivals -- i.e., her rival-wives.(20) But in fact the Atmastuti is
not a simple matter of self-assertion, and therefore it should be
distinguished from a direct, straight-forward act of self-assertion such as
in 10.159 [to mark this important distinction, I have adopted the
traditional term ahaMkAra to refer to the strictly human act of self
assertion, in contrast with the Atmastuti]. The Atmastuti is, in my view, a
psychologically much more complicated matter of impersonation, of
self-conscious role-playing, as in the well-known case of RV 10,125, where
the poet, known traditionally by the name of vAc AmbhRNI, actually
impersonates, i.e., adopts the persona of, the goddess VAc, who is herself
the mythological embodiment of the Vedic poetic tradition.(21) In brief,
all Rgvedic Atmastutis are performances wherein a human performer
impersonates, and speaks both for and as, a divine agent.(22)
Here, at RV 10.119, the poet, who is known by the traditional but
uninformative name of Laba Aindra(23), has clearly adopted a role,
apparently a traditional role. Admittedly, it is hard to determine
precisely which role he has adopted in this hymn [is he impersonating
Indra? Agni? some mythological bird?]. But a proper view of the pragmatics
of Vedic speech-acts, and in particular the pragmatics of Atmastutis(24),
suggests that the particular role that is being played in this hymn is far
less important than the fact itself that a poet, a human being and not a
god, is indeed playing a role, like an actor in a Greek tragedy, perhaps,
or perhaps rather like a Central Asian shaman, which in my view is a much
more appropriate comparison.(25) In other words, from the point of view of
pragmatics it does not matter who is *supposed* [or *imagined*] to be
speaking in this hymn. The fact remains that it is *actually* the poet
himself who utters these words, and through whom these words pass, just
like the streams of Soma [as the poets of the RV themselves are prone to
say]. The refrain of this poem, then, is to be attributed not to this or
that god or to some other mythological creature. No, it belongs, strictly
speaking, to the poet who formulated it, whose emphatic repetition of the
personal pronoun places him pragmatically at the very center of the hymn,
as the person through whom the performance passes, and through whom the
impersonated being - in my view, most likely, Agni(26) - becomes manifest,
palpable, or satya', 'true,' for his audience. It is therefore legitimate,
in my view [pace Falk], to interpret the experiences evoked in RV 10.119 as
genuinely human experiences, whether directly felt as the result of
drinking Soma, or theatrically enacted [or perhaps re-enacted], that have
been experienced by the poet himself. In other words, behind the mask of
the performance of RV 10.119, genuine human experience is undeniably evoked
and enacted in it.
Consider the great prominence of first person forms. First of all, the
refrain, conveying the hymn's central motif, is conspicuously marked by the
first person root aorist a'pAm, "I have drunk [of the Soma]." But in every
stanza of the hymn the refrain is accompanied by at least one other first
person form, whether an enclitic variant of the first person pronoun [e.g.,
mA in stanzas 2 and 4, me in stanzas 6 and 7, etc.], or by a first person
verbal form [e.g., bhuvam in stanza 8 and yAmi in stanza 13]. But far more
frequently one finds a combination of both pronominal and verbal forms
[e.g., me and sanuyAm in stanza 1, etc.]. This slowly acccelerating but
highly dramatic accumulation of first person forms culminates in stanzas
where the first person pronoun aha'm emphatically [and in fact redundantly]
accompanies a first person verbal form [stanzas 5, 9, 10, 12]. This
emphasis is reinforced in stanzas 5 and 12, where aha'm takes the highly
marked stanza-initial position; in stanza 9 where it takes second position
following the exhortative particle ha'nta; and in stanza 10, where it
stands in line-final position, followed immediately by the first person
subjunctive of the intensive form of the verb han-, jaGgha'nAni [which
itself (along with iha' veha' vA) echoes the first person subjunctive ni'
dadhAni (iha' veha' vA), etc., of the preceding stanza]. This highly
elaborate, skillfully managed, network of first person forms is further
strengthened by an extraordinary sequence of word and phrase repetitions,
rhymes, rhythmic syncopations, puns, etc, which itself could sustain an
extensive analysis. Even without going into such an analyis here, it is
readily evident that this hymn is a poetic tour-de-force, even when judged
against the very high standards of Rgvedic poetic tradition at its best.
There should be no ambiguity about the function of all of these first
person forms [called 'shifters' by certain linguists and semiologists of
discourse]: they are designed to call attention to the speaker as speaker
-- not only within the pretended mythological context which has preoccupied
the interpreters of this hymn, but also outside of that context, i.e., the
context of the performance itself.
Recall that in his interpretation of RV 10.119 [quoted above], Falk refers
to the supposed "usual, non-material form" of the god Indra. Well, let us
assume for the sake of the argument that this hymn is about Indra. In my
view, the assumption that the "usual form" of the god Indra was
"non-material" for a Vedic audience needs to be seriously re-examined. I'm
not so sure that a Vedic audience would have recognized a "non-material"
form of Indra, or of any other Vedic god for that matter. In any case,
there is good evidence that Indra did in fact manifest himself on occasion
in very material form. Of course, there is better, more obvious, evidence
that a god like Agni was constantly present to his Vedic devotees in
clearly material, visible, if not quite tangible, form, in the ritual
fires, for instance. And Soma is clearly manifest in material, quite
tangible, form both in the Soma-plant itself [in my view called aMzu'] and
in the Soma-juice. As for Indra, one place where one finds him manifest in
material form is the RV Atmastutis [most of which in fact are dedicated to
him]. In RV 10.119, if indeed it is Indra who is represented in it, he is
given the form of a bird, a lapwing [this is the mythological,
non-material, form that Falk rightly emphasizes]. But the god is manifest
also in quite material form, that is, in linguistic [i.e., audible] form,
in the sequence of first person forms that dominates and in fact gives
structure to the entire hymn. Furthermore, I think that it is legitimate to
say that the impersonation that is clearly performed in this hymn shows the
god in a palpably material form, embodied literally in the performer of the
hymn. For the audience of RV 10.119, Indra can be seen there standing
before them. For the duration of this performance, the R'Si's body is
Indra's body. The R'Si's words are Indra's words. The ecstatic flight of
the R'Si, induced by the drinking of Soma, is also the ecstatic flight of
Indra. The members of this Vedic audience, I trust, would have been capable
of asserting, without delusion or deceit, that they had indeed seen Indra.
Such certainty, it seems to me, would have been the product of shamanic
performance, that is, a highly theatrical and physical performance, and not
of mythological fancy alone. The flight that is clearly alluded to in the
hymn is not mere mythological flight. It is the shamanic flight of a R'Si,
who seems to me to be experiencing genuine ecstasy which, as the refrain
emphatically tells us, has been induced by the drinking of the Soma-juice.
A god has entered into this R'Si and speaks through him.
As far as I can see, what is described and enacted in this hymn is entirely
consistent with the performances of shamanic flight that one encounters in
the literature [besides the classical account of Eliade 1951, see the
essays collected in Diogenes 158, 1992].(27) Besides the basic theme of
magical flight made notorious by Eliade's treatment of it, there are many
features in the hymn that strike me as shamanic. The boasting which has
struck some scholars as bordering on megalomania or simply a crude joke
["Scherzspiel", thus von Schroeder] is frequently encountered in shamanic
performance. Shamanic dance is probably attested here at RV 10.119.8-10
[shamanic dance certainly is attested at RV 10.97]. The suggestion that the
hymn is a parody, which goes back to von Schroeder and which re-surfaces on
a regular basis, needs to be mentioned here too. I am willing to entertain
the notion that RV 10.119 might well be a parody in some sense. The heavy
repetition of the quotative particle i'ti may in fact mark some sort of
parodic intent.(28) But again, parody is a phenomenon well-known to
students of shamanism. As for "visionary" experience of a shamanic kind,
admittedly there is no straight-forward, explicit evidence of it in this
particular hymn, but it is certainly evident at RV 8.48.3 [et passim], with
which I will rest my case:
a'pAma so'mam amR'tA abhUma- We have drunk the Soma. We have become immortal
-aganma jyo'tir a'vidAma devA'n We have gone to the light. We have
found [i.e.,
the gods.
ki'M nUna'm asmA'n kRNavad a'rAtiH O immortal one, what can the
ki'm u dhUrti'r amRta ma'rtyasya the malice, of a mortal man, do to us
In spite of the many difficulties which this remarkably energetic and
finely-crafted hymn(29), RV 10.119, presents to interpretation, in my view
it nevertheless offers us good evidence for both ecstatic and indeed
shamanic experience in the RV, experience which is directly and explicitly
linked by the poet himself with the drinking of Soma. Falk's claims to the
contrary seem to me to stand, in the end, on surprisingly weak foundations.
Considering the fact that several of the major claims in his article are
subject to serious objections [ranging from the claim that Soma must have
been a stimulant, tout court; the claim that it could not have been
psychotropic; the claim that there is no evidence of shamanic experience in
the RV; and finally to Falk's abrupt interpretation of RV 10.119 as a
strictly mythological narrative which reveals nothing whatsoever about the
effects of Soma consumption on real human participants in the Vedic Soma
cult], it seems to me now, as it seemed to Frits Staal well over a year
ago, that it is time to re-open the question of the specific
psycho-pharmocological properties of Soma, and to explore with renewed
seriousness the possibility of a Vedic shamanism that is intimately related
to Soma.


Brough, J. 1971. "Soma and Amanita muscaria" BSOAS, xxxiv, 2. 331-362.
[Reprinted in Collected Papers, ed. M. Hara and J.C. Wright. School of
Oriental and African Studies, University of London. 1996].
Deeg, M. 1993. "Shamanism in the Veda: The Kezin-Hymn (10.136), the Journey
to Heaven of VasiSTha (RV 7.88) and the mahAvrata-Ritual." Nagoya Studies
in Indian Culture and Buddhism. SambhASA 14 (1993) 95-144.
Elizarenkova, T. 1995. Language and Style of the Vedic RSis. Albany: SUNY.
Elizarenkova, T. 1996. "The problem of Soma in the light of language and
style of the Rgveda." In Langage, style et structure dans le monde Indien.
Colloque international pour le Centenaire de la Naissance de Louis Renou
(ed. par N. Balbir et G.-J. Pinault). Paris. 1996. 13-31.
Elizarenkova, T. 1999. Rigveda. Three Volumes. Moscow: Nauka.
Falk, H. 1989. "Soma I and II." BSOAS. 52.77-90.
Flattery , D. and Schwartz, M. 1989. Haoma and Harmaline. University of
California Publications. Near Eastern Studies 21. Berkeley: University of
California Press.
Geldner, K. 1951. Der Rig-Veda: Aus dem Sanskrit übersetzt und mit einem
laufenden Kommentar. Harvard Oriental Series, Vols. 33-35. Cambridge, Mass:
Harvard University Press.
Gonda, J. 1948. The So-Called Secular, Humorous and Satirical Hymns of the
Rgveda. Orientalia Neerlandica: A Volume of Oriental Studies published
under the auspices of the Netherlands' Oriental Society. Leiden. [Reprinted
in Gonda, Selected Studies 3.379-397].
Hauschild, R. 1954. "Das Selbstlob (Atmastuti) des somaberauschten Gottes
Agni (Rgveda X.119). Asiatica (Festschrift F. Weller). Leipzig. 247-288.
Hillebrandt, A. 1999. Vedic Mythology. Two Volumes. Delhi: Motilal
Banarsidass [English translation of Vedische Mythologie, Second Edition,
Mallory, J.P and Mair, V. 2000. The Tarim Mummies: Ancient China and the
Mystery of the Earliest Peoples from the West. London: Thames & Hudson.
Meissig, M. 1995. Eine Schamanistische Se'ance im Rg-Veda (RV 10.108).
Mitteilungen fuer Anthropologie und Religionsgeshcichte 10. 119-142.
Mylius, K.(Hg.) 1978. Aelteste indische Dichtung und Prosa. Vedische
Hymnen, Legenden, Zauberlieder, philosophische und ritualistische Lehren.
Leipzig: Reclam Universal-Bibliothek..
Nyberg, H. 1995. The Problem of the Aryans and the Soma: The Botanical
Evidence. In The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia: Language, Material
Culture and Ethnicity. Ed. G. Erdosy. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. 382-406.
Oberlies, T. 1998-1999. Die Religion des Rgveda. Two Volumes. Wien:
Publications of the the De Nobili Research Library.
Renou, L. 1955-1969. E'tudes ve'diques et pANine'ennes. Paris: Publications
de l'Institut de Civilisation Indienne. [= EVP].
Renou, L. 1956. Hymnes spe'culatifs du Ve'da. Paris: Librairie Gallimard.
Sarianidi, V. 1998. Margiana and Protozoroastrism. Athens: Kapon Editions.
Sarianidi, V. 1999. Near Eastern Aryans in Central Asia. Journal of
Indo-European Studies. 27.3-4. 295-326.
Schmeja, H. 1987. Interpretationen aus dem Rigveda. Innsbrucker Beitraege
zur Kulturwissenschaft, Sonderheft 61.
Spinella, M. 2001. The Psychopharmocology of Herbal Medicines: Plant Drugs
that Alter Mind, Brain, and Behavior. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Staal, F. 2001. How a Psychoactive Substance Becomes a Ritual: The Case of
Soma. Social Research 68.3. 745-778.
Stuhrmann, R. 1986. Rgveda 10.119: Der Rausch des Kiebitz. Studien zur
Indologie und Iranistik. 11/12. 299-309.
Thompson, G. 1997a. The Brahmodya and Vedic Discourse. Journal of the
American Oriental Society 117. 13-37.
Thompson, G. 1997b. ahaMkAra and Atmastuti: Self-Assertion and
Impersonation in the Rgveda. History of Religions 37.2. 141-171.
Thompson, G. 1997c. On Mantras and Frits Staal. In India and Beyond:
Aspects of Literature, Meaning, Ritual and Thought: Essays in honour of
Frits Staal. Ed. D. van der Meij. London: Kegan Paul International, in
association with The International Institute for Asian Studies. 574-597.
Toporov, V. 1981. Die Urspruenge der indoeuropaeischen Poetik. Poetica 13.
Wasson, G. 1968. Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality. New York: Harcourt
Brace Jovanovich.
Windfuhr, G. 1986. Haoma/Soma: The Plant. Papers in Honour of Professor
Mary Boyce (Acta Iranica 25). Leiden: Brill. 699-726.

1. I have unfortunately not had the opportunity to see the papers that have
developed out of the 1999 conference in Leiden on the Soma/Haoma cult, with
which, I am pleased to say, the present paper is now included. I look
forward with great anticipation to the publication of the proceedings of
this conference, which will surely move us forward on the Soma-question,
interest in which among Vedicists is, as far as I can tell, gaining a great
deal of momentum at the moment.
2. It should be noted that Staal's paper and this one were written entirely
independently of each other. I did not learn of Staal's until I had sent
him an early version of this one based on a paper presented at the 2001 AOS
conference in Toronto. At that time his paper was already in press.
3. On the history of the ephedra theory, see O'Flaherty in Wasson, 1968,
pp. 95-147. Cf also Falk's brief but illuminating summary.
4. For details, see Flattery and Schwartz, pp.68-72. They cite also certain
Dardic forms that indicate that *sauma was not exclusively a Sanskritic or
Sanskritizing form.
5. Recent reports indicate that ephedra has been found also among the
mummified bodies discovered in the Tarim Basin; cf. Mallory & Mair, pp.
138, 186, 200, etc.
6. For a more technical discussion of the psychopharmacology of ephedras,
see Spinella 2001, pp.114-117.
7. See the discussion of Flattery and Schwartz, pp.45ff. Without going into
detail, the main objections to the identifcation of *sauma as peganum
harmala have been proposed already by Falk and Staal: first, that harmala
is burned for fumigation, not pounded and pressed, as in our
early-Indo-Iranian texts; second, that it is a rather commonplace weed, not
a rare and difficult-to-find mountain plant, as the early evidence clearly
shows *sauma to have been. Furthermore, in contrast with the much later
Arabic evidence offered by Flattery &Schwartz [pp.32f.], there is no
mention of seeds in the early Indo-Iranian evidence. Also, there is no
evidence in these later texts of the pressing of harmala and the mixing of
its juice with milk and honey, as in the early texts. Of course, it should
be added that if the second objection [its easy availability] is valid in
the case of peganum harmala, it may also be a valid objection to the
8. Besides Falk, pp.78ff., see also the broad survey of O'Flaherty, in
Wasson, pp. 95-147.
9. Cf. Y. 9-11 [Hom Yasht] passim.
10. Strictly speaking, it is Indra who is addressed here as jAgRve, but
clearly, as Falk, p. 80, has pointed out, he is addressed so because he has
consumed Soma. It is a transferred epithet here.
11. The use of jA'gRvi as a divine epithet must go back to an old, common
Indo-Iranian tradition, since it is attested in exactly the same usage in
the Avestan cognate jiGAuruuah, applied to Mithra, as well as to a
divinized ha~m.varEiti, "Manly Valor."
12. Note also that 29 of the 62 hymns of Book 3 are devoted to Agni [vs. 24
to Indra].
13. A small cycle of Agni-hymns is attributed to Sutambhara at RV 5.11-14.
In this cycle there are two references to the theme of awakening: at 5.11.1
[jA'gRvi, of Agni] and 5.14.1 [the impv. bodhaya, taking the direct object
14. See KEWA 2.568 for the relevant literature. It is puzzling to see that
in his magnum opus on Soma T. Oberlies has completely ignored this
question, even in the 57 page chapter on "Der Soma-Rausch und Seine
Interpretation" [Vol. I, pp.449-506].
15. Again, see Spinella 2001, already cited. Of course, it may well be that
ephedrine may be potent enough in some cases to induce visionary or
ecstatic experience. -- such as that extracted from the mountain varieties
of ephedra mentioned by Falk, p. 83 [also Nyberg, 1995]. If so, then I will
give up my objections to the identification of ephedra as the
ur-Soma-plant. But so too, it seems to me, Falk will have to give up the
claim that Soma could not have induced visionary, ecstatic, or even
shamanic experiences.
16. ma'da is attested 279x in the RV. If we include compounds and variant
forms like madira', etc., the total amounts to roughly 400x. There are also
roughly 200 attestations of verbal forms of mad-. Clearly, this material
points to a major preoccupation of the Vedic poets. Much work remains to be
17. In response to the oral version of this paper presented at the AOS
annual meeting in Toronto, March 2001, objections were raised against the
admittedly indiscriminate use of such terms as 'visionary,' 'ecstatic,' and
'shamanic.' But I should point out that all of these terms were introduced
by Falk. Of course, these terms are not synonymous, but they do cover a
semantic territory that should be recognized as continuous and related. In
any case, I feel no obligation to defend in this brief paper my use of
these terms. More will be forthcoming on the notion of a Vedic shamanism,
and on the precise semantics of so'masya ma'da in the RV.
18. As Hauschild has argued at length [1954, pp. 276f.; cf. also Rau 19xx],
a gRha' in early Vedic was likely to have been a domestic wagon. This sense
seems to be confirmed in this passage by the collocation with
havyavA'hanaH, "vehicle of oblation," in the following line.
19. Besides the standard translations and commentaries of Geldner, Renou
[besides EVP 14.39 &110, cf. also Renou 1956] and Elizarenkova [1999], see
also the very detailed study of Hauschild; also Schmeja; Mylius; Stuhrmann,
et al. The remarks of Gonda, "The So-Called Secular, Humorous and Satirical
Hymns of the Rgveda," Seleced Studies 3.379f., remain pertinent. On the
other hand, it is also important to note that this hymn has been
surprisingly ignored by Wasson, as well as by Flattery & Schwartz. It is
also neglected by Oberlies, already cited, in note 11.
20. For a full translation and commentary on this hymn, see Thompson 1997b.
21. For a full translation and commentary, see again Thompson 1997b.
22. To my knowledge it has not been noticed before, but as a matter of
fact there are traces of both the ahaMkAra and the Atmastuti motives in
Avestan as well: see in particular the azEm sequence in the Hom Yasht: Y
10.15-18 [ the poet's ahaMkAra, in fact, a kind of pledge of allegiance to
the god Haoma]. Y 9.2 is a brief Atmastuti attributed to Haoma; Yt 8.25 is
a brief Ahura MazdA Atmastuti; Yt 14.3f., etc. Perhaps the best examples
are Yt 1.7-8 attributed to Ahura MazdA, and the very intertesting "I am"
sequence immediately following at stanzas 12-15. A brief Atmastuti is also
attested at Yt.10.54-56 [Mithra Yasht].
23. This name is uninformative because it is merely inferred from the text
of the hymn. In fact, neither element of the name is attested in the hymn,
nor is the name of any other deity [the term so'ma clearly refers to the
juice that has been drunk, and not to the god Soma]. In my view, neither
the traditional name of the poet nor the traditional interpretation of the
hymn can be accepted [pace Falk].
24. Thompson 1997b has already been cited, but it seems necessary to stress
the point here. Stuhrmann [1985, p.91] has made the following remark, which
has been affirmed by Oberlies [Vol. 1, p. 496]: "Die Somalieder sind...
wesentlich Wir-Dichtung und Preisliedern auf Soma; individuelle
Rauschprotokolle können wir nicht erwarten." In general, this is probably a
valid remark, but RV 10.119 shows that in fact there are exceptions, as
Atmastutis in general also show. In fact there is a clear record of
individual experience of ecstasy in the RV, as a direct result of Soma
consumption. Furthermore, a brief look at the concordances of Bloomfield or
Lubotsky will show that there is a good amount of evidence for an
Ich-Dichtung genre, both in the RV in general, and among Soma hymns in
particular. Oberlies in fact appears to contradict himself at Vol. 2, p.39,
when he notes the "I am" sequence at the beginning of RV 4.26 as the
utterance of an "ekstatisch erregten Seher" [the hymn is cited several
times in Thompson 1997b, where more evidence and a more detailed analysis
can be found].
25. In his notes to stanza 1, Geldner compares RV 10.97.4, the words of a
"Medizinmann." This passage will be treated in a forthcoming paper on the
particle i'ti. Cf. more recently Meissig 1995 [on RV 10.108, which, by the
way, displays Atmastuti features] and Deeg 1993 on Vedic shamanism [I have
not had access to these articles, which are cited by Oberlies, vol.1,
p.311]. Frederick Smith is presently working on the notion of a Vedic
shamanism; I eagerly look forward to his discussion. As for older
literature, see Gonda, Oldenberg, Hauer, et al. Note that Flattery &
Schwartz, pp.24f., briefly allude to Amazonian shamanism.
26. If stanza 13, the hymn's finale, is not a later addition to the hymn
[as has been suggested by S. Jamison, personal communication], then the
phrase deve'bhyo havyavA'hanaH would strongly suggest that Agni is the god
impersonated in this hymn. Of course, Agni is often represented as a bird
in the RV [a motif culminating in the bird-shaped altar of the agnicayana].
I see this hymn as an expression of a kind of Soma-and-Agni fire mysticism,
although this is not the place to go into the matter. Cf. also the largely
unpersuasive interpretation of gRha' as gra'ha, and of yAmi as a passive
"was filled," proposed by Hillebrandt [I.277].
27. On early interpretations of the hymn that suggest its shamanic
features, see Gonda, pp. 379f, cited above.
28. A very lengthy discussion of the quotative particle i'ti, and a defense
of my translation of it here, has been deleted from this paper, which even
without it is overly long. This discussion, and some observations on the
evolution of its syntax, will be presented in a forthcoming paper.
29. It is frequently suggested [e.g., Brough, p.376; several members of the
audience in Toronto who responded to an oral version of this paper] that
such craftsmanship could not have been achieved by a poet "in the
intoxication of Soma." This has been rebutted already by Staal, p.761 [note
his remarks re the fallacy of the excluded third possibility: that the poet
could nevertheless have been familiar with Soma-ecstasy, even if not
intoxicated while composing the hymn]. I would add this point, taken
unchanged from an earlier version of this paper:"Second, the famous example
of the German Romantic poet Hölderlin demonstrates that the poetic function
is [or can be] autonomous from the proper functioning of the other
intellectual and social functions of the mind. If Hölderlin was capable of
composing exquisitely crafted, metrically perfect poems, while suffering
the debilitating symptoms of severe schizophrenia, it seems to me that this
anonymous but very fine RV poet likewise might well have been capable of
composing an extraordinary hymn like RV 10.119, consciously impersonating
this or that god for his willing and susceptible audience, while undergoing
whatever strange symptoms, any whatsoever, that that potent Vedic god Soma,
whatever He was, was able to induce in him."

List of Contributors
to the Soma-Haoma Issue (part I)

Prof. Dr. Corrie Bakels,
Department of palaeoethnobotany,
Faculty of Archaeology, University of Leiden,
P.O.Box 9515, 2300 RA Leiden,
The Netherlands.

Prof. Dr. Jan E.M. Houben,
Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes,
À la Sorbonne, 45-47, rue des Écoles, 75005, Paris,

Prof. Dr. Victor I. Sarianidi,
Institute of Archeology,

Prof. George Thompson,
Montserrat College of Art,
Beverly MA,

Vol. 8 (2002) issue 3a (March 27)

(©) ISSN 1084-7561




Philip T. Nicholson
The Soma Code, Part I: Luminous Visions in the Rig Veda



The evidence for actual visions of Vedic poets and priests has been
downplayed in recent writings. This in spite of hymns such as the famous
laba sUkta (RV 10.119) and that of the long-haired muni of RV 10.136, who
has drunk 'poison' and clearly represents a shaman -like figure on a quest,
flying through the sky with the wind and the gods. One must also take into
account the singular hymn that speaks not of vision but of aural
experiences, RV 6.9.6 "apart fly my ears, apart my eyes, apart the light
that has been put into the heart; my mind moves away into the distance..."

North Asian and, indeed Laurasian, shamanism (see M. Witzel in: Mother
Tongue VI, is also
visible in rituals such as the Vaajapeya, where one has to climb up a pole
to reach 'heaven,' and to stay there for a while. This is what Kham shamans
in the Nepalese Himalayas still do today.

These and other Central and North Asian connections (see now J.F. Staal,
How a psychoactive substance becomes a ritual: the case of Soma. Social
Research 68, 2001, 745-778) urge us to take a closer look at shamanistic
behavior and the kind of vision quests that shamans undertake, and to
compare this with Rgvedic practices. The matter will also be taken up later
in this volume in a paper of G. Thompson.

I therefore invite readers to take a close look at the descriptions and
interpretations of meditations and visions discussed here by Ph. Nicholson.
They overlap with some of the images described in the Rgveda that result
from sleep depravation and the concurrent consumption of Soma.

We certainly can argue about the details of Vedic myth, religion or the
preparation of the Soma drink as used and discussed in the following three
papers. However, I feel that a new look at the Soma hymns and their
background should be undertaken in connection with overnight ritual, the
effects of sleeplessness and of sleep depravation-induced visions.

Finally, as the following three papers can be read without actual use of
diacritics they have been dispensed with here.



Philip T. Nicholson

The Soma Code, Part I: Luminous Visions in the Rig Veda


The meanings of many metaphors used to describe luminous visions in the Rig
Veda (RV) remain elusive or ambiguous despite years of expert hermeneutical
exegesis. In this series of papers, we classify the metaphors used to
describe luminous visions into sets based on certain abstract
characteristics (shapes, colors, movements, order of appearance), then show
how these metaphor-sets can be matched with remarkable precision, image by
image, to a sequence of internally-generated light sensations
('phosphenes') induced by meditation. These meditation-induced phosphenes
can also evolve in longer and more elaborate sequences if the subjects
practice meditation while in a sleep-deprived condition. A sleep deficit
increases the risk of subclinical seizures emerging at sleep onset - and
the paroxysmal activity generates further evolution of the phosphene
imagery. In the first paper of this three-part series, we document the
parallels between the meditation-induced phosphenes and two types of
luminous visions described in the RV - the Asvins' radiant, three-wheeled
chariot and the flame-arrows of Agni.

In the second paper, we analyze metaphors used to describe the visions of
Soma and Indra and show that there is a close match between these luminous
visions and paroxysmal phosphenes. Based on the extensive parallels
revealed by our comparison, we conclude that the metaphors for luminous
visions in the RV were meant to refer to the same visual content as appears
in the meditation-induced visions described by the author, and that,
despite years of poetic embellishment, the eulogists' choice of metaphors
suggests a much more empirically-oriented attempt to describe visionary
experience than has hitherto been suspected. This hypothesis about the
meaning of luminous visions in the RV has important implications for
several issues debated by Vedic scholars, including: (1) the identity of
the original soma plant; (2) the influence of shamanic practices in the
creation of the Vedic myths, and (3) the extent of the continuities between
the visionary experiences described in the RV and those described in the
Upanishads and in the many yoga meditation texts in the Hindu, Tantric, and
Tibetan-Buddhist traditions.
Luminous Visions in the RV: Gonda's Legacy

The importance of luminous visions in the Rig Veda (RV) has been
well-documented by Gonda [1963] in his monograph, Vision and the Vedic
Poets. He points out that Agni, the Vedic god of fire, can manifest in
inner visions that inspire the poet-seers to compose hymns to the gods [pp.
17-18], that these luminous visions of Agni (dhitayah) are like "lightnings
and flame-arrows" that "begin to glow spontaneously in a secret place," and
that the visions arrive "in front of (or ahead of; on the surface of) the
vipah, i.e. the inspired words of the seer-eulogists [Ibid., pp. 172-3]."
The eulogists compare the visions of Agni "to a hole in the ground
abounding in water from which one may draw the desirable liquid," and also
to "a stream or 'fountain' of transcendental truth (dhara rtasya) [Ibid.,
p. 172]." The source from which these luminous visions flow is "beyond
human reach, knowledge and understanding, and those who receive them may be
said to glow or shine themselves," as in verse 8.6.8, which states that
"When the visions which are concealed glow spontaneously, the Kanvas (begin
to glow) by the stream of rta [Ibid., p. 172]." The basic idea is that
there can be a "breaking through of a stream of the great and fundamental
power called rta-, of a sudden influx of sacredness, of an extraordinary
insight into the reality beyond the phenomena of this world [Ibid.,
p.172]." But, even though the streams of rta can break into consciousness,
"the man to whom dhitayah come is not idle" since it is "expressly stated
that he must fashion them, give them a definite form. This activity is
compared to the carpenter or cartwright [Ibid., p. 184]."

Gonda also notes that the eulogists of the RV sometimes describe Soma as a
type of dhiyah, or "vision-producing-insight," in addition to its
manifestations as a plant, a drink, and a god. As a vision, Soma displays
a "bright or pure shape or form (sukram varnum)" which can be described as
"light (jyotih)" or "radiance (socih)" or simply as "eye" (caksuh), a
single word that refers to an inner faculty of vision, a faculty distinct
from the observable, physical eye, which can directly perceive the
inspirational visions of rta [Gonda, op. cit., p. 167]. Another sign that
the eulogists regarded Soma as a type of luminous vision is that they often
use the word, manisa, which Gonda translates as an intuition of truth
received in a flash of light. See, for example, verses 9.72.6 ("the
inspired sages, who are skillful in their art and possessed of manisa"),
9.79.4 ("the manisa-ones ignite thee"), and 10.114.6 ("the sages, having
produced, by means of higher wisdom [manisa]") [Ibid., p. 53]. Also, the
eulogists often claim that their songs "make[s] the dhih swell like a
milk-giving mare (1.34.6)," and, similarly, in 8.6.43, that ". . . it is
not the gods but rather men - the rishis, the Kanvas - who appear to be
able to make the dhih swell and increase; they achieve that by their
liturgical words [Ibid., p. 124]." The 'swelling' metaphor will be
particularly important in our discussion of the Soma visions in Part II.

The Need For a New Approach

While Gonda's exegesis documents the types of metaphors the eulogists use
to describe luminous visions, these metaphors are so ambiguous and so
opaque to modern sensibilities that it is difficult to interpret what the
composers meant to communicate when they chose those words and phrases.
The obstacles faced by scholars are particularly formidable in the ninth
book of the RV which contains most of the hymns written to Soma. Keith
[1925] complains about the "chaos of the ideas [Ibid., p. 171]" and the
"obscurity in detail [Ibid., p. 167];" MacDonell [1971] writes that the
descriptions of Soma are "overlaid with the most varied and chaotic imagery
and with mystical fantasies often incapable of certain interpretation
[Ibid., p. 104]." In her introduction to a translation of selected hymns
from the RV, O'Flaherty [1981] points out that problems of interpretation
are complicated by language that is "intrinsically difficult (dense,
complex, and esoteric even for the people of its own time), or difficult to
people of another time (because of archaisms, hapax legomena, discontinued
usages), or difficult because we have lost the thread of the underlying
idiom [Ibid., p.14]." Even if experts agree on the literal meaning of the
Sanskrit words, they still might not might be able to interpret what those
words were intended to mean, not least because the RV "is written out of a
mythology that we can only try to reconstruct from the Rig Vedic jumble of
paradoxes heaped on paradoxes, tropes heaped on tropes [Ibid., p. 18]."

In this paper we show that the range of meanings that can be reasonably
attributed to the metaphors used to describe luminous visions can be
bracketed within relatively narrow parameters if the metaphors are
classified into sets based on certain abstract characteristics,
specifically, shape, color, movement, and order of appearance as described
in the RV. To define which abstract characteristics are important for this
classification, we have imported a new, independently-derived, and
non-textual source of information of the sort not usually consulted in the
interpretation of Vedic texts.

New research in the neuroscience of vision, sleep, and epilepsy - and the
application of those research findings to the subject of mystical visions -
now makes it possible to propose theories that explain in great detail how
the brain mechanisms that are normally associated with slow wave sleep can
also be activated by behaviors that simulate sleep, such as meditation in
which the subject combines deep physical relaxation with an
inwardly-orientation and fixation of visual attention on the center of an
empty visual field. A meditation-induced activation of the brain's sleep
rhythm oscillators can generate epiphenomenal sensations of light devoid of
any figurative content ('phosphenes') that display distinctive, predictable
shapes, colors, movements, and temporal sequences [Nicholson, 1996a,b;

Research also shows that a transition from waking to slow wave sleep can be
destabilized with surprising ease in a series of smooth, fast, incremental
steps, a destabilization that is most likely to occur if, at the time the
transition to slow wave sleep begins, the subject's cortical neurons are
already abnormally excitable - a condition that can be induced by many
different kinds of events, including sleep loss. If the brain mechanisms
that govern the transition to slow wave sleep become destabilized because
cortical neurons are hyperexcitable, some regions of the brain break out in
paroxysmal firing. In effect, this constitutes an epileptiform seizure,
but these kinds of seizures often do not trigger dramatic symptoms that
would signal a problem to an untrained observor. These new research
findings about rapid shifts to paroxysmal activity upon activation of sleep
rhythm oscillators can be used to explain why a meditator who is attempting
to induce phosphene visions might experience the outbreak of a seizure and
to explain how this outbreak of paroxysmal activity shapes the further
evolution of the original, sleep-onset phosphene images [Nicholson, 1999;
2002a,b]. In this paper we reproduce a series of drawings from the sources
just cited to illustrate the shapes, colors, movements, and ordinal
progressions of the meditation-induced, sleep-onset phosphenes and their
further elaboration after the outbreak of paroxysmal brain waves. (A more
detailed exposition of the underlying neurophysiology is available in the
sources cited [See Note 1].)

Before attempting to compare the meditation-induced phosphene sequences
with luminous visions in the RV, we collect examples of the different types
of metaphors used to describe these visions and classify them into
metaphor-sets based on abstract characteristics like shape, color,
movement, or location. For example, one of the more important sets
contains a wide range of metaphors used to describe the vision of newborn
Soma and enrolled in the set based on their having a 'bulbous' shape. The
metaphors in this set are words like "udder," "stalk (amsu)," "navel,"
"bull's horn," "penis," "pot," "stormcloud," "waterskin," "heaven's head,"
and "filter of sheep's wool." Using this classification system, it becomes
less important which particular word a translator choses for the Sanskrit
or which language is being used for translation: fine-tuning the choice of
the individual word - the essence of good translation - is largely
irrelevant for our purposes, which is to define a metaphor-set, find out
where the members of that set appear in the RV, and how the set functions
in relation to the other metaphors for luminous vision. We can then
compare the characteristics of each metaphor-set (and the sequencing of the
metaphor-sets) against a standard template, namely, the drawings of the
meditation-induced phosphenes described by the author. If we can show that
the parallels between these two sets of visual images are sufficiently
detailed and comprehensive, this demonstration supports the inference that
the metaphors used to describe luminous vision in the RV refer to the same
kind of visual contents as a meditation-induced phosphene sequence.

Human neurophysiology has not changed significantly since the Vedic era, so
if we believe (1) that luminous visions in the RV contain essentially the
same content as the meditation-induced phosphene sequence, (2) that the
brain mechanisms responsible for generating these phosphene images operate
within predictable parameters, and, (3) that this underlying
neurophysiology imposes significant constraints on the what kinds of images
can appear in a sequence of meditation-induced phosphenes, then we should
be able to apply those same constraints to bracket the range of meanings
assigned to luminous vision metaphors in the RV so that they fall within
very narrow parameters.

Before we begin our analysis, it is important to address a methodological
problem. The author is not an expert in Sanskrit or Vedic Studies, nor does
he have sufficient command of German, French, or Russian to read the most
recent translations of the RV which appear in those languages, so this
study is based on English translations. There are a number of recent
English translations of selected verses [e.g., see Gonda, 1963; Bhawe as
cited in Wasson, 1971; O'Flaherty, 1981; Dange, 1992], and, whenever
possible, we use them, but we have also found it necessary to make use of
older translations [e.g., Wilson, 1888; Griffith, 1889], even though some
contemporary scholars find them unreliable [e.g., O'Flaherty, 1981]. Given
the author's deficiencies, readers might be concerned that this
investigation is seriously compromised at the outset, and certainly this
concern would seem to be warranted if our goal were to make yet another
hermeneutical exegesis of the RV. The formidable difficulties that face
anyone who wants to get "inside the Vedic mind" in order to better
translate Vedic texts have been aptly summarized by Witzel [1996], and the
prerequisites he mentions are not met in this case. Why, then, do we feel
justified in pursuing this investigation, despite these major drawbacks?

Our goal is a systematic classification of metaphors based on certain
abstract characteristics that have not been explored by others scholars,
and, to make those classifications, we rely on a standard that is external
to the hymns themselves and derived from our familiarity with current
scientific research in the neuroscience of sleep, vision, and epilepsy. In
effect, we propose to use the drawings of meditation-induced phosphene
visions experienced by the author and reproduced here as predictions of
the kinds of abstract characteristics that visions in the RV are likely to
have if they were also induced by meditation (and destabilization of
meditation). Because the metaphor-sets as we have defined them are so
general, it seems unlikely that completely new kinds of words will come to
light that cannot be placed within one set or another, whatever the
language of origin.

The parallels between the luminous vision metaphors of the RV and the
meditation-induced visions turn out to be so extensive, so detailed, and so
comprehensive that we believe it is reasonable to conclude that both
sequences refer to the same kind of visual content, and, therefore, to the
same kinds of generating mechanisms. In this view, the meditation-induced
phosphene sequence is a template that decodes the meanings of luminous
visions in the RV in much same way that the Rosetta Stone enabled scholars
of an earlier age to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics by comparing the
hieroglyphics text with the same message carved in Greek and Aramaic.

A Sequence of Meditation-Induced Phosphene Visions

The author, a medical writer with no history of drug or alcohol abuse, no
family or personal history of epileptic symptoms, and no sectarian
affiliation, practices self-hypnosis or meditation to relax, to generate
new ideas for his writing by free association, to dissipate muscle tension
headaches, and to divert attention during minor surgical or dental
procedures. He learned to meditate by imaging mental images while in
graduate school, then later, after attending a course on Buddhist
meditation, learned how to meditate without mental imagery. During this
class, the author began to see sensations of light generated by internal
processes, called 'phosphenes'.

The author's phosphene-inducing meditation phosphene technique is as
follows: he lies on his back, closes his eyes, takes slow, deep, rhythmic
breaths, keeps his eyes converged and slightly depressed, and keeps his
attention fixated on the center of the visual field. The eye convergence
is sustained with enough forcefulness to elicit a sensation of "fullness"
or "pressure" in the eyeball, and the fixation of attention is forceful
enough to evoke a sensation of 'locking in'. The concentration of
attention also produces auditory feedback - a characteristic buzzing that
is part sound, part vibration, that originates inside the lower rim of the
skull, and that feels as if it radiates upward on both sides. To keep his
level of arousal low and his mental field free of distraction, the author
maintains a passive, indifferent attitude, allowing stimuli that might be
potentially distracting to drift in and out of consciousness without any
attempt at suppression. During this behavioral state of calm, inward
orientation and fixation on the as-yet undifferentiated visual field, the
author begins to see waves of brightly-colored phosphene annuli that follow
a predictable sequence.
The phosphene sequence induced by meditation also appears spontaneously
when the author is lying in bed and waiting to fall asleep, in which case
no induction behaviors are needed; the only prerequisite is keeping the
eyes fixed straight forward and keeping the attention focused on the center
of the visual field.

Figure 1.1. The sequence of phosphene images that can be induced by
meditation or activated spontaneously at sleep onset. A. One 5-second
cycle of a 'receding annuli' sequence. Initially the author sees a dark,
barely-perceptible wave - a sensation of movement - that flows inward from
the 360° perimeter of vision, then sees a bright yellowish-green phosphene
annulus illuminate in the visual field at about 80° of isoeccentricity.
The annulus continues to shrink in diameter at a constant rate, preserving
its symmetry throughout, and disappears into the center of vision after 4
seconds (as estimated by the author's count of "1001 . . . 1002."). The
shrinking generates an illusion that the annulus is 'receding' in 3D space.
A new annulus appears every 5 seconds (0.2 Hz) until the sequence
terminates automatically after a total of 4 to 5 cycles. About halfway
through the trajectory, the annulus fills in with a phosphene disk. During
the early years of phosphene induction, the color of the fill-disk was a
brighter, more opaque green than the annulus itself, but after several
years of phosphene induction, the color of the fill-disk changed to dark
blue. B. Typical amorphous waves of expanding and contracting phosphene
with a 'mist-like' texture. The first row shows an amorphous wave of
yellowish-green phosphene - dark blue after the change noted above - which
sometimes has a vaguely-defined crescent shape, as shown here. The
amorphous wave illuminates upon reaching 80° of isoeccentricity, like the
annuli. The waves enter from either the right or the left perimeter and
sweep across the visual field with an expanding and enveloping motion.
Meanwhile, behind the leading edge, the phosphene begins to dissipate, so
that the rear of the wave is shrinking inward at the same time that the
forward edge continues to expand into as yet untouched regions. Within a
few seconds, all of the remaining phosphene shrinks into the center of
vision, like the receding annuli. After a prolonged session of phosphene
induction, the amorphous expanding clouds often last longer and develop a
brighter, more finely-grained, opaque, and irridescent phosphene at the
core. This bright central core keeps ebbing back from the fixation point
and then filling back in, producing an image resembles a disembodied 'eye'
with a bright 'iris' and a dark inner 'pupil'. On the morning of the
seizure, the central, 'eye-like' phosphene gradually condensed into a tiny,
'star-like' cluster of thin, flashing filaments of white and blue
phosphene, in effect, a dot or 'bindu'. [From Nicholson, 2002a]

The meditation-induced, sleep-onset phosphenes are illustrated by the
author's computer-generated drawings in Figure 1.1, with a detailed
description in the adjacent legend for easy reference. There are four
different kinds of phosphene images in this sequence: (1) RINGS that flow
in from the periphery of the visual field and shrink steadily in diameter,
creating an illusion that they are 'receding' in 3-D space; (2) SWIRLING
MISTS, amorphous in shape, that sweep across the visual field and then
contract, disappearing into the centerpoint; (3) the amorphous phosphene
mist eventually acquires a brighter node of phosphene that hovers at the
center of the visual field and that has a dark space within it, creating
the illusion of an EYE-LIKE IMAGE with a bright phosphene 'iris' that pulls
back to reveal a dark, empty, 'pupil' space, then fills in, then pulls back
again, and so on; (4) a STAR-LIKE IMAGE of tiny, twinkling, phosphene
filaments seems to 'condense' at the center of the visual field.
2. Figure 1.2. Transition to paroxysmal phosphene images. A. The
familiar, 'star' or 'bindu' image of thin, flashing filaments of white and
blue phosphene, the culmination of amorphous wave activity seen in Figure
1. B. A stream of dark, barely-perceptible 'receding annuli' that entered
the visual field at a rate of more than one per second („ 2 Hz), never
illuminating as colored phosphene. The influx of dark waves generated an
illusion of movement through a dark, 'tunnel-like,' 3D space. After a few
seconds, the flood of dark annuli stopped abruptly, eclipsed by onset of
the next visual image. C. A radiating spray of phosphene 'mist'
interspersed with many beige-colored 'flecks' replaced the 'tunnel' of dark
annuli. The spray seemed to radiate toward the viewer along a conical
trajectory through 3D space and to 'strike' the forehead, so that the
subject felt compelled to pull his head back against the pillow and arch
his back. There were also muscle tremors in the face and extremities. D.
A gradual brightening and bluing of the visual field. This effect slowly
but steadily obscured more and more of the radiating spray until it was the
only visual sensation present. The approximate hue of blue, based on the
author's comparison of color swatches from a CMYK Process Color Chart, is
40% Cyan without any Magenta, Yellow, or Black - a color similar to the
blue of the sky on a clear, dry day in the summer or autumn. E. The
appearance of a bulbous, hollow, translucent white phosphene that seemed to
'protrude' through the bright blue visual field, as if there were 3D
'depth' in the visual field. At first the bulbous image appeared as a
faint glow, but when the author focused his attention on it, the glow
became brighter, revealing a bulbous nose. As the phosphene glowed even
more brightly, it revealed more caudal extension. This change created an
illusion that the figure had just 'moved' forward in 3D space, and,
conversely, as attention waned, the phosphene dimmed so that its caudal
extension shortened, making it seem to 'recede'. Beneath the anterior pole
of the bulbous image was a thin line or shadow, shaped like an inverted
crescent. After many successive 'protrusions' and 'recessions,' the
bulbous image suddenly glowed brightly - so much so that it looked as if it
the bulb had 'lurched' toward the vertical meridian - and, in the same
moment, it disappeared and its former site was occupied by a cluster of
three thin, white, phosphene rays (Figure 3B). These rapid movements
created an illusion that the bulb had somehow 'ruptured' and that this
'released' the phosphene rays. [From Nicholson, 2002a]

Figure 1.3. The final transition to photoparoxysmal phosphenes. A. The
white phosphene bulbous image. B. When the bulbous image disappeared, it
was replaced instantly by three thin white phosphene rays, and, at the same
time, the bright blue background disappeared, leaving the rays silhouetted
against the normal, charcoal-colored visual field (eigengrau). In the
first presentation, the three white rays extended less than halfway to the
perimeter of vision, and the tallest ray had a distinctive 90° bend to the
left at the tip. One second later, the rays reappeared, now in a new,
realigned version in which the rays had doubled in number (from 3 to 6),
had lengthened so as to extend all the way to the peripheral rim of vision,
and had fanned farther apart at the tops. In the next second, the author
observed a third transformation: he saw the rays fan much farther apart, a
movement that resembled the petals on a flower wilting in the heat. In
this third display, the bases of the rays had tiny, shard-like triangles of
bright, opaque white phosphene superimposed. The third display of the rays
was the final one, and it persisted in the visual field for about 10 to 12
seconds. There were no auditory or sensorimotor symptoms accompanying any
of the transformations of the rays. C. Serial flashes ('explosions') of
dull white phosphene, appearing in either the right or left hemifield.
Single flashes never occupied more than about a third of the visual field
and seemed to alternate between the right and left side in a non-rhythmical
pattern. The experience felt like being inside a dark stormcloud when it
was illuminated from within by flashes of sheet lightning. The
photoparoxysm was accompanied by loud, crackling sounds, sensorimotor
sensations of bilateral polymyoclonus that seemed to involve an 'ascending
current of energy,' an orgasmic sensation diffused throughout the body, and
psychic symptoms of euphoria and awe mixed with fear. D. Postictal visual
symptoms. For several weeks after the initial photoparoxysm, whenever the
subject went to bed and closed his eyes, a white glow appeared in the same
place where the bulb and rays appeared earlier. When he focused attention
on this glow, it began to expand as if billowing out toward the viewer in
3D space. The surface of the expanding phosphene presented a fractal-like
pattern resembling the surface of a cauliflower, a billowing cumulus cloud,
or a froth of soap bubbles. After a few days, the glow still appeared, but
now it expanded with a surface that presented an undifferentiated, fog-like
whiteness. Once the wave expanded, the entire visual field appeared white,
as if the viewer were enveloped by fog or a snow 'whiteout'. If the author
kept his attention focused, the field remained white for a relatively long
amount of time, sometimes for more than several seconds. While this
whiteness was present, the author experienced a weaker version of the
seizure-related sensorimotor and psychic symptoms. [From Nicholson, 2002a]

These meditation-induced, sleep-onset phosphene images can evolve into a
more elaborate sequence if the sleep rhythm oscillators are destabilized,
triggering paroxysmal activity in the brain. This happened to the author
on one occasion in which he tried to relax himself to sleep using his
familiar technique of meditation in circumstances that were highly unusual:
having slept only four of the preceding thirty-six hours because of
'jet-lag' insomnia, he went to bed at 4 o'clock in the morning and began to
meditate. The familiar meditation-induced phosphenes began to appear
almost immediately and manifested with unusual intensity and speed, then,
instead of concluding with the familiar image of a star-like phosphene dot,
the phosphene sequence evolved the new images illustrated in Figures 1.2
and 1.3: (5) THIN BLACK RINGS suddenly began to flow inward, shrinking in
diameter like the sleep-onset phosphene rings but at an abnormally fast
rate of two or more per second, creating the illusion of a dark, moving
tunnel; (6) a SPRAY of beige-colored phosphene 'flecks' that seem to
radiate out toward the viewer, suddenly replaced the inward-moving black
rings; (7) a UNIFORM BLUE BACKGROUND began to gradually become brighter,
causing the image of radiating spray to fade out; (8) a BULBOUS GLOW
appeared in the upper right quadrant of the visual field and waxed and
waned in brightness, creating the illusion of its moving forward or
receding, depending on the intensity of the attention focused on it; (9) A
FAN OF THREE WHITE RAYS suddenly replaced the bulb image, with the rays in
this first display extending less than halfway to the perimeter of vision;
(10) A FAN OF SIX WHITE RAYS suddenly replaced the three rays after a delay
of one second, with the rays now extended to the perimeter of vision; (11)
A FANNING APART OF THE SIX RAYS occurred after another delay of one second,
creating the impression the rays were 'drooping' or 'wilting'; (11) SERIAL
FLASHES of dull white phosphene that filled large expanses of the visual
field began after a twelve seconds delay, an image that looked exactly like
sheet lightning illumining a dark stormcloud from within. This final image
in the paroxysmal sequence was accompanied by loud, sizzling, 'electric'
crackling sounds, spasms of many different muscle groups, an illusion of a
'current' flowing upward through the body, quasi-orgasmic sensations, and
an emotional mix of fear, awe, and euphoria. At this point the author
stopped the flashes by diverting his attention and getting up to walk

After the episode of paroxysmal activity, the author found that, whenever
he laid down to go to sleep and closed his eyes, he saw (12) a
POST-PAROXYSMAL WHITE GLOW at the same location in the visual field where
the bulbous image and the rays had once appeared (see Figure 1.3D). If he
looked at the glow and did not try to distract himself, this staring would
cause the small white glow to expand as a cloud of white phosphene that
seemed to be radiating out toward the viewer as it expanded. For several
days after the paroxysmal episode, the surface of this expanding whiteness
presented a distinctive cauliflower-like pattern, like the billowing
surface of a cumulus cloud buffeted by explosive pressures within, or like
a foam of soap bubbles rising in the sink in response to water streaming
down from the faucet. After that, the phenomenon of the expanding glow
continued, but there was no longer a multi-faceted surface but rather an
undifferentiated whiteness - like being surrounded by dense fog.

Sequences of Meditation-Induced Phosphenes Reported By Other Observors

Are the experiences described by the author ideosyncratic or are similar
phenomena reported by other observors as well? This is not as easy a
question to answer as it may appear at first glance. Many mystics who
write autobiographical narratives describe visions using language that is
abstract, 'experience-distant,' and metaphysical; often these writers
simply repeat phrases they learned from reading the authoritiative texts of
their tradition, suggesting that the primary intent in these cases is to
portray the experience as authentic by showing that it fits squarely within
the conventions of the tradition and thus that it is worthy of validation
by one's peers. There are, however, a few exceptions.

Table 1.1. Autobiographical Descriptions of Light Vision Sequences by
Hindu Mystics

Gopi Krishna Muktananda Lahiri Mahasay



I sat breathing slowly and rhythm-ically, my attention drawn towards the
crown of my head, contemp-lating an imaginary lotus in full bloom,
radiating light. [p. 11]
I never practiced yoga by Tantric methods. . . . If I had done so with
a firm belief in the existence of the lotuses, I might well have mis-
taken the luminous formations and the glowing discs of light at the various
nerve junctions along the spinal cord for lotuses, and . . . might even
have been led to per-ceive the letters and the presiding deities . . .
suggested by the pic-tures already present in my mind. [Gopi Krishna p.
Next, the pupils of both my eyes became centered together. I began to see
one thing with two eyes. . . . After this happened, a blue light arose in
my eyes [ p. 125

[A] light came in meditation, like a candle flame without a wick . . . the
two-petaled lotus between the eyebrows [p. 128].

The blue akasha, an expansion of blue color, began to appear, and with it,
the neela bindu, the Pearl of infinite power. As I watched it, I felt as
if my eyes were going to burst. . . . I was completely entranced . . . .
[Muktananda p. 135]


To practice pranayam at 4 o'clock in the morning is good [ p. 93]

[Hand-drawn outline of a thick ring with wavy lines filling the central
disk (p. 103) & of rings-within-rings, p. 104)]

When the air of breath is held tranquil, the six centers are seen in bright
Light but it does not stop at the centers. [p. 108]

OM is radiant Light. When this Light is spread throughout the body, all is
seen . . . [p. 208]

I saw a blue color in the light; in the blue, I saw a white spot; and in
the white spot, I saw a man saw a man . . . [Lahiri Mahasay p.211]


-- [Gopi Krishna ]

It was not the Blue Light or the Blue Pearl, but a blue star. Though it
looked small, it was large enough to contain me . . . [Muktananda p. 149]

Beyond the five senses there is mind . . . ; beyond the mind there is
buddhi, that is bindu, or spot; beyond the bindu, Brahma . . . the Pure
Void [Lahiri Mahasay p.212]


[I]t seemed as if a jet of molten copper . . . dashed against my crown and
fell in a scintillating shower of vast dimensions all around me. . . . a
fireworks dis-play of great magnitude . . . a brilliant shower or a glowing
pool of light [Gopi Krishna p. 50]."
[T]he blue star passed within me into my sahasrara and exploded. Its
fragments spread throughout the vast spaces of the sahasrara. There was no
star in front of me now, but just an ambrosial white light. [Muktananda p.


--- [Lahiri Mahasay]


[A] glowing pool of light [Gopi Krishna p. 50]


There was no star in front of me now, but just an ambrosial white light.
[Muktananda p. 150]

--- [Lahiri Mahasay]


-- [Gopi Krishna]
Sometimes I would have a new movement in the heart, in which an egg-shaped
ball of radiance would come into view. This is the vision of the radiant
thumb-sized Being, who is described . . . in the Shvetashvatara Upanishad:
. . . "The inner soul always dwells in the heart of all men as a
thumb-sized being." [Muktananda p. 136]."
It seems there is another uvula above the uvula. [p. 99]

First the dazzling sign or penis (Jyotir Lingam) is seen, then it
disappears into Voidness or Silence. . . . [Includes a hand-drawn outline
of a thumb-like shape [Lahiri Mahasay] p. 108)].
I kept my attention centered around the lotus. Suddenly, with a roar like
a waterfall, I felt a stream of liquid light entering my brain. . . /. . .
I felt the point of consciousness that was myself growing wider, surrounded
by waves of light . . . . immersed in a sea of light. [Gopi Krishna p.
"One day it opened up and its light was released, and the brilliance of not
one or two thousand but millions of suns blazed all around. The light was
so fierce that I could not stand it . . . That brilliance had drawn me
toward itself, and as I gazed at it, I lost consciousness. . . [Muktananda
p. 175-6]
The sun is the form of OM. [p.111]

The sun is Kali, I myself am Kali. Thinking about Kali I become Kali.[p. 210]

I am Mahapursusa. In the sun I saw that I myself am Brahma, the ultimate
Self. [Lahiri Mahasay p. 210]

Table 1.2. Autobiographical Descriptions of Lights Seen By Non-Hindu Mystics

........................Ignatius Loyola John of the Cross
Najmoddin Kobra



While living in this hospital it many times happened that in full
daylight he saw a form in the air near him and this form gave him much
consolation because it was exceedingly beautiful. He did not understand
what it really was, but it somehow seemed to have the shape of a serpent
and had many things that shone like eyes, but were not eyes. 3.19
[p. 29]

But often when he went to bed, great spiritual lights came to him, as did
wonderful consolations, so that they took up most of the time that he had
set aside for sleep, which was not much. [Ignatius Loyola 3.26 [p. 34]]


The soul puts on the white robe of faith on its going forth on this dark
night . . . . Over the white robe of faith the soul puts on forthwith that
[disguise] of the second color, a green almilda [a shoulder mantle with a
neck hole], emblem of the virtue of hope . . . [DNS, p. 180]

S. Paul calls hope the helmet of salvation. Now a helmet is armor which
protects and covers the whole head, and has no opening except in one place,
where the eyes may look through. Hope is such a helmet . . . It has one
loophole through which the eyes may look upwards only . . . [John of the
Cross DNS, p. 180]


Over the white and green robes . . . the soul puts on a third [disguise],
the splendid robe of purple. [DNS, p.181] Ours is a method of
alchemy. It involves extracting the subtle organism of light from beneath
the mountains under which it lies imprisoned. VS #12 [p. 77]

It may happen that you visualize yourself as lying at the bottom of a well
and the well seemingly in lively downward movement. In reality, it is you
who are moving upward. VS #12 [p. 76]

[W]hen you see above you a great wide space . . . and you perceive on the
far horizon the colors green, red, yellow, and blue, know that you are
about to pass, borne aloft through the air, to the field of these colors.
The colors are those of the spiritual states experienced in-wardly.
VS #13 [Najmoddin Kobra p. 77]

-- Ignatius Loyola
-- John of the Cross


[I]t effuses lights as a spring pours forth its water, so that the mystic
has a sensory perception . . . that these lights are gushing forth to
irradiate his face. This outpouring takes place between the two eyes and .
. . it spreads to cover the whole face. VS #66 [Najmoddin Kobra p. 85]

-- Ignatius Loyola
-- John of the Cross


[I]t spreads to cover the whole face. At that moment, before you, before
your face, there is another Face, also of light, irradiating lights, . . .
[resembling a] diaphan-ous veil . . . VS #66 [Najmoddin Kobra p. 85]


During prayer he often, and for an extended time, saw with inward eyes . .
. a white body, neither very large nor very small; nor did he see any
differentiation of mem-bers. 3.29 [Ignatius Loyola p.38]

-- John of the Cross

[B]ehind its diaphanous veil, a sun becomes visible, seemingly ani-mated by
a movement to and fro. In reality . . . this sun is the sun of the spirit
that goes to and fro in your body. VS #66 [Najmoddin Kobra p. 85]

-- Ignatius Loyola


And it is at times as though a door were opened before it into a great
brightness, through which the soul sees a light, after the manner of a
lightning flash, which, on a dark night, reveals things suddenly, and
causes them to be clearly and distinctly seen, and then leaves them in
darkness . . . [John of the Cross AMC, p. 220]

Its fire does not cease to blaze, its lights no longer disappear. With-out
interruption you see lights rising and lights descending. The flames of
the fire are all around you - very pure, very ardent, and very strong.
VS #51 [Najmoddin Kobra p. 76]


In Table 1.1, we list excerpts from the autobiographical writings of three
Hindu mystics: (1) Shyama Charan Lahiri Mahasay (c. 1828 - 1895), a clerk
in the Bengali Military Engineering Service who practiced meditating before
dawn for many years and experienced Self-Realization in 1861 under the
tutelage of a Swami Babaji [Satyeswarananda Giri, 1991]; (2) Gopi Krishna
(1903 - 1984), a Kashmiri clerk working for the Directory of Education who,
like Lahiri Mahasay, also practiced meditating before dawn, and who
experienced a sudden, unexpected 'rising of kundalini' during a meditation
session in 1937, an experience which led him to write extensively on the
subject [Krishna, 1971, 1988]; and (3) Muktananda (1908 - 1982), son of a
wealthy family in Mangalore who began the life of a wandering seeker at age
15, was initiated into the Siddha tradition by a Swami Nityananda at age
39, and who achieved Self-Realization after nine years of rigorous
meditation [Muktananda, 1978].

In Table 1.2, we list excerpts from the autobiographical writings of three
non-Hindu mystics: (1) Ignatius of Loyola (1492 - 1556), a Basque knight
who, after recovering from severe leg wounds, committed himself to a
program of rigorous self-mortification and sustained prayer vigils, thereby
inducing a series of visions that inspired him to begin the work that
eventually led to his founding the Jesuit Order [Tylenda, 1985; Messner,
1992]; (2) John of the Cross (1542 - 1591), a Spanish Carmelite monk who,
while imprisoned in solitary confinement and tortured for six months by
monks in a hostile monastery, experienced the mystical raptures described
in his religious poems and in his commentaries on the poems (written with
great caution to avoid the Inquisition) [Zimmerman, 1973; Kavanaugh, 1987];
and, finally, (3) Najmoddin Kobra (1145 - 1220), a Muslim Sufi mystic from
northern Iran, the first Sufi to describe his experiences of the inner
lights, or "colored photisms," in great detail and to interpret the
significance of these lights as signs of spiritual progress [Corbin, 1971].

Although none of these accounts replicates all of the phosphenes described
by the author, but there are many striking resemblances. Particularly
interesting are the explicit references to a small white glow with a
bulbous shape, the hallmark of newborn Soma as described in the RV and
discussed in the next paper (Part II). There are other sources to which we
might refer to corroborate the author's descriptions of light images -
especially interesting in this regard are the Upanishads and yoga
meditation texts composed long after the RV - but it would be anachronistic
to import material from these sources for the purpose of interpreting
passages from the RV. Therefore, we will postpone presenting this material
until the final paper (Part III) where we will use it to demonstrate the
essential continuity between Vedic and Post-Vedic visionary experiences.


Harbingers of Soma: 'Receding Rings' and the Asvins' Three-Wheeled Chariot

In the meditation-induced sequence of phosphenes, the first image is a
stereotyped progression in which, one after another at 5 second intervals,
yellowish-green rings (annuli) sweep in from the perimeter of the vision
field and shrink steadily in diameter, creating the illusion that the ring
is 'receding' in a 3-D space until it disappears into the centerpoint (See
Figure 1.1). Are there metaphors in the RV that refer to visions of
ring-like light that seems to move away from the viewer? If so, this would
be an important clue that the eulogists of the RV were referring to visions
that were seen by someone during meditation.

The hymns refer to a group of deities called the Rbhus who are described as
using "mental mediation" to build a special chariot for the use of other
deities, the Asvins [Gonda, op. cit., p. 168]. The Asvins' chariot is said
to have three wheels, which signals that this is not a reference to the
two-wheeled war chariots that were used in Vedic times. In these verses,
Gonda interprets the Asvins' chariot as a "bright" vision (dhih) that moves
away from the seer [italics added for emphasis]:
[T]ogether with this eulogy, O Asvins, with the bright dhih, you drive, O
you travellers in a radiant chariot 8.26.19 [GON, p. 168]
[T]he pure or bright [sukra], divine materialized inspiration [manisa]
must depart (appear, start) from me, like a well-fashioned chariot which is
to win vajah. 7.34.1 [GON, p. 165]
Gonda also points out that, in 8.97.12, the wise men are said to use their
minds to "bend" the vision of a "felly," i.e., the rim of a wheel: "[T]he
poets are said to make the god favourably disposed merely by means of their
faculty of sight: the image used is that of the felly which is bent; they
'see' this felly with their inner 'eye' and thereby they bend it, i.e. they
exert their influence upon the god (nemim namanti caksasa) [Gonda, Ibid.,
p. 33]."

Other verses emphasize that the chariot has no horses and no reins, that it
is "radiant with (glowing) wheels," and that it "follows the track of the
[T]hat chariot which is clothed in radiance, and which, when harnessed,
traverses its appointed road. 7.69.5 [WIL]
The glorious three-wheeled car (of the Aswins, made, Rbhus, by you),
traverses the firmament without horses, without reins: . . . We invoke you
respectfully, Vajas and Rbhus . . . for you are the wise sages who, by
mental mediation, made the well-constructed undeviating car (of the
Asvins). 4.36.1-2 [WIL]
May your golden chariot . . . come to us, following the track of the
waters, radiant with (glowing) wheels, . . . 7.69.1 [WIL]
The brilliant chariot, diffusing splendor, rolling lightly on its three
wheels . . . Vala 10.3 [WIL]

Some verses identify the third wheel of the chariot as being the most
efficacious, noting that it is "concealed" to all but the "sages who know
One of your chariot wheels is moving swiftly round, one speeds for you its
onward course . . . . 8.22.4 [GRF]
For wonder you have fixed the (additional) one wheel for the chariot, as it
was moving (with the other wheels) - a miracle! You fly . . . . 5.73.3
[DNG, p. 135]
The single wheel that is concealed, the sages know it also . . . .
10.85.16 [GRF]

The Asvins' radiant chariot is identified as a harbinger of Soma and also
of the dawn that precedes the arrival of Soma:
Come hither, Asvins, on your car of triple form and triple seat, to drink
the savory Soma juice . . . 8.75.8 [GRF]
May this desireable and gratifying Soma expressed by the stones be, Indra,
for thee: ascend the verdant chariot, and with thy tawny (steeds) come to
us; Desiring (the Soma), thou honorest the dawn . . . 3.44.1-2

Another important detail about the vision of the radiant chariot is that
the Asvins are described as hearing a tell-tale buzzing sound - like the
sound of a fly or bee (maksika) - and that this buzzing serves to reassure
them that their chariot is following the path that leads to Soma: "To you,
O Asvins, that maksika betrayed the Soma 1.119.9 [WIL]." This recalls
the author's report of hearing a characteristic sound whenever he begins to
meditate for the purpose of inducing phosphenes.

The Amorphous Phosphene Waves and 'Flame-Arrows' of Agni and Apam Napat

The amorphous expanding phosphene mists described by the author can be
compared to the "flame-arrows" of Agni (dhitayah) which are described in
the RV, based on Gonda's translations, as "many-colored" (10.91.5) and
"smoke-like" (1.27.11; 5.11.3; 7.2.1; 1.3.3), as flowing like a stream or a
fountain (1.67.7; 3.10.5), and as "assembl[ing] like the streams of water
into holes (10.25.4) [Gonda, op.cit., p. 173]." This last metaphor of
water-draining-into-holes is a particularly apt description of the
amorphous phosphene waves with their swirling expansion across the visual
field and then their subsequent contraction into the center (Figure 1.1).
Agni's flame-arrows are described in the hymns as originating in "The
Waters," a metaphor that is usually interpreted as referring to natural
events in which fire is combined with water, as, for example, when
lightning illumines a raincloud, or Agni's flame-arrows that shine forth in
the dark depths of consciousness that wise men enter when they meditate.
In this incarnation as a light shining amid dark waters, Agni is called
"Child of the Waters" (Apam Napat), and the task assigned him while he
plumbs these depths is to animate the streams of cosmic order (rta) so that
they flow more quickly toward the ultimate confluence that will bring into
being the visions of Soma and Indra [Dange, 1992, pp. 43-59]. Pursuing
this task, Agni is not only Apam Napat but also undergoes many
transformations, which accounts for why he is evoked in eulogies dedicated
to other Vedic deities who manifest themselves at later stages in the
evolution of the rta:

Kindled in many a spot, One is Agni; Surya is One, though high o'er all he
shineth. Illumining this All, still One is Ushas. That which is One hath
into All developed Vala 10.2 [GRF]
He is first engendered in the habitations (of the sacrificers); then upon
his station, (the altar), the base of the vast firmament; without feet,
without head, concealing his extremities, combining with smoke in the nest
of the raincloud. / Radiance has first proceeded to thee, (Agni), . . . in
the womb of the water, in the nest of the raincloud . . . .
4.1.11-12 [WIL]
Agni is head and height of heaven . . . he quickeneth the waters seed. /
Upward, O Agni, rise thy flames, pure and resplendent, blazing high, thy
lustres, fair effulgences 8.40.11-12 [GRF]
I have sought the waters today; we have joined with their sap. O Agni full
of moisture, come and flood me with splendor. 10.9.9 [OFL].

This analysis of Agni as the god who helps the wise men see visions of
light that evolve through many stages until they eventually manifest as
Soma and Indra helps clarify the meaning of a verse like the one cited
below. Here Agni is the "cowherd who never tires," the one who disguises
himself in visions of light like the receding rings and the amorphous waves
"that move towards the same center but spread apart," and with Agni's help
the "wise see in their heart . . . the bird annointed with the magic of the
Asura," and the flight of this bird brings with the vision of Indra, "the
revelation that shines like the sun:"

The wise see in their heart, in their spirit, the bird annointed with the
magic of the Asura. The poets see him inside the ocean; the sages seek the
footprints of his rays. / The bird carries in his heart Speech that the
divine youth spoke of inside the womb. The poets guard this revelation
that shines like the sun in the footprint of Order [rta]. / I have seen
the cowherd who never tires, moving to and fro along the paths. Clothing
himself in those that move towards the same center but spread apart, he
rolls on and on inside the worlds. 10.177.1-3 [OFL]

Conclusion, Part I

In this paper we have shown that the visions of a radiant, three-wheeled
chariot and the flame-arrows of Agni closely match the phosphene images
that appear during the early stages of meditation, that is, the threshold
image of a succession of three to five 'receding rings,' followed by the
waves of amorphous, swirling phosphene mist. The eulogists of the RV
describe these visions as propitious signs that one has entered on the path
that leads to Soma and Indra. This is the subject we address in our next
paper (Part II).


The author would like to acknowledge Dr. Michael Witzel's many important
contributions during the research and writing of this article - his
generous commitment of time spent in discussions of background information
about proto-Indo-Iranian migrations and Sanskrit etymologies, his
recommendation of source materials that had been overlooked by the author,
and, finally, his insight that the hypothesis proposed here would be
relevant to the debate about the identity of the original Soma plant.


1. Copies of the author's articles on the neuroscience of
meditation-induced visions can be ordered from the publisher: The
International Society for the Study of Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine,
11005 Ralston Road, Suite 100D, Arvada, CO 80004 USA; telephone
(303-425-4625); email ; website:
Also, the author is preparing an anthology of articles on these topics for
publication in book format, which should be available by October, 2002.
Interested readers can contact (1) the author directly (tele:
617-566-7429; fax: 627-738-7634; email: ); (2)
the publisher (tele: 1-888-795-4274; fax: 215-923-4685; email:
; or via the web at; or, (3) local or
web book retailers, searching under the author's name or under the subject
headings of "kundalini," "visions," "neurophysiology of kundalini," or


BH/W Bhawe, S. S.. 1957, 1960, 1962. The Soma Hymns of the Rig Veda,
Parts I - III, , as quoted in Wasson, R. G., Soma: Divine Mushroom
of Immortality (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: New York, 1971).

DNG Dange, S. A.. 1992. Divine Hymns and Ancient Thought,
Vol. I:
RgVeda Hymns and Ancient Thought (N. Singal, NAVRANG:
New Delhi,.).

GRF Griffith, R. T. H.. 1971 [1889]. The Hymns of the RgVeda,
Vol. I - II
(Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series: Varanasi,).

OFL O'Flaherty, W. D.. 1971. The Rig Veda: An Anthology
Books: London).

WIL Wilson, H. H.. 1888. Rig-Veda Sanhita: A Collection of
Hindu Hymns, Vol. I - VI (Trubner & Company: London,).

GON Gonda, J. 1963. The Vision of the Vedic Poets (Mouton &
Co.: The
Hague, Netherlands).


Bhawe, S. S.. 1957, 1960, 1962. The Soma Hymns of the Rig Veda, Parts I -
III, as quoted in Wasson, R. G.. 1971. Soma: Divine Mushroom of
Immortality (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: New York).
Dange, S. A. Divine Hymns and Ancient Thought, Vol. I: RgVeda Hymns and
Ancient Thought (N. Singal, NAVRANG: New Delhi, 1992.).
Corbin, H. 1971. The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism (Omega Publications:
New Lebanon, NY).
Gonda, J. 1963. The Vision of the Vedic Poets (Mouton & Co.: The Hague,
Gopi Krishna. 1971 [1967]. Kundalini: The Evolutionary Energy in Man,
2nd edition (Shambhala Publications: Boulder, CO).
Griffith, R. T. H.. 1971 [1889]. The Hymns of the RgVeda, Vol. I - II
(Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series: Varanasi).
John of the Cross. 1973 Reprint of 3rd Edition (1903). The Dark Night of
the Soul (Attic Press: Greenwood, SC)
John of the Cross. 1958 Edition. Ascent of Mount Carmel (Doubleday Image
Books, NY)
Kavanaugh, K., Ed.. 1987. John of the Cross: Selected Writings (Paulist
Press, NY)
Kieffer, G.. 1988. Kundalini for the New Age: Selected Writings by Gopi
Krishna (Bantam Books: NY).
Meissner, W.W.. 1992. Ignatius of Loyola: The Psychology of a Saint
(Yale University Press, New Haven).
Muktananda. 1988 [1978]. Play of Consciousness, 4th edition (SYDA
Foundation: South Fallsburg, NY).
Nicholson, P. T. 1996a. Phosphene images of thalamic sleep rhythms
induced by self-hypnosis, Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine 7(2): 111 -
Nicholson, P. T. 1996b. Dialogue: Phosphene images of thalamic sleep
rhythms induced by self-hypnosis, Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine
7(3): 273 - 283.
Nicholson, P. T. 1999. "Phosphene Epiphenomena of Hypersynchronous
Activity Emerging in Thalamocortical Circuits and Triggering a Hippocampal
Seizure," Epilepsia 40 [Supplement 2]: 27, 203
Nicholson, P. T. 2002a (In press) "Meditation, Slow Wave Sleep, and
Ecstatic Seizures: The Etiology of Kundalini Visions," Journal of Subtle
Energies and Energy Medicine, Vol. 12, No. 3.
Nicholson, P. T. 2002b (In press) "Empirical Studies of Meditation: Does
a Sleep Rhythm Hypothesis Explain the Data?" Journal of Subtle Energies and
Energy Medicine, Vol. 12, No.3.
O'Flaherty, W. D. 1971. The Rig Veda: An Anthology (Penguin Books: London).
Satyewarananda Giri. 1991 [1983] Babaji, Vol. 2: Lahiri Mahasay, 3rd
edition (The Sanskrit Classics: P.O. Box 5368, San Diego, California).
Tylenda, J. N., Ed.. 1985. A Pilgrim's Journey: The Autobiography of
Ignatius of Loyola (Michael Glazer: Wilmington, DL).
Wasson, R. G. 1971 Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality (Harcourt Brace
Jovanovich: New York).
Wilson, H. H.. 1888. Rig-Veda Sanhita: A Collection of Ancient Hindu
Hymns, Vol. I - VI (Trubner & Company: London).
Witzel, M. 1996. "How to Enter the Vedic Mind? Strategies in Translating
a Brahmana Text," Translating, Translations, and Translators: From India
to the West ed. by E. Garzilli. Harvard Oriental Series, Opera Minora I.
Cambridge: Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies, Harvard University.
Philip T. Nicholson

The Soma Code, Part II:
Soma's Birth, Purification, and Transmutation into Indra


In this paper, the second in a three-part series on interpretation of
metaphors for luminous visions in the Rig Veda (RV), we sort the metaphors
used to describe the visions of Soma and Indra into sets based on certain
abstract features (shape, movement, color, and temporal order), then show
that these metaphor-sets closely match the characteristics of the
meditation-induced phosphenes described in Part I. Our analysis of
suggests (1) that a vision which looks like a terrestial dawn appears
before the vision of Soma, analogous to the gradual brightening and bluing
of the visual field that occurs in the paroxysmal phosphene sequence; (2)
that the vision of newborn Soma - the 'woolen filter' in which the Soma
juice is purified - has a distinctive bulbous shape and moves by itself,
characteristics analogous to those of the translucent white bulbous image
in the paroxysmal phosphene sequence; (3) that the vision of three
'purified' Soma streams rising and spreading is analogous to the phosphene
rays which evolve in three discrete stages; and, finally, (4) that the
visions of Indra, which are variously described in the RV as lightning-like
flashes, as a continous flood of light waves, as 'milk with curds' or as
'light with a thousand studs,' can all be matched with the phosphene
effects that appear when paroxysmal activity reaches its maximal stages or
with residual sequelae that appear after the paroxysm. In this analysis,
the precision of the match between the transformations of Soma and the
analogous phosphenes is particularly noteworthy. A table at the end of
this paper summarizes the full extent of the parallels linking metaphors
for luminous visions in the RV and paroxysmal, meditation-induced

The Birth of Soma

The metaphors used to describe the initial vision of Soma all refer to a
bulbous shape, for example, to an "udder," "stalk (amsu)," "navel," "bull's
horn," "phallus," "pot," "stormcloud," "waterskin," "heaven's head," or
"woolen filter." More than one of these bulbous metaphors may appear in
the same verse [italics added for emphasis]:

[F]ill the dhih up, make it swollen like an udder filled with milk . . .
10.64.12 [GON, 1963, p. 124]
When the swollen amsu ['stalks'] were milked like cows with udders . . .
8.9.19 [BH/W, pp. 43-44]
The Soma amsu, filled full, moves itself everyway . . . 9.74.1-2
The udder of the cow is swollen; the wise juice is imbued with its streams
. . . the cows milk their milk with Soma, heaven's head. 9.93.3 [BH/W,
p. 46]


[T]he navel of the earth, which is also the mainstay of the sky 9.72.7
[BH/W, p. 47]
Your highest navel is attached in heaven . . . 9.79.4 [BH/W, p. 50]
Thy descendants, O Immortal One . . . receive them on thy navel, O Soma,
thou who are the head [of heaven]. 1.43.9 [BH/W, p. 51]
Soma, Navel of the Way (Rta) 9.74.4 [BH/W, pp. 29-30, 50]

Bull's Horn:

He bellows, terrifying bull, with might, sharpening his shining horns,
gazing afar. The Soma rests in his well-appointed birthplace. The hide is
of bull, the dress of sheep. 9.70.7 [BH/W, pp. 41-42]
Whilst alighting, this quick-flowing Soma hastens to the filter . . . (he
moves) like a buffalo sharpening his pointed horns, like a warrior on a
foray for cattle. 9.87.7 WIL
Soma with sharpened horns attains his [full] reach. 9.97.9 [BH/W, pp. 41-42]

Penis (of a Bull, a Stallion, or a Man):

O Soma . . . thou, Bull, seated in the filter above the calf's wool,
clarifying thyself, thou Soma, that Indra may have his pleasure! 9.86.3
The penis, men, take the penis and move it and stick it in to win the
prize. Inspire Indra . . . 10.101.12 [OFL]
They milk the amsu ['stalk''], this bull at home on the mountain. 9.95.4
[BH/W, pp. 23, 45]
Clarify thyself, O Soma . . . . Thou who art a bull . . . 9.70.9 [BH/W,
p. 55]
Soma, stormcloud imbued with life, is milked of ghee, milk. . . The swollen
men piss the flowing [Soma]. 9.74.4 [BH/W, pp. 29-30, 50]

Heaven's Head:

On Soma's head the cows with a full udder mix their best milk in streams.
9.71.4 [BH/W, pp. 22, 46]
This bull, heaven's head, Soma, . . . 9.27.3 [BH/W, p. 45]

Pot, Waterskin, Stormcloud:

(Soma), send (us) him who is like a pot; . . . 9.52.3 [WIL]
The fingers press the Soma, they squeeze it glittering like a water-skin;
its juice becomes three-fold, enemy-averting. 9.1.8 [WIL]
Soma, stormcloud [atmanvan nabho] imbued with life, is milked of ghee,
milk. Navel of the Way, Immortal Principle, he sprang into life in the far
distance. 9.74.4 [BH/W, pp. 29-30, 50]

Woolen Filter:

The sharp seer, in heaven's navel, is magnified in the woolen filtre, Soma
the wise, possessed of good intelligence. 9.12.4 [BH/W, p. 51]
O Soma, . . . thou, Bull, seated in the filter above the calf's wool,
clarifying thyself, thou Soma, that Indra may have his pleasure! 9.86.3
[BH/W, p. 57]

The vision of newborn Soma is described as a "celestial structure" located
"in the far distance," as if "seated on the mountain top," and it is clear
from the context that, unlike those verses that describe Soma as a plant
that priests gather from the mountains, these specific references to
'mountains' are metaphorical and designed to put Soma in his "accustomed
place," which is "in the firmament of heaven:"

In the firmament of heaven the Seers milk . . . the bull-Soma seated on the
mountain top. 9.85.10 [BH/W, p. 22]
Clarify thyself, O Soma, in the celestial structures of thine essence . . .
" 9.86.22 [BH/W, p. 39, 57]
[N]avel of the Earth, which is also the mainstay of the sky 9.72.7
[BH/W, p. 47]
Your highest navel is attached in heaven . . . 9.79.4 [BH/W, p. 50]
This Soma, which today circulates in the distance, which is a cleanser, may
it cleanse us in the filtre! 9.67.22-24 [BH/W, p. 34]
Soma, stormcloud . . . Navel of the Way . . . he sprang into life in the
far distance. 9.74.4 [BH/W, pp. 29-30, 50]
Milking the dear sweetness from the divine udder, he has sat in his
accustomed place. 9.107.5 [BH/W, p. 43]

This is consistent with Gonda's explanation that the Vedic deity,
Vivasvant, who was first to celebrate a Soma ritual, performed a ritual
milking in his heavenly "seat" (1.53.1) at the "navel of the world"
(1.164.35; 2.3.7) (nabha yajñasya) [Gonda, 1963, pp. 187].
We can also infer from the many references to a filter of sheep's wool that
the surface of the Soma bulb is a dull white color. Alternatively, one
might conclude that the Soma "envelop" is simply some kind of brightness -
"a radiance associated with Asuras (9.71.2)," rather than white or any
other color [Wasson, 1971, p. 40].

Besides giving information about the location and color of the newborn
Soma, the hymns often refer to the distinctive movements of the Soma-bulb:
for example, 9.74.1 describes the Soma as moving on its own - "The soma
stalk [amsu], filled full, moves itself everyway [GRF]" - and 9.68.4
describes Soma as "protecting his head" from the priests' fingers,
suggesting a pulling-back movement. When a bull is "sharpening his horns
(9.70.7; 9.87.7)," the animal moves its head back and forth, rubbing one
horn against a hard surface; this is a metaphor that succinctly describes
the kind of back-and-forth movement of the bulbous phosphene image in
response to different intensities of attention (Part I, Figure 3). Another
metaphor used in the same verse as the horn-sharpening metaphor is that the
movement is "like a warrior on a foray for cattle (9.97.9)," suggesting
that the moves are furtive, tenative, exploratory - and, again, this would
also be an apt metaphor for describing the attention-driven movements of
the bulb in the phosphene sequence. There are also allusions that suggest
these movements resemble those that occur during sexual congress, an
important subject that we address below in a separate section.

The Purification of Soma

When Soma emerges from the 'filter' as purified juice, it suddenly presents
a very different image:
Aggressive as a killer of peoples he advances, billowing with power. He
sloughs off the Asurian color that is his. He abandons his envelop, goes
to rendevous with the Father [Sky]. 9.71.2 [BH/W, pp. 40-41]
Like a serpent he creeps out of his old skin . . . 9.86.44 [BH/W, p. 41]

The first vision of purified Soma displays three thin white "streams" (or
"jets" or "rays") of light spreading apart from a common base in a
trident-like image. The white color is translucent like fresh milk
squirted out of a cow's udder. The three Soma jets move "as rapid as
thought," rising up like birds flying and at the same time "spreading" at
"oblique angles," so that the "rays spread a filter on the back of heaven,"
creating a "dazzling mesh . . . spread afar." The speed of the jets makes
it seem that the Soma had been "pressed" through a sieve by application of
some invisible force:
The filtre of the burning [Soma] has been spread in heaven's home. Its
dazzling mesh was spread afar . . . They climb the back of the heaven in
thought. 9.83.2 [BH/W, p. 54]
Thy shining rays spread a filtre on the back of heaven, O Soma, with Forms.
9.66.5 [BH/W, p. 26, 52]
The heavenly Somas spread the strainer of the sun's rays. 9.10.5
[BH/W, p. 52]
Thy clear rays spread over the back of heaven, the filtre, O Soma 9.66.5
[BH/W, p. 26, 52]
Thy filtre has been spread, O Brahmanaspati [Soma]. . . 9.83.1 [BH/W,
p. 53]
Thou runnest through the three filters stretched out; thou flowest the
length, clarified. 9.97.55 [WIL]
[I]n jets, the pressed Soma is clarified according to its nature, suitable
for thee, O Indra! 9.72.5 [BH/W, p. 56]
Passing obliquely through the sheep's hairs . . . 9.42.8 [WIL]
Thy inebriating drinks, swift, are released ahead, like teams running in
divers directions, like the milch cow with her milk towards her calf, so
the Soma juices, waves rich in honey, go to Indra . . . 9.86.2
[BH/W, p. 57]
High in the seat of heaven is spread the Scorcher's sieve: its threads are
standing separate, glittering with light. . . . with consciousness they
stand upon the height of heaven. 9.83.2 [GRF]
>From tawny Pavamana, the Destroyer, radiant streams have sprung, quick
streams from him whose gleams are swift . . . 9.66.25 [GRF]
The royal (Soma) plunges into the firmament, . . . the streams, he
associates with the wave of the waters; being filtered, he stands upon the
uplifted woolen filter on the navel of the earth, the upholder of the vast
heaven. 9.86.8 [WIL]
This (Soma) . . . filtered, and sent forth, . . . as a bird goes with a
stream (of juice) through the fleece; . . . . / Wearing a coat of mail
(i.e. clothed in light) reaching to heaven, the adorable Soma, who fills
the firmament . . . 9.86.13-14 [WIL]
Soma . . . widely spreading . . . / . . . When Soma seeks to gain (heaven)
he assumes a white color; . . . he bursts asunder the raincloud from
heaven. 9.74.7-9 [WIL]
Let loose thy stream which is as rapid as thought. . . 9.100.3 [WIL]

These descriptions of rays rising from the same place where the filter had
just disappeared and spreading apart at oblique angles match the author's
report of seeing the bulbous phosphene replaced by a cluster of three thin
white filaments stretched halfway to the perimeter of vision and spreading
apart from a common base to form a trident-like image (Part I, Figure 3).

The Number 'Three'

Many verses specify that the purified Soma is pressed out in three streams:
The fingers press the Soma, they squeeze it glittering like a water-skin;
its juice becomes three-fold . . . 9.1.8 [WIL]
The ancient sage (Soma) is purified by the wise . . . he roars into the
receptacles; generating the water of the three-fold (Indra), . . .
9.86.20-21 [WIL]
He invests himself with the rays of the sun stretching out the triple
thread in the way he knows. . . . 9.86.32 [WIL]
The supporter of heaven the prepared exhilarating (Soma) is let loose, the
triple (liquor) rushes to the waters; . . . 9.86.46 [WIL]
Raise the three voices that are preceded by light and that milk the udder,
which is milked of sweetness . . . 7.101.1 [BH/W, p. 15]
The Guardian of the Rta [Soma] cannot be deceived, he of the good inspiring
force; he carries three filters inside his heart. 9.73.8 [BH/W, p. 54]
Thou comest unto three extended filters, and hastenest through each one as
they cleanse thee. 9.97.55 [GRF]
He took the Soma for himself and drank the extract from the three bowls . .
. 1.32.2 [OFL]
The ancient sage (Soma) is purified by the wise . . . he roars into the
receptacles; generating the water of the three-fold (Indra) . . .
9.86.20 [WIL]
At the Trikadrukas the Gods span sacrifice that stirred the mind . . .
8.13.18 [WIL]

The meanings of these references to the number, 'three,' which have
hitherto been considered obscure [Dange, 1992, p. 229], would be clarified,
if, as we propose, the reference to 'three' represents an
empirically-oriented description of an image in the visual field, i.e., the
phosphene image of three rising rays. Since this trident-like vision of
Soma being pressed through the filter appears shortly before the advent of
the Indra vision, seeing these three rays would likely be considered as a
propitious omen by someone who fervently hoped to see Indra. This suggests
the possibility that the vision of three phosphene jets arrayed in a
trident-like pattern might be the original source of the Trident symbol so
important in modern Hinduism.

Another interesting aspect of the number, 'three,' as it appears in the RV
is that the descriptions of the purified Soma streams of refer to 'three'
in conjunction with the number, 'seven,' a conjunction which is usually
translated into English by phrases like "thrice seven," "three times
seven," or "seven . . . three-parted:"
He unto whom they sang the seven-headed hymn, three-parted, in the loftiest
place, he sent his thunder down . . . 8.22.4 [GRF]
He to whom they sang the seven-headed hymn with its three parts in the
highest region - he has made all these worlds tremble . . . Vala 3.4
O Lords of splendor, aid us through the Three-Times-Seven. . . Vala 11. 5
(Soma) is purified by the wise . . . he roars into the receptacles;
generating the water of the three-fold . . . /. . . this Soma, having
milked the thrice seven (cows) of their curds and milk, exhilarating, flows
pleasantly . . . 9.86.20-21 [WIL]

The linking together of 'three' and 'seven' suggests an interesting
parallel with the meditation-induced phosphenes described by the author
(Part I, Figure 3). The phosphene image of the rising rays evolves in
three stages: at first there are only three rays rising halfway to the
perimeter of vision, but one second later the three rays are replaced by
six, all of which extend to the perimeter of vision. In the third and
final stage of this evolution, the six rays fan farther apart, a movement
that looks like the petals of a flower opening (or wilting) in the heat of
the sun. While 'three-to-six' is not identical to the three-seven
conjunction used in the RV, it seems reasonable to infer that witnesses
might differ slightly in their recollections of the number of rays,
especially since this would be a strange and fleeting event that only
occurred once in a lifetime. It is also possible that, if the number
'seven' were considered auspicious by the Indo-Aryan religious tradition,
this might influence reports about the number of rays observed. But,
whatever the source of the disparity, our analysis suggests that the usual
English translations of the conjoined use of the numbers three and seven as
"thrice-seven" or "three-times-seven" are incorrect, and that it would be
more accurate to translate the conjunction as "three-then-seven," i.e., as
a reference to the evolution of the rising rays of Soma.

The Final 'Nesting' of the Soma-Rays

Several verses in the RV describe the final stage in the unfolding of the
Soma rays using bird metaphors, i.e., the rays rise like a bird flying up
to the rim of its nest and then "alighting" as it comes to rest:
[F]alling like a bird alighting on the trees the Soma when purified alights
upon the pitchers 9.96.23 [WIL]
[I]n the (Vasativari) waters: he alights like a falcon on his own place
9.42.4 [WIL]
The shining (Soma) approaches the golden seat . . . as a falcon
(approaches) his nest 9.71.6 [WIL]
The Soma . . . purified, he pases through the sheep's fleece, to alight on
the water-moistened seat like a hawk (on its nest)." 9.82.1 [WIL]

This 'alighting' motion recalls the distinctive "drooping" or "wilting"
movement that occurred in the third and final stage of the evolution of the
meditation-induced phosphene rays. The metaphor of a bird alighting
recalls other verses that refer to the purified Soma as a "sun-bird," e.g.
10.177.1-3 (discussed in Part I) in which the wise men are described as
having seen in their hearts "the bird annointed with the magic of the Asura
[sky gods]" or "the footprints of his rays" as a "revelation that shines
like the sun in the footprint of Order [OFL]."

The Vision of Soma Penetrating Indra

The streams of purified Soma are described as "penetrating" into Indra's
belly but also as Indra "drinking up" the Soma streams like a calf drinking
milk from an udder, with both metaphors sometimes present in the same
Soma, being purified, alights on the vessels; putting his seed (in the
vessels) as in a heifer . . . 9.99.6 [WIL]
[G]oing to his station like a bridegroom to his bride, he combines in the
pitcher with the curds and milk 9.93.3 [WIL]
[T]he omniscient (Soma) hastens invoking (the gods) towards (the cups) like
(a libertine) to the wife of a friend. / O Pavamana . . . thou goest like
a gallant to his mistress 9.96.23 [WIL]
Clarify thyself, O Soma, for the invitation to the gods. Thou who art a
bull enter into the heart of Indra, receptacle for Soma! . . . 9.70.9
[BH/W, p. 50]
Enter into the heart of Intra, Soma's receptacle, like the rivers into the
ocean, thou [O Soma] . . . . supreme mainstay of the sky! 9.108.15
[BH/W, p. 58]
Pressed by the pressing stones, thou clarifiest thyself in the filter, O
Soma-juice, when penetrating into the entrails of Indra! 9.86.23
[BH/W, p. 58]
Cleansed like a winning race horse, thou hast spilled thyself in the belly
of Indra, O Soma! 9.85.5 [BH/W, p. 57]
Cleanse the Soma . . . put the Soma juice into Indra. 9.11.5-6 [BH/W, p. 28]
[I]n jets, the pressed Soma is clarified according to its nature, suitable
for thee, O Indra! 9.72.5 [BH/W, p. 56]
Like a race horse launched in movement for the victory prize, flow, O Soma,
. . . thou, Bull, seated in the filter above the calf's wool, clarifying
thyself, thou Soma, that Indra may have his pleasure! 9.86.3 [BH/W,
p. 18]
Clarify thyself, O Soma, in the celestial structures of thine essence, thou
who hast been released roaring into the vessel, in the filter. / Lodged in
the belly of Indra, roaring with vigour, held in hand by the Officiants,
thou hast made the sun to mount the sky. 9.86.22 [BH/W, p. 57]
The penis, men, take the penis and move it and stick it in . . . Inspire
Indra 10.101.12 [OFL]

While both Soma and Indra participate in this single vision, they are
described as still retaining their separate existences since each continues
to inhabit his own celestial 'seat': "Indra is farther than this seat
[i.e. Soma's seat] when the milked amsu, the Soma, fills him . . . 3.36.6
[BH/W, p. 44]."

Describing the purified Soma as streams that "penetrate" into Indra's belly
implies sexual congress, an implication made explicit in the verses listed
below that refer to Soma as going to Indra like a bull "putting his seed .
. . in a heifer," "like a gallant to a mistress," "like a bridegroom to his
bride," or like "a libertine to the wife of his friend." Alternatively,
verses may use the metaphor of a bull or stallion being milked. Gonda, in
a critique of translations of verse 10.31.2, suggests that the sexual
metaphors in the RV may express the thought that the poet-seers 'conceive'
their visions and inspired hymns in the same way a baby is conceived:
Geldner's translation of adhayi dhitih "die Erkenntnis is erfolgt" is
perhaps not completely incorrect; it is however a tempting surmise to
connect this phrase with the combinations of dha- and retah, garbham and to
compare the double sense of the English conceive. Cf. also 8.12.11 where
the dhitih is called garbho yajnasya. [Gonda, 1963, p. 184]

Before leaving this subject, we also point out that the penis metaphor is
used in a different way in a verse that describes the jets of purified Soma
using a 'pissing' metaphor:
Soma, stormcloud imbued with life, is milked of ghee, milk. . . Acting in
concert, those charged with the Office, richly gifted, do full honor to
Soma. The swollen men piss the flowing [Soma]. 9.74.4 [BH/W, pp.
29-30, 50]

Most translators interpret the pissing metaphor as an embellishment of the
image of a stormcloud spitting rain with which the verse begins, but, in
view of the fact that many other verses incorporate allusions to the
ejaculation of male semen, we suggest that the more literal interpretation
is the most accurate, that is, that the eulogists meant to say that jets of
Soma shoot out like urine from men who are finally able to release their
swollen bladders.

What Force Expels the Soma Jets from the Soma Bulb?

Many verses describe the Soma juice as having been forced out of the woolen
filter by "priests" ("officiants," "masterly men," "wise men," "preparers
of the Soma") who use their "fingers" to wield "pressing stones" to
accomplish this task:
The ten fingers, the two arms, harness the pressing stone; they are the
preparers of the Soma, with active hands. The one with good hands has
milked the mountain-grown sap . . . the amsu has yielded the dazzling.
5.43.4 [BH/W, pp. 22, 44]
The priests, the ten fingers, milk thee forth for the gods . . . ten
fingers of the skillful (ones) milk thee forth with the stones . . .
9.80.4-5 [WIL]
This bull, heaven's head, Soma, when pressed, is escorted by masterly men
[nrbhir] into the vessels, he the all-knowing. 9.27.3 (BH/W, p. 45)
Many wise men utter praise together, when they have milked the Soma into
Indra's belly, when fair-armed men cleanse the delightful exhilarating
juice with their ten united fingers [lit., "ten having one nest"]
9.72.2 [WIL]
The best juice (dwells) in the navel of heaven, . . . the stones devour
thee upon the cowhide; the wise (priests) milk thee into the water with
their hands 9.79.4 [WIL]

There are many reasons why the metaphor of priests wielding stones should
not be interpreted literally. One objection is that a literal
interpretation would reverse the timing of events: in these verses, the
vision of Soma is already present in the visual field, so it cannot be the
case that the priests are still engaged in crushing the stalks to prepare
the Soma drink to be used in the ritual. A second objection is that the
pressing of Soma is described here as a "celestial" event and thus one that
takes place at "heaven's seat" or at the "seat" of a god. For example,
9.102.2 describes Soma as appearing "at a place near the two pressing
stones of Trita [WIL]." This reference to Trita, a sky god, is
particularly interesting since the name, Trita, which connotes the number
'three,' anticipates the number of Soma streams that will later shoot out
of the filter. Also, 8.12.32 describes the first Soma sacrifice by the
god, Vivasvant, as a "navel-milking" (nabha yajnasya) performed in the
god's celestial seat [Gonda, 1963, p. 187]. Hints of divine agency in the
pressing of Soma are also apparent in 9.47.1, which states that "The
shining soma [is] being purified by the golden hand that urges it forth . .
. [WIL]."

Consistent with the interpretation that divine hands wield the pressing
stones are the verses that describe Soma as moving itself, as, for example,
in 9.74.1, which reads, "The soma stalk [amsu], filled full, moves itself
everyway [GRF]," or 9.68.4, which describes Soma as "protecting his head"
from the priests' fingers, perhaps a reference to a pulling-back movement.
The description of Soma moving itself is consistent with a mythological
explanation that the golden hands of the gods are applying pressure on the
Soma bulb from a celestial region invisible to humans.
These metaphors suggesting that the fingers that press the Soma bulb are
divine, not human, can be reconciled with an alternative interpretation in
which the priests' 'fingers' do play an important role - but these are not
the 'fingers' one might suppose. A number of verses suggest that the
references to "priests' fingers" are actually euphemisms for the priests'
singing hymns. Their chants attract the attention of the gods and motivate
the gods to act on behalf of humans; therefore, it might be said that the
priests' hymn-fingers play an important causal role since they recruit the
gods and get them to apply the pressure that 'massages' the celestial
Soma-bulb. Thus it is a divine-human partnership that produces the
perturbations wise men see when the Soma-bulb appears to "move itself."
Consistent with this interpretation are the following verses:
[T]he worshippers send forth praises; the filtered (juices) hasten to the
fair praise, the exhilarating Soma juices enter Indra 9.85.7 [WIL]
They send forth with their fingers [alt. translation, 'with their praises']
the powerful Soma . . . passing through the fleece 9.106.11 [WIL]
[O]ur holy hymns are pressing nigh to Soma. To him they come . . . and,
longing, enter him who longs to meet them. / They drain the stalk [amsu],
the Steer who dwells on mountains . . . 9.95.3-4 [GRF]
(The priests) milk forth the Soma cleansed (dwelling) on a high place like
a buffalo, the sprinkler, placed between the grinding-stones; praises
attend upon the longing Soma . . . 9.95.4 [WIL]

Having enumerated the reasons why references to priests wielding
pressing-stones should not be taken literally in those passages that refer
to visionary experiences, we acknowledge that there might also be a sense
in which it would be reasonable to say that priests actually do grab
stones, crush stalks, and prepare a drink that produces visions. If the
original Soma plant were some kind of Ephedra, as many scholars suggest
(see our discussion in Part III), then we might envision the following
scenario: the priests gather Ephedra plants and crush the stalks to
prepare a drink containing ephedrine, a stimulant. They use this ephedrine
drink to keep awake throughout the night as part of a Soma ritual. As a
result, they would lose enough sleep to predispose them to an outbreak of
paroxysmal brain discharges when they tried to meditate - and the
photoparoxysmal phosphene images that were generated by the seizure would
bestow the visions of Soma and Indra. In this were the actual scenario of
events, it is easy to imagine that the preparation of the Soma drink and
the visions of Soma would be associated in the minds of the observers as a
causal link, even if the link were indirect or perhaps non-existent. In
this view, references to the priests' fingers may celebrate two different
acts - the physical preparation of the Soma drink, but also the singing of
hymns that recruit divine help to press the purified Soma jets out of the
celestial vision of the Soma filter.

The Vision of Indra

Indra appears in an overwhelming blast of brilliant white light described
as "lightning," as "an ocean" of "dazzling" white that flows
"continuously," as "a vesture of grand occasion," as "a spread-cloth like
to a cloud," as the "dappled one, enveloped in a membrane of light," or as
an opening of the divine "eye (caksus)," which leaves the seer "sun-eyed
(svarcaksa)." Indra's brilliance is blissful and god-like but also like a
Soma, exhilarating Indra (and) the celestial people, thou rushest forth,
when filtered, like the wave of a river 9.80.5 [WIL]
[T]he lucid water-shedding rivers do not fill the ocean with water
5.85.6 [WIL]
The inspired seers guard this inspired thought which is
bright-like-lightning, a dhih of the nature of the light of heaven at the
abode or seat of rta. 10.177.2 [GON, 1963, pp. 178-9]
Soma, who art purified, . . . enter Indra's belly in a mighty stream; milk
heaven and earth for us as lightning (milks) the clouds; . . . 9.76.3
With unfading vesture, brilliant, newly clothed, the immortal hari wraps
himself all around. By authority he has taken the back of heaven to cloth
himself in a spread-cloth like to a cloud. 9.69.5 [BH/W, p. 40]
He sloughs off the Asurian color that is his. He abandons his envelop . .
. With what floats he makes continually his vesture-of-grand-occasion
9.71.2 [BH/W, p. 40]
We have drunk the Soma; we have become immortal; we have gone to the light;
we have found the gods. 8.48.3 [OFL]
Inflame me like fire started by friction. 8.48.6 [WIL]
The filtre of the burning [Soma] has been spread in heaven's home. 9.83.2
[BH/W, p. 54]
[Soma] who has for eye the sun [svarcaksa] 9.97.46 [BH/W, p. 47]
[H]e has clothed himself with the fire-bursts of the sun 9.71.9b
I have drunk the navel into the navel for our sake. Indeed, the eye is
altogether with the sun [caksus cit surye]. 9.10.8ab [BH/W, p. 46,
Quickened by the seven minds, he [Soma] has encouraged the rivers free of
grief, which have strengthened his single eye 9.9.4 [WIL]
The wise behold with their mind (seated) in their heart the Sun made
manifest by the illusion of the Asura; the sages look into the solar orb .
. . sages cherish it in the place of sacrifice, brilliant, heavenly, ruling
the mind. / I beheld the protector (the Sun), never descending, going by
his paths to the east and to the west; clothing (with light) the (four)
quarters of heaven . . . 10.177.1-3 [WIL]
The sovereign (Soma) has put on the vestment of the waters 9.84.2 [WIL]
[T]he asura-colored showerer (of benefits) illumines as soon as born, the
whole luminous region . . . /. . . Indra has uncovered the desirable
white-colored, fast-flowing Soma, effused by the expressing stones, and
overlaid with the shining (milk and other liquids), in like manner as when,
borne by his tawny steeds, he rescued the cattle. 3.44-45 [WIL]

The colors and textures of the Indra vision are described by three
different but related metaphors: as an opaque whiteness like milk in a
bucket, a mottled whiteness like milk "mixed with curds," or an even more
variegated surface faceted by "a thousand studs [bhrstir]:"
Now he has gone to the white pot coated by cows; the racehorse has reached
the winning line . . . 9.74.8 [OFL]
Pressed for Indra . . . the Soma plants requiring a mixture of curds.
5.51.4-7 [BH/W, p. 27]
[M]ix the libation with curds, offer the Soma to Indra. 9.11.5-6 [WIL]
King [Soma], having the filtre for chariot, he has attained the victory
prize; a thousand studs, he conquers puissant renown. 9.86.40 [BH/W,
pp. 52, 59]

If we refer to the paroxysmal phosphene sequence described by the author,
we can identify counterparts for each of these descriptions at different
stages in the evolution of the Indra vision. In the paroxysmal phosphene
sequence, the rising rays are followed by a continuing series of dull white
flashes that look exactly like sheet lightning illuminating dark
stormclouds from within (see Figure 3, Part I). This is probably the
empirical referent of the lightning metaphor. These lightning-like flashes
were replaced by a different kind of phosphene vision once the author
stopped the initial flashing by diverting attention to other things and
then getting up and walking around the house. Then, when he returned to
bed, he saw a faint glow hovering in the same place where the bulb and the
rays had once been, and, when he looked at this glow, it suddenly began to
expand very rapidly, as if it were radiating out in all directions toward
the viewer (see Figure 4, Part I). The surface of this expanding white
phosphene cloud had a distinctive, variegated, cauliflower-like appearance:
in effect, it looked very much like a foam of soap bubbles surging upward
in response to a downward jet of water or like the surface of a cumulus
cloud billowing outward in response to explosive pressures contained
within. This variegated whiteness is aptly described as "milk mixed with
curds" or as white light with "a thousand studs." A few nights after the
initial photoparoxysm, the glow still remained but, when it expanded, the
surface had lost its former variegation and presented an undifferentiated,
fog-like cloud of white mist.

While we are addressing the subject of Indra, it is important to make a
brief excursion to examine one particular verse that assumes a critical
role in the current debate about the identity of the original Soma plant
that we will review in Part III. In an influential article arguing that
Ephedra is the most likely candidate for the original Soma, Falk [1989]
claims that it is a mistake to interpret the hymns of the RV as referring
to visual "hallucinations." While it is true that Falk has in mind the
kind of dream-like figurative hallucinations induced by harmaline alkaloids
(the competing candidate for the original Soma), he states his case in such
a way as to exclude all kinds of luminous visions, including those we have
documented in this series of papers. The most recent review of the debate
about the Soma plant concurs with Falk's position [Nyberg, 1995]. Since
our analysis of the evidence supports a conclusion diametrically opposed to
Falk, it is worthwhile to spend a moment studying the verse that Falk cites
as an example of misinterpretation:

The only half-serious reason to expect hallucination as an effect of
Soma-drinking in an Indian context is the well-known Labasukta, RV 10.119.
There it is said that some winged creature, after consumption of Soma,
touches sky and earth with its wings and extends bodily even beyond these
borders . . . . Usually it is Indra who grows until he extends beyond
heaven and earth (e.g. RV 1.81.5; 8.88.5). . . . But Indra has no wings!
And nowhere is it said that human Soma-drinkers feel that they are growing.
. . . The act of growing in the Labasukta simply classifies the bird
amongst the gods and gives no indication that it was due to the effects of
any drug. . . . Because all the proponents of Soma as a hallucinogenic drug
make their claim on the basis of a wrong interpretation of the Labasukta,
their candidates must be regarded as unsuitable [Falk, Ibid., p. 78].

We believe Falk's reading of this verse is seriously mistaken - that,
contrary to his claim, this verse is a perfect example of the celebration
of luminous visions in the RV, particularly the culminating visions of Soma
and Indra. We have already noted the many times that metaphors of birds
flying are used to describe the rising streams of purified Soma, and, in
addition, that the streams penetrate as far as the seat of Indra, so that,
at the moment when Soma is rising and Indra is drinking, it might well be
said that Indra is lifted on wings. Moreover, bird metaphors are also used
to describe the sun-like flood of bright light that appears when Indra
explodes into view, as, for example, in 10.177.1-3, discussed in the first
paper (Part I), where wise men are described as having seen in their hearts
"the bird annointed with the magic of the Asura [sky gods]" or "the
footprints of his rays" as a "revelation that shines like the sun in the
footprint of Order [OFL]." Based on these considerations, we conclude that
Falk and Nyberg cannot possibly be right in their conclusion that the RV
does not refer to luminous visions, even though we concur in many other
aspects of their argument in favor of Ephedra as the original Soma plant
(see Part III).

Indra and the Vision of Dawn

So far we have examined the birth of Soma and its transmutation into Indra
and have identified images with similar characteristics in the paroxysmal
phosphene sequence described by the author. We know, based on the
meditation-induced phosphene sequence, that a gradual brightening and
bluing of the visual field occurred soon after the onset of paroxysmal
brain discharges, that this took place before the bulbous image appeared,
and that this uniform brightening and bluing disappeared abruptly at the
same instant that the Soma-like bulbous image disappeared. Therefore, it
is reasonable to expect that some hymns in the RV have metaphors that
describe a similar phenomenon occurring at a similar place in the
progression of luminous visions. Is there any evidence to support this
Several verses in the RV mention that Indra's lightning bolt kills Usas,
the goddess of dawn, but, paradoxically, Usas is said to be "enriched" by
Indra's triumph:
Indra . . . thou hast slain the woman, the daughter of the sky [i.e. the
dawn], when meditating mischief. / Thou, Indra, who art mighty, has
enriched the glorious dawn, the daughter of heaven. 4.30.7-11 [WIL]
If Indra's brilliance, which is a vision, kills Usas and thereby
"extinguishes the dawn (9.82.3)[WIL]," this suggests that, in this context,
Usas also refers to a vision, one that was present in the visual field at
the time Indra appeared. Usas is enriched, even though she dies, because
Usas, like all the other deities, is part of 'The One,' and thus, like the
others, she has an assigned role in the evolution of luminous visions that
culminates in the appearance of Indra. The vision of Indra is a "Union of
The Waters and the Sun," a realization of, or restoration of, the
primordial cosmic order of Brahman, Purusha, and Rta. Usas, and all
creation, benefits when cosmic Unity is restored.

In the verses listed below, there are more hints that the eulogists are
sometimes referring, not to a terrestial dawn, but rather to an inner
vision of dawn where "paths to the gods are beheld" by the seer, and the
path is illuminated by "days that have dawned before the rising of the
sun," where the dawn-like light is not as as transient as a terrestial dawn
but rather "beheld like a wife repairing to an inconstant husband:"
The paths that lead to the gods are beheld by me, innocuous and glorious
with light: the banner of Ushas is displayed in the east, she comes to the
west, rising above the high places. / Many are the days that have dawned
before the rising of the sun, on which thou, Ushas, has been beheld like a
wife repairing to an inconstant husband, and not like one deserting him. /
Those ancient sages, our ancestors . . . discovered the hidden light, and,
reciters of sincere prayers, they generated the Dawn. 7.76.2-3

The next stanza of the same verse adds an important detail:
Auspicious Ushas . . . who art the conductress of the cattle (to pasture),
the bestower of food, dawn upon us . . . 7.76.4 [WIL]
Come, (Ushas), with the desirable (radiance); let the cows who are of full
udders accompany thy chariot 172.1-4 [WIL]

These references to Usas as a "conductress of cattle" are important because
they reverberate with another metaphor that is frequently used in verses
dedicated to Soma and Indra, i.e., references to a herd of hidden cows that
the eulogists use to explain the source of the 'milk' that gets mixed in
with the Soma juice. Because of the hidden cows' milk, the Soma juice is
white when it shoots out of the filter:

[T]he asura-colored showerer (of benefits) illumines as soon as born, the
whole luminous region . . . /. . . Indra has uncovered the desirable
white-colored, fast-flowing Soma, effused by the expressing stones, and
overlaid with the shining (milk and other liquids), in like manner as when,
borne by his tawny steeds, he rescued the cattle. 3.44-45 [WIL]
The rishi, the sage, the foremost of men, the far shining intelligent
Usanas - he verily by his poetic gift discovered the secret milk of those
cows which was hidden and concealed 9.87.3 [WIL]

For Usas to be the "conductress" of the herd of hidden cows that supplies
the milk for the Soma vision, Usas must also be a vision, one recognized by
the eulogists as appearing at a set place in the unfolding of the sequence
of luminous visions. This linking of the eulogists' hymns, propitious
visions of a divine dawn, and the celestial cows is emphasized several
times in the following verses:

[O]ur mortal forefathers departed after instituting the sacred rite, when,
calling upon the dawn, they extricated the milk-yielding kine, concealed
among the rocks of the darkness (of the cave) . . . / . . . unprovided with
the means of (extricating) the cattle, they glorified the author of
success, when they found the light, and were thus enabled (to worship him)
with holy ceremonies / Devoted (to Agni), those leaders . . . with minds
intent upon (recovering) the cattle, forced open, by (the power) of divine
prayer, the obstructing, compact, solid mountain confining the cows, a
cowpen full of kine. / They first have comprehended the name of the kine,
knowing the thrice seven excellent (forms) of the maternal (rhythm); . . .
/ . . . then they glorified the conscious dawns, and the purple dawn
appeared with the radiance of the sun. / The scattered darkness was
destroyed; the firmament glowed with radiance; the lustre of the divine
dawn arose . . 4.1.11-17 WIL

Note the reference here to the conjunction, "thrice-seven," which we
discussed earlier in relation to the three streams of purified Soma that
increase in number to seven, which led us to suggest the translation,
"three-then-seven." In the context of this verse, the reciting of this
conjunction suggests that the eulogists meant to say that, once the
ancestors understood what kinds of visions were possible - "hav[ing]
comprehended the name of the kine, [and] knowing the thrice seven excellent
(forms)," they then realized the importance of inducing a vision of the
"conscious dawn" in which the purple shines with the "the radiance of the

Just as a vision of "divine dawn" can be said to herald the vision of Soma,
the Dawn vision has its own harbingers - the Asvins' chariot and Agni's

May this desireable and gratifying Soma expressed by the stones be, Indra,
for thee: ascend the verdant chariot, and with thy tawny (steeds) come to
us; Desiring (the Soma), thou honorest the dawn . . . 3.44.1-2 [WIL]
The brilliant chariot, diffusing splendor, rolling lightly on its three
wheels, offering an easy seat . . . . at whose yoking the Dawn was born,
rich in marvelous treasures - I invoke that your chariot (O Asvins)
Vala 10.3 [WIL]
Where is that ancient one of those (Dawns), through whom the works of the
Ribhus were accomplished? For as the bright Dawns happily proceed, they
are alike and undecaying. / Verily those auspicious Dawns have been of
old, rich with desired blessings . . . / . . . the divine Dawns, arousing
the assembly of the sacrifice, are glorified like the (rays) creative of
the waters. / Those Dawns proceed verily alike, of similar form, of
infinite hues, pure, bright, illumining, concealing by their radiant
persons the very great gloom. 4.51.6-10 [WIL]

It is worth noting here that the "divine Dawns" are described in 4.51.8 as
"arousing the assembly of the sacrifice," i.e., an invigorating the
assembled priests. This point will be relevant in our discussion of the
ancient Soma ritual in Part III. One of the leading candidates for the
original Soma is Ephedra which contains an adrenaline-like stimulant that
has an invigorating effect on users, as this verse suggests.

The hypothesis that Dawn sometimes refers to a type of luminous vision is
consistent with Gonda's analysis of the term, rtasya (meaning the "seat" or
"place" of rta) in 4.51.8. Discussing the phrase, rtasya devih sadaso
budhana, Gonda points out that "rta is ubiquitous and not confined to a
special locality," and that, therefore, this phrase could be interpreted as
referring a light generated inside the seer and not just to a terrestial
There is, as far as I am able to see, nothing to have us believe either
that this sadah is identical with that in 10, 111, 2 or that all rtasya
sadamasi are situated in the East. What the text means, is, in my opinion,
this: the Dawns have their origin in, or rather are based on or
conditioned by, rta; what it says is that at the 'place' where the Dawns
awake rta makes its presence known. [Gonda, 1963., p. 182]

Gonda makes a similar point in a monograph analyzing the use of the
Sanskrit medium tense in the RV: referring to 7.92.2, Gonda suggests that
this phrase which is often translated as "(the dawns) color themselves"
could also be interpreted, given the use of the medium tense, as applying
to an event that the poet-seer causes to happen within himself, so that
"the person who is subject is characterized as performing the process in
his own sphere and in his own interest . . . . [Gonda, 1979, p. 23]." Two
other verses translated by Gonda describe the seer as beholding an inner
vision of dawn that is regarded as an auspicious omen of what comes next:
[T]he man who in the early morning kindles his sacrificial fire mentally
should acquire, by way of a 'vision,' a flash of intuition, the knowledge
of the deeper sense of what he is doing: 'I have kindled the fire with the
rays of the matutinal light.' 7.104.14 [GON, 1963, p. 77]
[B]orn still before daylight, attentive, recited, in parts, when the sacral
functions are performed, dressed in beautiful-and-auspicious white clothes
is this our ancestral dhih which was born long ago. 3.39.2 [GON,
1963, p. 77]

Table 2.1. Synopsis of parallels between phosphene sequence and luminous

Meditation-Induced Phosphenes Luminous Vision Metaphors

Rings (3 - 5) that shrink in diameter. Visions of wheel rims moving away.

Waves of amorphous phosphene mist Visions of flame-arrows assembling
water pouring into holes.

Bright central node & pupil-like space Many-colored, smoke-like visions.


A star-like cluster of thin filaments.
An influx of thin, dark, fast-paced rings.
A radiating spray of beige-colored flecks.


A gradual brightening and bluing of Visions of a day before the day
the entire visual field that obscures & lasts longer than a
terrestial dawn
then eclipses the spray.
A hidden light
of Divine dawn.

Small white bulbous glow, upper right A vision with a bulbous shape, like
quadrant. Attention makes it move. an udder, navel, head, bull's horn,
pot, penis,
waterskin, woolen ball.

Bulbous image & the blue disappear Indra kills Dawn but also enriches her.

3 thin white rays fan out from a base. 3 jets of pure Soma rise from the


6 rays replace the 3 & extend further. The 3 become 7.

Same 6 rays move apart ('wilt') The rays fly like a bird as it

on its nest.


A sudden outbreak of lightning-like flashes Indra manifests as a bolt
as a continuous
flood of bright,
sun-like light,
or an 'eye' (caksus)
that is
altogether one with the sun.
That continues until attention is diverted.


The aftermath = a white glow that expands Indra as 'milk with curds' or
with a surface texture like the cauliflower. a whiteness that is
by a
1,000 studs or petals.

Conclusion, Part II: The Soma Code

Our analysis of the metaphor-sets used to describe luminous visions in the
RV has uncovered many parallels with the meditation-induced phosphene
sequence described by the author. These parallels, which are present
image-by-image and also in the temporal sequencing of images, are
summarized in Table 2.1. Our theory about the origins of luminous visions
described in the RV provides a detailed, comprehensive, and economic
explanation accounting for the choices of particular metaphors and what the
composers meant to communicate by choosing these and not others. Our
theory also explains some other puzzles that have so far eluded
explanation. In the final paper of this three-part series, we use this new
theory to investigate the relationship between visionary experiences in the
RV and those described in later works, such as the Upanishads and the many
yoga meditation texts in the Hindu, Tantric, and Tibetan-Buddhist
traditions. We also propose that the homologies between natural events,
the actions of Vedic deities, and the visions of human seers which are
postulated by Vedic myths can be best explained as projections onto nature
and mythic elaborations that originated in the visionary experiences of
tribal shamans. Finally, we show that this theory about the nature of the
luminous visions in the RV now makes it possible to choose between the two
leading candidates that have been proposed most recently as the original
Soma plant.


BH/W Bhawe, S. S.. 1957, 1960, 1962. The Soma Hymns of the Rig Veda,
Parts I - III, , as quoted in Wasson, R. G., Soma: Divine Mushroom
of Immortality (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: New York, 1971).
DNG Dange, S. A.. 1992. Divine Hymns and Ancient Thought,
Vol. I:
RgVeda Hymns and Ancient Thought (N. Singal, NAVRANG:
New Delhi,.).
GRF Griffith, R. T. H.. 1971 [1889]. The Hymns of the RgVeda,
Vol. I - II
(Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series: Varanasi,).
OFL O'Flaherty, W. D.. 1971. The Rig Veda: An Anthology
Books: London).
WIL Wilson, H. H.. 1888. Rig-Veda Sanhita: A Collection of
Hindu Hymns, Vol. I - VI (Trubner & Company: London,).
GON Gonda, J. 1963. The Vision of the Vedic Poets (Mouton &
Co.: The
Hague, Netherlands).


Falk, H. 1989. "Soma I and II." Bulletin of the School of Oriental and
African Studies (University of London).
Gonda, J. 1979. The Medium in the RgVeda (E. J. Brill: Leiden).
Nyberg. H.. 1995. "The Problem of the Aryans and the Soma: The Botanical
Evidence." In: Erdosy, G., Editor, The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia:
Language, Material Culture, and Ethnicity (Walter de Gruyter: Berlin, pp.
383 - 406).
Wasson, R. G.. 1971. Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality (Harcourt
Brace Jovanovich: New York

Philip T. Nicholson

The Soma Code, Part III: Visions, Myths, and Drugs


In this final paper of a three-part series on the interpretation of
luminous vision metaphors in the Rig Veda (RV), we consider several
implications raised by the hypothesis that vision metaphors in the RV refer
to the meditation-induced (and meditation-destabilized) phosphene sequence
described by the author in Part I. First, we show that there is a
remarkable continuity in the description of luminous visions in the RV, the
Upanishads, and yoga meditation texts in the Hindu, Tantric, and
Tibetan-Buddhist traditions. Second, we show that similar types of
meditation-induced phosphene visions are also reported in studies of
contemporary shamans and prehistoric rock art attributed to shamans. Since
it is likely that shamanistic practices were widespread at the time the RV
was composed, we examine evidence that the Vedic priests practiced
shaman-like trance induction rituals and that the visions they induced were
used as the basic organizing structure for Indo-Aryan myths that describe
the attributes of gods and define the gods' roles in the trajectory of
cosmic events. Third, we show that the hypothesis that luminous visions in
the RV represent phosphene images is relevant to the current debate about
the identity of the original Soma plant. If luminous visions refer to
phosphene images and not to memory-based hallucinations with dream-like
content, this would exclude Syrian rue, which contains hallucinogenic
harmaline alkaloids, as a likely candidate. The leading alternative,
Ephedra, contains an extract (ephedrine) that is an adrenaline-like
stimulant that does not induce visions. But if the original Soma ritual
required an all-night vigil, as some scholars suggest, then the attendant
sleep loss would likely create a strong sleep-rebound effect and increase
the incidence of sleep-onset seizures when the priests reactivated sleep
rhythms by trying to meditate just before dawn when the sleep rebound
effect would reach maximal levels. If the priests also drank ephedrine to
keep themselves awake, this would potentiate the sleep deficit and also add
the risk of over-stimulating the sympathetic nervous system, which, in
extreme cases, can trigger a temporary collapse and install a state of
parasympathetic dominance, the final common outcome of many different
trance induction rituals.

The Continuity of Visions in Vedic and Post-Vedic Meditation Traditions

Table 3.1. A comparison of descriptions of luminous visions in Vedic and
Hindu texts.



[T]he single wheel that is concealed RV 10.85.16

With the bright dhih, you drive, O you travelers in a radiant chariot RV

When the visions that are concealed begin to glow spontaneously, the
Seers begin to glow . . . RV 8.6.8

The flame-arrows of Agni...assemble
like streams of water into holes RV 10.25.4

Fog, smoke, sun,... these are the preliminary forms which produce
the manifestation of Brahman in
yoga (SvetasUp, II: 11)

In the city of Brahman is an abode, a small lotus flower; within it, a
small space. What is within, that should be sought (ChandogUp, VIII: 1:

In the light, everything is encompassed, the seer as
well as the seen (Yogasutras 4.23)




Fireflies...these are [also] preliminary forms . . . (SvetasUp, II: 11)


Also one sees countless bright speckles striking consciousness. Keep on
watching: when the whirling [vinivrttih] ends, the abode of the atman will
appear (YS 4.24 - 4.25)

[T]he days that have dawned before the rising of the sun . . . RV 7.76.2
-- Up.s

-- YS

[F]ill the dhih up, make it swollen like an udder filled with milk RV

[R]eceive them on thy navel, O Soma, thou who are the head . . .RV 1.43.9

Soma, stormcloud imbued with life... Navel of the Way . . . RV 9.74.4

The sharp seer, in heaven's navel, is magnified in the woolen filter RV

They milk the amsu, this bull at home on the mountain . . . RV 9.95.4

G]littering like a waterskin RV 9.1.8


That which hangs down between the palates like a nipple, that is the
birthplace of Intra (TaittrUp, I: 6: 1)

The person [purusa] the size of a thumb... like a flame without smoke.
(KathaUp, II: 1: 12, 13)

He is of the measure of a thumb, of appearance like the sun,...the self he
seems to be of the size of the point of a goad (SvestasUp, V: 13)


That bending-down image [viveka-nimnam] - it bears Aloneness [Kaivalya]
behind it (YS 4: 26)


He sloughs off the divine radiance, abandons his envelope, and goes to
rendevous with the Sky RV 9.71.2

The filter of the burning has been spread .Its dazzling mesh spread afar
RV 9.83.2


The bird of golden hue resides in the heart and in the sun, a diver-bird, a
swan [hamsa], of surpassing radiance (MaitrUp, VI: 34)


That tearing apart [chidrescu] - it releases more changes (YS 4: 27)


In jets, the pressed Soma is clarified RV 9.72.5

I have drunk the navel . . . the eye is altogether with the sun RV 9.10.8

[T]his inspired thought which is bright-like-lightning . . . the light of
heaven at the abode or seat of rta RV 10.177.2

[H]e has clothed himself with the fire-bursts of the sun RV 9.71.9


Brahman sparkles like a wheel of fire, of the color of the sun (MaitrUp,
VI: 24)

Brahman. the ocean of light. In it, wor-shippers become dissolved like
salt (MaitrUp, VI: 36)

They rise lightnings from the light within the clouds
(MaitrUp, VI: 36)

To one elevated in aware-ness, who continues to relinquish desire, the
vision of ultimate discern-ment bursts forth like a stormcloud of cosmic
dimension [dharma-megha-samadhi] (YS 4: 29)


Table 3.2. A comparison of luminous visions in Tantric and
Tibetan-Buddhist texts.



In the middle of the vault of the palate, like the
tapering flame of a candle, the...fiery effulgences
shine continuously (GA, p. 10 - 11)


'Meditate on the four wheels, each like an umbrella or like the wheel of a
chariot' (YSD, I: ii: 62)

>From this practice come smoke-like or ethereal shapes

The forming of thoughts ceases, and phenomena, appearing like smoke,
mirage... (YSD, I: ii: 98)


Above this energy [the ajna cakra midway between the eyes] dwells the dot,
bindu (GA, p. 10 - 11)


Phenomena, fireflies (YSD, I: ii: 98)



When the bindu explodes and shatters, it expands immediately... (GA, p. 10
- 11)

...a continuous whirling movement [ghurni] until there appear dazzling
sparks just as the kundalini rises
(AT, 5: 101, 107, 111; KS, II: 3)


The Flaring will appear as a yellow radiance
(YSD, I: ii: 125)



Phenomenon, appearing...[like] something
resembling the light of dawn, and something resembling a cloudless sky
(YSD, I: ii: 98)


When the bindu explodes and shatters, it expands immediately and forms the
mastaka [the 'Egg of Brahman'], similar to the angular fruit of the water
chestnut (GA, p. 10 - 11)

Concentrate on the image that resembles the stomach of a fish . . .
[showing] unfoldment and contraction (TA, 5: 57-61)

...the supreme linga [phallus] of the skull. From above the uvula, this
linga showers nectar. In the inner space, the womb in th e middle of the
forehead, is found that nectar. Having raised it to the surface of the
brahmadanda, similar to an ivory tusk, the kundalini releases its flow.
Inside the tusk there is but one orifice, the mouth of the kundalini (GA,
p. 10)


One should have a vision of the form of the Buddha outlined against a
cloudless sky, like the moon's reflected form seen in water. Or one sees,
as a form reflected in a mirror, the unobscured, radiant Nirmana-Kaya [Pure
Illusory Body] (YSD, II: ii: 19-20)

The Pure Illusory Body... springs forth from the State of the Clear Light
like a fish leaping forth from water , or like the form of [the Celestial
Buddha], which rises as one does upon waking from sleep (YGS, IV: iii: 34)

And thus is produced the invisible psychic protuber-ance on the crown of
the head. When the protuber-ance becomes filled with the vital force of
the trans-muted seminal fluid, one..realizes the State of the Great
Vajra-Dhara [Wielder of the Thunderbolt]
(YSD, I: ii: 144-145)


The supreme energy blossoming into bliss is adorned like a five hooded
cobra as she rises (AT: 248-251)
The rising energy forms a five-fold wheel... like
a swan of dazzling white drinking in the cosmos


Simultaneously with this realization, the white fluid...flows upward to the
crown of the head
(YSD, I:ii:144-145)



When the energy with five modal ities draws herself up . . . and enters
Brahman's seat, she flashes forth like lightning.... such is the so-called
serpent piercing. (AT: 248-251)

One gains...mastery of the Very Bright
(YGS, IV:iii:35)


A cross-text comparison of descriptions of luminous visions in the RV and
in religious texts written much later in time reveal that there is a
remarkable continuity that extends throughout history and into the present
day. Table 3.1 compares excerpts from the RV hymns with excerpts from
several Upanishads (translated by Ramakrishnan [1992]) and from Patañjali's
Yogasutras (translated by the present author [see Note 1]). Table 3.2
compares excerpts from yoga meditation texts in the Tantric tradition -
Abhinavagupta's Tantraloka, Goraksanatha's Amaraughasasana, and Ksemaraja's
Shivasutravimarshini (all translated by Silburn [1988]) - and excerpts from
a Tibetan-Buddhist text, The Epitome of the Six Abridged Doctrines
(translated by Evans-Wentz [1958] or Mullin [1996]). [Tables adapted from
Nicholson, 2002a]
While cultural diffusion is clearly a factor that contributes to the
recurring presence of similar phosphene images, the fact that these
replications are so detailed supports the hypothesis that the primary
reason for these similarities is not cultural diffusion but rather the
nature of the causal mechanisms involved: as we explained in Part I,
meditation-induced phosphene images are epiphenomena of the brain rhythms
that govern the transition from waking to slow wave sleep, and this
neurophysiology imposes narrow constraints on what kinds phosphenes can
appear in the visual field of meditators. Extrapolating from this
hypothesis that meditation induces a predictable progression of light
visions, we can anticipate that the same kinds of visions will appear in
other religious traditions.

Did the Rig Veda Originate in Shaman-Like Visionary Experiences?

Visions of internally-generated lights devoid of content drawn from life
experience (i.e., 'phosphenes') have played major roles in the founding and
continuing revitalization of the world's major religious traditions [Bucke,
1969 (1901); Laski, 1961; Underhill, 1990 (1930); Arbman, 1963, 1968,
1970]. Based on analysis of the autobiographies of mystical visionaries
in various traditions, we can infer that two types of phosphene images
predominate during the early states of meditation or contemplative prayer -
images of phosphene rings (annuli) and images of amorphous phosphene clouds
or mists. Examples of mystics' descriptions of these two kinds of visions
appear in Table 3.3 [Nicholson, 1996a].

Table 3.3. Autobiographical descriptions of visions of phosphene rings and


[T]he appearance of the wheels...was like the gleaming of beryl; and the
four had the same form, their construction being something like a wheel
within a wheel" Ezekiel
[T]ike a dome, shining like crystal, spread out about their heads....And
above the dome, something like a throne, in appearance like sapphire..."
[A] round a full sphere, rolling back and forth before
him...bright blue." R. Abulafia
A glowing light...clear brilliance...A purple light that absorbs all
lights...." Moses de Leon


[A] perfectly round, beautiful deep-blue shape, of a size appropriate to
the center of a mandala, as if exquisitely painted, of extreme clarity..."
Tsong Khapa
[A] luminous revolving disc, studded with lights...a lotus flower in full
bloom..." Gopi Krishna
[B]oth my eyes became centered...When this happened, a blue light arose in
my a candle flame without a wick, and stood motionless in the
ajna chakra." Muktananda


[Like] chandeliers....sublime lights, [like] stars, moon, or the sun..."
Sharafuddin al-Maneri
[I]ts color is deep blue; it seems to be an upsurge, like...water from a
spring." Najmoddin Kobra
[V]isualize yourself as lying at the bottom of a well [looking up] and the lively downward movement." Najmoddin Kobra
[T]he color green is the...suprasensory uniting all the suprasensories."
Alaoddawleh Semnani
[T]he light rises in the Sky of the heart taking the form of...light-giving
moons..." Najm Razi


[H]is own state at...prayer resembles...a sapphire ; it is as clear and
bright as the sky." Evagrius
[D]escending like a bright cloud of a sun, round as a circle."
Simeon Neotheologos
[S]aw something in the air near him. He did not understand the type of
thing, but in some ways it appeared to have the form of a serpent, with
many things that shone like eyes, although they were not eyes." Ignatius
of Loyola
[T]he soul puts on...a green almilla [cape worn over shoulders, beneath
armor]..." John of the Cross
[The almilla is like a helmet which] covers all the senses of the head of
the soul...It has one hole through which the eyes may look upwards..."
John of the Cross
[A] round thing, about the size of a rixdaler, all bright and clear with
light like a crystal." H. Hayen
[I] saw a bright light, and in this light the figure of a man the color of
sapphire...blazing with a gentle glowing fire...the three were in one
light...." Hildegard von Bingen
[S]aw a blazing fire, incomprehensible, inextinguishable...with a flame in
it the color of the sky..." Hildegard von Bingen
[S]aw placed beneath her feet the whole machine of the world as if it were
a wheel. She saw herself placed above it, her eyes of contemplation
magnetized towards the incomprehensible..." Beatrice of Nazareth
[I] saw the eyes...I do not know if I was asleep or awake..."
Angela of Foligno
[A] kind of sunlit, winged a child's head beneath two little
wings." Abbess Thaisia
[R]ound patterns: small circles would expand and eventually dissipate,
only to be followed by other small circles of light." Philip St.
[A]n extraordinarycircle of gold light...pulsating against a deep violet
background....There were always four or five....As soon as one would fade,
another would appear..." Philip St. Romain


These same two kinds of visions are also prominent in ethnographic studies
of contemporary tribes that rely on shamanistic practices. Since we know
that the oral traditions of the Indo-Aryans developed during a time when
shamanistic practices were widespread, it is possible that shaman-like
visionary experiences were influential in the composition of the RV hymns.
Our analysis in an earlier article (Part I) of the luminous visions in the
RV shows that ring-like image and amorphous mist-like images are important
early harbingers of being on the path that leads to Soma and Indra: the
Asvins' radiant, three-wheeled chariot manifests as bright wheel-like rings
moving away from the viewer (similar to the phosphene image of receding
rings) and the visions of Agni's flame-arrows that "assemble like water
pouring into holes" (similar to amorphous phosphene mists). To put
ourselves in a position to address the question of shamanic influences on
the RV, we need first to examine how the phosphene images of rings and
amorphous mists are embedded in the ritual practices, artistic creations,
and mythological theories of shamanistic cultures.

Shaman are individuals who specialize in making contact with an otherwise
invisible world of spirits and in communicating with the spirits on behalf
of other members of the tribe [Jakobsen, 1999]. Where shamanistic
practices still exist, learning how to induce a trance and to see visions,
then to go further and extend and elaborate those visions, is often a
prerequisite for being accepted as an authentic shaman by others in the
tribe [Noll, 1985]. For example, informants in the Alaskan Iglulik Eskimo
tribe told Rasmussen [1930] that a shaman must be able to summon up an
interior "illumination," called the angákoq or quamaneq, "a mysterious
light which the shaman suddenly feels in his body, inside his head, within
the brain, an inexplicable searchlight, a luminous fire, which enables him
to see in the dark, both literally and metaphorically speaking, for he can
now, even with closed eyes, see through darkness and perceive things and
coming events that are hidden from others . . . . [p. 111]." To this
Holtved [1967] adds that a shaman often "gets his visions sitting or lying
in deep concentration at the back of the sleeping platform, behind a
curtain or covered with a skin. The drum is not used in this connection
[p. 47]."

Figure 3.1. Images of internally-generated sensations of light with
abstract geometric shapes ('phosphene images') in ethnographic reports and
prehistoric rock art studies. A. Concentric Annular Images: l. Four
concentric annuli: South Africa (Lewis-Williams and Dowson, 1988, Fig. 1);
California (Patterson, 1998, p. 43; Benson and Sehgal, Fig. 9 - 10). 2.
Four concentric annuli with central dot: Australia (Halifax, 1982, pp. 39,
70; Taylor, 1988, pp. 286-7; Lawlor, 1991, pp. 46, 48-49, 108); Ireland
(Herity, 1974, Fig. 37). 3. Single annulus with central dot: Columbia
(Reichel-Dolmatoff, 1978, Plate 38); Alaska (Nelson, 1899, as cited in
Benson and Sehgal, Fig. 5); Siberia (Vastokas, 1977, as cited in Benson and
Sehgal, Fig. 2, p. 6). 4. More than 4 densely-packed concentric annuli, a
'tunnel-like' image which may represent a stream of dark, fast-paced
receding annuli observed during the emergence of hypersynchronous CTC
seizure (see text): Mexico (Siegel and Jarvik, 1975, pp. 125, 139);
Ireland (Herity, 1974, Fig. 81); California (Benson and Sehgal, Fig. 6, p.
8). 5. Double spiral (included here because it, along with the single
spiral, may represent an illusory sensation of movement associated with the
'tunnel' sequence of dark, fast-paced annuli rather than an
independently-generate image): Ireland (Herity, 1974, Fig. 70; Dronfield,
1996, Fig. 9); Mexico (Halifax, 1987, p. 71; Schaefer, 1996, Fig. 31, p.
156). B. Amorphous Waves and Small-Particle Mists: 1. 'Navicular' image
of horizontal 'nested' arcs: Ireland (Herity, 1974, Fig. 78); South Africa
(Lewis-Williams and Dowson, 1988, Figures 1 - 4; Lewis-Williams, 1995, p.
7). 2. Juxtaposition of 2 sets of nested arcs: Columbia
(Reichel-Dolmatoff, 1975, Plates 36, 39, 1978, Plate 23); South Africa
(Lewis-Williams and Dowson, 1988, Fig. 2). 3. Parallel wavy lines: South
Africa (Lewis-Williams and Dowson, 1988, Figures 1-2); California (Whitley,
1994, Fig. 1). 4. Clusters of tiny dots or circles: Columbia
(Reichel-Dolmatoff, 1975, Plate 36); South Africa (Lewis-Williams and
Dowson, 1988, Figures 1-2; Ouzman, 1998, Figure 3.6., p. 38). C. Eye-Like
(Iris and Pupil) Images: Set 1. Ireland (Herity, 1974, Fig. 28, 36);
California (Patterson, 1998, Fig. 3). Set 2. Columbia (Reichel-Dolmatoff,
1987, Plates 10 - 11). E. Compound Images: 1. Annuli-to-waves: South
Africa (Lewis-Williams and Dowson, 1988, Fig. 1). 2. Annuli-plus-waves:
Ireland (Herity, 1974, Fig. 37; Dronfield, 1996, Fig. 9). 3.
Waves-to-eye: Ireland (Herity, 1974, Fig. 37). 3. Annuli-to-eyes:
California (Whitley, 1998, Fig. 1). [From Nicholson, 2001]

In shamanistic cultures, the ritual art (and secular decoration) often
incorporates patterns that are said to be representions of visions of light
that the native informants see during meditation or other states of
advanced relaxation. Some of these patterns are illustrated in Figure 3.1.
The image of concentric circles, for example, covers the full face of a
mask carved by an Eskimo shaman in Siberia to commemorate his journey to
the spirit world and to depict the spirits (tanghak) he saw during his
trance (e.g., see Nelson [1899, Plate 99], or Ray [1967, pp. 6 - 9, 17],
both cited in Benson and Sehgal [1987]).

The motif of concentric rings also appears in the decorative and ritual art
of aboriginal tribes in Australia [see Halifax, 1982, pp. 39, 70; Taylor,
1988, p. 287; Lawlor R, 1999, pp. 46, 48-9, 107-108]. Of particular
interest is a report by Elkin [1974 (1945)] that "men of high degree"
assemble in groups to create ceremonial ground-paintings (ilbantera) with 4
to 5 concentric rings that symbolize a sacred waterhole. This waterhole is
seen as the portal all living beings have to use to move between the
visible world and the world of spirits. The spirit world is envisioned as
a paradise of perpetual light inside caves located deep within the earth
[Eliade, 1964, p. 46]. To enter Dreamtime and find the light of spirits,
an elder withdraws from social interaction and begins to meditate: "He is
sitting down by himself with his thoughts in order 'to see'. He is
gathering his thoughts so that he can feel and hear. Perhaps he then lies
down, getting into a special posture, so that he may 'see' when sleeping. .
. . [Elkin, p. 56]."

Ring-like phosphenes are also observed during the early stages of
hallucinogen intoxication, that is, before the blood levels of the drug are
elevated enough to trigger dream-like fantasies. For example, in a study
of the peyote-induced visions of the Huichol Indians of the high Sierra
Madre range in Mexico, Schaefer [1996] reports that "phosphenes induced by
psychotic chemicals appear in two stages," and first to appear are the
colored, abstract images, called nieríka, that "serve as portals to other
worlds. Many take the form of pulsating mandalas [Schaefer, 1996, p.156
and Fig. 31; Benson and Sehgal, 1987, Fig. 3]." In a study analyzing the
frequency of particular kinds of geometric figures in Huichol peyote
visions, Siegel and Jarvik [1975] found that 71% of items referred to
"simple forms, colors, and movement patterns [Ibid., p. 125]."

While studying the Tukano Indians of the Amazonian rain forest,
Reichel-Dolmatoff [1972, 1975, 1978, 1987, 1996] was told by Tukano
informants that, after drinking one or two cups of yajé (ayahuasca), they
see several different kinds of "luminous patterns" before the figurative
hallucinations begin. These preliminary phosphenes include (1) circular
shapes, which they draw as a single annulus with a dot in the center or as
a set of 3 to 4 concentric annuli; (2) "wavy threads called dáriri with
colors ranging from green to blue to violet," which they draw as wavy lines
in parallel or as clusters of curvilinear arcs nested one inside the other;
and (3) eye-like images [Ibid., 1996, p. 33). All of these phosphene
motifs are often used to decorate the walls of their houses [Ibid., 1978,
e.g., pp. 12-13, 23, & 36; ibid., 1996, pp. 157 - 203, Plates 36 - 39;
ibid., 1987, Plates 10 - 11]. When the ethnologist experimented with yajé,
he observed the circular images himself: "A circle appears, it doubles, it
triples, it multiplies itself (1972, pp. 91-92)." While these abstract
phosphenes are often associated with ayahuasca, the Tukanos also report
that the same kinds of visions also appear "during fleeting states of
dissocation, daydreaming, hypnagogic states, isolation, sensory
deprivation, or other situations of stress [Ibid., 1996, p.33]." The myths
of the Tukanos attribute these light visions to energies (bogári) emitted
by an invisible twin of the visible sun. These bogári energies are usually
also invisible until they manifest as some natural light display - as
flashes of lightning, for instance, or as airborne dust particles
illuminated by a beam of sunlight - or manifest as an inner vision of

Many of the same images depicted in the artwork of shamanistic cultures -
the concentric annuli, wavy lines, and eye-like forms illustrated in Figure
3.1 - are also found at prehistoric rock art sites. To explain why similar
patterns appear at so many different rock art sites from the megalithic and
paleolithic eras, sites which are widely dispersed geographically (ranging
from Australia to South Africa to continental Europe, Ireland, and the far
western regions of the United States), Lewis-Williams and Dowson [1988,
1993] have proposed a "neuropsychological model" of prehistoric rock art
production and consumption. This theory, which has been elaborated in many
subsequent studies [Whitley, 1994, 1998; Lewis-Williams, 1991, 1995a, b;
Dronfeld, 1996a,b; Clottes and Lewis-Williams, 1998; Patterson,1998],
states that the "best-fit explanation" for why certain kinds of abstract,
geometric images were carved at prehistoric rock art sites is that these
images depict phosphene phenomena observed by shamans (or others) during
altered states of consciousness.

If the same kinds of phosphene visions were induced by shamans in many
megalithic and paleolithic cultures, by shamans in many contemporary
tribes, and by visionaries in all of the mystical traditions of the world's
major religions, the kinds of behaviors that induce these visions must
arise independently, or, put another way, the behaviors necessary to induce
phosphene displays must be relatively easy to discover on one's own. A
person prone to fantasize or to dissociate from his or her surroundings
will not find it difficult to drift into a self-hypnotic trance, and then,
once in that state, to notice that glimmers of phosphene light appear. The
use of hallucinogenic drugs also acquaints people with phosphene images
that appear before dream-like hallucinations supercede. Our hypothesis
identifying sleep rhythms as the underlying cause suggests that the only
skill required to induce a predictable sequence of phosphene images is the
ability to simulate the kind of mental and physical relaxation a person
achieves just before falling asleep, since this state of low arousal
'fools' the body into premature activation of the brain mechanisms that
govern a normal transition to sleep.

In his cross-cultural comparisons of shamanic practices, Winkleman [1986,
1990, 1992] found that the final common outcome of most trance induction
rituals is installation of a physiological state of "parasympathetic
dominance." A state of parasympathetic dominance is characterized by (1)
onset of synchronous brain rhythms; (2) relaxation of the large skeletal
muscles; and (3) onset of high-amplitude activity in the neurons of the
hippocampal-septal circuits [Mandell, 1980; Winkleman, 1986]. The classic
example of this state is slow wave sleep. If meditation activates slow
wave sleep mechanisms, as we propose, then it institutes a state of
parasympathetic dominance. But simulation of the transition to sleep is
not the only way to reach this state; it is also possible to induce it by
over-stimulating the complementary nervous system, i.e., the sympathetic
nervous system, to the point of saturation and temporary collapse.
Techniques to induce this kind of collapse are described by Sargant [1974]
and by Winkleman [1986; 1990, 1992]. Some techniques of over-stimulation
of the sympathetic nervous system used by shamans are sustained sleep
deprivation, self-mortification to inflict pain, dancing to the point of
physical collapse, or surrendering oneself to chants or drumbeats that
drive the brain toward synchronous rhythms.

Where does this survey of shamanistic trance induction rituals, past and
present, take us in our present inquiry about the effect of shamanistic
influences on the composition of the RV? The key point is this: if the
priests or wise men of the Indo-Aryan tribes induced the same kinds of
visions as contemporary shamans, and they induced them using the same
techniques - by retreating from social interaction and meditating - then,
while engaged in this task, the priests were functioning like shamans,
'specialists' with special skills that enabled them to communicate with the
spirit world on behalf of the tribe.

There is some evidence that these shaman-like visionary experiences may
have provided the Indo-Aryans with the basic conceptual structure that
informs the Vedic myths. The attributes of the gods, their actions, and
the sequence of cosmic events they set in motion are arranged in sequences
that closely parallel the sequence of meditation-induced phosphene images.
Given that there is this close alignment, can we infer that the myths
originated from the visions and not vice versa? The approach we employed
to decode the metaphors for luminous visions in the RV was to use the
sequence of meditation-induced phosphenes as a template for making
'predictions' about the kinds of visual characteristics that were likely to
be important and about the order in which different kinds of visions would
be likely to appear; as we now refocus attention from decoding vision
metaphors to understanding the origins of the Vedic myths, it makes sense
to experiment with a similar approach. We might ask, then, is it possible
to predict the sequence of cosmic events described in the Vedic myths based
on our knowledge of the mediation-induced phosphene sequence, and,
conversely, is it also possible to predict the content of visions using the
sequence of cosmic events as a standard?
Figure 3.2 describes the general trajectory of cosmic events posited by
Vedic mythmakers, juxtaposing events that take place in three dimensions -
the world of natural phenomena, the divine realm where gods act unseen, and
the dark void of meditative consciousness which only the wise men can enter
and where they see visions of other-worldly light. In Vedic myths, the
creation of worlds splits the primordial Unity of Brahman and also splits
the rta, the energy that instills Truth and Order, so that separate streams
flow in all different regions of the created world. Although the streams
of rta are split by creation, each stream retains an inertial momentum that
tends to bend it back towards an eventual confluence with the other
streams, a convergence that would restore the primal Unity - the "Union of
the Waters and the Sun." Because the streams of rta are a part of
everything that exists, there are sometimes harmonious convergences of
events that take place in all three dimensions - 'homologies' that link
natural phenomena, the acts of the gods, and the inspired visions of light
that come to wise men. Homologous events are important because these
convergences afford glimpses into the flow of the rta and the ultimate
nature of the cosmos. Some important homologies linking natural events,
divine actions, and human visions are listed in Figure 3.2. Referring to
this chart, we can ask if it is possible to predict the sequence of events
that appears in one of the columns once we know the sequence of events in
another column. Several permutations are possible:

Figure 3.2. Flow chart illustrating some homologies of nature, divine
acts, and human vision postulated by the Vedic myths.

If we know the diurnal rhythm of sunset alternating with sunrise (in the
left column), we can predict the overall trajectory of cosmic events in the
Vedic myths (in the right column), namely, that the myths will center on
the loss of the sun and attempts to bring the sun back into the sky. But
knowing this does not enable us to predict the details of the Vedic myths
that explain how this goal is accomplished.

If we know the sequence of the meditation-induced phosphenes (in the center
column), we see, first, that it mirrors the diurnal rhythm of the sun -
meditation, like sunset, casts human consciousness into a dark space, but
eventually that darkness yields a vision of the rising sun - but, second,
we see that the meditation-induced phosphene sequence also describes many
different transformations that occur in the visions before the culminating
vision of the sunrise. It is this detail in the phosphene sequence that
provides a basis for making predictions about the events that take place at
the cosmic level, or, put another way, to predict what kinds of gods will
have to appear in the Vedic myths and what kinds of acts the gods will
initiate to recover the hidden sun if, as we propose, the myths are based
on the sequence of meditation-induced phosphene images.

The Vedic mythmakers are most likely to be posit divine responsibility for
events when they detect similarities ('homologies') betwen natural
phenomena, which are beyond all human control, and the visionary
experiences that wise men can induce by meditating. Wherever such an
homology occurs, we find a god assigned responsibility for coordinating
these events that take place in different dimensions of reality. We can
predict, for instance, that the Vedic myths will feature a god whose nature
it is to release light in the midst of dark, since this homology is
omnipresent, and, indeed, this is the nature of Agni: he sends fire to the
forest, fire to the altar, and, in his incarnation as "Child of the Waters"
(Apam Napat), Agni lights the fire of lightning inside the raincloud and
send flame-arrows into the dark consciousness of "The Waters" of
meditation. Following this same line of thought, we can also predict,
based on homologies between a terrestial dawn and a phosphene effect in
which there is a gradual brightening of a pale blue color, that there will
be a god assigned responsibility for sending both of these lights - hence
the god, Usas. This brings us to the god, Soma.

We have described two phosphene visions in the meditation-induced sequence
that the eulogists call Soma - the vision of newborn Soma as a bulb of wool
and the vision of purified Soma shooting out of the woolen filter in three
rays - but if all of the Vedic gods were created to explain homologies
between visionary experiences and natural events, where is the natural
phenomenon that is the homology for the vision of Soma? The answer is
evident once we look beyond the Soma vision to see what comes next in the
phosphene sequence: the streams of purified Soma "penetrate" to the abode
of another god, Indra, who drinks them.

Invigorated by this drink, Indra attacks and kills the demons of the night,
releasing the sun. A brilliant, sun-like flash then appears. Given this
culmination, we can now see, looking back at the Soma visions, that the
homology for the Soma vision in the natural world must be the Soma drink
that was prepared from the Soma plant. This analysis implies that the Soma
drink must be invigorating and even exhilarating, and, indeed, as we shall
see in the next section of this paper, the leading candidate for the
original Soma is a strong stimulant. The homology that led the Vedic
mythmakers to postulate the existence of a god named Soma must have been
the common features shared by the preparation of an invigorating drink and
a set of visions that began as a phosphene bulb that moved itself about, as
if it were being pressured from some invisible force, and which then
transformed into a vision of thin streams of white light shooting out like
jets of fresh milk expressed from a cow's udder.

We are considering whether or not it is possible to predict the trajectory
of cosmic events using the sequence of meditation-induced phosphenes as a
standard. From our analysis of the Soma/Indra transformations, we can now
see that the phosphene visions of Soma would have been the only source of
information the Vedic priests had available, prior to Indra's manifestation
as a sun-like vision, to track events taking place in the otherwise
invisible realm of the gods. The myths portray Indra as struggling with
the demons of the night to free the sun, but the particulars of the
struggle - for example, the manner in which Indra obtained the power he
needed to defeat the demons of the night - could only have come from the
meditation-induced phosphene sequence. The importance of the Soma visions
also highlights the importance of the Soma drink prepared for the human
rituals; the existence of an homology linking a human drink that
invigorates with visions of a celestial drink being prepared and then
squirted out into the heavens is a sign that the streams of rta have
informed both events - and a sign that a god is at work. The priests,
knowing that it was possible to reproduce within themselves the awesome
spectacle of a lightning storm, and confident that the vision of lightning
and sun-like brilliance was the culminating vision beyond which there was
nothing more to be seen, chose Indra, god of the thunderstorm, to be first
among the gods, and saw the advent of Indra as a restoration of "The Union
of the Waters and the Sun."

So far we have shown that a great many details about cosmic events in Vedic
mythology can be predicted based on a knowledge of the diurnal rhythm of
the sun and the sequence of meditation-induced phosphene images. Is it is
possible to make predictions in the reverse direction - to use the actions
of the gods (the right column in Figure 3.2) as the standard to predict the
content of visions (shapes, movements, colors, and temporal sequence)?
Clearly not. And that's why the interpretation of the metaphors describing
luminous visions in the RV has resisted interpretation for so long; experts
in Sanskrit and Vedic studies have known for years about the Asvins'
radiant chariot, Agni's flame-arrows, Soma's woolen filter, and Indra's
lightning bolt, but have been unable to understand how these mythic events
relate to the visionary experiences extolled by the eulogists.

If we can only make predictions in only one direction - from the visions to
the myths - this suggests that Vedic myths were constructed around the
armature provided by the sequence of light images that they could induce
within themselves by meditating. These visions would have been the best
evidence available about the nature of the hidden world of the gods.
The Search for the Original Soma

Scholars agree that a Soma ritual was practiced by the ancient Indo-Aryan
tribes (and also that the Indo-Iranians who emigrated from the same
original homeland had a 'Sauma' ritual), but exegesis of the RV and the
Iranian Avesta has revealed very little information about the nature of the
original Soma [Flattery and Schwartz, 1989, p. 6]. When Wasson [1971], an
ethnobiologist, became interested in learning more about the original Soma
plant, he was surprised to find out how little anyone knew about the

But what manner of plant was this Soma? No one knows. For twenty-five
centuries and more its identity has been lost. The Hindus . . . allowed
this authentic Soma to fall into disuse and early on began to resort to
sundry substitutes, substitutes that were frankly recognized as such and
that to this day are met with in India in their peculiar religious roles
[Ibid., p. 5].

Some Hindu sects still perform Soma rituals in which the priests prepare a
drink by crushing the stalks of a plant called 'Soma' and filtering water
through the mash [see Keith, 1925, Vol. 32, pp. 326 - 332; Gonda, 1982;
Falk, 1989], but there are significant disparities between the effects
produced by these drinks and the effects attributed to the original Soma in
the hymns of the RV [Wasson, op. cit., p. 7].

In his review of existing theories about the identity of the Soma plant,
Nyberg [1995], a botanist, concludes that scholarly debate has now narrowed
the field of likely candidates to two plant species - Syrian rue and
Ephedra. Syrian rue contains harmaline alkaloids, hallucinogenic
substances which are also present in mescaline and ayahuasca and which
clearly have the capacity to induce visions. In support of the theory that
the original Soma/Haoma produced an hallucinogenic extract, Flattery
[Flattery and Schwartz, 1989] analyzes ancient Zoroastrian texts and
religious rituals and concludes that the priests who drank "sauma" during
Zoroastrian rituals did so with the intent and expectation of inducing

[T]he three Pahlavi accounts are consistent in showing that sauma brought
about a condition outwardly resembling sleep (i.e., stard) ['stunned,'
'dazed,' 'sprawled'] in which targeted visions of what is believed to be a
spirit existence were seen. [Ibid., p. 23]

>From the apparent role of sauma in initiation rites . . . , experience of
the effects of sauma, which is to say, vision of menog existence, must have
at one time been required of all priests (or the shaman antecedents of
them) [Ibid., p. 20].

The other leading candidate for the original Soma plant, Ephedra, contains
the extract, ephedrine, a sympathetic nervous system stimulant analogous to
adrenaline. Ephedrine excites the physiological systems of the
fight/flight response but does not induce visions [Falk, 1989; Nyberg, op.
cit.]. This is obviously an inconvenient fact for the advocates of
Ephedra, a point Flattery underscores:

Despite being commonly designated haoma (and the like), Ephedra is without
suitable psychoactive potential in fact (and is not regarded in traditional
ethnobotany as having any psychoactive properties at all) and, therefore,
it cannot have been believed to be the means to an experience from which
priests could claim religious authority or wisely believed to be the
essential ingredient in an intoxicating extract [Flattery and Schartz, op.
cit., p. 73].

The choice between these two candidate plants turns on a single issue - the
nature of the luminous vision metaphors that describe the effects of
drinking Soma in the hymns of the RV:

A primary consideration in the identification process is whether or not
soma/haoma can be regarded as a hallucinogen. . . . In my opinion, as well
[as Falk's], it is possible to choose a hallucinogenic candidate only if
you have already decided to interpret the texts in this way [Nyberg, op.
cit., p. 385].

Falk rejects any interpretation of the RV hymns that would link Soma with
"hallucinations." He clearly means to target the kind of visions that
would be induced by the harmaline alkaloids in Syrian rue, that is,
dream-like hallucinations that contain figures and objects drawn from
life-experience, but Falk states his case in such a preemptory manner as to
imply that he would also reject interpretations that linked Soma with
phosphene images. His interpretation of a sample hymn illustrates his

The only half-serious reason to expect hallucination as an effect of
Soma-drinking in an Indian context is the well-known Labasukta, RV 10.119.
There it is said that some winged creature, after consumption of Soma,
touches sky and earth with its wings and extends bodily even beyond these
borders . . . . Usually it is Indra who grows until he extends beyond
heaven and earth (e.g. RV 1.81.5; 8.88.5). . . . But Indra has no wings!
And nowhere is it said that human Soma-drinkers feel that they are growing.
. . . The act of growing in the Labasukta simply classifies the bird
amongst the gods and gives no indication that it was due to the effects of
any drug. . . . Because all the proponents of Soma as a hallucinogenic drug
make their claim on the basis of a wrong interpretation of the Labasukta,
their candidates must be regarded as unsuitable [Falk, Ibid., p. 78].

Falk's reading of this specific verse is, in our opinion, seriously
mistaken. Bird metaphors are often used in the RV to describe luminous
visions, especially the streams of purified Soma, a subject we addressed at
some length in Part II. Since the streams of Soma are said to penetrate as
far as the seat of Indra, and since Indra drinks those streams just before
appearing as a flash of lightning, it is not difficult to understand why a
poet might say that Indra is lifted on wings. Also, bird metaphors are
also used to describe Indra as a sun-like flood of continous light, as, for
example, in 10.177.1-3, discussed in Part I, where wise men are described
as having seen in their hearts "the bird annointed with the magic of the
Asura" appearing as a "revelation that shines like the sun in the footprint
of Order [OFL]." Falk's interpretation of this particular verse - and his
general rejection of any links between Soma and visions - is diametrically
opposed to everything we have written in this series of articles on the
interpretation of luminous vision metaphors.

It is understandable why the proponents of Ephedra as the original Soma
plant would be moved to adopt this approach, since they have to account for
the fact that ephedrine does not cause visions. There is, however, an
alternative approach, one which has not yet been considered by any of the
contenders, that supports the Ephedra hypothesis without requiring a denial
of the links between the Soma metaphors in the RV and luminous visions.
The key word, as noted earlier, is 'hallucination,' but now we need to be
more precise in our definition of the term. In technical psychiatric
jargon, internally-generated phosphene images are called 'formed' or
'unformed hallucinations' to distinguish them from dream-like 'experiential
hallucinations' which contain memory-based content. If the Falk-Nyberg
thesis were limited to the claim that the RV does not contain references to
experiential hallucinations, the type induced by the hallucinogenic
harmaline alkaloids in Syrian rue, and that, if there are no references to
experiential hallucinations, then Syrian rue cannot be the original Soma,
there would be no contradiction between the Falk-Nyberg position and our
own. The problem left unsolved, then, is to find a way to explain how a
stimulant like ephedrine could be associated in the minds of the
Indo-Aryans with induction of inspirational visions.

Vigils and Visions: Falk on Soma and Sleeplessness

Falk was the first to point out that the hymns of the RV often state that
Soma "prevents sleep," an observation he illustrates by citing many verses:
10.34.1, which refers to the "alerting drink of Soma;" 8.92.12, where
"Indra is awake because he drank Soma" (a point repeated in 9.36.2, 9.44.3,
9.103, and 9.106.4); and 8.44.29, where "Agni is awake [jagrvi] like an
inspired poet [Falk, op. cit., p. 80]." Also, verse 9.96.18 calls "Soma a
maker of seers, rsikrt;" 5.44.14 promises that "to someone staying awake
the rces will come and the samans, and Soma will declare him his friend;"
1.53.1 disparages poets who are not blessed with "the gift of
quasi-sleeping;" in 8.44.29 Agni is described as "awake like a poet" (a
theme repeated in 1.31.9, 3.24.3, and 6.15.8); in 3.26.3, Agni, "a finder
of the sun," is described as "staying awake waiting for the gods;" and, in
9.107.7, "Soma is called vipra and jagrvi and one who makes the sun rise
[Falk, op. cit., p. 80]." Also relevant to Soma's identity as a stimulant
is 8.79.7-8 where the eulogist "begs Soma to be peaceful to the heart" and
"to ward off excessive agitation," an acknowledgment that over-stimulation
of the nervous system can result from drinking Soma [Falk, op. cit., p.
After drinking Soma, the priests may have mounted all-night vigils in which
they avoided social interaction and chanted in solitude:
It is in this light that RV 8.48.14 is to be read, where the poet expresses
the wish that neither sleep nor idle talk should govern him after he has
drunk Soma . . . . So it seems that at least some of the poetry of the RV
was created at night. That jagrvi does not just mean 'alert', but refers
to the night, when ordinary people are asleep, is obvious from all these
stanzas, which connect someone awake with the hope of seeing the sun rise
[Falk, Ibid., p. 80].

Falk reinforces this point by examining a Soma rite described in the
Brahmanas - the Atiratra rite of the srauta Soma ritual - in which the
priests are described as staying awake all night:

The priests have to stay awake, because 'wakefulness means light' . . . .
The priests have to keep the fire ablaze and must never be silent. Fire,
Soma, and the wakefulness and speech of the priests guarantee the
destruction of the demons of the night, i.e. they help Indra in his mythic
struggle, and on the mundane level, the priests overcome misery . . . .
[Falk, 1989, p. 81].

The source text states that the priests did not drink the Soma themselves
until after they had spent the night offering it to Indra, which means they
would not have drunk any of it until sometime the next morning; however, it
is also possible that the priests consumed some of the drink during the
night to help them stay awake [Falk, op.cit., p. 82]. In either event,
Falk suggests that this srauta ritual is probably closer to ancient
Indo-Aryan custom than the Agnistoma ritual which lasts only a day. In he
is correct, there is a way to explain how a stimulant like ephedrine came
to be associated with inspirational visions based on the neurophysiology of
slow wave sleep that generates the meditation-induced,
meditation-destabilized sequence of phosphene images. This explanation can
account for the outbreak of paroxysmal visions whether or not the priests
drank ephedrine on the night of the vigil.

Losing a night's sleep increases the excitability of cortical neurons,
creating a potential for synchronized sleep rhythms to rebound in force at
the first opportunity. If the priests tried to meditate in the early hours
just before dawn - a time when the sleep rebound effect would be
particularly strong - there would be an increased risk that sleep rhythm
oscillators, once activated by meditation, would destabilize. Indeed, this
is precisely what happened to the author at the time he inadvertently
triggered the outbreak of a subclinical seizure, although his sleep deficit
was slightly more pronounced (only four hours of sleep in the preceding
thirty-six hours). During this paroxysm, the author saw the phosphene
sequence (see Part I) which includes images resembling the Vedic visions of
the Dawn-before-dawn, the Soma filter, the streams of purified Soma, and
Indra's lightning bolt.

If, in addition to the sleep deficit, the priests also drank the ephedrine
the night before to help them keep awake, this stimulation of the
sympathetic nervous system would not only aggravate the sleep rhythm
rebound effect but also enhance the hyperexcitability of cortical neurons
by over-stimulating the sympathetic nervous system. We have noted earlier
in this article that the final common pathway of many different kinds of
shamanic trance induction rituals is over-stimulation of the sympathetic
nervous system to the point of triggering a temporary collapse, and that
this collapse evokes a physiological state of parasympathetic dominance
similar to slow wave sleep. Therefore, if the priests began to practice
meditation after a sleepless night fueled by drug-induced exhilaration, and
in this process activated the sleep rhythm oscillators, the risks of
triggering a destabilization of sleep rhythm oscillators would be even
greater than if they had not consumed the ephedrine.

In both of the scenarios, the proximate cause of the paroxysmal phosphene
visions is meditating while in a sleep-deprived condition, not the use of
ephedrine per se, but even if ephedrine is only a predisposing factor, it
would not be surprising, given the proximity of events - the vigil, the
prolonged sleeplessness, the drinking of a strong, exhilarating stimulant,
and the advent of paroxysmal visions of light - if the participants were to
conclude that there was a causal connection between these events.

Or perhaps the priests knew all along that there was no direct connection
between the Soma drink and the Soma visions; perhaps what was most
important to them was the homology between the exhilaration they felt when
they drank the terrestial Soma and the vision of a sun-like Indra bursting
into view just after the vision of Soma jets shooting out like milk from a
cow's udder. Consistent with this interpretation is the famous verse which
reads: "One thinks he has drunk Soma when they press the plant. But the
Soma that the Brahmans know - no one ever eats that. / Hidden by those
charged with veiling you, protected by those who live on high, O Soma, you
stand listening to the pressing-stones. No earthling eats you. / When
they drink you who are a god, then you are filled up again. . . . 10.85.3-5
[OFL, p. 267]."


1. The translations for Patañjali's Yogasutras, verses 4.23 through 4.29,
are my own. I was able to make translation, despite my rudimentary skills
in Sanskrit, because this text can be read in conjunction with a source
that provides word-by-word translations of the root Sanskrit terms
[Feuerstein, 1989], because I had the template of meditation-induced
phosphenes available for comparison, and because I could consult with Dr.
Michael Witzel, Harvard, on words that seemed problematical (e.g., nimnam).
Every published translation that I have read - and I've read many of them -
uses 'experience-distant' metaphysical interpretations in the fourth
chapter about Kaivalya, completely missing the possibility that these
verses might actually be describing lights that would appear in the visual
field. The template of meditation-induced phosphenes helped unlock the
meaning of this text in much the same way it worked in the present study of
vision metaphors in the RV.


BH/W Bhawe, S. S., The Soma Hymns of the Rig Veda, Parts I - III, 1957,
and 1962, as quoted in Wasson, R. G., Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality
(Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: New York, 1971).

DNG Dange, S. A. Divine Hymns and Ancient Thought, Vol. I: RgVeda
Hymns and Ancient Thought (NAVRANG: New Delhi, 1992.).

GRF Griffith, R. T. H., The Hymns of the RgVeda, Vol. I - II
Sanskrit Series: Varanasi, 1971 [1889]).

OFL O'Flaherty, W. D., The Rig Veda: An Anthology (Penguin
London, 1971.).

WIL Wilson, H. H., Rig-Veda Sanhita: A Collection of Ancient
Hymns, Vol. I - VI (Trubner & Company: London, 1888.).

GON Gonda, J. 1963. The Vision of the Vedic Poets (Mouton &
Co.: The
Hague, Netherlands).


Arbman, E. 1963. Ecstasy or Religious Trance: In the Experience of
Ecstatics and from a Psychological Point of View, Vol. I, Vision and
Ecstasy (Scandinavian University Books: Stockholm).
Arbman, E. 1968. Ecstasy or Religious Trance: In the Experience of
Ecstatics and from a Psychological Point of View, Vol. II: Essence and
Forms of Ecstasy (Scandinavian University Books: Stockholm).
Arbman, E. 1970. Ecstasy or Religious Trance: In the Experience of
Ecstatics and from a Psychological Point of View, Vol. III: Ecstasy and
Psychopathological States (Scandinavian University Books: Stockholm).
Benson, A., and Sehgal, L.. 1987. "The Light at the End of the Tunnel,"
Rock Art Papers 5(23):1-6 (Museum of Man: San Diego).
Bhawe, S. S. 1957, 1960, 1962. The Soma Hymns of the Rig Veda, Parts I -
III, as quoted in Wasson, R. G.. 1971. Soma: Divine Mushroom of
Immortality (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: New York).
Dange, S. A. 1992. Divine Hymns and Ancient Thought, Vol. I: RgVeda
Hymns and Ancient Thought (N. Singal, NAVRANG: New Delhi).
Dronfield, J. 1996a. Entering Alternative Realities: Cognition, Art and
Architecture in Irish Passage-Tombs. Cambridge Archaeological Journal
6(1): 37-72.
Dronfield, J. 1996b. The Vision Thing: Diagnosis of Endogenous
Derivation in Abstract Arts. Current Anthropology 37(2): 373-391.
Eliade, M. 1964. Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy (Princeton
University Press: Princeton).
Elkin, A. P. 1977 [1945]. Aboriginal Men of High Degree, 2nd Edition
(St. Martin's Press: New York).
Erdosy, G. 1995. The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia: Language,
Material Culture, and Ethnicity (Walter de Gruyter: Berlin & NY).
Falk, H. 1989. "Soma I and II." In: Bulletin of the School of Oriental
and African Studies (University of London).
Feuerstein, G.. 1989. The Yoga-Sutra of Patañjali: A New Translation and
Commentary (Inner Traditions International: Rochester, VT).
Firnhaber, R. P. 2001. Mapping the ASC: A Cultural-Physiological
Construct. Paper presented at the 6th International Conference of the
International Society for Shamanistic Research, Viljandi, Estonia.
Flattery, D. S. and Schwartz, M.. 1989. Haoma and Harmaline: The
Botanical Identity of the Indo-Iranian Sacred Hallucinogen "Soma" and its
Legacy in Religion, Language, and Middle Eastern Folklore (University of
California Press: Berkeley).
Furst, P. T.. 1975. "To Find Our Life: Peyote Among the Huichol Indians
of Mexico." In: Furst, P. T., Editor. Flesh of the Gods: The Ritual Use
of Hallucinogens, pp. 136-184 (London: Allen & Unwin).
Gonda, J. 1963. The Vision of the Vedic Poets (Mouton & Co.: The Hague,
Gonda, J. 1979. The Medium in the RgVeda (E. J. Brill: Leiden).
Gonda, J. 1983. Soma's Metamorphoses (The Identifications in the Oblatory
Rites of Satapatha-Brahmana 12, 6, 1) (North Holland Publishing Company:
Gonda, J. 1983. Soma's Metamorphoses (The Identifications in the Oblatory
Rites of Satapatha-Brahmana 12, 6, 1) (North Holland Publishing Company:
Gonda, J. 1989. The Indra Hymns of the RgVeda (E. J. Brill: Leiden).
Griffith, R. T. H. 1971 Reprint [1889] The Hymns of the RgVeda, Vol. I -
II (Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series: Varanasi).
Halifax, J. 1982. Shaman: The Wounded Healer (Thames and Hudson: London).
Herity, M. 1974. Irish Passage Graves: Neolithic Tomb-Builders in
Ireland and Britain 2500 B.C. (Irish University Press: Dublin).
Holtved, E. 1967. "Eskimo Shamanism" In: Edsman, C. M., Editor, Studies
in Shamanism (Almqvist and Wiksell. Stockholm).
Jakobsen, M. D.. 1999. Shamanism: Traditional and Contemporary
Approaches to the Mastery of Spirits and Healing (Berghahn Books: Oxford).
Keeney, B., Editor. 1999. Kalahari Bushmen Healers (Ringing Rocks Press:
Keith, A. B. 1970 Reprint [1925]. The Religion and Philosophy of the Veda
and Upanishads , Harvard Oriental Series, Vols. 31 & 32 . (Motilal
Banarsidass: Delhi).
La Barre, W. 1969 [1964]. The Peyote Cult (Schocken Books: New York).
Laski, M. 1961. Ecstasy in Secular and Religious Experiences (Tarcher:
Los Angeles).
Lawlor, R. 1991. Voices of the First Day: Awakening in the Aboriginal
Dreamtime. (Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions International).
Lewis-Williams S, J. D., and Dowson, T. 1993. "On Vision and Power in the
Neolithic: Evidence from the Decorated Monuments," Current Anthropology
34:55- 65.
Lewis-Williams, J. D. 1991. "Wrestling with Analogy: A Methodological
Dilemma in the Upper Paleolithic Art Research," Proceedings of the
Prehistoric Society 57(2):149-162.
Lewis-Williams, J. D. 1995a. "Modeling the Production and Consumption of
Rock Art," South African Archaeological Bulletin 50:143-154.
Lewis-Williams, J. D. 1995b. "Seeing and Construing: The Making and
'Meaning' of a Southern African Rock Art Motif," Cambridge Archaeological
Journal 5(1):3-23.
Lewis-Williams, J. D., and Dowson, T. 1988. "The Signs of All Times:
Entoptic Phenomena in Upper Paleolithic Art," Current Anthropology
MacDonell, A. A. 1971. The Vedic Mythology (Indological Book House:
Mandel, A.J.. 1980. "Toward a Psychobiology of Transcendence: God in the
Brain." In: Davidson, J. M. and Davidson R. J., Editors. The
Psychobiology of Consciousness, pp. 379-463. (Plenum Press: New York).
McKenna, T. 1992. Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of
Knowledge (Bantam Books: New York).
McKenna, T. 1992. Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of
Knowledge (Bantam Books: New York).
Nelson, E. W.. 1899. "The Eskimos About Bering Strait," The 14th Annual
Report of American Ethnology, pp. 653 - 1110, as cited in Benson and
Sehgal, supra.
Nicholson, P. T. 1996a. "Phosphene images of thalamic sleep rhythms
induced by self-hypnosis," Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine 7(2): 111
- 148.
Nicholson, P. T. 1996b. "Dialogue: Phosphene images of thalamic sleep
rhythms induced by self-hypnosis," Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine
7(3): 273 - 283.
Nicholson, P. T. 1999. "Phosphene Epiphenomena of Hypersynchronous
Activity Emerging in Thalamocortical Circuits and Triggering a Hippocampal
Seizure," Epilepsia 40 [Supplement 2]: 27, 203
Nicholson, P. T., and Firnhaber, R. P.. 2001. "Autohypnotic Induction of
Sleep Rhythms Generates Visions of Light With Form-Constant Patterns,"
Paper presented at the 6th International Conference of the International
Society for Shamanistic Research, Viljandi, Estonia.
Nicholson, P. T. 2002a (In Press). "Meditation, Slow Wave Sleep, and
Ecstatic Seizures: The Etiology of Kundalini Visions," Journal of Subtle
Energies and Energy Medicine, Vol. 12, No. 3.
Nicholson, P. T. 2002b (In Press). "Empirical Studies of Meditation:
Does a Sleep Rhythm Hypothesis Explain the Data?" Journal of Subtle
Energies and Energy Medicine, Vol. 12, No.3.
Noll, R. 1985. Mental Imagery Cultivation as a Cultural Phenomenon: The
Role of Visions in Shamanism. Current Anthropology 26(4):443-451.
Nyberg. H.. 1995. "The Problem of the Aryans and the Soma: The Botanical
Evidence." In: Erdosy, G., Editor, The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia:
Language, Material Culture, and Ethnicity (Walter de Gruyter: Berlin, pp.
383 - 406).
O'Flaherty, W. D. 1971. The Rig Veda: An Anthology (Penguin Books:
Patterson, C. 1998. "Seeking Power at Willow Creek Cave, Northern
California," Anthropology of Consciousness 9(1):38-49.
Persinger, M. A.. 1984. "Striking EEG Profiles from Single Episodes of
Glossolalia and Transcendental Meditation," Perceptual and Motor Skills
Rasmussen, K. 1930. The Intellectual Culture of the Iglulik Eskimos.
(Translated by W. Worster: Copenhagen).
Ray, D. J.. 1967. Eskimo Masks: Art and Ceremony (University of
Washington Press: Seattle).
Reichel-Dolmatoff, G. 1972. "The Cultural Context of an Aboriginal
Hallucination: Banisteriopsis caapi." In: Furst, P. T., Editor. Flesh
of the Gods: The Ritual Use of Hallucinogens, pp. 84 - 113 (Allen and
Unwin: London).
Reichel-Dolmatoff, G. 1975. The Shaman and the Jaguar: A Study of
Narcotic Drugs Among the Indians of Columbia (Temple University Press:
Reichel-Dolmatoff, G. 1978. Beyond the Milky Way: Hallucinatory Imagery
of the Tukano Indians (UCLA Latin American Center: Los Angeles).
Reichel-Dolmatoff, G. 1987. Shamanism and the Art of the Eastern Tukanoan
Indians (New York: E. J. Brill).
Reichel-Dolmatoff, G. 1996. The Forest Within: The World-View of the
Tukano Amazonian Indians (Themis Books: Devon, UK).
Sargant, W. 1974. The Mind Possessed: A Physiology of Possession,
Mysticism, and Faith Healing (J. B. Lippincott Company: New York).
Schaefer, S. B.. 1996. "The Crossing of the Souls: Peyote, Perception,
and Meaning Among the Huichol Indians." In: Schaefer, S. B. and Furst, P.
T., Editors. People of the Peyote, pp. 138-168 (University of New Mexico
Press: Albuquerque).
Seigel, R. K., and Jarvik, M. E. 1975. "Drug-Induced Hallucinations in
Animals and Man." In: Siegel, R. K. and West, L. J., Editors.
Hallucinations: Behavior, Experience, and Theory, pp. 81-161 (John Wiley
& Sons: New York).
Taylor, P., ed.. 1988. After 200 years: Photographic Essays of
Aboriginal and Islander Australia Today (Cambridge University Press:
Underhill, E. 1990 [1910]. Mysticism: The Preeminent Study in the Nature
and Development of Spiritual Consciousness (Doubleday: New York).
Vastokas, J. M.. 1977. The Shamanic Tree of Life." In: Brodzley, A. T.,
Daresewich, R., and Johnson, N., Editors. Stones, Bones, and Skin: Ritual
and Shamanic Art, pp. 93-117 (Society for Art Publications: Toronto).
Wasson, R. G. 1971 Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality (Harcourt Brace
Jovanovich: New York).
Whitley, D. S. 1994. "Shamanism, Natural Modeling and the Rock Art of Far
Western Hunter-Gatherers." In: Turpin, S., Editor. Shamanism and North
American Rock Art (Rock Art Foundation: San Antonio).
Whitley, D. S. 1998. "Cognitive Neuroscience, Shamanism, and the Rock Art
of Native California," Anthropology of Consciousness 9(1):22-37.
Wilson, H. H. 1888. Rig-Veda Sanhita: A Collection of Ancient Hindu
Hymns, Vol. I - VI (Trubner & Company: London).
Winkelman, M. J. 1986. "Trance States: A Theoretical Model and
Cross-Cultural Analysis," Ethos 4:174-203.
Winkelman, M. J. 1990. Physiological and Therapeutic Aspects of
Shamanistic Healing. Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine. 1(2):1-18.
Winkelman, M. J. 1992. Shamans, Priests and Witches: A Cross-Cultural
Study of Magico-Religious Practitioners. (Arizona State University
Anthropological Research Papers, No. 44: Tempe)

Journal issue in PDF format.

Rgveda 1.28 and the Alleged Domestic Soma-Pressing by Hanns-Peter Schmidt (2008)

Rgvedische Lichtaufnahmen: Soma botanisch, pharmakologisch, in den Augen der Kavis (831kb)

Capturing Light in the Rʘ gveda: Soma seen botanically, pharmacologically, and in the eyes of the Kavis By Rainer Stuhrmann


Vol. 10 (2003) Issue 1a (Sept.21) (©) ISSN 1084-7561



EJVS 10-1

T. P. Mahadevan & Frits Staal


somayAgam 2003

EJVS 10-2

Itti Ravi Mamunne

Agni and the Foreign Savants

EJVS 10-3

Kerala Yajna with Foreign Participation

(from the defunct Illustrated Weekly, May 25, 1975)


EJVS 10-1

T. P. Mahadevan & Frits Staal

somayAgam 2003

Fig. 1. Pota sprinkling the Soma with mantras at Apyayanam

1. Introduction
2. Background: The Oral Tradition of zrauta
3. Breathing New Life into a Tradition
4. Three potAs, Four adhvaryus and Seven hotAs
5. Preparation and Training
6. The yajamAna and his Priests
7. The Performance
8. Twelve Pillars of zrauta
9. Literature
10. Conclusion

1. Introduction

During April 7-12, 2003, a "somayAgam," i.e., agniSToma-somayAga, was
performed by Nambudiri Brahmans in Trichur in central Kerala, formerly the
Cochin State. It was preceded by AdhAnam, i.e., agnyAdhAna or
punarAdheya, on April 6. The location of the ceremonies was the "Vadakke
Madham Brahmaswam," the Northern (vadakkE) of two Vedic institutions within
Trichur town where the Rgveda has been taught to young pupils for four
centuries or more. (The Southern Madham is for saMnyAsins of whom there is
at present one.)

The last performance of somayAgam was in 1984. It is one of two large
Vedic rituals that are preserved in the Nambudiri community, the other
being the 12-day atirAtra-agnicayana. One of the many characteristic
differences between the two rituals is that there are twelve
"Soma-sequences" in the somayAgam and twenty-nine in the agnicayana. A soma
sequence consists of a sAmaveda chant (stotra or stuti, as the Nambudiris
call it), Rgveda recitation (zastra), soma offerings to the deities and
soma drinking by the yajamAna and his priests. The first twelve soma
sequences of the agnicayana are similar to the twelve sequences of the
somayAgam, but all of them are not the same. And only a ritualist who has
performed the somayAga, and thus become a somayAjI, is eligible for an
agnicayana and to become thus an akkitiri.

The authors of the present article were both able to attend the 2003
ceremonies at Trichur but Mahadevan (TP) could spend more time than Staal
(FS) in Kerala both prior to and after the performance. We decided to work
together because it seemed to us that our experiences and qualifications
could usefully complement each other. TP was born in a community of Tamil
Brahmans in the Palghat valley, a gap in the Western Ghats that separates
Tamilnad and Kerala from each other. These Brahmans wear the top-knot on
the front of the head (pUrvazikhA), like the Nambudiris. TP has shown that
the two communities are closely related (Mahadevan et al. forthcoming and
see below). Though their mother tongue is Tamil, their first language and
the language of their education is Malayalam. TP had never witnessed a
large zrauta ritual. FS does not know Tamil or Malayalam but has
witnessed two such rituals, both atirAtra-agnicayana, the first one in 1975
(see Staal et al.1983) and the second in 1990 (see Staal 1992). FS did not
witness the 1984 agniSToma-somayAga. The two authors are jointly
responsible for the following observations, speculations and questions and
use, if necessary, the abbreviations TP or FS.

Fig. 2 Erkkara Raman Nambudiri with pUrvaziKhA
performing apyAyanam in 1975.

2. Background: The Oral Tradition of zrauta

Like its three immediate predecessors--the 1975 agnicayana of Panjal, the
1984 agniSToma of Trivandrum, and the 1990 agnicayana of Kundoor--the 2003
agniSToma of Trichur was a manifestly living tradition and entirely oral.
That is, the recitations from the Rgveda, the chants from the sAmaveda and
the mutterings from the yajurveda, are transmitted outside literacy, as are
the ritual manuals that prescribe at which point in the ritual performance
they have to be inserted. It is not that the priests were illiterate in the
ordinary sense of the word; they were literate, living as they do in the
most literate state of the Indian Union. Most of the adult priests earn
their normal livelihoods through regular jobs of the world at
large--teaching, engineering, one in IT profession--and several younger
ones were still high school and junior college students. But as the
different recitatory episodes unfolded during the course of the ritual, not
the least sign of literacy, a piece of paper or a notebook with written
prompts and directions, was in evidence. It is known that during the
six-month period of the training, preparation and rehearsals leading up to
the actual event, use is made of notebooks, prepared by the senior AcAryas
who have already taken part in previous rituals, containing paddhatis
written out in Malayalam on the different episodes of the ritual, the
AdhAna or the pravargya. The paddhati notebooks of Erkkara Raman
Nambudiri, the doyen of Nambudiri zrautism of yesteryears, are legendary.
But in the actual event in Trichur, all these aids, that presumably began
to come into use millennia ago with the rise and spread of literacy, were
held as strict taboos, as must have been the case for the traditional
Nambudiri zrauta performance. FS recalls this to be the case for both the
1975 and 1990 performances. The situation resembles the taboo regarding
the source of fire in the ritual. That is, fire is ubiquitous in and
outside the yAgazAlA before the actual start of the ritual: the great brass
lamps of Kerala ablaze with burning wicks, men smoking cigarettes and
beedies are a common sight. But fire for the ritual proper comes only from
the stone age technology of making fire, the laborious ceremony of rubbing
two pieces of wood together. Thus, the ritual marks a warp in time and
space that transports the participants to a Vedic realm of pure orality and
virtual absence of modern technology.

It does not follow from the above that the individual priests, one as young
as all of ten years, do not need help in discharging their individual oral
performances. The ritualists are less perfect than the tape recorders to
which they have been likened. They use a system of hand signs, say an
outstretched thumb and forefinger, that the reciter can only understand if
he already knows the mantras. Besides, the older priests were in constant
huddle over the performing ritualists, and when the latter made mistakes,
not an uncommon occurrence, the AcAryas took care that a completely
error-free version of the relevant text or mantra found utterance, for the
gods should hear only the complete and correct mantras.

A few feet from the reciting Nambudiris the situation was different. Three
zrauta ritualists, visiting from Maharashtra, were following some of the
recitations from a printed page. They might as well be in a different time
and place, more modern and innovative. The two together presented a
synchronic picture of the zrauta traditions in India today: the strictly
oral, even atavistic but living tradition of Nambudiri Vedism and the
innovative and literate traditions represented by the zrautins from
Maharashtra and other places.

Such a synchronic juxtaposition of zrauta traditions at two different
phases is visible within South India itself. As TP shows in a work in
progress (Mahadevan, forthcoming), we know now that there were in the main
two different waves of Vedism arriving in South India at two different
periods of history: the first is represented by the pUrvazikhA Brahmans
with their fronted top-knots and the second by the aparazikhA Brahmans,
their top-knots toward the back of their heads, making a pony tail. The
pUrvazikhA Brahmans who include the Nambudiris are seen to be well
established in the Tamil country by the Sangam period, thus plausibly
departing from the core areas of Vedic culture by ca. 100 BCE. They
brought with them a phase of Vedism centering around an earlier canon, when
literacy was still nascent and the early taboo of its use for the Vedas
still very much in effect. The arrival of the second group of Brahmans,
the aparazikhAs, is a later event dating from the Pallava age of Tamil
history, from the 5th century CE, and this migration is historically well
attested in the Pallava land grant deeds, by now well into literate times.
The role of literacy is well attested in the zrauta ritual of the
aparazikhA Brahmans, living along the Godavari river in Andhra and the
Kaveri in the Kumbakonam-Tanjavoor area.

3. Breathing New Life into a Tradition

But for the 1975 performance of agnicayana, there would not have been an
agniSToma in 1984; but for 1984, there would not have been the 1990 agni;
but for 1990, there would not have been 2003. That is how an oral tradition
is being transmitted and kept alive. It means, for example, that the 1975
hotA and pratiprasthAtaA officiants were AcAryas for Rgveda and yajurveda
in 2003. Similarly, the father of the 2003 yajamAna, who was yajamAna in
1990, was AcArya in 2003. But why should one start at 1975 and not before?
Because the 1975 performance was the first that was widely publicized,
attracted media and foreign attention, and touched the minds and hearts of
many Nambudiri youngsters. The 2003 performance shows these youngsters,
now in middle age, often with jobs in towns and cities, taking the helm and
stepping forward with a strong desire to train a new generation of young
vaidikas or seeing to it that they were being trained. The third generation
had now arrived and many of its members were eager to receive instruction,
unlike a few decades before. They accepted the value of the old tradition,
realized that it was getting weaker, the expertise being thinner and
distributed among fewer people, but also saw a chance of earning a
livelihood from zrauta.

In the past, almost all Nambudiri houses were in the countryside as
distinct, for example, from the Tamil Brahman agrahArams which are situated
at the center of villages. Ritual performances took place there, as in
Panjal and Kundoor. The 1984 performance of the somayAga was the first to
take place in a large city, Trivandrum, and the 2003 performance followed
suit in that it was also an urban event. It was decided to organize it at
the only Vedic school that is situated in a town, viz., the Vadakke Madham
Brahmaswam at Trichur. A township of 50,000 people, Trichur, with its
celebrated Nambudiri-run VatakkunnAtha temple and its popular "round"
around the temple grounds, once a chic promenade, now hazardous with its
traffic pollutants and pot holes, is the traditional Nambudiri town, as
much a concession to an urban setting as the fiercely rural community has
allowed itself. It was also decided to give wide publicity to the
proceedings, preparations as well as performance, make it a media event and
try to raise money by appealing to the public at large. An important role
was played by the Nambudiri website run by P. Vinod
Bhattatiripad, which started to spread information about the ritual all
over the world.

This development was not without its critics. There were those who did not
like what they regarded as commercialization. These included inside critics
like the Taikkat Vaidikan himself; and outside critics such as Dr. T.I.
Radhakrishnan who played a crucial role in 1990. The organizers felt, on
the other hand, that without publicity the tradition would be further
endangered. In the past, many performances had depended on a few great
Nambudiri families. What today's Nambudiri elite wanted presently was for
the performance to be easily accessible to a large number of people who
would also contribute money at the site of the yAga. The Brahmaswam Madham
obviously met those requirements. And the hoped-for remuneration did not
fail to materialize: vecchu namaskAram, "deposit and prostrate," (for the
yajamAna) came to approximately Indian Rupees 165,000 = $1500; sales of
gold lockets with the agnicayana emblem: Rs. 1.5 million = $30,000; gate
collections and other donations: Rs.2.6 million = $ 50,000. The collections
and donations include offerings at a dakSiNAmUrti shrine, an important
feature of the Trichur yAga to which we shall return.

The geographical position of Trichur itself is of ritual interest. A
Nambudiri Vedic ritual is organized by two groups of Brahmans: the small
group of sAmavedins who are concerned with everything that pertains to
their Veda; and the larger group of Vaidikans who are in charge of both
Rgveda recitations and yajurveda mantras and kriyAs, whatever their Veda of
birth. All recent performances have been organized by Vaidikans who
belonged to the kauSItaki school of the Rgveda. Major yajurveda officiants
such as the adhvaryu were also kauSItakins though a few baudhAyana
yajurvedins officiated in minor priestly roles. The particular virtue of
Trichur is that it is located at the southern limit of the geographical
distribution of the kauSItaki school of Rgveda, and, at the same time, at
the northern limit of the Baudhayana Yajurvedins whose center is
Irinjalakuda, some thirty miles to the south. A significant feature of the
2003 Trichur yAga was that the adherents by birth of baudhAyana yajurveda
played a more important role than before. We consider this new cooperation
betwen baudhAyana and kauSItaki in some detail in the next section.

The rarity of qualified performers and the feeling that the tradition was
in danger engendered a new spirit of cooperation between the sAmavedins and
kauSItakins as well. The sAmavedins who, despite or because of their
small numbers had split into two factions, started to seek closer contact
with priests of the other Vedas. Vaidikans and sAmavedins began to work
more closely together than perhaps ever before. One kauSItaki Vaidikan
offered his son to be trained for the office of the subrahmaNya -- the one
sAmaveda priest whose task is limited to merely reciting the
subrahmaNyAhvAnam. There was at the same time an increasing demand for tape
recordings made in the past and especially at the time of the 1975
performance. Taikkat Vaidikan approached FS about ways and means of
obtaining copies of all recordings he had made since 1957 . The
most important manifestation of the new spirit is that youngsters realized
that Vedic ritual has a place in modern Kerala society and that a Vedic
ritualist, with his extensive and specialized knowledge, may have a future.

4. Three potAs, Four adhvaryus and Seven hotAs

Nothing illustrates the keen awareness of the weakening of tradition more
clearly than the exceptional care that was taken to prevent mistakes in
chants and recitations. The case of the sAmaveda is special because the
transmission of the chants is entirely in the hands of the few qualified
sAmavedins. The always larger tradition of Rgveda saMhitA recitation
continues to be strong, but the ritual does not follow the saMhita order of
Rks within a given hymn and requires extraordinary transformations to which
the Rks themselves are subjected. In the yajurveda, the ritual sequence is
often the same as in the taittirIya saMhitA, but the sequences that have to
be recited may be long and the vaidikans are not yajurvedins but Rgvedins
by birth. In 2003, all the required recitations and their modifications
were known only to a handful of people--basically the AcAryas and a few
others. Moreover, the concern for fidelity took on an extra dimension in
view of the tender age of some of the priests. The ten year old potA, a
minor officiant, was one of the priests whose task it is to recite the
ApyAyana mantras that make the Soma swell. Barely tall enough to touch the
bundle of Soma stalks on its high stool immediately to his south, he looked
across at his two preceptors who were standing on the other side, fixing
their gaze on him and indicating the mantras with their gestures. And so,
it looked on this occasion as if three priests were jointly executing the
office of the potA.

One technique that may assist in safeguarding the tradition is prompting
(see, e.g., Staal et al. I:287). It is a variation on an ancient custom.
The yajamAna, who may be a king or any person of importance and/or wealth,
not necessarily a Brahman, need not be familiar with Vedic or Sanskrit. He
repeated the required mantras after the purohita has recited them first. In
a modern "Vedic" marriage the bridegroom does the same. Haltingly in
Nambudiri gRhya and more fully in zrauta, prompting works as follows. If
the designated priest, who had been elected at RtvigvaraNam, has to recite
a set of mantras, the recitation is prompted by a student who stands next
to him and recites each verse before him, after which he repeats it
"officially." During the 2003 performance, the adhvaryu was often assisted
by such a student-prompter, standing himself in front of his teacher or
teachers, one of them a baudhAyana yajurvedin. Here there are four
adhvaryus: two assisters of the prompter, the prompter himself and finally
the officially elected adhvaryu.

The use of prompting is not allowed in the case of the zastras, which
consist of Rks culled from different hymns of the Rgveda. They are often
long and the sequence of the Rks that make up a given sastra have undergone
unusual transformations. The recitations are not only an intellectual
challenge but also place extraordinary demands on the lungs of the reciter,
since a prescribed sequence of Rks should be recited within a single
breath. In the agniSToma, the hotA has to recite six zastras; and
maitrAvaruNa, BrAhmaNAcchaMsin and acchAvAka two each. There was a general
feeling that the maitrAvaruna had problems with control of breath, but the
hotA's sastra recitations were exemplary. However, the latter also has to
recite the prAtaranuvAka litany in the early morning of the Pressing Day.
It consists of 360 Rgvedic verses, picked, as in a zastra, from different
hymns of different books, and arranged in an order different from that in
the Rgveda. The hotA's delivery of the prAtaranuvAka did not match the
excellence of his zastra performances. Seated facing east along the pRSThyA
line, he began the Morning Litany a little after 2 AM, on the fifth day,
assisted by two helpers: one, eighteen years old, the most promising
current Rgveda student at the Brahmasvam Madham, squatting in front of the
hotA to his right, and the other, one of the current core members of the
Nambudiri zrauta community, squatting likewise in front of the hotA but to
his left. There was a constant mime of hand signals from these two to the
hotA as he began his recitation: thus, we have three hotas, forming a

But the story of the multiplying hotas does not end there. The small
triangle was at one angle of a larger triangle. At another angle of the
larger triangle, a group of at least three senior Vaidikans sat behind the
performing hotA, a few feet to his left, edging forward inch by inch,
constantly and in some alarm, as the hotA began to falter. At the third
angle of this larger triangle, the two Madham Rgveda teachers sat in front
of the hotA but a few feet to his left, in constant communication by hand
signals with the young helper who was their student. Thus our total of
seven hotAs.

Some of the hotA's trouble spots in the prAtaranuvAka may be mentioned
here. The first is RV 1.34.6 which begins: trir no azvinA... and this
beginning is the same as that of 1.34.7, two verses ahead. The hotA jumped
over one verse, a simple mistake in the order of Rks in the SaMhitA which
has nothing to do with the difficulties of the prAtaranuvAka. All it shows
is that he was nervous.

The second example is RV 5.79.1 which begins: mahe no adya bodhaya as it
occurs in the prAtaranuvAka. The next verse begins with the same three
words: RV 7.75.2: mahe no adya but then continues: suvitAya bodhi. It is
very confusing not only because bodh- occurs in both verses, but also
because RV 7.75 does not occur in the prAtaranuvAka at all, though each of
the hymns 7.73, 74, 77, 78, 79, 80 and 81 are recited there almost as if a
trap was planned. The hotA fell into it, but the young helper did not.

5. Preparation and Training

The undoubted stable of Rgveda recitation of the Nambudiri community is the
Vadakke Madham Brahmasvam. It probably owes its origin to the former custom
of some Nambudiri youngsters after samAvartanam to spend a year at the
Vatakkunnatha temple in Trichur where they would partake in the naivEdya
offerings and receive some training in Rgveda recitation. Subsequently they
were accommodated in a separate building, the Vadakke Madham Brahmasvam or
Brahmasvam Madham, where they received a more advanced education in Rk
saMhitA with padapATha and vikRti recitations such as krama, jaTA, etc. No
doubt, most children had begun their saMhitA mastery at home where they
were taught by their father, another relative or teacher. That practice
continues. At present, 430 Nambudiri families are affiliated to the Madham
and the bulk of its students come from these families, although other poor
Nambudiri children are also accepted. The Madham has now 25 students and
provides them with full room and board. The children also receive a modern
education, as mandated by state laws, and must appear for public
examinations of the State Board of Education.

All recitational studies available at the Madham are prerequisites for a
Rtvik taking part in a zrauta ritual, but no special training for zrauta
rituals is available at the Madham now. Specially selected students receive
it in the vaidikapITham in Perungottu, a town not far from Trichur, under
the leadership of Cerumukku Vaidikan Vallabhan Nambudiri. At the time of
the Trichur ritual there were four students in this institution and
Cerumukku Vallabhan's wish is to amalgamate it with the Madham facility,
leading to a central institute of zrautasamskAra. The sAmaveda tradition
remains largely within families. Out of the 21 Samaveda families in the
Nambudiri community, nine are entitled to perform zrauta rituals. Although
the situation with respect to trained sAmavedis seemed dire a while ago,
the Trichur yAga revealed the availability of a fully trained sAmavedi
corps. Throughout the training period, Tottam Krishnan Nambudiri, the
udgAta, worked closely together with Cerumukku Vallabhan.

The training for the yAga itself lasted five months, posing a measure of
hardship on the priests some of whom possessed secular employment. The
Trichur hotA was a school teacher, luckily not far from Trichur, but there
were priests from as far away as Bombay. In the weeks leading upto the
Trichur yagam, there were three full rehearsals. The training began under
the auspices of the senior Vaidikans, men we have identified as AcAryas. A
hotA of a previous ritual trains the hotA for the coming ritual. For
instance, the 1975 hotA, Naras Mangalath Narayanan Nambudiri, trained the
2003 hotA, Bhavatratan Nambudiri, who had been the 1990 maitrAvaruNa, the
priest with the second greatest Rgveda load. A spare hotA was also in
training in case the designated hotA would be disabled by poor health or
death/birth pollution. Such substitute trainees existed for all the major
priests, and they became the second and third priests in the yAga itself as
illustrated in section #4. A conspicuous feature in the training and
preparation of the 2003 yAga was the active role played by the Pantal
Vaidikan, a baudhAyana yajurvedin.

Soma arrived at Trichur on Friday April 4, having been brought on foot
from its traditional habitat, the Kollengode mountains in the Palghat
Ghats. Its local journey through the Trichur downtown streets to the site
of the ritual started on elephant back from the main entrance of the
Vatakkunnatha temple. Traditional pajJavAdhyam music accompanied the
procession with much pomp and circumstance. Soma was transferred to the
Madham and later lay stored under wet rags in one of its backrooms.

6. The Yajamana and his Priests

yajamAna: bhaTTi putillat rAmAnujan naMbUtiri
Gotra: vaizvAmitra. Sutra: kauSItaki. Age: 48.

yajamAnapatnI: Dhanya pattinAdi antharjanaM. Age: 39.

adhvaryu: kAvapra mARath zankaranArAyaNan naMbUtiri
Gotra: AGgirasa. Sutra: kauSItaki. Age: 34.

pratipaSTAta: puthillaM jayarAman naMbUdiri
Gotra: kAzyapa. Sutra: kauSItaki. Age: 49.

nESTAR: nARAs vAsudEvan naMbUtiri
Gotra: kAzyapa. Sutra: kauSItaki. Age: 20.

unnEtAr: kApra nArAyaNan naMbUtiri
Gotra: AGgirasa. Sutra: kauSItaki. Age: 50.

hOtAr neDTum bhavadrAtan naMbUtiri
Gotra: kAzyapa. Sutra: kauSItaki. Age: 52.

maitrAvaruNa: ERkkara nArAyaNan naMbUtiri.
Gotra: vaizvAmitra. Sutra: kauSItaki. Age: 34.

acchAvAka: kApRa nArAyaNan naMbUtiri
Gotra: AGggirasa. Sutra: kauSItaki. Age: 50.

grAvastut: kIZmudayUr paramEzvaran naMbUtiri
Gotra: kAzyapa. Sutra: kauSItaki. Age: 57.

udgAtA: tOTTaM krSNan naMbUtiri
Gotra: vAsiSTha. Sutra: jaiminIya. Age: 45.

prastOtA: tOTTam zivakaran naMbUtiri
Gotra: vAsiSTha. Sutra: jaiminIya. Age: 38.

pratihartA: maGgalathEri nArAyaNan naMbUtiri
Gotra: vAsiSTha. Sutra: jaiminIya. Age: 58.

subrahmaNya: magGalathEri nArAyaNan naMbUtiri
Gotra: vAsiSTha. Sutra: jaiminIya. Age: 58.

brahMan KariyaNNUr divAkaran naMbUtiri
Gotra: AGgirasa. Sutra: kauSItaki. Age: 42

brAhMaNAcchaMsin: kuZiyAMkunnaM nArAyaNan naMbUtiri
Gotra: vaizvAmita. Sutra: kauSItaki. Age: 27.

agnidhra: nARAs agnizarman naMbUtiri
Gotra: kAzyapa. Sutra: kauSItaki. Age: 53.

pOtA: pANTaM subrahmanyan naMbUtiri
Gotra: kAzyapa. Sutra: kauSItaki. Age: 10.

sadasya: pantal dAmOdaran naMbUtiri
Gotra: bhARgava. Sutra: baudhAyana. Age: 35.

kautsan C. P. Ramaswamy
(sOma merchant) Gotra: vaizvAmitra. Sutra: ApastaMba. Age: 63.

7. The Performance

Since the Yajamana had not kept his fires burning, the ritual performance
had to start with punarAdheya/agnyAdhAna or AdhAnam. It took place on April
6 outside the prAcInavaMza in the area where the sadas was to be
constructed later. The three altars were temporarily constructed there and
the fourth, the aupAsanAgni altar, was located to the north of the
AhavanIya. FS asked the baudhAyana sadasya, who is also a zulbazAstrin,
what its exact location was and his prompt answer was: anywhere. The
making of the main fire began in the evening with many Nambudiris taking
part in the churning of the wooden upper araNi stick, drilling it into a
hole in the lower araNi. Although smoke was sighted soon, around 8.10 PM, a
self-sustaining fire itself did not catch till midnight. The Maharashtrian
ritualists declared that they possessed a more efficient and predictable

To do justice to the agniSToma somayAga performance would require a tome of
at least a third the size of the first volume of the 1983 AGNI (Staal et
al.). We can do no more than mention a few haphazard episodes here, many of
them of a non-ritual nature, and beginning with the always spectacular
pravargya ceremonies on the 2nd through 4th day, when each time the flame
shot up about 3 feet high. It did not satisfy the Maharasthrians who are
used to a 6 feet flame. The explanation lies in the traditional shape of
the Nambudiri mahAvIra vessel which has a wider neck than the one that is
used in Maharasthra.

Sparse at first, crowds increased with the second and third day. Under a
roof of coconut thatch that surrounded the entire area of the yAgazAlA,
chairs and benches had been placed for visitors to a depth of four. The
numbers increased exponentially as the ritual unfolded, roughly equal for
men and women, mostly middle-aged and almost all Hindu although several
Christians could be counted. TVs had been placed in the periphery for
visitors to watch the live proceedings on the familiar screen. There was a
steady stream of people worshiping dakSiNAmUrti, installed within a shrine
erected to the south of the yAgazAlA. It is of special interest,
illustrating as it does not only a most generous flow of donations but
also, and related to it, the interface between Vedic ritual and the Hindu
religion. The number of dakSiNAmUrti devotees increased throughout the
performance, and we shall revert to it at the end of the present section.

There was a storm with thunder and lightning on the third day accompanied
by widespread whisperings among spectators that Indra had arrived. More
heavy downpours followed on subsequent days, a relief not to humidity but
to temperatures that had soared into the nineties. The climax of the
entire yAga began in the early hours of the 5th day, with the prAtaranuvAka
at 2.40 AM and the saptahotR, discussed in Section #4. With the
bahiSpavamAna in the early morning hours came another surprise: only the
first of the nine stotriyAs was chanted. The puzzlement of FS, expressed
sotto voce to TP, was immediately sensed by the sAmavedins who came to the
periphery of the enclosure as soon as the chant and the important rites
that follow it were over in order to explain, that it is only in the
agnicayana that all nine couplets are sung. Since the mystery of these
melodies and their dangerous powers (with undercurrents of witchcraft) have
always been keenly felt, was their number at an agniSToma performance in a
distant past perhaps reduced to one? Is it another testimony to the
freedom of a living tradition? The jaiminIya brAhmaNa refers to nine
stotriyAs, the zrauta sUtra is silent about their number, and so we hope
that jaiminIya specialists will throw light on the matter.

Fig.3. On the left, the akkitiri from 1990 holding hands with another
priest in the embrace of the sarpana cortege which consists, from left to
right, of adhvaryu, the two bearded sAmavedins looking to their right, the
yajamAna smiling and his brahman. A helper with a basket looks on, baffled.

The bahiSpavamAna was followed by another unexpected scene. The priests
did not only resume their sarpaNa movement, "as hunters approach their
prey," but others surrounded them in a circle of tight embrace that
introduced a merry moment into the solemn ritual. Is it to celebrate the
inclusion of the chanters in the yajamAna's cortège that already includes
his brahman, adhvaryu (in front) and pratiprasthAtA (at the end), thereby
paving the way for the union of chanters and reciters in the sadas once the
bahiSpavamAna is over? Whatever it is, it unleashed the unceasing whirl
of activities that characterizes the Soma pressing day and includes the
remaining eleven sAma stutis and twelve Rk zastras that continued on well
into the next morning and early noon. The avabhRTha bath occurred only late
afternoon on April 12 and it was almost nightfall when the zAlA was torched
with the urban protection of fire brigades on hand.

Throughout all these procedures the dakSiNAmUrti shrine attracted its own
kind of attention that included that of the media. dakSiNAmUrti is the
presiding deity of the temple at Sukhapuram village, the grAmam to which
both the taikkAT and cerumukku Vaidikan families are affiliated (Staal et
al. I:175). It faces south as its name indicates. In the taikkAT mana there
is also a dakSiNAmurti image, but it faces west since all shrines within
Nambudiri houses face west. Whenever the taikkAT Vaidikan used to perform a
yAga, he did so in his own home under the auspices of the Sukhapuram
dakSiNAmUrti mediated by his own idol. The present image, which is made of
wood, belongs to Taikkat Nilakantan's younger brother, Taikkat Kesavan, who
brought it with him and installed it in the shrine immediately south of the
yAgazAlA where it continued to face west and attracted an unceasing chain
of visitors and devotees.

8. Twelve Pillars of zrauta

Continuing the living tradition is not a simple matter. It does not depend
on bookish knowledge, books or manuscripts. The knowledge resides in the
hearts, heads, voices, lungs and bellies of the people and has to be
transmitted directly from teacher to pupil. In 2003, it was clear that the
operation was carried out through three levels: A. the AcAryas; B. the
present core of the living tradition; and C. future generations. The first
group consists of people who are in their seventies (and in one case no
more); the present core, those who are in their thirties and forties; and
the future generations, those from whom the 2003 officiants were mostly
taken. We shall briefly describe these three categories, each member of
which was indispensable to the success of the yAga. If we may be
presumptuous we might add that FS is coeval with the first group, TP with
the second and the majority of our readers with the third.

A. The AcAryas.

These are the preceptors who know the ritual tradition thoroughly and were
the predominant teachers during the period of preparation and training.
During the 2003 performance itself, they rarely opened their mouths, but
were always present and often right in front of the officiant or his
prompter. This holds especially for A4 and 5 who were on the spot whenever
a complex kriyA had to be performed.

A1. Erkkara Raman Nambudiri. (See Fig.2, page 3.)

"Erkkara," without further qualification, was the most prominent Nambudiri
scholar of zrauta of recent time. Beginning his zrauta career as an
adhvaryu at age 16, he took part in almost a hundred yAgas, playing a
leadership role in some sixty of them. His writings will be reviewed below
in section #9 on "Literature." He passed away in 1983, but in 2003 his
large painted portraits were everywhere visibly displayed. No one has taken
his place as yet though we venture to predict that B10 and perhaps C11 may
aspire to it. Whatever it is, the stature and veneration shown to Erkkara
are such that, one thinks, this is how a new zAkhA named after a teacher
may have had its beginnings.

A2. Vaidikan Thaikkat Nilakanthan Nambudiri.

The reader should recall that the organization of a Vedic ritual in Kerala
is in the hands of a Vaidikan who is also in charge of everything that
pertains to the Rg- and yajurvedas. Six families of Vaidikans are eligible
to do it; but in recent history, the performances have been in the hands of
only two whose members are Rgvedins by birth: the families of Cerumukku and
Taikkat. The 1975 performance was organized by Cerumukku Vaidikan
Somayajipad (co-author of Agni 1983); the 1990 performance was in the hands
of the Taikkat Vaidikan, Nilakanthan Nambudiri, and it is he who was also
in charge of the 2003 Somayagam. Taikkat Vaidikan was the person who on the
first occasion they met again since 1990 went up to FS and asked for copies
of the latter's recordings of the 1975 agnicayana (see above Section 3).

A3. Naras (or: Narana) Mangalath Narayanan Nambudiri.

Naras Narayanan (we are now using the names by which Nambudiris refer to
each other), hotA of the 1975 agnicayan, was radiating confidence and
knowledge throughout the 2003 event. He was always present at the zastra
recitations, ready to step in but there was no need because no mistakes
were made by the 2003 hotA to whom we return in a moment (B7).
A4. Kavapra Marath Sankaranarayanan Somayajipad.

Kavapra Sankaranarayanan was prathiprasthAtA in 1975 and acquired the title
of Somayajipad in 1965 after being yajamAna of the somayAgam that was
performed at his family residence. Though like most of the other
ritualists, a Kausitaki Rgvedin by birth, he is a master of Yajurveda and
especially of kriya. He was always on the spot when the 2003 adhvaryu had
to perform a ritual act, directing his movements by hand whenever necessary
which was rarely.

A5. Bhatti Puttillatt Ravi Akkitiripad.

"akkitiri" as he is now called acquired that appellation after being
yajamAna at the agnicayana in 1990 at Kundoor. He is the only akkitiripad
alive and was always standing close his son, Bhatti Puttillatt Ramanujan
Nambudiri, yajamAna of the 2003 somayAgam.

B. The Core of the Present Tradition.

These are the people on whom the future entirely depends. They are experts
still at the peak of their lives. In 2003, some of them were officiating
priests, performing tasks (especially in the domain of sAmaveda) that no
one else seems to be able to presently fulfil.

B6. Cerumukku Vallabhan Nambudiri.

Cerumukku Vallabhan stood at the center of the 2003 proceedings. hotA of
the 1990 agnicayana and presently the most ritually knowledgeable and
active member of the large Cerumukku family, forty-eight years of age, he
could be found from early morning till late night inside the zAla, always
where the action was and right on top of every Rgveda or yajurveda event.
He hopes to be yajamAna of another somayAgam, planned at present for the
spring of 2004.

B7. Neddhum Bhavatratan Nambudiri.

Neddhum Bhavatratan was maitrAvaruNa in 1990 and performed the office of
hotA in 2003. He is the undisputed master of zastra recitation but felt, at
52 years of age, that 2003 might be his last chance to undertake this
difficult as well as exhausting assignment. As far as we are aware, he did
not make a single mistake in the twelve zastra recitations of the agniSToma
though he faltered during the prAtaranuvAka as we have seen.

B8 and 9. Tottam Krishnan Nambudiri and Tottam Sivakaran Nambudiri.

We take the two 2003 Samavedins together because they are brothers and
their close cooperation as Udgata and Prastota throughout the twelve stotra
or stuti chants may be regarded as the axis around which Vedic ritual
revolves. Two members of the Tottam family officiated in 1975, and one of
them again in 1990. Even so and ever since 1975, FS has been concerned
about the future of the Nambudiri sAmaveda tradition. But here they were,
at their respective ages of 45 and 38, a formidable twosome, fully in
command of their substantial and extraordinarily complex tasks --
apparently, we hasten to add, for what outsider would dare pass judgment on
the degree of expertise of jaiminIya praxis which without doubt is unique
on our planet? They must have worked hard and almost constantly despite
the fact that Sivakaran is also an Ayurvedic physician, running and
directing a clinic at Kottayam.

B10. Pantal Vaidikan Damodaran Nambudiri.

Damodaran, the Pantal Vaidikan, final member of our core group, is not the
least. He is not by birth a kauSItaki Rgvedin or jaiminIya sAmavedin like
all of the others, but a baudhAyana yajurvedin. In 1990, at age 23, he
already made an exceptional contribution: he recited the praiSArtham
addressed to the yajamAna after his dIksa, a most honorable duty that was
exercised in 1975 by Erkkara himself. Officiating in 2003 as sadasya at age
35, he is now an allround yajurveda expert who also knows the Baudhayana
Sulbasutra; and in addition, as the reader will have noted from his name, a
Vaidikan: for he is a member of one of the six Vaidikan families that are
eligible to organize a Vedic ritual performance. The Pantal family, which
hails from the famous yajurveda center of Irinjalakuda, has not exercised
its birth right of yAga for at least half a century. Pantal Damodaran's
expertise was recognized and respected by everyone within the Sadas and it
marks a promising direction in the future.

C. Future Generations

We shall attempt to illustrate the future with two examples of young men
whom we regard as possible pillars of zrauta in due time.

C11. Kavapra M. Sankaranarayanan

Kavapra Sankaranarayanan, the prAtaranuvAka expert, and the eighteen
year-old son of Kavapra Marath Sankaranarayanan Somayajippad (A4), is a
very bright student of Sanskrit and fluent in English. He has the entire Rk
Samhita behind him and is on the threshold of vikRti mastery. The 2003 hotA
was all deference to him although Sankaranarayanan was his prompter and
more than thirty years his junior.

Fig.4. Members of the younger generation, including bespectacled

C12. Pandam Subrahmanyan Nambudiri.

Pandam Subrahmanyan could not have officiated on any earlier occasion but
assumed the office of pOta in 2003 at age ten. In his performance of
apyAyanam, he looks over the sOma bundle, his thumb in bandage from a
recent mishap, at his preceptors, Cerumukku Vallabhan straight in front of
him and Kapra Sankaranarayanan Somayajippad to the right of Cerumukku.
South of the Soma bundle is the 1990 akkitiri facing the viewer. At the
bottom right hand corner is seen the face of his son, the 2003 yajamAna.
Other dramatis personae also sitting on the ground are the Brahman, visible
with his black beard between the legs of the Soma stool, Taikkat Vaidikan,
leaning forward to his right, and partly visible, the face of the hOta
between Kapra and Cerumukku. Pandam Subrahmanyan's sprinkling of Soma with
mantras, to which we have referred already, graces our title page.

9. Literature

As we have already noted, the Trichur agniSToma was an urban event. A
public announcement system gave what was occasionally learned commentary on
the proceedings of the ritual. There were press photographers everywhere in
addition to the Asianet TV crew; and the organizers had arranged for the
entire ritual to be video-taped. Thus by the second day or so, surrounding
the yAgazAla, a small town had risen up, selling yaga-related items such as
shawls with zrauta logos. Two book stalls showed up as well. The books,
almost all in Malayalam, were on a variety of subjects, and mostly related
to Hinduism. There were also books on purely zrauta-related matters.
Ranging from expositions on zrauta by experts such as Erkkara to fictional
treatments by popular novelists, the zrauta literature on exhibition
displayed the wide interest the act of yAga has for the contemporary
imagination in Kerala.

By far the most important books on zrauta rituals were those by Erkkara
Raman Nambudiri. Erkkara (as he is commonly known) was easily the most
penetrating mind on zrauta traditions among the Nambudiris in modern times
till his death in 1983. Along with Cerumukku Vaidikan and Itti Ravi, he was
intimately connected to the 1975 Agni and authoritatively so. Like a
number of conservative traditionalists, he opposed at first the filming of
the event. When he changed his mind, all followed his lead, resulting in
the film Altar of Fire. Likewise, when at the eve of the 1975 agnicayana,
there were morally, religiously and politically motivated protests by
Gandhians, Jainas, and Communists against the sacrifice of real animals, it
was he who came up with the solution of piSTapazu-a solution that has found
wide appreciation among the current ritualists, all of whom continue to be
vegetarians in their daily lives. This is another instance of how a live
tradition is able to innovate itself when faced with a difficult impasse
about a crucial part of the ritual.

Erkkara published three volumes: AnmAyamaDhanaM, "The Churning of
Tradition" (1976); EkAhInasathragGaL, "Ekaha and Sattra Rituals" (1978);
and zrautakarmavivEkaM, "The Investigation of Srauta Rituals" (1983). The
first one, now rare and out of print, is a collection of 18 essays, some
from the zrauta magazine anAdi, "Beginningless," he started in 1973. The
first eight essays contain a survey of zruti literature and the following
ten are concerned with the karma and mImAMsA aspects of zrauta rituals.
Many of these essays could function (and probably did) as paddhatis for the
rituals they describe; for example, the essay #15, atirAtrathinte kriya
saMgrahaM "Summary of the Ritual Acts of the Atiratra", originally
published in anAdi [1975. 3:8-12], which gives a step by step account of
the entire ritual on the eve of the actual event. Essay #16 yaJjapazu is a
detailed account of the concept of piSTapazu. Erkkara seems to have been
inspired by Vaishnava tradition for the idea. One other essay (#14:
atirAtram) worth mentioning is the text of a radio-broadcast describing the
dire circumstances of the zrauta tradition in the early 1970's and
acknowledging gratefully the two mahAzayanmAr "Men of Great Ideas," (Asko
Parpola and FS) for their help with the 1975 agnicayana.

Erkkara's two other titles seem to have found inspiration from the success
of AnmAyamaDhanam which won the Kerala Sahitya Academy prize for the year
1978. EkAhInasatragGal, "Ekaha and Sattra Rituals," is made up of 85
paragraph-length vignettes on all matters zrauta: the three kinds of zrauta
rituals, (ekAha, ahIna and sattra); the concepts of prakRti and vikRti; the
17 priests and their duties and functions; zrAddha and how to create it in
our times; yUpa; the various stutis and zastras; the three savanas. Some of
these are brief BrAhmaNa-like expositions (no wonder: let us remember that
Erkkara dictated the entire kauSItaki BrAhmaNa from memory to E.R.
Sreekrishna Sarma for his 1968 edition). This slim volume was much used by
the commentators of the 2003 yAgam through the public address system.
Erkkara's third book, zrautakarmavivEkaM "The Investigation of zrauta
Ritual," contains eight substantial essays on different zrauta rituals, the
essays on atirAtra and cAturmAsya running into almost 70 pages each. One
essay in this collection deals with various prescriptive details of the

Two other books of zrauta interest were zrauta zastra pArMparyam
kEraLathil, "The Science of Srauta Tradition in Kerala," of 1990 by the
famous Malayalam poet mahAkavi Akkitham Achyutan Nambudiri and Rajan
Chungath's zrautam of 2002. Polemical in tone and nature, Akkitham's 12
essays are devoted to plead the spiritual (adhyAtmika) and material
(bhautika) benefits of zrauta rituals against skeptical scientism. Refuting
the thesis that the entire tradition is retrogressive, Akkitham, himself a
Nambudiri, argues for a liberalization of zrauta rituals; specifically he
calls for the training of non-Nambudiris in the Vedas, thereby making the
tradition more inclusive. Rajan Chungath seems to answer to Akkitham's
spirit of greater inclusion. A Christian by birth and veterinarian by
training, Chungath shows a profound interest in, if not commitment to, the
zrauta tradition. He displays an excellent command of the subject through
wide reading and interviews of the principal figures of Nambudiri zrautism,
and his profusely illustrated book easily fills the need for a handbook on
the subject for an inquisitive layman. Of special interest is Chungnath's
chapter on the scientific experiments of the 1990 agnicayana at Kundoor -
the Kirlean photography of the sadas and surroundings; the EEG readings of
the brain waves of the priests; measurements of body temperatures,
breathing rate, pulse rate of some 50 cows herded within 50 meters of the
yAgazAlA. Although a scientist himself, Chungath is content to report
without comment the various "scientific claims" such as one Dr.
Ramachandran Nair's that there was "a measurable decrease in fungus,
bacteria and other pathogens in the immediate vicinity of the yAgazAlA."

The fictional literature on show in these book stalls was another testimony
to the impact of the recent zrauta performances on the Kerala mind. Indeed,
it is said that passenger buses passing by Panjal pause there and the
conductors regularly announce that the bus is passing by "a famous yAga
site," referring to the 1975 agnicayana. The focus of the fictional works
is by and large the zrauta saga of the remarkable figure of mEZathOL
agnihOtri, by all accounts the father of the Nambudiri zrauta tradition.
After oral transmission in a folk tradition, the legends and myths about
him appeared in print early in the 20th century in what is generally
accepted as a classic about Kerala folk lore, namely Sankunni Menon's
aitihyamAla, "Garland of Legends."

agnihOtri's story has received much literary expression, but by far the
most imaginative treatment of the legend is Sridevi's novel of the same
name. Sridevi, herself a naMbUdiri woman and a hostess at the Trichur
yAga, follows the main outline of the hero of the story: he is one of
twelve children of vararuci, a Brahman with legendary links to the Gupta
empire, and a paRaya ("Pariah") woman. Abandoned at birth by a river bank,
the infant is rescued and raised as a Nambudiri by a Nambudiri woman. The
Brahman-paRaya couple abandon their eleven other children likewise; these
foundlings are also raised by people of different castes, thus representing
along with the Brahman agnihOtri a microcosm of the caste society of
Kerala. All the children follow their caste functions: agnihOtri, raised
from infancy as a Nambudiri, performs 99 yAgas before age 35 and stops
there only at Indra's intervention. All Nambudiri families with zrauta
rights today trace these rights to participation by an ancestor in these 99
rituals; agnihOtri's Brahman priest was thus the founder of the AZavanchEri
taMbrAkkaL lineage, one of the two traditionally leading Nambudiri families
in Kerala. agnihOtri's eleven siblings also go on to excel in the
respective realms in which they were raised. One of them adopted by a
carpenter family acquires the title perunthacchan, the master
takSaka/carpenter, another raised in a Tamil veLLALa home is vaLLuvaR,
author of the Old Tamil Kural. A famous moment in the legend is the coming
together of the twelve children to celebrate their father's zrAddha:
vegetarians, meat eaters, untouchable and ritually pure, high and low--all
gather in agnihOtri's house. Sridevi brings this motley crowd together,
keenly alive to the contradictions and paradoxes inherent in such a
gathering in a caste society, but allowing each one full play as an

A benign caste society? A hierarchical arrangement that allows for each
member's full potentiality? Such seems to be the Keralan society of the
agnihOtri legend and its sensitive interpretation in Sridevi's novel. This
construct contrasts instructively with the conventional discourse on caste
and its calamitous features. The very fact that such an ideal is imagined
points to a history of caste in Kerala different from other parts of India.
And such a picture arguably approximates the reality of Kerala as well: we
know that contacts between Nambudiris and non-Nambudiris are common and
even intimate through the vivAha marriage and saMbandha systems. Moreover,
the once ritually impure castes have Sanskitized themselves into honorable
niches in the caste hierarchy. But the legend and Sridevi's novel tell us
perhaps of a greater truth. Several of the children of the Brahman-paraya
couple have Tamil antecedents: to tiruvaLLuvaR, already noted, can be added
pANanAr, the bard figure of the Sangam poetry and kAraikkal aMMa, an early
zaivite nAyanAr. Together then, the twelve children of the Brahman-paRaya
couple point to a trans-Kerala reality; they may be seen as the product of
the first acculturation between Brahman immigrants from the north and the
indigenous people of the Tamil country, the Sangam poetry being a product
of this. The group that came to be called Nambudiris subsequently in
Kerala lived then in the Tamil country as well, along with other pUrvaziKhA
Brahman groups, such as the dIkSitars of cidaMbaraM and the cOLiya
Brahmans, performing zrauta rituals according to the same zAkhAs and sUtras
of kauSItaki Rgveda, jaiminIya sAmaveda, and bauDhAyana/vAdhUla yajurveda
(See sections #1 and 2 above; Mahadevan, forthcoming.)

10. Conclusion

Our title makes the claim that the Trichur agniSToma somayAga represents a
turning point in the Nambudiri tradition. We think that the Trichur yAga
represents a new zrauta model in the sense that its patron is the public at
large. It is what the 2003 udgAta priest characterized in private
conversation as a parasya, i.e., "public" yAga. The last zrauta rituals of
the old model, performed by a private family in the country from resources
drawn from its own landed wealth, took place in the 1950's and 1960's. But
with the land reforms of the 1950's, such resources had already come to an
end. The 1975 agnicayana was possible only because of the support of
foreign, principally American, foundations and a few individuals. The
continuance of such generosity is hardly a firm foundation for keeping the
tradition alive. The 1990 Kundoor agnicayana was performed at least in part
to show that Panjal agnicayana was not the last and that Keralans
themselves can sustain the tradition. The money needed for the ritual was
raised principally by one individual, a non-Nambudiri, Dr. T. I.
Radhakrishnan. The 2003 yAga would also have been cast in the same vein,
but for the differences between Dr. Radhakrishnan and the Nambudiri zrauta
leadership, the latter centering around now the Brahmaswam Madham at
Trichur rather than solely on the Vaidikans and their network of priests.
This body finally took the matter into its own hands, and it gradually
became obvious that the public could and should be the patron. The younger
Nambudiris, some of them with experience in computer and information
technology, brought to the whole project expertise of the modern world. At
the beginning of the ritual, the question of money for the yAga was still
clouded, but as it proceeded, with the collection at the gate and the
institution of vecchu namaskAram, the picture cleared, and the public rose
to the occasion. There is very little doubt that the next yAga--one is
proposed as early as next year--will follow this model.

True, in the process, the yAga became exposed to a degree of urbanization
and its baneful influences: to the traditional eye, the cameramen of news
agencies, the TV crew and the public address system seemed to give the
ritual an aspect of show. But it opened the event to ordinary people:
hundreds came seeing it no doubt as a Hindu, rather than Vedic, ceremony
and left money with a prayer. Even academics--anthropologists, historians,
mathematicians-- came from Kerala's universities. There were seminar-like
events about zrauta ritual, away from the yAgazAlA. A set of spare
implements used in the ritual--the different wooden spoons used for
offerings and oblations, the clay pots used for the pravargya and Soma
preparation, the agni-making set and other special items--all were on
display at an exhibition in the Madham buildings. Finally, the powers of
the state of Kerala descended upon the site: no less than three ministers
were received near the yAgazAla by the Madham personnel as the ritual
itself went on apace. Much of this was possible only in the urban setting
of Trichur. And the extent of the public participation, from ordinary
citizens to the powers that be, cast the Trichur somayAga in a democratic

In a way, this resembles the history of zrauta tradition in India in the
past. In earlier renewals, during Gupta, Pallava, Cola or VijayanAgara
dynasties, patronage was provided by kings. The state in democratic India,
with its constitutional separation of powers, cannot provide that, but a
benign show of interest is helpful to the public at large. And who would
want more than a benign interest from the state? It would be unfortunate
if the present government in Delhi were to obfuscate Vedic ritual with the
ideological strains of Hindutva.

The involvement of the public in the present ritual is not a product of the
imagination of the present writers. It does not mean that there were open
discussions on the value of Vedic ritual or that the ritual had entered
what is now sometimes called "the public sphere." But that involvement is
substantiated by the gate collections and donations from the public without
which the yAga might have resulted in bankruptcy for the yajamAna, the
Madham or both. This is bound to create interest on the part of future
yajamAnas as well as aspiring zrautins who have to go through years of
training and preparation in the hope that they may earn a livelihood from
zrauta. But money is not everything. Also needed are a sense of vocation on
the part of the yajamAna and a total commitment and dedication to the
intricacies of chants, recitations and rites on the part of the officiating
priests. At present there are clear signs that such a zrauta spirit is
thriving. To that ample testimony was borne by the 2003 Trichur yAga.


Caland, W. and V. Henry (1906-07), agniSToma. Description complète de la
forme normale du sacrifice de Soma dans le culte védique. I-II. Paris:
Ernest Leroux.

Houben, Jan E.M. (2000), "The Ritual Pragmatics of a Vedic Hymn: The
'Riddle Hymn' and the Pravargya Ritual." Journal of the American Oriental
Society 120/4: 499-536.

Krick, Hertha (1982), Das Ritual der Feuergründung (agnyAdheya). Wien:
Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften.

Mahadevan, T.P. (forthcoming), The Arrival of Vedism in South India. The
pUrvazikhA and aparazikhA Brahmans.

Parpola, Marjatta (2000). Kerala Brahmins in Transition. A Study of a
Namputiri Family. Helsinki: Finnish Oriental Society.

Renou, Louis (1947), Les écoles védiques et la formation du Veda. Paris:
Imprimerie Nationale.

Smith, Frederick M. (2001), "The Recent History of Vedic Ritual in
Maharasthta," in: Kartunen, Klaus and Petteri Koskikallio (eds.),
vidyArNavavandanam. Essays in Honour of Asko Parpola. Helsinki: Stduia

E.R. Sreekrishna Sarma (ed.) (1968), KauSItaki-brAhmaNa. Wiesbaden: Franz

Staal, Frits, (1961), Nambudiri Veda Recitation. The Hague: Mouton & Co.
---(1964), "Report on Vedic Rituals and Recitations," Year Book of the
American Philosophical Society, 607-11.
---(1968), "The Twelve Ritual Chants of the Nambudiri agniSToma," in: J.C.
Heesterman, G.H. Schokker and V.I.Subrahmaniam (eds.), PratidAnam. Studies
Presented to F.B.J.Kuiper on the Occasion of his Sixtieth Birthday, The
Hague: Mouton, 409-29.
---(1986), "The Fidelity of Oral Tradition and the Origins of Science,"
Mededelingen van de Koninklijke Nederlandse Academie van Wetenschappen,
Afd. Letterkunde. N.R. 49/8: 251-88. Amsterdam: North Holland.
--- (1992), "Agni 1990. With an Appendix by H.F. Arnold." In: A.W. van den
Hoek, D.H.A. Kolff and M.S. Oort (eds), Ritual, State and History in South
Asia. Essays in Honour of J.C. Heesterman. Leiden etc.: E.J.Brill, 650-676.
---(1999), "Greek and Vedic Geometry." Journal of Indian Philosophy 27,
---(2001), "Squares and Oblongs in the Veda." Journal of Indian Philosophy
29, 257-273.
---(forthcoming) "From prANmukham to sarvatomukham. A Thread through the
zrauta Maze," The Vedas: Texts, Language and Ritual. Proceedings of the 3rd
International Vedic Workshop.

Staal, Frits, in collaboration with C.V. Somayajipad and M. Itti Ravi
Nambudiri (1983), AGNI. The Vedic Ritual of the Fire Altar. Vols. I-II.
Berkeley: Asian Humanities Press. Reprint: 2001. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.


Mahakavi Akkitham (1990), zrauta zastra pArMparyam kEraLathil, "The Science
of Srauta Tradition in Kerala." Kozhikode: Lipi Publications.

Erkkara Raman Nambudiri (1973), atirAtrathinte kriya saMgraham, "Summary of
the Ritual Acts of the Atiratra", anAdi III.3:8-12.
--- (1976) AnmAyamaDhanam, "The Churning of Tradition." Tavanoor: Anadi Books.
--- (1978) EkAhInasathragGal, "Ekaha and Sattra Rituals." Trichur: Priti
--- (1983) zrautakarmavivEkaM, "The Investigation of Srauta Rituals."
Kunnamkulam: Anadi Books.

Rajan Chungath (2002), zrautaM. Kozhikode: Poorna Publications.

K. Sankunni Menon (19XX), aitihyamAla, "Garland of Legends." XXXXX

Sridevi, K.B. (1999), Agnihotram. Kottayam: D.C.Books.

Vol. 10 (2003) Issue 1b (Sept.21) (©) ISSN 1084-7561

[1 jpeg (Mahadevan-Staal.jpg ) with 4 pictures]

Fig. 1. Pota sprinkling the Soma with mantras at Apyayanam

Fig. 2 Erkkara Raman Nambudiri with pUrvaziKhA performing apyAyanam in 1975.

Fig. 3. On the left, the akkitiri from 1990 holding hands with another
priest in the embrace of the sarpana cortege which consists, from left to
right, of adhvaryu, the two bearded sAmavedins looking to their right, the
yajamAna smiling and his brahman. A helper with a basket looks on, baffled.

Fig. 4. Members of the younger generation, including bespectacled

Vol. 10 (2003) Issue 2 (Sept.21) (©) ISSN 1084-7561

EJVS 10-2

Agni and the Foreign Savants

Itti Ravi Mamunne

"What has not been lost over the past 50 years! Jaiminiya Brahmana
recitation for example. Now the last reciter of the complete Samhita is
also gone. Oh well." Michael Witzel, Indology List, 2/11/2003.

The translator's note:

I spent two weeks with Frits Staal at his house in Oakland, writing up our
paper on the 2003 (April 6th to 12th) Trichur sOmayAga. While browsing in
his deep and ample library shelves, I came across 14 old copies of anAdi, a
Malayalam monthly on Vedic matters with special emphasis on zrauta.
Erkkara Raman Nambudiri, generally thought to be the foremost Nambudiri
zrautin of the second half of the 20th century, published it for about five
years, starting from 1973. Naturally the 1975 Paanjaal agnicayana was a
central event for the monthly: it published several articles about the
ritual. One of these is being translated here.

The author of the article is Itti Ravi Nambudiri, later listed as a
co-author of Frits Staal's monumental Agni and mourned so elegiacally by
Michael Witzel in the epitaph above. Itti Ravi tells with characteristic
energy and gusto how the 1975 agnicayana, after many years in planning and
despite some last-minute problems that nearly de-railed the project, is now
an imminent reality, within the month. (Significantly, like a sister
article to Itti Ravi's, appears next to it in the monthly Erkkara's
detailed schedule of the 12-day ritual, something that a person attending
the ritual might keep in hand to follow the proceedings.)

The story that Itti Ravi tells at the eve of the ritual is about the
collaboration between two Western Vedic scholars (Frits Staal and Asko
Parpola) and the Nambudiri zrauta establishment, a collaboration that has
made the impending ritual possible. He tells of his first meeting with
these two scholars and of their interest in his birth Veda, the jaiminiya
sAmavEda, leading to a complete taping by him -"textualization" of oral
theory-of this very rare and early zAkha of the sAmaveda. Soon an interest
in the actual performance of a zrauta ritual, manifest as early as 1961,
unites the two sides, the Western scholars with access to funding agencies
of the West and the other side, the Nambudiri community with its trained
zrauta corps, resulting in the 1975 event. Itti Ravi was its udgAtha, the
principal sAmaveda priest.

The 1975 agni is a seminal event for the modern Nambudiri zrautism. There
have been three zrauta rituals by Nambudiris after the 1975 agnicayana, the
1984 agniSTOma at Trivandrum, the 1990 agnicayana at Kundoor, and the 2003
agniSTOma at Trichur, all from native resources, but all thought possible
by Nambudiris zrautins today only because of the first one, the 1975 Agni.

Thus Itti Ravi's article may be of interest to Vedists. It is also of
interest as a piece of reverse anthropology: the instance of the observer
observed. True, Itti Ravi shows himself to be a little gaga over two
"sAyips" gone "native," but otherwise his outlook is strict professional
Vedism, that of millennia-old instinct of protection (rakSa) of the Veda
and how to advance its interests. Altogether it is a revealing exhibit of
anthropology: the "native" never is, or was, wholly an inert object,
contrary to all the post-modern lucubrations on the matter, nor is the
observer always the animate subject: the discourse flowed both ways,
sometimes, as if by miracle, resulting in an agnicayana.

I have tried to capture Itti Ravi's tone of informality and directness by
being at times literal in my translation. I have provided explanations
through footnotes for obvious vagaries-of facts and information.


The president and the vice president of the international committee that is
organizing the performance of Agni are, respectively, Professor J. F.
Staal and Dr. Asko Parpola. I note here some details I know about them.

Pofessor Staal's current address is "South and South-East Asian Studies,
California University, USA." He was born in Holland in 1930. His parents
died in the Second World War. It was an adoptive mother who looked after
him and protected him.

After his initial education [in Holland], he came to India to study German
and Sanskrit in Benaras Hindu University. He learned some Sanskrit in
Madras as well. He came to Kerala in 1957.

Although he was professor then in England, he stayed in Kerala and Tamil
Nadu and taped several parts of the three Vedas and took many pictures. He
wrote then an erudite book called the Nambudiri Veda Recitation. It was on
that occasion that I first met him. When he came to my house in Panjal, he
was wearing just a dhOti and shirt. I thought it was a Nambudiri coming to
my house. A very white Nambudiri. Only after exchanging information did I
realize that he was a saayip [Sahib].

He had come to record a little sAmaveda. As there was no electricity in
Panjal those days, he left after fixing a day to come to chErpu at
[Younger] Brother's place.

He came to chErpu on the day arranged. He taped yajurveda's ghOSam. And
that day and night and the next day till 10' O clock we talked and taped

Kerala was a place he loved. His opinion is that the cultural tradition of
Kerala is very old. He has married a Kerala woman in the Kerala way,
witnessed by fire or agni. When he came to my house, he said that he
wanted to examine the palm leaf manuscripts in the shelves. Their script
was Malayalam. I saw him read these manuscripts, something Malayalis
themselves can do only with difficulty. I also realized that he could
converse in Malayalam to an extent.

It was in the month of February 1962 that he came back again to Kerala.
The plan then was to perform a yAgam (agniSTOma), filming it and
tape-recording. We went to Kollengode to arrange for sOmalata and black
deer skin. I took him there to show the sOmalata. I travelled with him in
a car to many places in connection with arrangements for the yAga. We
could not get anybody prepared to perform the yAga. At mAdaMbu's (Frits
Staal's classmate from Benaras) place and at my house, he taped the mantras
of the entire yAga (rks, yajus and sAmam)

It was in January of 1971 that he came to Kerala a third time. He stayed
with me for a week. And he recorded parts of the sAmavEdam. It would take
about 100 hours to tape all of the sAmavEdam. He bought a new tape
recording machine and gave it to me. Is this not an aid (upayuktam) to me,
I asked him. He asked me what I meant by aid, upayuktam. I explained to
him that that is the term used to describe items, like clothes, needed to
do the kriyAs of a ritual.

It crossed our minds if we should not try for a yAga. But there was not
enough time that year. Then I remembered something. In April 1970, during
the season of yAgas, on the east side of the yAgazAla, during a
conversation among Erkkara Raman Nambudiri, Dr. Sree Krishna Sarma, maREth
kApra Narayanan sOmayAjippAd and others, Erkkara had said, "We must perform
a yAgam." With this in mind, I said to Staal that we must perform the agni
itself. He became even happier. He said firmly that whatever the expenses
we must perform [the ritual]. Thus we decided to try for the agni in 1974.
I told him that I would write to him after consulting with Erkkara. He
knew Erkkara well through Sree Krishna Sarma.

It was in 1971 March that a Finlander named Asko Parpola came to Kerala.
He is world-famous for his learning. He greeted me at our very first
meeting with a book in English he had written about yAga. zAlas, dhISNyas,
kunDas and other such items that had been described in the book in detail,
with their plans, their numbers.

I began to understand him as a man who had worked for eight years to
understand all about yAga, as a man who had digested in addition the cosmic
work, "BhavathrAtIyam." His mission in Kerala was to study matters
relating to the yAga in general and the jaiminIya sAmaveda in particular.
I shared with him what I knew about the function of the sAmaveda in the
actual performance of a yAga. To talk about the remaining part, I took him
to Erkkara at mUkkuthalakke. With the help of my English-knowing son, they
talked for more than five hours. His regard and reverence for Erkkara knew
no bounds.

He went to Guruvayur later that day. Wearing a simple dhoti around his
waist and covering his upper body with another, both AJjam Madhavan
Nambudiri's gifts to him, he waited and watched that day's procession of
god. He asked me if the sign on the hood of the snake in a picture outside
the temple was not the mark of Krishna's feet. I began to realize that he
was equally learned in the Hindu religion and its different stories and

While at mUkkuthalakke [Erkkara's house], we also went to pakarAvUr
Krishnan Nambudiri's place to photocopy sAmaveda manuscripts. He took
pictures of hand movements and hand mudras of sAmaveda.

He went afterward to Ceylon [Sri Lanka] and came again to Kerala on his way
back. He went to the narippatta pattErimana, near kotimunda in Pattambi,
home of BhavathrAta, the author of BhavathrAtIyam; thence to kotanAttu
mana, mEZathOL agnihOtri's home; thence to yaJjEzvaram where the
Agnihotri performed his 99 yAgas; and thence finally to the spot of White
Rock on which BhavathrAtan had spread his clothes for drying, leaving on
the rock a white mark. And he took scores of pictures. On leaving he told
me that he learned more about yAga in eight days with us than in eight

These two men do not wear shirts when they are in Kerala. They would sit
smack on the floor and eat their meals. As it was mango season, we had at
my house the Sour Mango dish. "Nowhere else in India was food as tasty,"
this was what they said. It did not seem flattery to me.

Within a year I taped all of the sAmaveda. I accomplished this task by
myself and at my own convenience. I had some sit with me at some parts to
be free of error.

In 1972 Parpola came to Delhi for the Veda Conference [World Sanskrit
Conference]. He came here as well then. He took with him the tapes of the

Had I thought of the performance of agni, he asked. I also received
Staal's letter. I talked to Nellikkattu Akkitiri, Erkkara Raman Nambudiri
and Taikkattu Vaidikan about this. After much calculation, I wrote that
the cost for vaidika and laukika would come to Rs. 25,000. Staal was away
in Japan and Nepal on official business at this time. Because of this, it
was Parpola that handled all the correspondence.

Based on the estimates we had sent, Parpola wrote to the scholars of
various lands asking for help and cooperation. He forwarded all the
replies to me. Some had expressed doubts if all of the yAga could be
recorded; some had wondered if foreigners could "come near". Some also
pointed out that the estimate's amount would not be enough as the price of
a gold sovereign had doubled in 1973 from its 1972 price of Rs. 120.

In 1973, there was a conference in France of scholars of Western culture
and civilization. Parpola attended this conference. After consulting in
this conference with many different scholars, the plans for the 1974 agni
were postponed to 1975. Their expectations were that the promised
donations will begin to come in the course of 1974.

Staal was staying in the mountains of Nepal in 1973. He came to Delhi in
December to find out what happened to the efforts for the agni. It was
certain now that there would be no agni in 1974. Disappointed, even
despairing, he went back to America without even seeing me in Kerala. He
took over from Parpola the charge of planning and organizing work for the
agni. By then an international agnicayana committee had taken shape. As
is well known, a [Malayalam] translation of Parpola's circular of 5
February 1974 appeared in the October-November issue of the anAdi. This
circular was sent to all the governments of the world. Many have made
promises of help. We are still at work trying to raise donations.

In June 1974 I held another meeting with Erkkara on this matter. His
opinions were optimistic and encouraging. At that juncture, Staal's letter
came. He wrote that all the needed monies would be available in advance
and the efforts for a 1975 agni should begin in earnest.

The first task was to make arrangements for the making of 1110 bricks.
Toward that, a decision as to who is to be the yajamAna had to be first
made. The length from the yajamAna's toes to the tips of middle fingers of
his hands raised stretched above his head as in worship of god must be
measured and a measuring stick of this length must be made. The dimensions
of zAla, bricks, mahAvedi and many other items are derived as a factor of
the length of this measuring stick. I wrote to Erkkara to determine an
auspicious day, the right venue and the yajamAna for the ritual [kriyA] of
cutting this stick. Accordingly, Erkkara, Sree Krishna Sarma, I, Akkitham,
Amettur met on June 29 at Taikkattu Vaidikan's residence. The person we
had intended as the yajamAna was not there, however. He was brought. Due
to ill health, he wanted to be relieved of the arduous position of the
yajamAna, agreeing instead to undertake hautram. Efforts went on to find a
person who was eligible to be yajamAna. I spoke to many people. I did not
get proper replies from anybody. Meaning: nobody was ready. Suddenly it
was the opinion of some great minds that the plan to film the yAga would
detract from the purity of the intention behind the yAga; the purity of the
ritual offering [dravya] would be compromised; the killing of the animal is
violent and is a sin.

I believe it was in the 1140's [Malayalam calendar corresponding to
1960's], the time of registration at Sukapuram. It was the time when
thousands of rupees were available from the Kathanoor-Shoranur Madhams.
Eight yAgas took place from these monies. There was somehow no problem
then of purity of intention for these great minds, no problem with the
purity of oblations. And the killing of an animal was no violence. Now
everything is the opposite. I leave it to my readers to conclude about
this sudden mysterious change in people. I am reminded of the story of the
fox that decides that grapes are sour when it is not able to reach them
despite all the jumping.

It was our desire to hold the agni at Taikkat as an agni has not taken
place there in such a long time. When it became clear that this would not
be possible, we went to Cerumukku house and met with Cerumukku Vallabhan
Somayajippad. He said that there was not enough time for a 1975 agni and
we should plan for the next year. I wrote this to Staal.

I received two letters from Staal, in October and November of 1974. The
summary of the letters was this: under no circumstances can the agni be
postponed. Many institutions, the government of Japan, and governments of
many other countries have undertaken to help toward the agni. Many had
already given money toward it. If it does not take place in 1975, it will
never take place. This is a last chance.

Staal came here in December. We went and saw Cerumukku Vaidikan
Somayajippad and Erkkara. It was decided that in this year itself, that is
1975, the agni will be performed, and that Cerumukku Nilakandan
Somayajippad will be the yajamAna. Thus, preparations are under way for
the agni, scheduled to take place at Panjal on April 12, 1975.

If we have Sukapuram Daksinamurthi's blessings, this and more will take
place. Let us pray for them: namazzivAya zAnthaye, zuddhAya paramAtmane,
sacchidAnanda rUpaya, dakSinAmUrthaye namah.
B. N. Narahari Achar, A Note on the Five-Year Yuga of the vedAGga jyotiSa (1997)

Language Situation in North India and Surroundings

Michael Witzel, Substrate Languages in Old Indo-Aryan (Rgvedic, Middle and Late Vedic) (1999)


Vol. 5 (1999), issue 1 (September)
Editor's note

There has been, for the past few years, a lively discussion, in
India and in some sections of her expatriate communities, but to much
lesser degree in 'western' Indology, of the so-called 'Aryan Invasion'
theory. The outright refusal of any immigration from outside the
subcontinent of speakers of (Indo-)Aryan languages such as Vedic Sanskrit,
Nuristani (Kafiri) or Old Iranian (Avestan) is based on disparate arguments
stemming from observations in the Vedic texts, in archaeology, geology,
astronomy, etc. However, language, if handled according to the well
established and internationally accepted rules of historical and
comparative linguistics that are used in the comparison of all human
languages, is an independent and unbiased yardstick, with which prehistoric
periods can be evaluated. The following paper investigates the various
layers of South Asian languages that have been superimposed upon each other
during the past few millennia. As will be seen, the usual "Aryan"-Dravidian
divide is much too simple a concept to fit reality.
Just as today, prehistoric South Asia was home to a number of
language families, only some of which have survived as today's families,
i.e. Indo-European (Sanskrit, Hindi etc.), Dravidian (Tamil, etc.), Munda
(Santali, Mundari etc.), Tibeto-Burmese (Newari, Naga, Manipuri, etc.); in
addition there are the remnant, isolated languages such as Burushaski in N.
Pakistan, Kusunda in Central Nepal, Nahali in Central India, Vedda in Sri
Lanka, and Andamanese. Further, it will become obvious that today's
languages, for example Hindi, contain ancient layers that go back beyond
all Aryan, Munda or Dravidian and that are close to the language of the
first immigrating groups of Homo Sapiens sapiens, that entered South Asia
from Africa, via Western Asia, some 30,000 years ago.
Providing this kind of impartial historical relief to the ongoing
discussion hopefully will steer it into calmer waters.

M. Witzel

Note on transcription.

Vedic and Sanskrit are transcribed here according to the usual
Kyoto-Harvard system. Old Iranian presents a number of challenges in a 7 or
8 bit system. The Avesta alphabet is represented here as follows.

a A å Ç a~ a.~ @(schwa) @@ (long schwa)
k x x' xv g g' gh
t th d dh t~
ng ng' ngv n n' n~ m m~
y' y v r
s z S Z S' S~

In non-MacIntosh machines some of the above Avestan vowels will have
strange results. In other languages, similar conventions are followed, e.g.
Z = sh, velar fricative = gh, a~ nasalised a, etc. Paragraph sign = $.
Note that not all diacritical marks of Burushaski, etc., could be
represented in this 7/8 bit email version.
A web version with better diacritics (using Acrobat Reader, etc. ) will be
available soon at our website.
Due to its length the paper is sent in four parts, a, b, c, d (as
indicated below)

ELECTRONIC JOURNAL OF VEDIC STUDIES, Vol. 5 (1999), issue 1 (Sept.)
Michael Witzel
(Harvard University)

Substrate Languages in Old Indo-Aryan

(Rgvedic, Middle and Late Vedic)

$ 0. Definitions
$ 1. Greater Panjab
$ 1.1. Rgveda substrate words
$ 1.2. Para-Munda loan words in the Rgveda
$ 1.3. Para-Munda and the Indus language of the Panjab
$ 1.4. Munda and Para-Munda names
$ 1.5. Other Panjab substrates
$ 1.6. Dravidian in the Middle and Late Rgveda

$ 1.7. Greater Sindh
$ 1.8. The languages of Sindh
$ 1.9. The Southern Indus language: Meluhhan
$ 1.10. Further dialect differences
$ 1.11. Dravidian immigration

$ 2. Eastern Panjab and Upper Gangetic Plains
$ 2.1. The Kuru realm
$ 2.2. The substrates of Kuru-Pancala Vedic
$ 2.3. The Para-Munda substrate

$ 2.4. Substrates of the Lower Gangetic Plains and "Language X"
$ 2.5. Tibeto-Burmese
$ 2.6. Other Himalayan Languages
$ 3. Central and South India
$ 4. The Northwest
$ 5. Indo-Iranian substrates from Central Asia and Iran
$ 6. Conclusions.

Abbreviations and Biblography

The languages spoken in the northern part of the Indian
subcontinent in prehistoric times have been discussed throughout most of
this century. This concerns the periods of the Rgveda and of the Indus or
Harappan Civilization (nowadays also called Indus-Sarasvati civilization in
some quarters). Since the Twenties, the area of the newly discovered Indus
civilization has been regarded, beginning with J. Bloch, as having been
populated by Dravidian speakers, while other early 20th century scholars
such as S. Le'vy and J. Przyludski have stressed the Austro-Asiatic (Munda)
substrate of Northern India, -- both are positions that have been
maintained until today (e.g., Burrow, Emeneau, Parpola vs. Kuiper, Hock,
Southworth). The relationship of these languages to the archaic (Vedic)
form of Sanskrit has played a major role in such discussions. Both
Dravidian and Munda have usually been understood as having preceded, as
substrate languages, the introduction of Old Indo-Aryan (Vedic Sanskrit).
Such suppositions will be investigated in this paper, and evidence will be
produced indicating that the linguistic picture of this early period of
South Asia was much more complex -- as complex, indeed, as that of modern

$ 0. Definitions.

$ 0.1. By way of introduction, as few definitions are in order.
First of all, in must be stressed that Vedic, Dravidian and Munda belong to
three different language families (respectively, Indo-European, Dravidian
and Austro-Asiatic). Since this is no longer recognized in some of the more
popular sections of the press and the publishing business, it must be
pointed out that the recognition of basic differences between language
groups (in word formation, declension, conjugation and in syntax) is a well
established item of linguistic science that applies to all human languages
(summaries by Hock 1986, Anttila 1989). One cannot make an exception just
for the subcontinent and claim that South Asian languages are so similar
that they belong to a new linguistic 'family' (S. Kak).
What South Asian languages indeed have in common are certain
features, especially some of syntax, that are due to long standing
bilingual contacts and that make them appear superficially similar, just
as, for the same reasons, the Balkan languages Rumanian, Bulgarian,
Albanian, and Greek share some peculiarities which make translation between
them easy. Nevertheless, nobody in Europe or elsewhere would deny that they
belong, respectively, to the Romance, Slavic, Albanian and Greek
sub-branches of Indo-European (IE), and it is not maintained that they form
a new 'Balkan family'.
Of course, the South Asian languages also share a lot of common
cultural vocabulary derived from Sanskrit (sometimes effectively disguised
by the development of the language in question, especially in Tamil), just
as European languages, whether IE, Uralic, Basque or even Turkish share
many Greek and Latin words of culture and science, and more recently, of
$ 0.2. Secondly, the materials available for this study have to be
reviewed briefly. Since we cannot yet read the Indus script with any
confidence (Possehl, 1996b, discusses the rationale of some 50 failed
attempts), we have to turn to the Vedic texts first.
I will concentrate here on evidence from the Vedas as they are
earlier than Drav. texts by at least a thousand years. This also has the
advantage that the oldest linguistic data of the region are used, which is
important because of the quick changes that some of the languages involved
have undergone. The Vedas provide our most ancient sources for the Old
Indo-Aryan variety (IA; OIA = Vedic Sanskrit) of the Indo-Iranian branch
(IIr. = Old Iranian, Nuristani and Old Indo-Aryan) of the Indo-European
language family (IE = Celtic, Germanic, Italic, Slavic, Greek, Hittite,
Tocharian, etc.) that are spoken in the subcontinent. However, these texts
also contain the oldest available attestation for non-Indo-European words
in the subcontinent (Dravidian, Munda, etc.)
$ 0.3. The Vedas were orally composed (roughly, between 1500-500
BCE) in parts of present day Afghanistan, northern Pakistan and northern
India. To this day, their oral transmission has been exceptionally good, as
is commonly known. They are followed by the early Dravidian sources,
represented by the ancient Tamil "Sangam" (CaGkam) texts of South India
(stemming from the beginning of our era); however, these texts still are
virtually unexplored as far as non-IA and non-Drav. substrates and
adstrates from neighboring languages are concerned. From a slightly earlier
period than the Sangam texts comes the Buddhist Pali canon of (western)
Northern India; it has been composed in an old form of Middle Indo-Aryan
(MIA). The Epic texts (mahAbhArata, rAmAyaNa) were composed by a host of
bards from various parts of northern India in a form of Sanskrit that is
heavily influenced by MIA.
In order to evaluate the substrate materials, the time frame and
the geographical spread of these texts have to be established first. The
procedures to arrive at a fairly secure dating cannot be discussed here in
any detail; this would take another long paper. It may suffice to point out
(Witzel 1987, 1989, 1995, 1999) that the Rgveda (RV) is a bronze age
(pre-iron age) text of the Greater Panjab that follows the dissolution of
the Indus civilization (at c. 1900 BCE) -- which limits its time frame to
(maximally) c. 1900 -1200 BCE; the latter date is that of the earliest
appearance of iron in the subcontinent. The RV is followed by a number of
other Vedic texts, usually listed as saMhitAs, brAhmaNas, AraNyakas and
upaniSads. Linguistically, however, we have to distinguish five distinct
levels: (1) Rgveda, (2) other saMhitAs (mantra language), (3) yajurveda
saMhitA prose, (4) earlier and later brAhmaNas (incl. AraNyakas and
upaniSads) and (5) the late Vedic sUtras (Witzel 1987, 1997; for
abbreviations of names of texts, their dates and their geographical
location see attached list).
While the area of the RV, as clearly visible in the mentioning of
the major rivers, is the Greater Panjab (with the inclusion of many areas
of Afghanistan from Sistan/Arachosia to Kabul/Gandhara), its temporal
horizon consists of three stages, roughly datable between c. 1700-1200 BCE
(Witzel 1995, 1999, J. R. Gardner, Thesis Iowa U. 1998, Th. Proferes, Ph.D.
Thesis, Harvard U. 1999). They are:
# I. the early Rgvedic period (fn.1): c. 1700-1500 BCE: books (maNDala) 4,
5, 6, and maybe book 2, with the early hymns referring to the yadu-turvaza,
anu-druhyu tribes;
# II. the middle (main) Rgvedic period, c. 1500-1350 BCE: books 3, 7, 8.
1-66 and 1. 51-191; with a focus on the bharata chieftain sudAs and his
ancestors, and his rivals, notably trasadasyu, of the closely related PUru
# III. the late Rgvedic period, c. 1350-1200 BCE:
books 1.1-50, 8.67-103, 10.1-854; 10.85-191: with the descendant of the
pUru chieftain trasadasyu, kuruzravaNa, and the emergence of the
super-tribe of the kuru (under the post-RV parikSit, Witzel 1997).
These levels have been established, not on the basis of linguistic
criteria, but on the basis and by the internal criteria of textual
arrangement, of the 'royal' lineages, and independently from these, those
of the poets (RSis) who composed the hymns. About both groups of persons we
know enough to be able to establish pedigrees which sustain each other.
Applying this framework to the linguistic features found in the various
maNDalas of the Rgveda, we are in store for some surprises.
$ 0.4. Before coming to this, however, another item must be
discussed briefly, that of the concept of substrates. The RV contains some
300 words, that is roughly 4% of its hieratic vocabulary, that are not
Indo-Aryan (Kuiper 1991). It is possible to establish their non-IA
character by studying their very structure. For, words belonging to a
certain language follow well-established patterns. The word structure of
English (or IE in general) is well known. In English, for example, a word
cannot start with tl- or pt-. Words such as Tlaloc, an Aztec god, are
impossible, and those in pt- are loans from Greek, such as Ptolemy. Whorf's
structural formula of English monosyllablic words (Language, Thought and
Reality, 1956; simplified):
{ 0, (s+/-) C-ng + V + 0, C-h }
allows to predict that English words beginning in ngo- or ending -goh are
not possible. If ng- or nk- do occur now, they are late loans from African
languages (e.g., Nkrumah); or, before the influx of Yiddish or German words
into American English, sh + consonant also was not allowed, while we now
have: to shlep or strudel, as opposed to older words such as to slip or to
stride. These examples also show that foreign words can enter a host
language in pronunciations close to their original ones (however, strudel
does not have the German but the American -r-), and that, at the same time,
at they can easily be detected if they violate the original structure of
the language in question.
IE nouns and verbs have three parts: root (dhAtu), suffix
(pratyaya) and ending, such as dev-a-M zaMs-a-ti "he praises the god." The
root (dhAtu), the part of the word carrying the lexical meaning (dev
"heavenly", SaMs "praise"), is enlarged by suffixes (immediate/primary:
kRt, secondary: taddhita). They are attached (here: -a-) to the root and
are followed by the noun endings (-m) or verb endings (-ti). IE roots
ordinarily have three consonants, and can only have the structure given
below, where ( ) indicates possible appareance; b is very rare in IE; C =
consonant (includes the laryngeal sounds, H = h1, h2, h3); e = standard IE
vowel (> Skt. a); it can change to o (> Skt. a), E, O (> Skt. A) or
disappear (zero forms); R = resonants, the "semi-vowels" y, r, l, v and m,
n which can also appear as i, R, L, u, a, a; further, s when found at the
beginning of roots, is unstable and can disappear (as in spaz 'spy' :
paz-ya-ti 'he sees'). IE/IA/Vedic roots must conform to the following
formula (Szemere'nyi 1970):

prefixes +/- {(s) (C) (R) (e) (R) (C/s)} +/- suffixes

Possible thus are, e.g., Skt. ad (eC), pat (CeC), zrath (CReC),
bandh (CeRC), kR (CR), zru (CRR), kram (CReR), krand (CReRC), i (R), iS
(RC), man (ReR), manth (ReRC), tras (CRes), tvakS (CReKs), stambh (sCeRC),
svap (sReC), sas (ses) etc.; with laryngeals: bhU (CRH), brU (CRRH), IkS
(HRCs), as (Hes), etc. Sounds inside a root are arranged according to the
following order of preference: C/s-R-e, thus : CRe-(Skt. zram...), sRe-
(Skt. srav...) are allowed, but not: RCe-, Rse- (Skt. *Rka..., *usa...).
Not allowed in IE are the following consonant groupings in a root, the
types: bed, bhet, tebh, pep, teurk/tekt (Skt. *bad, bhad, tabh, pap, tork,
takt) This classification of possible roots often allows to classify non-IE
roots and words at a glance.
The number of primary suffixes is limited to certain types, usually
*Ce, CR, CRe, R, Re, es (Skt. -ta, -ti, -tra, -i, -ya, -as) etc. Secondary
suffixes build up on the primary ones, thus Skt. -u-mant, -a-tAt, -a-mAna,
etc. On the other hand, suffixes such as -Aza, -Ta, -an-da/-a-nda-,
-bUth-a/-bU-th-a (see below) do not exist in IE and IIr. Therefore, the
very structure of many of the 'foreign' and loan words in the RV simply do
not fit the IE structure of those properly belonging to Ved. Sanskrit (just
as Nkrumah, Mfume must be foreign words viz. recent loans in English).
Consequently, RV words such as kInAza, KIkaTa, Pramaganda, BalbUtha, BRbu,
BRsaya are simply not explainable in terms of IE or IIr: the verbal/nominal
roots kIn, kIk, mag, balb, bRs do not exist in IE as only roots of the
format {(cons.) (R) e (R) (cons.)} are allowed and as b is very rare in IE;
further, only S (but not s) is allowed in Vedic after i,u,r,k, and finally,
the suffixes -A-za, -Ta, -an-da/-a-nda-, -bUth-a/-bU-th-a do not exist in

$ 0.5. The structure of RV words has already been studied at some
length by former colleague at Leiden and one of my several great teachers,
F.B.J. Kuiper (1991, cf. 1955). However in this small book, written at the
age of 85, he limited his task to a discussion of their structure and to
pointing out some features which link them to Dravidian and Munda, and, as
he conceded, "maybe to some unknown language(s)." Therefore, he did not
proceed to discuss the Indus language, nor did he study the various levels
of Rgvedic speech beyond the usual division into older (books 2-7, etc.)
and late RV (book 10). However, as soon as we apply the three stage
leveling discussed above, a different picture of the RV and the subsequent
Vedic texts emerges than known so far. To sum up, we can distinguish the
following substrate languages.

- A Central Asian substrate in the oldest Rgvedic;
- RV I: no Dravidian substrate but that of a prefixing Para-Mundic (or
Para-Austroasiatic) language, along with a few hints of Masica's U.P.
Language "X", and some others;
- RV II and III: first influx of Dravidian words;
- Post-RV (YV, AV Mantras and later Vedic):
continuing influx of the same types of vocabulary into the educated Vedic
speech of the Brahmins; occurence of Proto-Munda names in eastern North
- Other substrates include Proto-Burushaski in the northwest,
Tibeto-Burmese in the Himalayas and in Kosala, Dravidian in Sindh, Gujarat
and Central India, and predecessors of remnants language groups, now found
in isolated pockets of the subcontinent (Kusunda in C. Nepal, pre-Tharu in
S. Nepal/UP, Nahali in C. India, and the pre-Nilgiri and Vedda substrates).

So far, linguists have concentrated on finding Dravidian and Munda
reflexes, especially in the oldest Veda, the Rgveda (RV). These studies are
summed up conveniently in the etymological dictionaries by M. Mayrhofer
(Indo-Aryan; KEWA, EWA), Th. Burrow - M.B. Emeneau (Dravidian; DED, DEDR),
and in the work of F.B.J. Kuiper (Munda/Austro-Asiatic; 1948, 1955, 1991,
Pinnow 1959). In addition, it has especially been F. Southworth who has
done comparative work on the linguistic history of India (IA, Drav., Munda)
during the past few decades; his book on the subject is eagerly awaited.
These items will be discussed in some detail below, including a
discussion of the procedures followed as well as some examples for these
substrates. Finally, the conclusions we have to draw from the complex
linguistic picture of Vedic times will be discussed.

$ 1. Greater Panjab

$ 1.1. Rgveda substrate words.
The RV reflects the Panjab and its immediate surroundings of c.
1500-1200 BCE., most clearly visible in its river names, extending from the
Kabul River to the yamunA (mod. Jamna) and even the Ganges (gaGgA,
mentioned only twice) and it represents evidence from the three subsequent
historical periods mentioned above. It is important to note that RV level I
has no Dravidian loan words at all (details, below $ 1.6); they begin to
appear only in RV level II and III.
Instead, we find more some three hundred words from one or more
unknown language(s), especially one working with prefixes. Prefixes are
typical neither for Dravidian nor for Burushaski (cf. Kuiper 1991: 39 sqq.,
53, see below). Note that the "prefixes" of Tibeto-Burm. (Benedict 1972) do
not agree with those of the RV substrate either. Their presence apparently
excludes also another unknown language which occasionally appears in the RV
and more frequently later on with typical gemination of certain consonant
groups (perhaps identical with Masica's "Language X" 1979, see below; cf.
Zide and Zide 1973:15). The prefixes of the RV substrate are, however,
close to, an in part even identical with those of Proto-Munda; taking my
clue from Kuiper (1962: 51,102; cf. now Zide MT II: 96), I will therefore
call this substrate language Para-Munda for the time being.

$ 1.2. Para-Munda loan words in the Rgveda
We can start with the convenient list of Kuiper (1991), who does
not, however, discuss each of the 383 entries (some 4% of the hieratic RV
vocabulary!) This list has been criticized by Oberlies (1994) who retains
"only" 344-358 words, and minus those that are personal names, 211-250
'foreign' words.(fn. 2) One can, of course, discuss each entry in detail
(something that cannot be done here), but even Oberlies' lowest number
would be significant enough, in a hieratic text composed in the traditional
poetic speech of the Indo-Iranian tradition, to stand out, if not to
surprise. It is a clear indication of a strong substrate and of
amalgamation of IA speakers with the local tradition. In evaluating this
list, it must be said that it is much more difficult to discern
Para-Munda/Austro-Asiatic words, than to establish IA or Dravidian
etymologies, as an etymological dictionary of Munda is still outstanding
(in preparation by David Stampe et al.). Nevertheless, one can, for the
time being, make use of Pinnow's reconstructions of Proto-Munda in his
investigation of Kharia (1959), Bhattacharya's short list (1966: 28-40),
Zide & Zide's discussion of agricultural plants (1973, 1976), and Kuiper's
relevant studies (especially 1955, 1991; his 1948 book is still very
useful, in spite of his own disavowal of it, as a collection of relevant
materials). It must be stressed that neither the commonly found Drav. nor
Munda etymologies are up to the present standard of linguistic analysis,
where both the root and all affixes are explained. This is why most of the
subsequent etymologies have to be regarded as preliminary. (Note that only
a few examples are given below for each category; fuller details will be
included in a forthcoming paper and monograph).
Among the '300 foreign' words of the RV, those with certain
prefixes are especially apt to be explained from Para-Munda (viz. directly
from Austro-Asiatic). However, "Owing to the typological change that has
taken place in these languages, only some petrified relicts remain" (Kuiper
1991: 39). Typical prefixes in modern Munda are such as p-, k-, m-, ro-,
ra-, ma-, a, @-, u-, ka- (Pinnow 1959:10 sqq.; cf. also the plural suffix
-ki in Kharia, p. 265 $341a, 211 $145c); some of them are indeed attested
in the c. 300 'foreign words' of the RV.
Of special interest for the RV substrate are the prefixes ka-, ki-,
kI-, ku-, ke-, which relate to persons and animals (Pinnow 1959: 11; cf. p.
265 $341a) and which can be compared, in the rest of Austro-Asiatic, to the
'article' of Khasi (masc. u-, fem. ka-, pl. ki-, cf. Pinnow 1959: 14). The
following words in the RV are important, even if we cannot yet find
etymologies. (In the sequel, Sanskrit suffixes and prefixes are separated
from the substrate word in question).
# The Prefix ka-:
kakardu 'wooden stick', EWA I 286 'unclear';
kapard-in 'with hair knot', Kuiper 1955: 241 sqq.; EWA I 299
'non-IE origin probable'; kabandh-in,
kavandha 'barrel' Kuiper 1948: 100. EWA I 327 'unclear';
kAkambIra 'a certain tree', EWA I 334 'unclear'.
# The prefix ki-:
kimId-in 'a demon', EWA I 351 'unclear'; cf. zimida, zimidA 'a
demoness', Kuiper 1955: 182;
kIkaTa 'a tribe' 3.53.14; EWA 'foreign name of unknown origin';
prefix kI- points to Austro-As.; cf. Sant. kaT- 'fierce, cruel', or common
totemic tribal name (like mara-Ta PS : Munda mara• 'peacock' IA matsya
'fish', kunti 'bird') ~ Sant. kaTkom 'crab'? cf. Shafer 1954: 107, 125;
kIkasA (dual) 'vertebra, rib bone' 10.163.2, EWA I 355 'unclear';
"formation like pi-ppala, etc. and connected with lex. kazeruka..." Kuiper
1955: 147;
kIja 'implement, spur?', 8.66.3; EWA I 355 'loan word possible';
KEWA I 214 and Kuiper 1955: 161, 165: 'doubtful Drav. etym.' (Burrow, BSOAS
12: 373);
kInArA dual, 'two ploughmen' 10.106.10; EWA I 356 'probably
artificial for kInAza', rather z/D/r, Kuiper 1948: 6, 38, 1991: 30-33, and
1955: 155f., 1991: 26 on suffixes -Aza/-Ara, (cf. also -na/-ra in
rAspina/rAspira); on z as hyper-Sanskritization for S/r cf. vipAz; Kuiper
1991: 46 on suffix -za; if kInAra- contains a suffix, then probably no
prefix kI-.
kInAza 'plough man' 4.57.8 (late), AV; Kuiper 1955: 155, 1991: 14,
26, 46 see kInAra; EWA I 356 'unclear'.
kIlAla 'biestings, a sweet drink'; in AV 4.11.10 next to kInAza;
EWA I 358 'unclear'; discussion, above: Khowar kiLAl, Nuristani kilA' etc.,
Bur. kIlAy, Kuiper 1955: 150f., CDIAL 3181.
kIsta 'praiser, poet' 1.127.7, 6.67.10, to be read as [kis@tAsaH]
Kuiper 1991:23, 1955:155; the unusual sequence -Is- (see introd.) points to
a loan word (Kuiper 1991:25); EWA I 358 'not clarified'; cf. Kuiper 1991:
20, 23, 25; to be compared with RV zISTa 8.53.4 with var. lect. zISTeSu,
zIrSTeSu, zIrSTresa, Kuiper 1991: 7, 71; this is Sanskritization of
*k'Is@teSu, Witzel 1999; cf. EWA II 644
# ku-:
kumAra 'boy, young man', EWA I 368 'not convincingly explained';
cf. CDIAL 3523, 13488; Kuiper 1955: 146f. compares Tel. koma 'young', Tam.
kommai, etc.; cf. zi(M)zu-mAra (see below); but note, in Munda: m@ndra, m@r
'man' (pers. comm. by D. Stampe).
kurIra 'women's hair dress', 10.92.8, EWA I 371 'unclear', Kuiper
1955: 152, 1991: 14, 29-31 compares Tam. koTu 'horn, coil of hair', DEDR
kuruGga 8.4.19, name of a chieftain of the turvaza (cf. Kuiper
1991: 6, 17); EWA I 371 'unclear;' however, cf. kuluGga 'antelope', and the
frequent totemistic names of the Munda
kuliza 'ax', EWA I 374 'not securely explained'; Kuiper 1955: 161,
163 compares Tam. kul~ir 'battle ax'; Skt. kuThara, kuddAla 'hoe', and
Sant., Mundari kutam 'to beat, hammer', Mundari, Ho kutasi 'hammer', Kan.
kuTTu 'to beat, strike, pound'; cf. Kuiper 1991:14; Berger 1963: 419
*kuDiza, from *kodez in Kharia khoNDe•j 'ax', Mundari koNDe•j 'smaller kind
of wood ax', with prefix kon- and Kharia te•j 'to break'

# Double prefixes in C@r-.
More important, perhaps, are the so-called 'double prefixes' in
Austro-Asiatic, composed of a prefix (e.g. k-) followed by a second prefix
(mostly -n, see Pinnow 1959: 11). The use of k-n- is clear in names of
domesticated animals, in Sora kin-sod 'dog' : Kharia solog 'dog'; Sora
kim-med 'goat' : Remo -me•; k@m-bon 'pig' : Juang bu-tae (see Pinnow 1959:
168, cf. Jpn. buta, Austr. > Sino-Tib. *mba(gh)); Sora ken-sim 'chicken' :
Mundari sim. Such double prefixes seem to be rarer in Munda now than in
Eastern Austro-Asiatic; cf., nevertheless, Kuiper 1991: 94 on zar-varI
'night': za-bala 'variegated'; Kuiper 1948: 38 on kal-, kil-, p. 138 on the
prefix k-, 1948: 49f. 'prefix k@r-, kar-, and gala-'; note Sora kAr-dol
'being hungry' (D. Stampe, oral communication).
The clearest Vedic example is, perhaps, Ved. jar-tila 'wild sesame'
AV : tila 'sesame' AV, (cf. tilvila 'fertile' RV, Kuiper 1955: 157,
tilpiJja, -I 'infertile sesame' AV, on Sumer. connections s. below). Double
prefixes are typical for the Rgvedic loans, especially formations with
consonant-vowel-r = C@r- (and also C@n-, C@m-), that were adapted in Vedic
with various IA vowels (R, ur, etc., see Kuiper 1991: 42 sqq.; cf. below on
Nepalese substrate words). Examples with C@r (and due to the common Vedic
interchange of r/l, also C@l-) include:
karaJja name of a demon, EWA I 310 'unclear', cf. the tree name
karaJja, DEDR 1507 Kan., Tel. kAnagu, Konda karaG maran etc.; CDIAL 2785.
karambha 'gruel', Kuiper 1991: 51 sqq. compares loan words with -b-
> -bh- (Pkt. karamba 'gruel'); -- rather with a prefix kar-
and popular etymology with ambhas- 'water' RV, or ambu 'water' Up., Mbh.
Kuiper 1991: 63; cf. also Kurukh, Malto amm 'water', but also Tamil am, Am
DEDR 187;
karkandhu later tree name 'Zizyphus Jujuba', but personal name in
RV 1.112.6; EWA I 313 'not clear'; the Drav. word the meaning of karkandhu,
DEDR 475, 2070, 3293;
khargalA 'owl' 7.104.17 (late), EWA I 448
kalmalIk-in 'shining' 2.33.8; EWA I 325 'unclear'; however, cf.
kalmASa 'spotted', Kuiper 1948: 38; see below on kilbiSa
Further: kR- [k@r-], see Kuiper 1991: 40 sqq., 23:
kRpITa 'bush, brush' EWA I 394 'unclear', cf. also kRmuka 'faggot,
wood' KS, CDIAL 3340a; 'unexplained' Kuiper 1955: 160
kRzana 'pearl', Urdhva-, kRzanA-vat, EWA I 396 'not securely explained';
Kuiper 1955: 152 compares kR-zana with other words for 'thick, round', such
as Skt. lex. zAni 'colocynth?'
khRgala meaning unclear: 'staff, crutch, amulet, armor, brush?'
2.39.4; EWA I 494; cf. khargala 'owl', above, KhArgali PB? -- Kuiper 1948:
49f. 'well-known prefix k@r-, kar-, and gala-'
kilbiSa 'evil action'; EWA I 354 'not sufficiently clear', Kuiper
1955: 175 compares TS, VS kalmASa 'spotted' and Epic kalmaSa, Pkt. kamaDha
(cf. Pinnow 1959: 379 sqq., Kuiper 1991:36 sqq.), Kuiper 1948: 38, 138 on
prefixes kal-, kil-, kar-; Sant. boDor, bode, murgu•c 'dirty', with
adaptation -S-/D- into Ved. similar to VipAz-/VibAl-/*VipAZ (see below).
Due to the frequent interchange k[k']/z, (see below) the prefix
zar-/zal- belongs here as well (cf. kar-koTa-ka RVKh ~ zar-koTa AV):
zarvarI 'night', api-zarvara; EWA II 621 compares *zarvar, zarman
'protection'; Kuiper 1955: 144 u. 1955: 170 compares zambara, karbura,
Kuiper 1991: 30 zabala 'variegated' with simple prefix, as compared with
prefix + infix (''double prefix") in zambara (cf. Kuiper 1948: 136)
zalmali name of a tree, 'Salmalia malabarica', EWA II 622 'probably
not to be separated from RV 3.53.22 zimbala', CDIAL 12351 (not related
Tib.-Burm. *siG 'tree'); Kuiper 1991: 65 on cases with -lm- for -mm-:
'different dissimilations of *zamma/zimmal'.
sRJjaya 'name of a person' 6.27.7 (next to turvaza), 4.15.4 (next
to daivavant), sArJjaya 'descendent of S.' 6.47.25; EWA II 743 supposes
connection with sRjaya 'a certain bird' KS, which would agree with the
totemistic names in Munda; cf. Kuiper 1991: 7, on non-IA tribal names in RV
sRbinda name of a demon 8.32.2; EWA II 744 with Kuiper 1991: 40,43 (and
earlier) on names such as ku-surubinda TS, PB, ìB, kusur-binda JB and
bainda VS 'member of the tribe of the Binds' (probably also the name of the
Mountain range, post-Vedic vindh-ya), vi-bhindu RV 8.2.41, 1.116.20,
vi-bhindu-ka, vi-bhindu-kIya JB $203; cf. Kuiper 1939 = 1997: 3 sqq., 1955:
182, Witzel 1999).
In the same way, the prefixes jar, tar, nar, par, bar, zar, sR =
[j@r, t@r, etc.]: jarAyu, jarUtha (cf. also Ved. jar-tila : tila); taranta,
tarukSa, tRkSi, tRtsu, nAr-miNI, epithet of a fort; nAr-mara, probably the
area of or the chief of UrjayantI; parNaya, parpharI-ka, parzAna;
prakaGkata (next to: kaGkata), prakala, parpharvI, pramaganda (next to:
magadha), pra-skaNva, pharva-ra, phAriva; pRthi, pRthI, pR-dAku [p@r-dak-u]
< Munda da•k 'water'?, barjaha; (cf. also NAr-Sada RV, NAr-vidAla, NAr-kavinda PS and *ku-bind in: Ved. ku-sur(u)-binda, bainda, vi-bhindu, vi-bhindu-kI-ya).

Furthermore, the formations with other vowels that are adaptations of [-@r] as above in [k@r]: tirindi-ra, turIpa, turphari, turva/turvaza, turvIti, tUrNAza, sUrmI. Instead of C@r,

the much more common double prefix of Munda, C@n-, C@m-, is found as well: kaGkata; zamba, zambara (cf. zabala!), zAmbara, ziMzapA, ziMzumAra, ziJjAra, zimbala,

zimbAta, zimyu. Compare also the prefixes in C@s-: puSkara, puSya, rAspina, rAspira. Kuiper (1991: 39 sqq.) also discusses other prefixes, such as A-, i-, u-, o-, ni-,

bhR-, ma-, sa-, za-, hi-. Among them, the old prefix u- (o-) would be of special interest; however, is found in the RV only in some 5 or 6 cases. A clear case is za-kunti(-kA)

RV, za-kunta AV, Ved. za-kunta-ka 'bird', za-kuntalA name of a nymph, Ved. kunti a tribal name, next to the matsya (IA, 'the Fishes'). The Ved. words belong to Kharia kon-the'd,

Sora on-tid@n, etc.; Korku ti-tid 'a certain bird', Ved. tit-tir-a 'partridge', Pinnow 1959 160 : 336; cf. however RV za-kuna, za-kuni (Kuiper 1991:44). $ 1.3. Para-Munda and the

Indus language of the Panjab In short, Para-Munda prefixes are thus very common in the RV. One has to agree with Kuiper 1991: 39f: "According to some scholars Munda was

never spoken west of Orissa, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and eastern Maharashtra... The obvious occurrence of Old Munda names in the Rigveda points to the conclusion that this

statement should be revised." If (some of) the words quote above should not go back directly to Proto-Munda, one may think, especially in the case of the untypical formation C@r,

of an unknown western Austro-Asiatic language, "Para-Munda" (cf. Kuiper 1962: 51, 102). If this initial interpretation is correct, several far-reaching conclusions can be drawn.

The very frequency itself of non-Drav. loan words in the early (as well as in the later) RV is remarkable: it indicates a much stronger non-Drav. substrate in the Panjab than usually

admitted. Because of the great similarity with Austro-Asiatic formations and because of some already established (Para-)Munda etymologies (such as za-kunta ~ Kharia kon-the'd, etc.,

Pinnow 1959 160 : 336), this substrate is likely to be an early form of western Austro-Asiatic. Is the Indus language therefore a kind of Proto-Munda? Against this may speak first of all, as

Kuiper states (1991), that the RV substrate does not have infixes like Munda. However, -n-infixes can be adduced in ka-bandha/ka-vandha, kar-kandhu, gandhA-ri, pra-maganda,

za-kunti < PMunda *Sa-kontid, sR-binda and, e.g., in post-RV ku-sur(u)-binda, bainda, vi-bhindu, vi-bhindu-kI-ya. Yet, the substrate may be a very early form of Munda (or another variety
of Austro-Asiatic) which still used prefixes actively, just like the eastern Austro-As. languages, e.g. Mon, Khmer, do even today (cf. also below, on Sumerian). Further, the infixes may have

developed from prefixes which had found their way into the root (Pinnow 1959: 15). Among these, one can include 'double' prefixes such as k@-r-, S@-r-, p@-r- etc. (Pinnow 1959: 11).

If this is correct, then Rgvedic Proto-Munda represents a very old stage of Austro-Asiatic indeed, something that does not surprise for a text of c. 1500 BCE. $ 1.4. Munda and Para-Munda

names However, direct contact of the non-Indo-Aryan words in the RV with predecessors of present day Munda languages is more complex. Some of the substrate words may, at least in part,

have entered the RV through the intervention of the Indus language (lAGgala etc., see below). Yet, there also are a few direct correspondences with reconstructed Proto-Munda (za-kunta < *kon-ti•d)

which indicate the archaic character of the para-Mundic Indus language. For example, the name of pramaganda, the chieftain of the kIkaTa (RV 3.53.14) who lived south of kurukSetra (cf. Witzel 1995).

Both words are non-Indo-Aryan and they show clear indications of Mundic character: maganda can be explained as ma-gand with the old, now unproductive Munda prefix ma- that indicates possession.

The word gand may belong to Munda *gad/gaD, ga-n-d/gaND (Pinnow 1959: 351 $498) that is also seen in gaNDa-kI, gaGgA (Witzel 1999, if not modeled after the tribal names aGga, vaGga, see below),
W. Nepali gAD (as 'suffix' of river names, Witzel 1993) and apparently also in ma-gadha (with Sanskritization > dh). Kuiper
1991: 43f. (8, 21, 96, also 1955) has explained the prefix pra- [p@r] (cf.
prefixes such as k@r-/S@r-) from Munda, which looks perfectly Indo-Aryan
but in this case certainly is 'foreign' (p@r 'son of'? Kuiper 1991: 43).
The tribe of chief pra-maganda, the kIkaTa, has either the typical 'tribal'
suffix -Ta (see below) or the old Austro-As. plural prefix ki-, (or maybe
both). Cf. further the prefix kI-/ki- in: kInAza/kInAra 'plough man',
kimIdin, kIkasa, etc., all of which may be compared with the Munda prefix
k- for designation of persons (and the plural prefix ki- of Khasi; note
that in RV, k- also applies to items merely connected with humans and
Further RV substrate names of persons, tribes and rivers include
some exactly from the areas where Indus people are to be expected: in their
late/post- Indus new settlement area (J. Shaffer 1995: 139) in the eastern
Panjab, in Haryana (kurukSetra), and especially east of there, well into
the Gangetic plains. Even during the middle/late Vedic period, the local
rivers of E. Panjab are still designated by non-Indo-Aryan names: the
famous bharata chieftain sudAs crosses (RV 3.33) the zutudrI and vipAz and
settles on the sarasvatI. They are not explainable from IA:
zutudrI (Satlej) < *S@-tu-da•? from Munda *tu 'float, drift', Kharia thu'da• < *tu-da• (da• 'water'), Khasi p@r-tIu 'outflow'; note the later popular etymology zatadru 'running with a hundred streams'. vipAz
< *vipaZ/*vibal (cf. also VibAlI RV 4.30.11-12), and note that the sarasvatI still has a similar name, vaizambhalyA (with many variants, always a sign of foreign origin, in the brAhmaNa texts: TB, -
bhalyA, -pAlyA, -balyA ApZS 4.14.4, -bhalyA BhAr.zikSA; cf. also RV vizpalA?), which is to be derived from something like *viSambaZ/ *viSambAL, probably with the prefix zam/k'am- (as in zam-bara,
kam-boja) from *(vi)-Sam-bAZ, (note the popular etymology from vi-zambala 'having widespread blankets'). It is likely that during the Indus period, the original name of the famous Rgvedic river sarasvatI
was something like *vi(Sam)baL/vi(Sam)baZ. If one insists, indeed, on renaming the Indus (sindhu, Bur. sende) culture, it should be renamed the Harappan or sende-vibaZ culture. The land of tUrghna
(TA), north of this region, has no Indo-Aryan etymology either, and khANDava (TA), with its suspicious cluster -ND- (K. Hoffmann 1941), south of KurukSetra, is inhabited by the kIkaTa under their chieftain
pra-maganda. Note also, in the same area (kurukSetra), the appearance of Pinnow's u-suffixes in 'foreign words', e.g. khANDava, kArapacava, naitandhava (Pinnow 1953-4). The Greater Panjab names of
gandhAra, kubhA, krumu, kamboja may be added. -- gandhAri RV, gAndhAra Br., O.Pers. gandAra, Herodotos ganda'rioi, EWA I 462, cf. Munda *ga(n)d 'river', the river names of the Gangetic plains,
gaNDakI and gaGgA, the gandhina people on its upper course, and Nep. -gAD in river names. gandhAra is formed with the common suffix -Ara, -Ala (Witzel 1993, 1999); --kubhA, cf. Skt. kubja 'bent',
Kuiper 1948: 42f., Sant. kubja which belongs to Munda Dui•j, k@b-Duj etc. (Pinnow 1959: 21, 91: $108, 249 $ 286 Kharia Dui•j 'bend', Santali k@bDuj 'ugly', k@bDuju•d 'crooked', p. 435e Santali
k@bn•j 'bent', etc.) -- krumu from Munda *k@-rum 'luke warm'?? cf. Kharia rum 'to burn', Sant. ur-gum 'luke warm', Mon uj-ruG 'humid, warm'; -- The kamboja (AV, PS) settled in S.E. Afghanistan
(Kandahar); cf. O.Pers. kambujIya (or kambaujIya?) 'Cambyses'; however, their name is transmitted as Ambautai by Ptolemy (Geography 6.18.3), without the typical prefix). This change in the first syllable
is typical for Munda names (see below aGga : vaGga, kaliGga : teliGga; kulUTa : UlUTa, etc.) - Mundas that far west cannot be excluded a piori (Kuiper 1991: 39). It may be asked, how far Austro-Asiatic
speakers extended westwards during and before the RV period. Until now, the present distribution of the Munda languages has led to rather far-going conclusions, for example by Burrow (1958, cf.
Southworth 1979: 200). Starting from the modern settlement areas of the Mundas in Eastern India (Bihar, Orissa, W. Bengal) and on the River Tapti (in northwestern Maharastra and Madhya Pradesh) he
regarded it as impossible that the Munda could ever have settled in the Panjab. Kuiper, however, has been of a different opinion (1955: 140, 1991: 39, see also 1948: 8, cf. Witzel 1980, 1993 on the
substrate in Nepal, and 1999 for the Panjab area). The cases discussed above indicate a strong (Para-)Austro-Asiatic substrate in the Panjab, and there are some hints which point to Munda influence in
the Himalayas (Konow 1905, Witzel 1993, see below) and even in E. Afghanistan (zambara, Kamboja). An important result is that the language of the Indus people, at least those in the Panjab, must have
been Para-Munda or a western form of Austro-Asiatic. (Even a minimalistic formulation would have to speak of some three hundred words from one or more unknown languages, especially one working
with prefixes.) In view of the recent comparison by the late I. M. Diakonoff of Munda and Sumerian (MT III, 54-62, but note the criticism by Bengtson MT III 72 sq., and cf. still differently, Bomhard, MT III 75
sqq.) this characterization of the pre-IA Panjab acquires special importance (cf. already Przyludski 1929: 145-149). To follow up, the role of compound nouns in Sumerian versus old 'prefixes' in Munda
would need further investigation. In this regard, it should be noted that Sumerian has implosive consonants, just as Munda, Khasi, Khmer, the Himalayan language Kanauri and the Kathmandu Valley
substrate, all of which may point to a S./S.E. Asian areal feature. If Diakonoff's proposal were indeed borne out, the Rgvedic Para-Munda substrate in the Panjab of c. 1500 BCE would represent an early
link to Sumerian. Notably, Sumerologists, though without any firm reasons going beyond some vague mythological allusion to more eastern territories (Dilmun, etc.), think that the Sumerians immigrated
from the east, from the Indus area. If indeed so, the speakers of (Para-)Austro-Asiatic would have been builders of a number of great civilizations, from Mesopotamia to Pakistan/India, Burma and
Cambodia. If a relationship with Munda could not be confirmed by obvious etymologies, a minimal position would be to define the c. 300 non-Dravidian loan words as coming from an unknown, prefixing
language of the Greater Panjab, which might be called, for lack of a self-designation, after its prominent geographical features, the gandhAra-khANDava or perhaps better, the kubhA-vipAz, or simply,
using the archaelogical term, the Harappan language. Finally, in reviewing the evidence of the Rgvedic Para-Munda, it should be taken into account that Northern and Southern Munda differ from each
other in many respects, the southern version usually being more archaic (Zide 1969: 414 sq., 423), though much less known. This difference as well as the shift of Munda from a prefixing language with
mono-syllabic roots to one working, in typical South Asian fashion, with suffixes, may have been influenced or even may have been due to a north Indian substrate such as Masica's "Language X". $ 1.5.
Other Panjab substrates If the Indus language is a kind of Para-Munda it cannot, however, be excluded that one or more unknown languages are involved (cf. Zide and Zide 1973:15) in the Rgvedic
substrate. From the older RV onwards, we find a number of words that cannot be determined as Para-Munda. Examples include the words with geminates (see below) e.g. pippala RV 5.54.12 and an
undetermined number of the c. 300 'foreign words.' Some of them can be traced as being loan words from more distant eastern (Austro-As.) or western (Near Eastern) languages; the path the loans have
taken is clear (see below) in the case of RV lAGgala <-- Indus *langal <-- PMunda *Jan-kel <-- Austric (Makassar) naGkala; Ved. vrIhi < Indus *vrijhi <-- PMunda (c. 1500 BCE) *@rig/ Tib./Malay (')bras <--
S.E. As. **@Ë@rij (?); Ved. mayUra 'peacock' <-- Indus *mayur <-- PMunda mara• 'crier' <-- Austr. (Malay) merak --> Sino-Tib. *raka 'cock'. Note also the various substrates in Burushaski,
Nahali and "Dhimal" (Kiranti languages in E. Nepal) discussed in MT II, III
and by Kuiper 1962: 14 sqq., 40, 42, 46f, 50f., Berger 1959: 79; and cf.
those of the Kathmandu Valley and Tharu (s. below).
In short, the Panjab is an area of a Pre-Rgvedic, largely
Para-Munda substrate that apparently overlays a still older local level
which may be identical with Masica's "language X" found in the Gangetic
plains (preserved in some Hindi words). In general, the vocabulary of
Para-Munda and "language X" words is limited to local flora and fauna,
agriculture and artisans, to terms of toilette, clothing and household;
dancing and music are particularly prominent, and there are some items of
religion and beliefs as well (Kuiper 1955, 1991). Since no traces of the
supposedly Dravidian "Trader's Language" of the Indus civilization (Parpola
1994) are visible in the RV, the people who spoke this language must either
have disappeared without a trace (cf. below on MeluHHa) or, more likely,
the language of the Panjab was Para-Munda already during the Indus period
(2600-1900 BCE).
Or, as expressed by Kuiper (1991: 53) in another context: "Burrow
and Emeneau understandably and rightly ignore the Pan-Indic aspects, but
... their dictionary [DEDR], by omitting all references to Munda, sometimes
inevitably creates a false perspective from a Pan-Indic point of view."
The large number of agricultural words alone (Kuiper 1955) that
have no Dravidian explanation indicates that the language of the Indus
people cannot have been Dravidian (cf. also Southworth 1988: 663). Their
successors, the Indo-Aryans, preferred to tend their cattle and they spoke,
like their brethren in spirit, the Maasai, about their sedentary
non-Indo-Aryan neighbors in southern KurukSetra in this fashion: "what is
the use of cattle among the KIkaTa?" (ki'm te kRNvanti KI'kaTeSu gA'vaH, RV

As we can no longer reckon with Dravidian influence on the early RV
(see immediately below), this means that the language of the pre-Rgvedic
Indus civilization, at least in the Panjab, was of (Para-)Austro-Asiatic
nature. This means that all proposals for a decipherment of the Indus
script must start with the c. 300 (Para-)Austro-Asiatic loan words in the
RV and by comparing other Munda and Austro-Asiatic words. (For the Indus
script see Fairservis 1992: 14, Parpola 1994: 137 sqq., Possehl 1996b). The
decipherment has been tried for the past 35 years or so mainly on the basis
of Dravidian. Yet, few Indus inscriptions have been "read" even after all
these years of concerted, computer-aided attempts, and not yet in a fashion
that can be verified independently (cf. a summary of criticism by Zvelebil
1990). Perhaps that is not even attainable, due to the brief nature of the
inscriptions (7 signs on average and hardly more than 20). Yet, Kuiper's
'300 words' could become the Rosetta stone of the Indus script.
Further, investigations of the South Asiatic linguistic area
(Sprachbund) must be reformulated accordingly, for example the question of
the retroflex sounds, see Tikkanen 1988, and cf. Zvelebil 1990: 71 on the
distinction between true retroflex sounds (domals, 'cerebrals') and
cacuminals. In the RV they cannot go back either to Proto-Drav. influence,
as usually assumed, because they are already found in the older parts of RV
(books 4,5,6) where no Drav. loans are present; they also cannot go back to
Proto-Munda influences because Munda originally had no retroflexes (Pinnow
1959, except for D, see Zide 1969: 414, 423). The clear increase of the
retroflexes in RV books 1, and especially in 10 is remarkable. In the older
RV one can only detect very few cases of not internally conditioned,
original and clearly non-IA retroflexes: RV 6: kevaTa 'hole'; reNu-kakATa;
rANDya, zANDa, (hiraNya-)piNDa (late hymn), RV 4, 5: krIL-; RV 2: zaNDika,
mArtANDa, pipILe? (pID); cf. also jaTha'ra in RV 1,2,3,5,6,9,10. None of
these old words is Dravidian (see below). In short, the people of the
(northern) Indus civilization must have spoken with retroflexes.
Almost the same situation exists with regard to another item of
suspected substrate influence, the innovation in Vedic of the grammatical
category of absolutives (not found in Old Iranian!, see below). They occur
in RV 4 with 1, RV 6 with 1, RV 2 with 4 cases (a relatively high number in
this short book!); equally, in RV 3 with only 1, RV 7 with 4, RV 8 (kANva
section) with 0, RV 8 (AGgirasa section) with 2, RV 9 with 4; even RV 1
(kANva section) only with 5. - Really innovating are only the late books RV
1 (AGg.) with 34, and RV 10 with 60 forms.

$ 1.6. Dravidian in the Middle and Late Rgveda
As has been repeatedly mentioned, there are no traces of Dravidian
language in the Panjab until c. 1500 BCE, not even of the supposedly
Dravidian speaking traders and rulers of the Indus civilization; however,
Drav. loan words suddenly appear in the RV texts of level II (books 3, 7,
8.1-66 and 1.51-191) and of level III (books RV 1.1-50, 8.67-103, 10.1-854;
10.85-191). These include personal and tribal names, as well as cultural
For comparisons, we are limited to Burrow-Emeneau's DEDR, and a few
lists from old Tamil texts, but scholars usually work directly with Tamil,
Kannada, Telugu (etc.) comparisons; a reconstruction of Proto-Drav. forms
is but rarely given.
To begin with, many words that have been regarded as Drav., are now
explained as coming from Munda or another substrate language, for example,
mayUra 'peacock' whose correspondence in Munda *ma-ra• still has an
appellative meaning, 'crier'; (PMunda *ra•k 'to cry,' Pinnow 1959: 76 $57).
However, this is not so for the Drav. designation, where 'peacock feather'
is reconstructed at a level earlier than 'peacock' itself. Indeed, many of
the 26 words attested in the RV that Burrow (1945, 1946, 1947, 1947-48,
1955, cf. Southworth 1979 sqq.) originally listed as Drav., as well as
those added by Southworth (1979) and Zvelebil (1990) cannot be regarded as
early Dravidian loans in Vedic.
Even if one would regard all of them, for argument's sake, as
Dravidian, only kulAya 'nest' 6.15.16, karambha 'gruel' 6.56.1, 6.57.2,
ukha-(cchid) '(lame) in the hip' 4.19.9 occur in early Rgvedic. These words
can, however, no longer be explained as Dravidian:
karambha 'gruel' CDIAL 14358, no longer in DEDR; Kuiper 1955: 151
Drav. etym. is 'doubtful', EWA I 310 'unclear'; Kuiper 1991: 51 sqq.
compares loan words with -b- > -bh- (Pkt. karamba 'gruel');
kulAy-in 'nest-like' 6.15.16, cf. kulAyayat- 7.50.1; from Drav.
CDIAL 3340, cf. DEDR 1884 Tam. kuTai, DEDR 1883 Tel. gUDa 'basket', but the
word formation is unclear; further Drav. *-D- > Ved. -l-?; EWA I 373 'not
clear', comparing N.Pers kunAM, East Baluchi kudhAm < kudAman, with the same problems; 'foreign word' Kuiper 1991: 14. ukha 'pan, hip' in ukha-chid 'breaking the hip, lame' 4.19.9, cf. MS 4, p. 4.9
ukhA' (dual) 'hips'; DEDR 564 'particular part of upper leg' : ukkam 'waist' Tulu okka 'hip'; for sound change Drav. k: Ved. kh, s. Kuiper 1991: 36, cf. 1995: 243; however, EWA I 210 compares Latin auxilla
'small pot', Latin aulla 'pot' (Pokorny 88), yet declares 'not sufficiently explained'. As RV 4.19 is not seen as a late hymn, this might be the oldest Drav. loan in Vedic (RV I). Only cases in the middle and late
RV remain: In the early RV (2,4,5,6) possible Drav. words are found only in some additional, late hymns (insertion after the initial collection of the RV, c. 1200 BCE, s. Witzel 1995): # -phala 4.57.6 'fruit'
DEDR 4004, Tam. pal~u 'to ripen', pal~am 'ripe fruit', etc., see Zvelebil 1990: 78 with literature, Parpola 1994: 168; CDIAL 9051, 9057; EWA II 201 doubts Drav. origin, and derives it from IA phal/r 'to
coagulate, condense', but finds 'origin of IA *phal/phar not explained'; that means, a Middle RV loan from Drav. remains possible, or from Munda: Sant. piTiri 'swelling of glands as in mumps', Sora pEl 'to
swell, grow in bulk (seeds)'; Kuiper 1948, 163, compares Kharia poTki 'to sprout', potri 'pregnant', etc., cf. 1955: 144, 158, 183; Pinnow 1959:173, $ 378. # phAla 'plough share' 4.57.8, Turner, CDIAL 9072,
connects phalati, Iran. *spAra, and thinks that it has been influenced later on by Drav./Munda; not in DED(R); EWA compares N.Pers. supAr, Pashto spAra, ISkaSmi uspir < *spa/Arya? # -piNDa 6.47.23
'ball, dumpling'; the many divergent NIA forms speak for a loan word, see CDIAL 8168 and add.; Drav., Burrow 1946: 23; Munda, Kuiper 1948: 142, 162, cf. 1991: 14; DEDR 4162 Tam. piNTi, Konda piNDi
etc. 'flour'? - EWA II 128 'unexplained'; cf. also K. Hoffmann, Diss. 1941: 380 sqq. and perhaps Armenian pind 'compact, firm' < Iran. (< Ved.?) In middle RV (3,7,8): # kuNAru 3.30.8 'lame in the arm?', or
name of a person, see EWA I 362 'unclear'; however, compare Drav.: Kan. kuNTa 'cripple', Mal. kuNTan 'cripple', etc., CDIAL 3259-60, DEDR 1688 # mayUra 3.45.1 DEDR 4642, 'peacock' PS, mayUrI RV
1.191.14, mayUra-roman RV 3.45.1, mayUra-zepya RV 8.1.25; generally regarded as Drav.: DEDR 4642 Tam. maJJai, mayil; northern Kasaba dialect of Irula muyiru, Tulu mairu, Konda mrIlu, miril,
(*mayil/mayir, see Zvelebil 1990: 77, with discussion and lit.). However, originally from Munda: PMunda *mara• 'crier', Kharia mara•, Santali, Mundari, Ho mara•, Kurku mara, Sora mArAn 'peacock,
Pavo cristatus', see Pinnow 1959: 205 $90; cf. also Skt. marUka (lex.) 'peacock, deer, frog, Curcuma Zerumbet', and Khotanese Saka murAsa 'peacock' (EWA II 317, KEWA II 587, CDIAL 9865, add.
9865, DEDR 4642, Bagchi 1929: 131, Southworth 1979: 191 sqq., 200, cf. Zvelebil 1990: 77, Hock 1975: 86). The rare tribal name mara-Ta PS 5.2.1, 12.2.1 (Witzel 1999) belongs here; the maraTa
probably lived south of the Ganges and north of the Vindhya. The above may indicate that the Dravida entered into contact with some groups of Munda speakers fairly early (before the Middle RV);
however, just as in the Vedic case, one or two intervening language(s) (*mayil / *mayur) must delivered the word to Drav. and Vedic, for example the "Language X" or a Northern and Southern Indus
language; in the south, this must have occurred before Sindh was practically deserted in the post-Indus phase (Allchin 1995: 31 sqq.). The Ved. form mayUra may have been influenced by mAyu 'bleating'.
# phala 3.45.4 see above # kANa 7.50.1 'one-eyed' EWA I 336 'unclear'; cf. Avest. kar@na 'deaf' : kar@na 'ear' and cf. DEDR 1159 Tam. kaN 'eye' and DEDR 1443 kAN 'to see', both now without
reference to Skt.; Zvelebil 1990: 79 compares DEDR 1159 and finds, 'rather speculative', the Drav. negative suffix -a/-A; cf. Kuiper 1991: 79. --However, cf. Burushaski zon, zOn 'blind' (see above, with
northwestern interchange of Ved. z/k, Witzel 1999); note also that kANa is found as hapax RV 10.155.1 next to 'mountain', a 'foreign' name and an onomatopoetic: giriM gaccha, zirimbiTha, budbud- (cf.
Santali buDu•c buDu•c 'to bubble up'). # kulpha 7.50.2 'ankle', CDIAL 4216, from Drav.; cf. DEDR 1829 kuLampu 'hoof'?; EWA I 376 'completely unclear', Kuiper 1955:148 loan word because of AV
gulpha and points (1991: 35) to variant forms in Ved. (gulpha) and MIA (gopphaka, guppha, goMpha). # daNDa 7.33.6 (late hymn) 'stick', DEDR 3048 Mal. taNTa 'forearm, arm', Tel. daNDa, etc., cf. DEDR
3051, CDIAL 6128; Munda, Kuiper 1948: 76: Sant. DaNTa 'thick stick, club', Da(N)TiTit 'stem (of mushrooms)', DaNDi 'stick, staff, stalk', cf. Mundari DANdi 'small stick'; EWA I 691 'not explained' # kuNDa-
'vessel' 8.17.13 can be compared with Avest. kunda/-I, kundiZA, the name of demons ('pot-bellied'); Dravid., DEDR 1669 Tam. kuTTam 'deepness, pond', Tel. kuNTa, kuNDu, Kur. xoNDxA etc., DEDR
2082; Kuiper 1948: 76 Drav., 1991:14 'foreign'; CDIAL 3265; EWA I 363 points to the difference in meaning between Drav. and Ved. and concludes 'unclear, perhaps loan word' # mayUra 8.1.25, see
above # naLa 8.1.33 'reed', naDa/nala/nada, EWA II 7 from IIr. *nada (Nuristani nO < *nada, Parth. nad 'flute', N.Pers. nAy 'flute') < IE *nedo (Hitt. nata 'reed', Armenian net), however without actual
explanation of the variation *d > D; DEDR 3610 compares, strangely, Tam. nal 'good' with the Skt. name
Nala, idem Zvelebil 1990: 82; however, Nala is found in Vedic, ZB
as NaDa NaiSidha, and in Mbh. as Nala NaiSadha, the king of the (probable)
Munda tribe of the NiSidha/NiSadha = Ved. NiSAda (MS, VS, see below); cf.
Kuiper 1991: 33 on D/d, and p. 19 nALI 10.135.7 'flute, pipe' (cf. 1948:
# kANuka 8.77.4; (poet: kurusuti kANva) next to saras 'pond'; unclear in
meaning and etym., EWA I 336; Kuiper 1991 as foreign.
In late RV (1, 10):
# ulUkhala 1.28 'mortar' DEDR 672 Tam. ulukkai, Kan. olake, KoDagu oLake,
and Kota oLka, oLkal kal '(stone) mortar', Malto loRa 'stone to grind
spices' (S. Palaniappan, by letter); EWA I 231 'problematic'; cf. Zvelebil
1990: 79 with lit., Kuiper 1991: 14, 41 'still unexplained', compares loan
words with prefix u-; any connection with khala 'threshing floor' RV
# vriz 1.144.5 'finger', DEDR 5409 Tam. viral, Go. wirinj, now without
reference to Skt. vriz; EWA II 597 from IA *vrez 'to bend', Avest. uruuvaEs
'to bend, curve'
# bila 1.11.5, 1.32.11 'hole, cave' CDIAL 9245 'Dravid.'; DED 4459 = DEDR
5432 now without reference to Skt., cf. also DEDR 4194; Kuiper 1991:14
'foreign', EWA II 225 'not clear'
# a-phalA 10.71.5 'without fruit', see above;
# phal-inI 10.97.15 'having fruits', see above;
# mayUra 1.191.14, see above;
# piNDa 1.162.19, see above
# kUTa 10.102.4 'hammer' DEDR 1651, 1655, 1883, app. 29; previously
explained by Burrow as Drav., later explained by him as IE (German hau-en),
but see EWA I 384 'unclear'
# phAla 10.117.7 'plough share', see above
# phala 10.146.5 'fruit', see above
# kANa 10.155.1, see above
# kaTu(ka) 10.85.34 'pungent'; CDIAL compares khaTTa 'pungent'; EWA I 290
Lithuanian kartu`s 'bitter'? or DEDR 1135 Tam. kaTu 'to pain; pungent;
cruel, harsh, bitterness', Kurukh xaRxa 'bitter', Malto qaRqe 'bitter',
Brahui xarEn 'bitter' etc.
Finally, bala RV 1,3,5,6,7,9,10 'strength, force'; EWA compares
Latin de-bilis etc., IE *belo-, which is otherwise not found in IIr.
(perhaps in Osset./Sarmatian); see, however, Kuiper 1990: 90 on the rare IE
(initial) b-, and on the impossibility of an IE etymology; cf. CDIAL 9161;
now, against Drav. origin Burrow, see EWA II 215; cf., nevertheless, DEDR
5276 Tam. val 'strong', Kurukh balE 'with the help of', Brahui balun 'big'.

The same is the case with some words that have later on been added
and discussed (Sanskrit Index of the DEDR, p. 559-763) and elsewhere.
Most of them are too late in attestation to be of interest here.
In DEDR we find:
Early RV: phalgu 'minute weak' 4.5.14, kalaza 'vessel' 4.27.5,
6.69.2, 3.32.15, 7.69.6; and later: taDit 'flash' 2.23.9 (late addition),
1.94.7 phAla 'plough share' 4.57.8 (late); -- middle RV: ukhA 3.53 'pan,
hip' (late addition), kavaSa 'straddle legged', a personal name 7.18.12,
kUla 'slope, bank' 8.47.11. -- late RV: ukhA 'pan, hip' 1.162.13,15; khala
'treshing floor' 10.48.7. Of these, only phalgu 'minute weak' (RV 4)
remains as a possible early loan into IA, if it indeed belongs to DEDR
4562, Tam. pollu 'empty husk of grain'. Again, all other words regarded as
Dravidian appear only in the middle and especially in the in later RV.
Southworth (1990, 1995) adds the following examples of early
contact between Drav. and Indo-Ar., however, without ordering the texts
# car-, carati RV : Tamil cel 'to go, flow, pass, be suitable' (already
PerunkuN2r2Ur KilAR2, c. 160-200 CE (Zvelebil); DEDR 2781 "probably from
IA", CDIAL 4715; the word is IA, derived without problems from IE *kwel(h);
perhaps accidental agreement with Drav. cel.
# mAyA 'confusion, wonderment, awe' RV (found in all of RV, just as
mAy-in, mayA-vat, mayA-vin), = Avest. mAiiA 'awful power' :: Tam. maya-
'mistake, misunderstand'; mayakku- 'bewilder, confuse, intoxicate, alcohol'
etc.; DEDR 4706 without comparison with Skt.; the Skt. and Drav. meanings
do not agree; also, because attested that early in the RV and Iran., Drav.
origin (only Middle-RV Drav. influence!) is unlikely -- unless it would
have taken place in Iran (Southworth 1979: 196f.: "high degree of contact
... at the earliest period for which we have records and possibly before");
however, see below, on tanU.
Southworth 1979: 203, 228 f., 1990: 222-3, 1995 reconstructs as
further indication of early contact between Drav. and Indo-Ar. in Iran, a
word *tanu 'self', Tamil tAN2/taN2 'oneself', tanU RV 'body, self/oneself',
for this meaning see now J. R. Gardner, PhD diss., U. of Iowa 1998. The
variation in vowel length in the Drav. pronoun (Tam. tAN2/taN2 'oneself')
is old (Krishnamurti 1968). However, next to the RV instances, there is
Avest. tanU 'body, self', O.Pers. tanU 'body', all have no clear IE
etymology. Pokorny 1959: 1065, 1069 derives them from IE *ten 'to stretch',
in other IE languages the meaning mostly is 'thin'; EWA II 622 connects
tan-U '*Ausdehnung, ausgespannte Hu"lle' with tan.
The comparison of the IIr. and Drav. words would presuppose a very
close relationship between Drav. and (pre-)Indo-Ar. tribes indeed, as
pronouns are not taken over easily. Such early Drav.-IA relationships are
not found otherwise: there are no early loans in designations of material
culture, e.g. pastoralist terms in Vedic/Drav.: horse: azva : ivuli,
kutira, cow: gau- : A(N2), sheep: avi : (y)ATu, koR2i, goat : aja : (y)ATu,
koR2i, dog: zvan : nAy, nAi. This would rather point against a neighborly
relationship of both languages in any pre-South Asian context
# garda-bha 'donkey' RV, late, only 1.23.5, in the appendix hymn 3.53.23
next to rAsa-bha 'donkey'!, RV vAlakhilya 8.56.3 :: Tam. kal~utai, Gondi
gARdi, etc., to which DEDR 1364 compares Skt. gardabha; CDIAL 4054; EWA I
473 cf. gard 'to cry shout', not from Drav.
# pizAca, pizAcI AV, pizAci- 'demon' RV, late: 1.133.5 :: Tam. pEy-
'devil, goblin, madness' DEDR 4468, without comparison with Skt., and
without suffixing -zAci-, only: pEytti, pEycci, pEcci 'demoness'.
# zava (not in RV, diff. Southworth 1979: 197), only PS+ : Tam. cA- 'to
die' (Kural), Ko. ca-v- 'corpse' DEDR 2426 compares Skt. zava; EWA II
derives zava from zav 'to swell' AVP; CDIAL 12356 not from Drav. As the
word is early in Drav., perhaps accidental look-alike.
# paThati 'to recite' RVKh., TA, Up. : Tam. pATu 'sing, chant', pATTu
'song', attested already in PerunkuN2R2Ur KilAR2, DEDR 4065 without
reference to IA; EWA II 69; CDIAL 7712 < *pRthati; Drav. <-- Indo-Ar., Burrow-Emeneau 1962: 46, no. 242. Rather to be derived from MIA pupil's slang Ved. prath 'to spread out (a text, in recitation)'?;
compare the frequent loan words in the context of Vedic teaching and learning: maNDala, kaNDa, kANda, prapAThaka, paTala, daNDa, MIA: orimikA 'a section of KS' etc. # nagara 'town' TA, but cf.
already nagar-in JB :: Tam. nakar 'house abode, town, city'; cf. EWA II 5, CDIAL 6924; DEDR 3568 IA --> Tam. nakar
'house, town, etc.' But why nakar from Skt.? There is no IA etymon, nor is
there one in Drav. and Munda. Drav. for settlements: DEDR 3568 nakar
'house, town', 1655 kuTi 'home', 3868 paTTi 'cow stall, village', 5393
viTu(ti) 'temporal residence', 2007 cEri 'street, village', 752 Ur
'village', 4362 pUNTi 'town, village', 4047 pAkkam 'seaside village', 4646
maTappam 'agricultural town', 807 eyil 'fortress'; 4064 pATi 'town', 4112
pAl~i 'temple, town', 4555 Kan. pol~al 'town', 5549 vai, 3911 pati, 2814
cEr; 3638 nATu 'open country' (opp. nakaram); -- cf. also Skt. haTTa
'market' ~ Santali, Mundari, Ho hatu, Korwa watu < PMunda *watu Pinnow 1959: 79 $ 69.-- In short, the word may be a loan from the southern Indus language or one from the Malwa area. Thus, the words
added by Southworth are post-Rgvedic (zava, paThati, nagara), or they are attested in relatively late RV sections (gardabha, pizAci), or they are of dubious nature (car, mAyA, tanU). Therefore, it is not
possible to suppose, with Southworth, an early close contact, even in Iran, and on all levels of society, of Dravidas and Indo-Aryans. Rather, one has to agree with Kuiper, who stresses the very hesitant
acceptance of non-Indo-Aryan words and forms in the high level, poetic language of the RV. The words collected by Southworth in his second list (not discussed here) can have been taken over into Drav.
at any time after the RV, e.g. accu 'axle' < akSa RV. Furthermore, most of the c. 800 words in the list provided by DEDR, p. 759-764 are attested only in the Epics or in class. Skt. Of the c. 61 words listed
in the appendix of DEDR which are supposed to come from Indo-Aryan, only a few can be regarded as (possible) early loans; they all should be checked in early Tamil before something that even
approaches a final decision can be made. Finally, among the words in Zvelebil's recent list (1990: 77-82) of 22 "early" Drav. loans into Skt., most have already been discussed above; yet, none of them nor
the ones newly mentioned are Rgvedic: 8. bilva 'Aegle marmelos, Bel tree' AV, 10. kuNapa 'corpse' AV, 11. kurkura 'dog' AV, 12. arka 'Calatropis gigantea', ZB, 12a. candana 'sandal wood, paste' Nirukta,
13. kavaca 'armor' PS, ZB, kavacin AV, 13a. jaTA 'matted hair' GS, 13b. mAlA 'flower necklace', GS, mAlya RVKh, 13c. eDa 'sheep' KZS, eDaka JB, aiDaka ZB. The rest of the words are only post-Vedic.
Zvelebil's summary is: "as Emeneau (1971) writes, 'We end, then with a small, but precious handful of Vedic forms for which Dr. etymologies are certain and acceptable as may be expected in this field of
areal linguistics, adding, though that no chronology of the borrowings is possible" (Zvelebil 1990: 81; similarly Parpola 1994: 168.) According to what has been said above, this has to be modified
drastically: Rgvedic loans from Drav. are visible, but they also are now datable only to middle and late Rgvedic (in the Greater Panjab), and they can both the localized and dated for the Post-Rgvedic texts
(Witzel 1987, 1989). Of all the words mentioned so far that have been regarded as Drav., only the following few are possible for the early RV : ukha[-chid] 'hip[-breaking]' 4.19.9; phalgu `minute weak'
4.5.14, ANi 'lynch pin' 5.43.8, (whose ultimate source is unclear, and, very tentatively, bala 'force' 5.57.6, 5.30.9, probably from IE, cf. Latin de-bilis). Whether this is enough to ensure the presence of (even
a small number of ) speakers of Dravidian in the Panjab during early RV times may remain in the balance. From the middle RV come: kavaSa 'straddle legged', (a personal name) 7.18.12, kUla 'slope,
bank' 8.47.11 and perhaps also kuNDa 'vessel' 8.17.13. Consequently, if more of the middle and late RV words mentioned above are accepted as Drav. and even if some of the words excluded above for
the early RV should be accepted, this would not change the general picture: There is very little Dravidian, but there are about 300 words of the Indus substrate. For it cannot be said, conversely, that there
were, during the older and middle RV, clear indications (or: "a precious handful", Zvelebil, Emeneau) of a strong Drav. substrate in the Panjab. At best, one can speak of a few very isolated cases which
have been taken over into the RV; clearly this indicates an adstrate rather than a substrate. This result is important for the time of the immigration of speakers of Dravidian into the Panjab and it specifically
underlines that the Indo-Aryans did not at once get into contact with speakers of Drav. but only much later, when the tribes speaking IA were already living in the Panjab and on the sarasvatI and yamunA.
Apparently, Dravidian speakers began influencing the Panjab only at this moment in time (cf. Allchin 1995: 31 sqq., see above). Consequently, all linguistic and cultural deliberations based on the early
presence of the Drav. in the area of speakers of IA, are void or they have to be reinvestigated. It cannot be argued that the immigration of the Dravidians into the Panjab should have taken place earlier
than discussed above, for the simple reason that Drav. words do not exist in that early period; the same is the case if only the upper class such as traders (cf. vaNij 'trader?' RV 1.112.11, 5.45.6, AV, (pra-
)vANa 'trade?' 4.24.9, see Kuiper 1955: 168) and administrators of the Indus Civilization was composed of Dravidian speakers (Parpola 1994, Fairservis in: Southworth, 1979: 208, 228; contra, Hock 1975:
87f., cf. Southworth 1992: 663), and that in consequence, the Indus inscriptions should be read as Dravidian. In this case, one would expect, after some 400-700 years of the flourishing of the Indus
civilization, cases of bilingualism. Conseqently, much more Drav. influence should have been retained than visible in the few (late) words found in the c. 380 'foreign' words. One would expect at least a few
important loan words from the fields of trade, handicraft or state organization (at least, from the post-Indus, village level type cultures). This, again, is not the case. PaNi '(rich) foreigner, demon' cannot be
connected with 'trader' inside the RV, and paN 'to barter' appears first only in (post-Rgvedic) KS, pra-paNa 'trade' AV, prati-paNa 'exchange' (see EWA II 69; DEDR 3884 does not help: paN 'work, service',
paNikkaN2 'carpenter'; cf. Kuiper 1955: 168, on vANa, vaNij.) In addition, there are not many designations of RV artisans, except for IA takSan 'carpenter', etc. (see below). Even if Drav. had been the
traders' language, one would be at loss to answer the question why Drav. influence is only seen in the middle and late RV as well as later one (AV+). Summing up, early Dravidian influence in the Panjab
can be excluded, but must be explained for the following middle and later RV periods. This is best done by the scenario mentioned above: middle and later RV immigration of Drav. speakers from Sindh.
Incidentally, it must be noted that in all of the RV, there are no typical Drav. words for agriculture which should be expected if the Indus people of the Panjab had been speakers of Dravidian. This agrees
with the reconstruction of Fairservis (1995), Southworth (1979, 1988, 1990: 663, and McAlpin (1979) of early Dravidian: an originally pastoral society that acquired agriculture only in South Asia. All of this
indicates that we have to take a closer look at the regions bordering the Panjab in the South, especially Sindh. $ 1.7. Greater Sindh In contrast to the clear picture of the Panjab in Rgvedic times, the
situation in Greater Sindh is much more vague and the following results must remain tentative. The RV does not mention this area as such, yet there are some indications that Sindh and neighboring
Baluchistan were known. First of all, the bhalAnas tribe took part in the Ten Kings' Battle (RV 7.18) that settled the suzerainty of the Bharata chieftain over the Panjab tribes. The bhalAnas are identified
with the bolAn pass and river near Quetta in Baluchistan. Unfortunately, southern local rivers are not mentioned anywhere in the RV south of the gomatI (Gomal River). However, data from RV book 8 may
supplement our scanty information. Book 8 has long been connected with Eastern Iran: K. Hoffmann (1940 = 1975: 1 sqq.) has pointed to Iranian looking names such as kazu ~ Avest. kasu- (EWA I 330),
kazu caidya 8.5.37, kanIta ~ Scythian kanitEs, cf. further tirindira 8.6.46 ~ tiridatEs ~ Avest. tIrO.nakathËa, kRza 8.59.3 ~ k@r@sAspa, parzu 8.6.46 ~ O.Pers. pArsa 'Persian', paktha RV 8.22.10 (mod.
Pashto, Paktho), varo suSAman 8.60.18 (with unusual Sandhi), arzasAna 8.12.9, 2.20.6, etc., anarzani 8.32.2 ~ Iran. @rSan-? All such names, if Iranian, belong to pre-Iranian tribes that spoke a dialect
close to the one that later developed to E. Iranian (cf. the similar case of the Mitanni-Aryans, below). Book 8 also knows of camels (uSTra 8.4.21-24, 31, 46-48, O. Iran. uStra, as in zarath-uStra), that are
first attested archaeologically in S. Asia in the bolAn area, at Pirak, c.1700 BCE. Now, apart from RV 3 and 7, Drav. words occur first in the Middle RV book 8, more specifically in its kANva section (RV
8.1-48, and 8.49-59, 60-66); they include kuNDa- 8.17.13, mayUra 8.1.25, naDa/naLa 8.1.33 (see above); note also the many words in RV 8 with retroflexes (Kuiper 1991: 17, Hoffmann 1941, 1975:16,
Kuiper 1967: 84 n. 18, 86 n. 26). If one locates at least the kANva sections of book 8 in East Iranian lands, that is in (S.W.) Afghanistan and Baluchistan, one can also adduce the very name of this clan of
poets. K. Hoffmann (and I) have connected the name with kR 'to act magically, to do sorcery' (Hoffmann 1975: 1 sqq., Witzel 1983-5). Kuiper (1991: 80) has correctly objected there also is pra-skaNva,
with the common Indus prefix pra- *[p@r-] (contra, with insufficient reasons, Oberlies 1994: 341). This may mean that the Indus language extended to Eastern Iran, especially to the area west of Sindh, to
Baluchistan, and to Makran with its many Indus settlements. Book 8 would then represent an amalgam of Dravidian and Para-Munda influences (including some pre-Iranian?) Dravidian influence in Middle
Rgvedic (the time of king sudAs) can be traced back, with some probability, to the areas from Arachosia to Sindh as well. It is here that Drav. place names are assumed to appear first (cf. L.V.
Ramaswamy Iyer 1929-30). These names (showing MIA development p > v)
extend from Sindh via Gujarat and Maharastra to the South: Sindhi -vali,
Gujarati -wArI/warI (Sankalia 1949), Mar. -oli, all from a Drav. word for
'village' (Tam. paLLi 'hamlet', Kan. paLLi, haLLi, Tel. palli 'village',
Kur. pallI DEDR 4018, CDIAL 7972, see Parpola 1984, 1994: 170 sqq., 1997;
Southworth 1995: 271, see further, below; -- Panjabi -wAlA, wAlI rather
looks like the common Hindi etc. suffix, as in jAne-wAlA, petrol
pump-walla, etc.).
A similar view has been proposed, on the basis of linguistic and
archaeological observations, by Zvelebil (1972, 1990: 48, 123), Southworth
and McAlpin,(fn. 3) and Fairservis (1992: 17, 21). It has to be underlined,
however, that McAlpin's reconstruction of an Elamo-Dravidian language
family has not been accepted by Dravidologists. Fairservis and Zvelebil
think of an immigration by Drav. speaking tribes at c. 4000/3500 BCE, from
the mountainous lands of East Iran into the Indus valley. Both underline
data that characterize the Dravida as originally pastoral hill tribes.
In sum, we may reckon with early Drav. pastoralists (Fairservis
1992, 1997) in Baluchistan and later on, after a period of acculturation
with the Indus people, we may encounter Drav. farmers (Southworth 1979,
1990, 1995) who practiced intensive rice (Kenoyer 1998: 178, Jarrige 1985)
and millet cultivation in Sindh.

$ 1.8. The languages of Sindh
In addition to these western (Dravidian, pre-Iranian) elements
there also are local 'Sindh' ones. First of all, it is precisely in this
area that rice was first introduced into the Indus civilization. It occurs
first as odana 'rice gruel' in the (partly E. Iranian) kaNva book (RV 8) in
the emuSa myth, which clearly smacks of 'foreign' origin: RV 8.69.14,
8.77.6-11, 8.77.10, (cf. also 8.96.2, 1.61.7; summary and discussion by
Kuiper 1991: 16 sqq.) He had explained it earlier on (1950) as
Austro-Asiatic, but is more cautious now (Kuiper 1991: 18f., cf. below). On
closer observation, we can notice a mixture of an IA, Austro-Asiatic and
possibly Drav. myth.
Kuiper (1991) now shows that the kaNvas, non-IA local sorcerers,
introduced this myth into the RV. At any rate, the motif is unusual for the
RV. Its hero is a divine bow shooter (probably seen on an Indus copper
plate, only at Mohenjo Daro, in Sindh, Parpola 1997: 39; cf. also Avesta,
Yt. 8.6,37 @r@xSa, kRzAnu RV 4.27.3, Rudra, and murukan in S. India; for
'bow' see KS dAlbhUSI, MS drumbhUlI; with PDrav -R- > [l~] / [.Z.], Kuiper
1991: 26). This bow shooter splits a mountain, finds the odana rice gruel
and kills the boar emuSa. The myth is an imitation of the well known
Rgvedic Vala myth (splitting the mountain cave containing the cows/dawns),
but is otherwise completely alien to the RV.
Now, the suffix -uSa (Kuiper 1991) of emuSa clearly indicates a
name taken from the (Para-Munda) Indus language. This points to a late myth
(because a latecomer, rice, is important), adopted from the local southern
or southwestern Indus region and from beyond. (fn.4) Second, the word for
'rice' occurs in a Sindh and a Panjab variety (see below). The Sindh
version, closer to Dravidian, has been transmitted further west, along the
southern trading route to Fars and has entered western languages from there
(Greek oryza).
Whether rice was otherwise known to the Rgveda is doubtful. Rice
was introduced towards the end of the Indus civilization in its southern
areas, in Sindh (Kenoyer 1998: 178, in Pirak, along with newly introduced
sorghum and millet, and also horse, donkey, camel). In this case, we have
again to reckon with a (West-)Munda word: odana is connected with oDi(kA)
'wild rice' (lex., CDIAL 2546) and Santali hoRo, huRu 'rice plant' (EWA I
280) and explained as Munda loan (Berger 1963: 420, Kuiper 1950: 179; but
cf. Zide and Zide 1973: 8-9 on Mundari kode, Kharia kuDa 'millet, ragi').
Together with the introduction of rice its charter myth (Malinowski) may
have been taken over as well. As has been mentioned, the Dravidians
originally had neither a word for 'rice' nor for the staple food of the
Indus civilization, wheat.
In sum, it can be said that we may have to reckon with a
combination of several factors in the southern Indus area: with the
(Para-Munda) Indus language, with some more eastern Munda influences, with
immigration from E. Iran in the person of VasiSTha (RV 7) and of (pre-)Old
Iranian tribes into Baluchistan and the neighboring Kachi plain of the
Indus valley (e.g. at Pirak, 1700 BCE), and with Dravidian immigration.

As mentioned above, Zvelebil (1970, 1990) is of the opinion that
the Dravida entered South Asia from the Iranian highlands. Their oldest
vocabulary (Southworth & McAlpin) is that of a semi-nomadic, pastoral
group, not of an agricultural community. They are thus not expected to have
their own word for 'wheat'. Wheat, however, was the staple of the Indus
civilization, and was called in Dravidian by an adaptation of a local word:
*gO-di 'low red plant' (Southworth 1988, 1979, 1990) which is quite
different from the Panjab word *go-dum > Vedic godhUma 'cow smoke' (details
below). If the Dravidians acquired agriculture only in the hills bordering
S. Asia, they may very well have been inhabitants of Baluchistan at the
time. At any rate, neighboring Sindh, just as Gujarat and Maharastra, show
place names that are explainable from Dravidian *paLLi (see above). Then,
according to archaeology, a large section of the population of Sindh left
this area towards the end of the Indus period. They moved further east, to
Gujarat, where we find a late, local phase of the Indus civilization
(Rangpur phase IIb, IIc, see Allchin 1995: 32 sqq., Kenoyer 1998: 173
sqq.), and, again, Drav. place names.
It is indeed possible that the Dravida constituted a first wave of
central Asian tribes that came to Iran before the IA, just as the Kassites
came to Mesopotamia before the Mitanni-IA. In that case they knew the horse
already in Central Asia, but would not have taken it over directly from the
Indo-Iranians (as may be indicated by Brahui (h)ullI, O.Tam. ivuLi 'horse',
etc., different from IIr. ac'va). In other respects as well, they have not
been influenced by the Indo-Iranians.
One can even assume that the early testimony of the introduction of
horse and camel from the Iranian plateau into Sindh (Pirak and Kachi plain
in western Sindh) is due to the Dravida (c. 1700 BCE, Kenoyer 1998: 178;
Allchin 1995: 31). In that case, it must be investigated why they
apparently did not preserve a word for 'camel'. In this fashion, that is
through the mediation of the Dravida in Sindh, Drav. *variJci 'rice' must
have reached Iran (> M.Pers. brinj), that is not, as otherwise common, via
the northwestern Khaiber Pass, as in this region another form of the word
is found, with *vrijhi > Pashto wrizE, etc. (see below).
This may mean, on the one hand, that the Dravida themselves were
immigrating at the time of the older RV, or that they only influenced the
Panjab in the later, Middle Rgvedic period, coming from Sindh. This is
perhaps supported by archaeological facts, for Sindh was practically
deserted by its population in the post-Indus phase (Allchin 1995: 31 sqq.)
It is from this Southern basis that they suddenly appear in mid-level RV,
with names such as kavaSa 'straddle legged' (k. ailUSa RV), cf. zailUSa
''dancer, singer" VS (EWA II 655, Kuiper 1991:20, 25, 42) which Kuiper
1991: 24 explains with reference to Dravidian: initial c- is often dropped
in South(!) Dravidian; further examples in RV are : zirimbiTha : irimbiThi
EWA II 639, cf. also ziriNA 'hiding place, night?' : irINa 'salt pan,
hiding place (for gambling)' (Witzel 1999).
ailUSa is important, as it was this poet who was an important
priest on the side of the opponents of the Bharata. (These opponents
included the bhalAnas). His great-grandson tura kAvaSeya, however, is an
important priest of the Kuru realm that succeeded the Bharata 'kingdom'; he
developed the agnicayana ritual (Th. Proferes, Harvard Ph.D. thesis 1999).
This case shows the inclusion of a Dravidian into the fold, and underlines
the important role a new 'convert' to Arya religion could play in its very
development (that of the post-RV, classical zrauta ritual, see Proferes).
Further, he was not classified as zUdra but obviously as a Brahmin who had
learned to compose RV hymns in the traditional poetic IA language! All of
this is indicative of a high degree of amalgamation and language
acquisition at this time, during the middle and late Rgveda period (see

$ 1.9. The Southern Indus language: Meluhhan
However, there are indications that another language was prevalent
in Sindh before the immigration of the Dravida. The trade of the Indus
civilization with Sumeria and later Mesopotamia has left us a number of
words that are not Dravidian. It is perhaps best to call this language
"Meluhhan" after the name the Sumerians gave to the country, meluHHa. Its
language was also sufficiently different from Elamite or Sumerian to
require a 'translator from meluHHa' (Possehl 1996a: no. 2), whose name is
íu-iliSu (Parpola 1994: 132). In fact, "the language of MarhaSi [Bampur
area, just west of Iranian Baluchistan] is different from that of the
simaSkian [Tepe Yahya in southern Central Iran], and only very partially
Elamite-related." (Vallat 1985: 52). This indicates that there was a
language boundary, somewhere to the west of the present Iran-Pakistan
border, probably in a southwards prolongation of the Iran-Afghanistan
border. Possehl identifies the area of meluHHa (1996, 1997) as having a
center in the hills and mountains of Baluchistan, closer to the population
center of the early Indus civilization, which allows for a hypothetical
identification of the marhaSi language with that of meluHHa and makes a
thorough investigation of the data of RV 8 (see $ 1.7.) even more
important. There are men with meluHHa as a personal name, thus apparently
'the meluHHan'; several persons, among them urkal and ur-dlama, are called
'the son of meluHHa'. There also is a 'village of meluHHa', from where a
person called nin-ana comes. The products of meluHHa include
giS-ab-ba-me-lu-HHa (abba wood, a thorn tree), mesu wood ('of the plains'),
ships of meluHHan style (magilum boat), (Possehl 1996a). In total, there
are some 40 "Indian" words transmitted to ancient Mesopotamia, some of
which may have been coined by Dilmun (Bahrain) traders. They include: Sindh
wood sinda (si-in-da-a, si-in-du), date palm, the 'red dog of MeluHHa',
zaza cattle (zebu?), elephants, etc. (cf. Landsberger, Die Welt des Orients
3. 261, Possehl 1996a). As coming from Dilmun (Bahrain) we may add the
Meluhhan(?) trees giS-Ha-lu-ub or Haluppu wood, giS-mes-makan or m¨su wood
of Magan, and the giSgiSimmar wood (cf. above *zimmal in zimbala, zalmali
'Salmalia malabarica'!). A slightly later(?) loan-word relationship is seen
in Sumer. ili 'sesame', Akkad. ellu/Ulu 'sesame oil', which is only found
in South Drav. with eL, eLLu 'Sesamum indicum' (D. Bedigian 1985); the word
can be compared, however, with Ved. tila and jar-tila 'sesame' which shows
the typical Para-Munda prefix C@r- (cf. Kuiper 1955: 157 for a Munda
origin). The ultimate source, **(t)il, however is unclear,
cf. further, on Sumer. loan words, Blazek and Boisson 1992.
The word meluHHa is of special interest. It occurs as a verb in a
different form (mlecha-) in Vedic only in ZB 3.2.1, an eastern text of N.
Bihar where it indicates 'to speak in barbarian fashion'. But it has a form
closer to meluHHa in Middle Indian (MIA): Pali, the church language of S.
Buddhism which originated as a western N. Indian dialect (roughly, between
Mathura, Gujarat and the Vindhya) has milakkha, milakkhu. Other forms,
closer to ZB mleccha are found in MIA *mliccha > Sindhi milis, Panjabi
milech, malech, Kashmiri bri.c.hun 'weep, lament' (< *mrech-, with the common r/l interchange of IA), W. Pahari mel±.c.h 'dirty'. It seems that, just as in other cases mentioned above, the original local form
*m(e)luH (i.e. m(e)lukh in IA pronunciation, cf. E. Iranian bAxdhI 'Bactria' > AV
*bahli-ka, balhi-ka) was preserved only in the South (Gujarat? > Pali),
while the North (Panjab, Kashmir, even ZB and Bengal) has *mlecch. The
sound shift from -HH-/-kh- > -cch- is unexplained; it may have been modeled
on similar correspondences in MIA (Skt. akSi 'eye' ~ MIA akkhi, acchi;
kSetra 'field' ~ MIA khetta, chetta, etc.)
The meaning of Mleccha must have evolved from 'self-designation' >
'name of foreigners', cf. those of the Franks > Arab farinjI 'foreigner.'
Its introduction into Vedic must have begun in meluHHa, in
Baluchistan-Sindh, and have been transmitted for a long time in a
non-literary level of IA as a nickname, before surfacing in E. North India
in Middle/Late Vedic as mleccha. (fn. 5)
Further examples of the Southern Indus (Sindh) language include the
designations of plough, rice, wheat, and millet.

The old agricultural word lAGgala 'plow' (RV, 4.57.4, a late hymn) is
found, in a divergent form, in Tam. JAJcil, nAJcil, Kan. nEgal, Gadba
nAngal (DEDR 2907). Southworth (1988; 1979: 200, 205; 1995: 268, cf. Kuiper
1948: 127, 1955: 156, Przyludski BSL 24, 118 sqq., cf. Parpola 1994: 168)
assumes a popular etymology PDrav. *JAn-kal, *JAn-kel 'earth stone' and
traces the term back an Austro-Asiatic source, Munda *Ja-kel, Jan-kel (Zide
& Zide 1973: 5), Santali nahel, Khasi lynkor [l@nkor] < *le~nkol, Khmer aGkal; cf. also the Austronesian forms, Malay tengala, Makassar naGkala (Bagchi 1929, 9). V. BlaZek and C. Boisson, (1992: 17-
19) think of a Sumerian, and ultimately perhaps even Afro-Asiatic origin of this widespread word of culture: Sumer. ni'G-Gala or ni'G-Gòl 'sickle' (!) and Afro-As. *nigal 'to reap; reaping sickle.' However, the
Munda words do not agree with Ved. lAGgala, though one can easily assume dissimilation of n-l. The word underlying RV lAGgala must have come from an intermediate language, in short, the Panjabi
form of the Indus language (Para-Munda), with *laGgal. This form cannot have been that of the Southern Indus language (Meluhhan) as this has resulted in Drav. *JAnkal, JAnkel. While the difference is
small here (g/k, n/l), it is more substantial in other agricultural words. Rice The word for 'rice' shows a difference between a Northern form, approximately **(@)Ë@rij, versus a southern one, *vari, (v)ariki,
variJci. Note that this indicates the same difference in tenuis/media as met with in the word for 'plough': N. *laGgal, *v@riji :: S. *naGkal, *variJci/variki. Still another form exists in Proto-Munda *@-rig; it has
provided Dravidian *(v)ari, variki > Tam. arici, ari, Kan. akki (DEDR 215), and also Tam.,
Tel. vari (DEDR 6565).
Though rice is indigenous to S. Asia, the domesticated version can
be traced back to S.E. Asia and S. China. (fn. 6) It has been found in
India since the 3rd millennium BCE (Glover & Higham 1996, Kajale 1991), and
appeared late in the southern Indus civilization, at Pirak c. 1700 BCE.
However, it appears first (as vrIhi) only in post-RV texts (AV, c. 1200
BCE), though it probably was an ingredient in the RV offerings puroDAza
'rice cake' and odana 'rice gruel'. The older IA grain is only yava
'barley', but later on we have 7 or 10 agricultural products: in the
yajurveda saMhitAs, the 'seven agricultural plants' (sapta' grAmyA'
o'SadhayaH); ZB 14,9,3,22 has even ten: vrIhi' Oryza sativa L.; ya'va
Hordeum vulgare L. subsp. hexastichum (L.) Schinz et Kell.; ti'la Sesamum
indicum L.; mù'Sa Phaseolus mungo L. var. radiatus = Phaseolus Roxburghii;
a'Nu Panicum miliaceum L.; priya'Ggu Setaria italica (L.) Pal. Beauv. =
Panicum italicum L.; godhU'ma Triticum aestivum = Triticum sativum Lam.;
masU'ra Lens culinaris Medic. = Ervum lens L.; kha'lva Phaseolus radiatus
L. a variety of Phaseolus mungo L. = mASa(?); khala'-kula Dolichos biflorus
L. (W. Rau, in: Witzel 1997: 203-206).
Southworth (1979, 1988: 659-660) supposes an Elamo-Dravid. origin:
*var 'seed, grain', Elam. bar 'seed', PDrav (stage 1, c. 2000 BCE) *vari
'rice grain'. (McAlpin 1981, Tyler 1968, Southworth 1988). Achaemenid Elam.
umi 'grind (grain)', *um 'to process grain', PDrav1 *um 'husk, chaff' DEDR
637; (this should be compared with *gant-um-a, gandh-um-a!). However, the
Elamo-Drav. family has not been proven to the satisfaction of Dravidianists
(McAlpin (et al.) 1975, Krishnamurti 1985, Zvelebil 1985), and the N.
Drav. language Brahui, seen as a link by McAlpin, is a late-comer to
Baluchistan (Elfenbein 1987). Southworth (1988: 664) stresses the
difference between northern (Gangetic) and southern rice, which might have
been dry land rice.
On the other hand, Southworth later on mentions that PDrav
*(v)ariki DEDR 215, has been taken over from PMunda at c. 1500 BCE: *@rig
'millet, Panicum militare' (Zide & Zide 1973: 8) --> *arik(i) 'staple
grain' (Southworth 1988: 660), because the South Drav. sound change k > c
took place only between the second and third stage of Drav. (Krishnamurti
1969); thus: Munda *@rig --> Drav. *(v)ariki > Tamil ari, arici. This South
Dravidian form arici has been transmitted westwards, probably by sea trade,
Greek o'ryza, o'ryzon and Arab. ruz, Engl. rice etc. (Southworth 1979: 202,
cf. EWA II 598).
Southworth also reconstructs PDrav. *vari, *variJci DEDR 5265.
This, too, was transmitted westwards, but via the Baluchistan-BampUr trail,
to Old Iranian as *brinj, M.Iran. brinj, N.Pers. birinj). It must have been
this form that was the basis of the word in the late Southern Indus
The northern track westwards is attested by Ved. vrIhi < pre-IA *vrijhi- and reflected in the E. Iran. (and N. Iran.?) languages: Pastho wriZE, (but Khotan. rrIysua [rIzua]!), Nuristani wrI.c, rI.c (cf. Fussman
1972). The Northern Indus dialect had *vrij > Ved. *vrijhi > vrIhi,
Nuristani wrI.c., Pashto wriZE. The Southern dialect is indicated by
M.Pers. brinj, N.Pers. birinj, going back to *v@riJji, Dravidian *variJci,
a form with "infixed" -n-, found in central Dravidian: Gondi wanjI (Pengo
verci(l), Gadba vasil, DEDR 5265). The form with -n- points to Munda origin
and to a relatively far-reaching influence or expansion of the Munda in
this early period (cf. Kuiper 1955: 140, 1962: 14, 51, 1991: 39f.) Again,
this distribution also suggests a difference between, on the one hand,
northern or north-western form, including the northern Indus language, and
on the other, the southern Indus language and the rest of the subcontinent.
However, these forms have to be reconciled with Tibetan 'bras
[@bras] > mod. Tib. [je], Purik bras, with the neighboring, linguistically
isolated Burushaski bras (Kuiper 1962: 40, 1955: 143 n. 17, Tikkanen, 1988:
303-325), Dumaki bras, and even with some Austronesian forms such as Malay
b@ras--> Somali bari`s?; cf., however, Dayak bari, Malegasy vare, vari -->
Bantu wari, wali (Nurse 1983, Southworth 1988: 664, Witzel 1995) and O.Jpn.
uru-shine, (cf. mod. Jpn. uru-chi < *uru-ti). Both bras and pre-Vedic *vrijhi must go back to a source such as **@w@rij (Witzel 1997). In the study of the Asian words for 'rice' we have to take into account
words from S., S.E. and E.Asia: - S. Asia: Ved. vrIhi < *vrijhi, Burushaski bras, (fn. 7) Tib. 'bras, (fn. 8) Drav. *arici, *variJci; (fn. 9) Munda *@-rig, Tib.-Burm. *dza- (fn. 10) < Austr. *Cs amaq Kusunda
cusum 'rice in husks', kAdiyun 'cleaned rice' - S.E. Asia: Munda *rung-ku•g (Zide & Zide 1973: 17) Austr. *Csamaq Austrones. *pajay; Austrones. *i-may Thai *xau > khaw (Haudricourt, in Shafer 1966-7:
Austro-Thai *kru-may (> Jpn. kome)
- E. Asia: Chin. *mi@r, Tib.-Burm. *may (fn. 11)
The distribution of the various words for 'rice' points to an old
(South-)East Asian word of culture. Just as in the modern spread of the E.
Asian word 'tea', several routes of distribution have to be distinguished:
1. an approximate reconstruction of the S.(E.) Asian word
*@vrij(h)i/*@bras, probably < **@w@rij, (fn. 12) which is spread out in a wide arch between 2. E. Asian *may, *xau, *krumay (< *kru-*may?) ((fn. 13) and 3. S. Asian *@-rig, (fn. 14) *rung-ku(•g). PMunda
*rung-ku(•g) (Zide & Zide 1973: 17, *(r)-(n)-ku, Kuiper 1962) may be an Austro-Asiatic form with prefix r-. This might be connected, via metathesis, with Benedict's Austro-Thai-Japanese *krumay (> Jpn.
kuma-shine), a word that may be composed, if Sino-Tib. (Benedict 1972: no.
65, 128, 149, 192, 193) *may, Austrones. i-may and Thai *xau are compared,
of *kru-*may. In the end, one may think of a Proto-form **kru as the
ultimate source for 'rice' in S.E. and E. Asia (Sino-Tib., Austro-As.,

Further dialect differences between the northern (Panjab) and the
southern (Sindh) forms of the Indus language can be observed in the
designation of 'wheat'. Though some claim that wheat, the staple of the
Indus civilization, is a local domesticate (cf. Allchin 1995: 46, cf.
Allchin & Hammond 1978, Kenoyer 1998), it is a western import, as it
originated west of the Zagros and south of the Caucasus. In S. Asia it is
found as early as the 7th millennium BCE. This leaves several thousand
years before the attestation of the S. Asian words for 'wheat', Ved.
godhUma, Kan. gOdi etc.
These are clearly related to Near Eastern ones, e.g. Old Egypt.
xnd, Hitt. kant, PSemit. *HanT. The individual track of the loan word
differs, however, just as in the case of the word for 'plough'. A form
*gant-um that has entered via the northern Iranian trade route
(Media-Turkmenistan-Margiana/Bactria-Aratta/Sistan) has resulted in Avest.
gantuma and the later Iranian forms: M.Pers. gandum, Baluchi gandIm, Pashto
ghan@m < *gandUma?, Yigdha gondum, Shugni Zindam; Khotanese ganama < *gandama, etc. (see Berger 1959: 40f, EWA II 498). The Iranian form has also been taken over by the Drav. newcomer in
the region, Brahui: xOlum < IA *gholum (CDIAL 4287), from Bur. according to Berger (1959: 42). However, Bur. guriG, gureG (pl.), gha'rum < *ghor-um < **ghund- (Berger), seem to have been borrowed
from the Indus language. (Berger thought of a loan from Bur. into the Panjab area languages; cf. also Bur. gur 'barley, wheat colored', bur 'buck wheat' Berger 1959: 43) When this word entered the Panjab
it must have changed its initial syllable (*gan-) to go-, thus *godum, a change echoed by the Southern Indus language (*godi). Vedic has godhUma and similar continuants (Turner, CDIAL 4287). This is a
clear folk etymology: the unfamiliar *gantum/gandum >
*godum was analyzed as go-dhUma 'cow smoke'.
Another form of the Near Eastern word that has come via the
Southern route (Elam/anSan-simaSki/Tepe Yahya-marhaSi/Bampur) has resulted
in Meluhhan *gOdi. This is retained in Drav. *gOdi (Kan. gOdi, Tam. kOti,
cf. DEDR 1906). The change from -an- > -o- is not unfamiliar in Sindh (see
below). A pre-Iranian *gantum must have become *go-tum or *go-dum in Sindh.
The Drav. word, too, seems to be a popular etymology of the
unfamiliar *godum: 'low red plant'', reconstructed by Southworth (1988:
658, 660) as PDrav. 3 at c. 1000 BC as *kO-tumpai. Maybe he thought of DEDR
3334 Tam. tumpai etc. 'nettle, weed' etc. (cf. Tam. kOtumam, Mal.
kOtambu?). The exact development from *tumpai > -di would then not clear;
(at this supposed late date kOtumpai could even be based on RV godhUma!)
Obviously, in this case both the Northern and Southern Indus
language have changed -an- > -o, while the Northern language otherwise
retains -an- (see below). The northern form, based on Pre-Iranian *gantum
would have resulted in Vedic **gan-dhUma or perhaps **gandha-dhUma "perfume
smell', cf. CDIAL 4020 Skt. (lex.) gandhAlu 'fragrant rice', Pashai ganda'r
'a kind of grain'. The Southern (Meluhhan) *godi must have influenced a
northern *gantum/gandum that facilitated a later Vedic popular etymology as
'cow smoke'. The mechanism of this influence is unclear. It may be due to
Dravidian influence on the Panjab in the Middle/Late Rgvedic period; note
that godhUma appears only in early post-RV texts.
In short, the inhabitants of the northern Indus region (Panjab)
thus must have called their wheat something like *godum and those in the
Southern Indus region (Sindh), *godi.

$ 1.10. Further dialect differences
The strange sound change *an > o is not isolated. It also occurs in
the migrant word of culture for 'hemp': Ved. zaNa (AV 2.4.5, PS 2.11.5
zaNa), M.Pers., N.Pers. San, Khotanese Saka kaMha (but gAndhArI > Niya Pkt.
SaMNa), Osset. goen, goenoe, (Greek ka'nnabis, EWA II 605; Engl. hemp,
etc.). It appears, again, in Dravidian, with popular etymology, as
Tel. gOnu, gO~gu, cf. gOGgUra, Kan. gOgi, 'hibiscus cannabinus' (DEDR
2183). The original northwestern form is guaranteed by the North-Iranian
(Ossete), Greek and Germanic forms of the loan word: kanna-bis, hemp, etc.
The northwestern dialect has preserved *-an-, for example in the Rgvedic,
yet certainly pre-Indo-Aryan tribal name of the gandhAri (and in the later
Vedic country gandhAra). The northwestern name zambara (in the Afghan.
hills), too, has not been changed to *zobara, but note the name of a poet
in the more southern RV 8, sobhari kANva.
We have a clear distinction between N. Indus -an- and Southern
Indus -o-. (Note that original *-an- appears in post-RV texts further east
and south, in Dravidian, as -o-). This is again a point that may turn out
to be of importance for the decipherment of the Indus script which indeed
has several features (special signs) that are different in Harappa (N) and
Mohenjo Daro (S), (see B.Wells 1998).
This is the opportune moment to briefly discuss another
northwestern peculiarity, the interchange of k/z in Vedic. This has
occasionally been observed, even one hundred years ago in the case of
karkoTa/zarkoTa, but it has not been put into proper relief (Kuiper 1991:
41, 42, 44 as Proto-Munda, cf. KEWA III 309, Witzel 1999). The interchange
of k and z is not related at all to the well-known Indo-Ir. development of
IE *k' > Ved. z, as the present variation occurs only in 'foreign' words.
The name of the snake demon zarkoTa (AV) appears also as
karkoTa(-ka) RVKh 2.14.8, and locally especially in Kashmir and Nepal; cf.
Bur. hergin (Berger hargi'n) 'dragon' or rather gha'rqa (Berger gha'rqas:
CDIAL 3418?) 'lizard', Skt. karkaTa 'crab', Mundari kaRkom etc. (Pinnow
1959: 341 $483d). The prefix zar-/kar- can be connected with [s@r-] of the
'300 foreign words' (Kuiper 1991: 40-1, 1948: 121), for example in sRbinda
(Kuiper 1939 = 1997: 3 sqq.), ku-sur(u)-binda, bainda (Bind tribe),
post-Vedic vindh-ya.
Further materials include kambala/zambara 'blanket/name of a
demon', kabara/zabara, kIsta/zISTa 8.53.4 (with var. lect. zIST-, zIrST-,
zIrSTr-, see above), kimIdin/zimidA- 'demon/a demoness', kambu/zambu
'shell' (Kuiper 1955: 182), cf. KU-zAmba, Kau-zAmba 'name of a person', cf.
ki-zora 'filly' AV, 'youth' CDIAL 3190 : zi-zu 'baby', zi(M)-zu-mAra
'Gangetic dolphin', zizUla 'dolphin' RV (EWA II 641-2; Le'vy, in Bagchi
1929: 121 sqq.), kirAta/cilAda 'a mountain tribe', kiknasa 'ground grain'
AB: cikkasa 'barley meal' lex., Bur. Son ~ Ved. kANa 'blind' RV.
The realization [k'] or [z] of an unknown phoneme (probably k')
would easily unite such words as zam-bara : kam-bala, zabala : kabara; it
would also offer a better candidate for Pinnow's unexpected reconstruction
for the Munda and Mon-Khmer self-designation *Sqawar > zabara AB, and in
the tribal names > Sora, Hor, Kora, Kherwar, Koro/Korku, Khmer etc., Pinnow
154 $311); rather from * k'awar, *k'amwar.
In consequence, Vedic loan words with the interchange of z / k may
go back to a phoneme K' with realization close to [k'] or [z] in the Indus

Another dialect difference can be observed in the "new" import at
the time of the Indus civilization, millet. This domesticated plant has
originated in China and another variety in Africa (Southworth 1988: 665,
Randhawa 1980: 504; Nurse 1983, summarized by Cavalli-Sforza 1995, see now
Meadow 1998). The Chinese words have no similarity to the Indian ones
(Karlgren 1923), and the source of the Indian words has not been
established so far: any language between the Sahel belt and Baluchistan is
It has to be noted, that in the case of this comparatively late
import, -an-, -am- has been preserved both in Proto-Munda *gaGgay,
Dravidian DEDR 1084 kaGgu (Tam. kaGku), DEDR 1242 kampu, Ved. priyaGgu, OIA
dialects *kaGkuna, *kaGguna, *taGguna (which may provide some indication of
the time frame for the words discussed above).
Even though comparisons between the various words for 'millet' can
be made, they cannot be traced back, as is the case with many widely spread
loan words, to a single source. Hindi kaGgnI can be compared with OIA
*kaGkunI CDIAL 2606, with Tamil kampu DEDR 1242 and with Munda *gaG(-)gay
(Southworth 1988: 660, Zide & Zide 1973: 8). The source of these words may
have had a form such as **kaG-CV. From this, Ved. priyaGgu (EWA II 190) can
be derived as well, as it seems to have been changed by popular etymology,
like several other agricultural terms: prefix *p@r- (Kuiper 1991: 42f.) >
*priya+gu 'dear cow'. Other IA designations of millet are: Ved. aNu and
*aNuni CDIAL 195. All of this points to a contamination or cross of *kaGgu
and *-(k/g)aGgu --> IA aNu; (*al 'to mill' EWA I 55; rather a Munda change,
Pinnow 1959: 198f., k/*q > 0 typical for Sora, Kharia k : Sora 0; thus:
kaGgu : *aGgu --> Ved. aNu, cf. Kuiper 1991: 38). In short, all major
language families of S. Asia have taken over the word from an unknown, but
not exactly the same source.
Nevertheless, a clear difference between Northern and
Eastern/Southern forms is visible: PDrav. *kampu is opposed to PMunda
*gaGgay (Zide & Zide 1973), while the IA forms stand in between the two.
The usual IA form is Ved. aNu (cf. O.Indo-Aryan *aNunI, Turner, CDIAL 195).
However, based on Ved. pri-yaGgu < *p@r-gaGgu? and the reconstructed OIA forms *kaGkunI, *kaGgunI, *taGgunI (CDIAL 2606), a northwestern Indian *kaGkun, a central-northern *kaGgun, a more
eastern North Indian *taGgun can be reconstructed for the pre-Vedic period, while the Southwest must have had, next to Drav. *kampu DEDR 1242 (= Skt. kambU, in hemAdri) also a form *kaGgu CDIAL
2605, DEDR 1084. The northern Indus language should have had *kaGku(n), its southern dialect (Meluhhan), *kaGgu. The modern languages also do not agree: In Hindi (Masica 1979: 76 sqq., 135f.) we
find various terms for the many varieties of millet: kaGgnI (*kaGkunI CDIAL 2606); kuTkI (Masica from Skt. kuTakA, not found in the dictionaries; cf. kuTaka 'a kind of tree' KauzS.); kodoN (CDIAL 3515
kodrava 'grain eaten by the poor' Mbh., cf. koradUSa 'idem' Suzr., -ka KZS; DEDR 2163 Tam. kural, Kan. koRale, korle; Konda koren 'a grain'); khil (Masica: from Skt. khiD), junhAr, j(u)wAr) (*yonAla >
yavanAla > juAr, < Drav. *coN2N2el, DEDR 2359, DEDR 2896, CDIAL 10437); bAjrA (Vedic: HZS varjarI, CDIAL 9201 *bAjjara); ma(N)RUa (CDIAL 9728 < maDaka 'the small grain Euleusine corocana');
sANwAN (Ved. zyAmaka VS, CDIAL 12667). Some of them belong to the c. 30% of agricultural vocabulary in Hindi that comes from Masica's "Language X". Finally, as pointed out above, the word for
'peacock' must go back to a northern Indus form *mayur > Ved. mayUra RV level II, and to a
southern form *mayil/r > Drav. Tamil mayil, Irula muyiru, Tulu mairu, Konda
mrIlu, miril etc.
In summing up, it can be stated that in the north-west and also in
the Panjab, as represented by loan words in most of the RV, original
northwestern *-an- is opposed to southern -o-. The same relationship is
also found in north-western z : subcontinental k, north-western -J- :
subcontinental zero in the word for 'rice'. We can discern a clear
difference between the Panjab (-->Vedic) and Sindh/Gujarat (--> Dravidian)
forms of the Indus language.
Dialect differences between Panjab and Sindh seem even to be
indicated in the Indus inscriptions themselves. Seals and plates from
Harappa (Panjab) differ in a number of items from those found at Mohenjo
Daro (Sindh), for example in the sign for 'container, quantity' which looks
like a V; this is almost only found at Harappa (B. Wells 1998). The same
applies to some 'suffixes' in the inscriptions (Wells, by letter 1999).
It can be concluded that the Meluhhan variety of the Indus language
was the 'original' language of Sindh. Was it also the Indus trading
language? In that case, it has disappeared, just like Sumerian and Elamite,
and traces may at best be found in Sindhi -- a step that has not been
taken. There is no etymological dictionary of Sindhi.

$ 1.11. Dravidian immigration
The observations about the early linguistic evidence from Sindh,
made above, indicate that speakers of Dravidian were not a primary factor
in the population of the Indus civilization, even of Sindh, and that they
were immigrating into the Panjab only in middle Rgvedic times. But when
could they have entered South Asia?
Earlier scholars (Heine-Geldern 1964, Pinnow 1954: 15) thought that
they entered S. Asia (sometime as late as the early 1st millennium BCE) and
proceeded via Baluchistan, Sindh and Gujarat to S. India (Zvelebil 1970,
1990: 48, 123). Indeed, their tracks are still visible in certain place
names in Sindh, Gujarat and Maharashtra (see above). According to
Southworth and McAlpin, however, the semi-nomadic speakers of Dravidian who
even had contacts in Iran with the pre-immigration Indo-Aryans (Southworth
1979: 203, 228 f., 1990: 222-3, 1995), came to S. Asia relatively late, but
early enough to participate in the Indus civilization, from which they
acquired agriculture and the accompanying vocabulary. This scenario, if
applied just to Sindh, explains why the c. 300 foreign words of the RV (in
the Panjab) with their (agricultural) vocabulary are relatively free of
Drav. influence.
According to the indications given above, the Dravidians apparently
were just as foreign to Sindh and its agriculture as the Indo-Aryans to the
Panjab. As the Northern Indus language (Para-Munda) differs considerably
from the Southern one (Meluhhan), it seems likely that the speakers of
Indo-Aryan entered the Panjab and acquired local words from the Northern
dialect (zaNa, lAGgala, vrIhi, godhUma, kaGgu, gandhAra), and that the
Dravidians entered Sindh at or about the same time and acquired such words
from the southern dialect (gOnu, JAJcil, variJci, godI, kaGku/kampu). It
may even be the case that the first who made horses statues at Pirak (1700
BCE) were Dravidians, not IA bhalAnas. For the first use of horses must not
necessarily be linked to speakers of an IA language.
The Drav. words for 'horse' underline this: DEDR 500 Tam. ivuli,
Brah. (h)ullI, 1711 Tam. kutirai, Kan. kudire, Tel. kudira, etc., 3963 Tam.
pari 'runner', 4780 Tam. mA 'animal' (horse, elephant), Tel. mAvu 'horse,
(cognates mean 'deer' etc. in other Drav. languages), cf. Nahali mAv
'horse'. These words are quite different and independent of IA azva 'horse'
and various words for 'runner' (arvant, vAjin, etc.), etc.
On the other hand, the technical terminology for chariots is IA and
IE. It has been taken over into Drav.: akSa 'axle' RV > Parji-Kolami accu
'axle'; ANi RV > ANi 'lynch pin', ara RV > Ar 'spoke' (cf. Southworth 1979:
230 n. 14). Note that the earliest IIr *ratha 'chariot (with two spoked
wheels)' (Gening 1977, Pigott 1992, Anthony u. Vinogradov 1995, cf.
Littauer u. Crouwel 1996) is found about 2000 BCE, near the Volga (North
Iran. *rahA > Greek rha~ = Avest. ranghA, Ved. rasA). The IIr word for
'chariot', however, is old enough to have resulted in the archaic compounds
Ved. rathe-SThA, Avest. rathaE-Sta- 'chariot fighter', cf. Old Avestan
rathI, RV rathI 'chariot driver.' Dravidian has nothing of this, but
possesses words for 'wagon' or 'bullock cart'.
An early wave of Dravidian speakers might very well have preceded
the IAs into Iran and S. Asia and some may have stayed on in SE Iran. (Note
the strange absence of the western Baluchistan country of Maka in the
Avestan record of "Aryan countries" in V. 1, cf. Herodotos 3.94). A few IA
loans in Proto-Drav. would settle the case, but culturally decisive words,
such as for the newly introduced horse, the chariot, or other pastoral
terminology do not exist. The Dravidians hardly had any previous contact
with the Indo-Aryans while still in Iran. Contra Southworth (1979: 196f.),
there is little secure evidence for early loans from IA into Drav.; such
words can have been taken over any time between the RV (1200 BCE) and the
earliest attestation of Tamil at the begin of our era (see above, on Drav.
evidence in Vedic). There are only a few questionable loans that might have
come from the pre-immigration period, that is from hypothetical contact
when still in Iran; these remain speculative; perhaps one can think of a
common source for Ved. gar-da-bha EWA I 473, Drav. kal~u-tai DEDR 1364
'donkey', similar to Ved. khara, Avest. xara.

$ 2. Eastern Panjab and Upper Gangetic Plains

$ 2.1. The Kuru realm
We return now to the epicenter of post-Indus developments, the area
of Eastern Panjab-Haryana-Uttar Pradesh, in other words, the lands from the
Pakistani border up to Allahabad. In the early post-RV texts, its hub is
kurukSetra, northwest of Delhi.
This is the realm of the middle Rgvedic Bharata and the late
Rgvedic Kuru (Witzel 1997). The Bharata tribe and its successor, the new
tribal union of the Kuru, represent a new wave of IA immigrants from the
other side of the Indus (vasiSTha RV 7, JB 3.238-9 $204), which brought new
linguistic traits with them (kuru for older kRNu, sarva for vizva, etc.,
Witzel 1989). The Kuru dialect is remarkably more modern than the language
of the bulk of the RV. However, RV book 10 often reads already like the
next level, that of the AV and other Mantra texts of the Kuru period.
The Kuru confederation, supplanting the 50-odd Rgvedic clans and
tribes, became the center of linguistic (Witzel 1989), religious and social
(Witzel 1997) development. They formed, together with partly IA-
acculturated Indus people (Arya-tribes such as the anu-druhyu,
yadu-turvaza) and with the new addition of Dravidian speakers, a new
society with a new elite kit (Ehret). This included pastoralism (cattle,
horse, sheep, goat), IA ritual and acculturated customs, IA religion and
ritual, but also post-Indus type agriculture (barley, wheat, rice, millet)
and local artisans (potters, etc. see below). The new culture, Vedic
orthopraxy and social system (with four classes) then spread eastwards into
the Gangetic plains, and ultimately to Bihar.
Because of the amalgamation of the three groups (IA, Para-Munda,
Drav.) discussed above, we have to suppose a large degree of bilingualism
and even trilingualism, and the forming of pidgins. (Kuiper has a
forthcoming paper on a 'bilingual' Vedic poet). A Vedic pidgin must have
been used at home, and proper Vedic Sanskrit was learnt 'in school', at the
time of initiation of boys. While the lingua franca was a form of
late/post-Rgvedic IA, pockets of the Para-Munda Indus language, of the
newly arrived Dravidian as well as some remnants of the Gangetic Language
"X" must have survived as well.
Among the post-Rgvedic texts, especially the AV is full of non-IA,
'popular' words of plants, animals, demons, local deities, and the like.
Their character still is, by and large, Para-Munda, with some words from
the 'local' language ("X"), and with some Drav. words included; all of
which is clearly visible in the increase of words with retroflexes.
The linguistic situation is reflected, among other items, in the
mixture of IA and other river names in the area. The famous sarasvatI is
also called vaizambhAlyA / vaizampAlyA / vibalI; these names and that of
the nearby vipAz < *vipAL/vipAZ all seem to go back to a local word, *vi-zam-paZ/-paL, (Witzel 1999). However, and typically, there are no Dravidian river names in the whole Kuru area.

A hint of how Drav. influence on Vedic was exerted is contained in the name of the zUdra. From the late RV (10.90) onwards, this designates the fourth, non-Arya class; it was added to the three

'Arya' classes of Brahmins, kSatriya (nobility) and vaizya ('the people') only at this time. However, Greek sources of Alexander's time still place a tribe, the sudroi, at the confluence of the Panjab

rivers with the Indus; this may still indicate their origin in Sindh/ Baluchistan. Drav. words first appear in Middle and Late Rgvedic, in RV 3, 7, and 8, especially in the kANva section. Interestingly,

it is tura kAvaSeya, the great-grandson of the Drav.-named kavaSa 'straddle legged', a priest on the 'wrong side' in the great Bharata battle (RV 7.18) who becomes an influential priest in the Kuru

realm and who developed the new, post-Rgvedic (zrauta) rituals (Proferes 1999). It has been stressed by Burrow (1973 : 386) that the post-Vedic texts have more Dravidian words; indeed,

the evidence of Para-Munda words, too, is not diminishing but increasing during the Vedic period. This is the case right from the Mantra texts, and includes the yajurveda saMhiTAs whose territory

can be easily established (Witzel 1987, 1989, 1997) as that of the area between E. Panjab (Lahore), Allahabad and the Chambal River area (Ujjain). A complete discussion of the c. 200 longer or

shorter Vedic texts must be postponed to a separate paper (for some lists, see below). In the mean time, one can compare the word index to the AV (Whitney 1881), or Vishva Bandhu's

Vedic Word Concordance (in Devanagari script), in conjunction with EWA, KEWA (and DEDR). The new tribal union of the Kuru (and their more eastern allies, the paJcAla), with their new

social set-up and ritual expanded, incorporating the surrounding tribes, eastwards into the Gangetic plains, in a partly military, partly peaceful fashion until it reached northern Bihar (Witzel 1995, 1997).

The eastern tribes were at first regarded as half-barbarian (JB 1.337 $115) or 'asurya' (demonic). The same is seen in archaeology: late Harappan people emigrated towards the

Upper Gangetic plain (the only movement of people the archaeologists allow for the whole period under discussion here, Shaffer 1995: 139, cf. Allchin 1995: 33-35), a fact reflected in the
Vedic texts as well. The emigration was possible due to a new type of agriculture, permitting cultivation of rice during the monsoon as well as wheat and barley in winter, resulting in a food surplus.

The settlement at first occurred along the river banks, in half-nomadic treks (grAma, Rau 1997). This is reflected by the Painted Gray Ware culture, with their clear elite pottery whose regional

motifs indicate the split into western Kuru and more eastern paJcAla, something that is also seen in the Vedic dialects they use (Witzel 1989). Not everybody is included: The non-IA kIkaTa (3.53)

or the paNi are clearly described as foreigners (late RV hymn 6.45.31), and even later, in the Mantra and YV saMhitA period, the niSAda in the Chambal area (MS 2.9.5 etc.) and other

dasyu 'enemies' (JB, Witzel 1997: n.161, 163, 278); in RV 10.61.8 as well the South (i.e. the area south of kurukSetra) still is the land to banish someone. $ 2.2. The substrates of kuru-paJcAla Vedic.

As has already been indicated, the features of the Rgvedic substrate language are also found in post-Rgvedic texts that were composed further east in the kurukSetra and in western

Gangetic plains, as well as in the Chambal area. These words are not just the same as found in the RV, but there are many new ones. In the Mantra period, starting with YV (MS, KS, TS)

and AV/PS, we can clearly distinguish all three linguistic elements: * Indo-Aryan with some already incorporated north-western elements such as Nuristani kAca 'shining piece of jewelry' or

Burushaski kilAy ~ RV kIlAla 'biestings, sweet drink', Bur. Son ~ RV kANa 'blind in one eye', Bur. bus ~ RV busa 'chaff, mist', (cf. Pinnow 1959: 39), etc.; * The Indus substrate (Para-Munda),

that also is found in the Ganges area (next to some elements of language 'X'), such as RV kuzika, karaJja, kaGkata, ziMzapA, ziMzumAra, puSkara, puSya, especially the words with prefix

C@r (p@r/k@r/s@r-), kar-koTa-ka RVKh ~ zar-koTa AV, tila AV: jar-tila KS, kalmaza MS, KS, kal-mASa PS, kul-mASa Up. : mASa AV, with the -Ta, -zA/Sa -suffixes, and with -ND-: ka-maNDalu :

maNDa-la, kaNTha? PS, etc. * The Middle and Late Rgvedic Drav. element also is found in the Ganges area: godhUma AV (Hindi gehu~ etc., Kusunda gabun), kuNapa AV, kurkura AV, cUDa ZB,

coDa TS, eDaka JB, arka ZB, bilva AV 20 (Kuiper 1991:66), -nIra- ZB, etc. In short, the upper class IA language (of the Vedic priests) used in the upper Gangetic plains contains the same

substrate elements as seen in the late Rgvedic period of the Panjab. However, due to the increasing stratification of society and increasing specialization among occupations, many words from

the sphere of the artisans and from technology were added; furthermore many names of persons, localities and rivers. Their affiliation can still be ascertained to some extent. With regards to

agriculture, Kuiper's RV list (Kuiper 1991: 8, 21, 96, see already Kuiper 1955) contains quite a number of such terms (kInAza, lAGgala, bIja, etc.) Especially among the artisans there is an increasing

number of non-IA designations; many of them first appear in the azvamedha (MS kevarta, kaivarta TB). (fn. 15) Some of them are, in line with the increasing specialization, new Indo-Aryan formations

(anucara 'servant', grAma-NI 'leader of a trek, wagon train' etc.), but especially those of fishermen (kevarta/kaivarta, dAza, dhIvan, daivara, puJjiSTha, pauJjiSTha, bainda, mainAla) are non-IA

(often until today). Furthermore, non-IA specialists are: musicians (talava, ADambara-AghAta, dundubhy-AghAta (cf. dundubhi RV), vINA-gAthin, vINa-vAda, cf. vINA KS (EWA II 568), artisans

(kaNTakI-kArI, bidala-kArI, also kulAla, and the pAlAgala 'messenger' (cf. pAlAgalI 'fourth wife of a chieftain'), gaNaka 'astrologer' (cf. gaNa RV) and 'usurer' (kusIdin, kusIda KS). Such words

come up not only in the eastern parts of North India (Bihar, area of VS/ZB) but also everywhere from the Panjab (RV) and the Delhi area (MS, KS) eastwards, e.g. kInAza RV, gaNa RV, dundubhi RV,

vINA KS, kusIda KS. The newly attested words have the same 'foreign' grammatical formations as seen in the RV: prefixes (ke-/kai-, dun-dubhI?), retroflexes (ADambara, kaNTakI-), initial b- (bidala),

suffix -Ala (pal-Ala, main-Ala, cf. Oberlies 1994:341). Similar data could be supplied for the spheres of material culture and the surrounding nature: agriculture and domesticated plants,

local animals and plants, many items of food, illnesses and poisons, implements and utensils, and ornaments; this would lead to far afield in present context (see the lists in MacDonell-Keith,

Vedic Index, Delhi 1967 [1912] 517-92). For more examples, one can consult Mayrhofer, EWA and for non-IA details especially KEWA; these may serve, in connection with CDIAL, DEDR,

Kuiper 1948, 1955, 1991 and Pinnow 1959 as a first orientation. $ 2.3. The Para-Munda substrate. Prefixes with ka- are found in the AV, YV and the brAhmaNas (here follow only a

few proposals for etymologies; it is to be expected that not all of the following words can be divided in the way proposed below; ultimately, this depends on a fitting etymology): kapaTu AV,

PS, cf. with Sora pud-@n, Sant. o•d etc. (Pinnow 1959: 121 $237; kapAla AV; kapiJjala PS; kapola RVKh, cf. Sant. puTi 'to swell', Kharia poTki 'to sprout' etc. (Pinnow 1959: 173 $378)

~ puTa 'bundle, bag' MS, BZS; kaphauDa AV, see Kuiper 1948: 44; kamaNDalu KS cf. maNdala etc.; karIra MS, KS; karIS-in AV; karuma AV; karUkara AV; kalApin ZS; kaliGga AB,

cf. Skt. tri-liGga, etc., see Kuiper 1948: 45; kavaca PS (but see above, Zvelebil's no. 13); kazambhUka SuparN.; kazipu AV; kazIti JB; kazoka AV; kazmaza? AV; kaSAya ZB; kaSkaSa?

AV; kasarNIla AV, cf. sarNika TS/sRdIka MS (cf. sRdAku?); kasAmbu AV, etc.; kastUpa, kastUpa-stopinI PS, cf. stupa KS/stuka RV; kahoDa ZB, JB. With 'double prefix' C@r-/C@l-

there are the following words in which the many variants of the prefix in k@r- stand out: karkandhu MS, KS; karkI? AV; karkoTa-ka RVKh ~ zarkoTa AV, PS, cf. Mundari kar-kom

(Pinnow 1959: 341 $483d), Kuiper 1991: 41, 44, 1948:121, Bur. gharqas 'lizard'; kardama KS, cf. Munda ko-dil, @-dil 'dirty' (Pinnow 1959: 87 $101); karpAsa Suzr., kArpAsa ZS; karzapha AV,

PS : zapha?; garmut TS, gArmuta MS (Kuiper 1948: 146, CDIAL 4063: Sindhi gamu 'a sort of grass'); kalkuSI PS; ZB, kalmali AV; kalmAza MS, KS, kalmAza- ZS, PS; kArSmarya KS;

kharjUra 'date palm' KS; gulma? SaMh.; jar-tila 'wild sesame' KS : tila 'sesame' AV; jarvara PB; jalASa PS (or -ASa suffix); palala SU., palAlI AV; palAva AV; palIjaka AV; barjahA, barkara ZS;

barbara KS; barhiNa ApDhS; bharUji AV; marIca ApDhS; markaTa KS/markaTaka ApZS; zarkara AV, cf. Bur. ghoro?; zarkoTa AV, PS (see above karkoTa); sardigRdi TS.

Double prefix C@n-/C@m- in: kaGkUSa AV, PS ~ zaGku; kaNTha? PS, (saha)-kaNTh- AV, cf. Kharia konko, Khmer ko, Mon ka• "possibly old compound", Pinnow 1959: 132 $ 276;

kANDa? AV, cf. Kharia koNDen 'bamboo', (Pinnow 1959: 132 $275); kaNDUy-? KS; kandhara Up; kambala AV ~ zambara?; kambUka AV ~ zambUka; kamboja PS,

cf. Greek Ambautai; kAmpIla- KS; jAmbila KS, TS; taNDula AV; talAza? AV (if not with -Aza suffix); parUSaka ZS; palANDu ApDhS; palAza TB (if not with -Aza suffix); palIjaka AV;

palpUlana AV; palvala SU; pAlAgala ZB, -I ZB; barza? KS, barzva? KS; balAsa PS, balkasa ZB; balbaja RV; balbUtha RV; bhalAnas RV. From the post-Rgvedic materials come words

with other prefixes in C@r- and with other vowels, etc.: kirika YV, girika MS; kirmira VS, etc.; kul-mASa Up. cf. mASa AV; ku-Taru YV, etc.; sRdAku 'lizard', etc., lex., sRdAku/-gu MS,

sRdara 'snake', etc. Mayrh. ZDMG 110, 6189 Munda prefix sR- + da•k 'water', see KEWA s.v. sRdAku, etc.; kazmaza? AV; kaSkaSa? AV; jASkamada AV; maSnAra AB; masUra?
KS, masura TS; etc.; prakubrata ZB, prakudrata ZBK, pramota AV etc.; tilvaka ZB, tailvaka MS, etc.; tumbara KauzS etc. Further Vedic words which are suspected of a Para-Munda

origin are, among others: me-khala AV: zR-G-khala Skt.; khaDga MS, EWA 443, cf. N.Pers. karka-dAn, Arab. karkaddan, Aelianus karta'zOnos (*kargazOnos) 'Indian rhinoceros',

cf. Kuiper 1948: 136 sqq.; karta/garta to be compared with Kharia gaRha 'river', Mundari gaDa, gaRa 'pit, trench, grave, water course, stream, river'; Sant. gaDa 'hollow, pit,

excavation, trench, river'; etc. (Pinnow 1959: 351f. $ 498); tittira KS, MS cf. Korku titid, Santali sengel titi 'Guinea fowl': Kharia khonthe•D, Sora on-tid-@n (Pinnow 344 $ 488a);

probably also: musala AV; jala? RVKh, PS; dhUkSNa/dhlukSNa/dhLkSNa PS, jhaSa ZB : jaSa AV, TS : caSa VAdhB; drumbhUlI MS / dAlbhuSI KS / class. dambholi, see

Kuiper 1991: 26 (cf. p. 18, 47, 61, 75). Para-Munda suffixes. In order to characterize the substrate, certain typical suffixes can be used. Kuiper (1991: 45 sqq.) has isolated the

following in the substrate of the RV: -Ala, -ASa,-ISa,-USa/-Aza,-IzA,-Uza, -Ta, -nas, -ya, -ra, -za/Sa, -ha. Among the suffixes are to be underlined in this context are those often

found in personal and tribal names, in -Ta (KIkaTa, kRpITa, birITa, kevaTa RV / avaTa SV), and the ones in -Ala/-Ara (kIlAla, caSAla; mainAla VS, cf. IA karmAra RV 'smith';

GandhAri RV, GandhAra, AbhisAra etc., cf. Witzel 1999). Such suffixes also appear in post-Rgvedic time in the texts of the Mantra period and in the Yajurveda-SaMhitAs,

e.g. kalmASa 'spotted' VS, TS; niSkASa 'scraping' MS, KS; yevASa 'an insect' AV, evaSa MS 4.8.1:107:16, yavASa KS 30.1, KpS 46.6 (vRSaz ca yavASaz ca); RjISa a name of Indra,

RV, 'residue of Soma' AV; uSNISa 'turban' AV; karISa[-ja] PS, 'dung', karISin AV, karISa ZB, (cf. the frequent purISa 'dung'); cf. also tUSa 'border of garment' KS; later also: palAza 'leaf'

TB, ZB, ni-palAza ZB, zirISa 'Acacia sirissa' SaDv.B, etc.; cf. also jhaSa 'a certain large fish', ZB jaSa AV, TS, caSa VAdhB. Para-Mundas in KurukSetra and in the Gangetic plains.

The words mentioned above clearly show that also in post-Rgvedic, i.e., in the Mantra texts (AV, SV, RVKh, YV), in Yajurveda Prose, and in the BrAhmaNas, such Para-Munda words

can still appear for the first time. Therefore, they had either already existed in Vedic colloquial speech or they entered Brahmanical High Vedic at that particular point in time from the

sphere of village life or of the artisans. The area of the early post-Rgvedic texts (Mantra texts, YV Prose) can be localized fairly well (Witzel 1987, 1989): it contains KurukSetra

(i.e. more or less, modern Haryana) and the western gaGgA-yamunA-doAb (i.e. the Gangetic plains of western Uttar Pradesh). In these areas, where no modern groups of Munda

speakers survive, the same Rgvedic substrate with its typical prefixes can be found. That means Haryana and Uttar Pradesh once had a Para-Munda population that was acculturated

by the Indo-Aryans. If the late Vedic texts (such as the JaiminIya Br. and zatapatha-Br.) are added, the area in question is further enlarged to include the regions south of the Ganges

and east of Uttar Pradesh. Here, new Munda words appear as well; however, these regions include those where even today Munda languages are spoken. In short, a strong Austro-Asiatic

substrate is found both in the early Panjab (RV, c. 1500 BC) as well as later on in the Ganges valley (YV saMhitAs, brAhmaNas, c. 1200 v. - 500 BC.), a fact that can also be shown in the

names prevailing in these areas (Witzel 1999). As examples, I mention the river names gaGgA (popular etymology of Munda ga(N)D), gaNDak-I (see below), narma-dA, and tribal names

such as maraTa, vibhindu (and vibhindukIya, cf. nAr-ka-vinda PS 12.2.3, sR-binda RV (Kuiper 1991: 40-43, 1997), ku-suru-binda TS, TB, SB, ku-sur-binda JB, bainda VS, cf. Munda bid 'insert,

plant, sow', Pinnow 1959: 143 $285), zabara (*Zqawar, cf. Pinnow 1959: 154 $31; rather from *k'awar/zawar), puNDra, aGga/vaGga (cf. also gaGgA?; further: pra-vaGga), kaliGga

(cf. teliGga/triliGga, see S. Le'vy in Bagchi 1929: 100, cf. Shafer 1954: 14, 122 as Tib.-Burm.; Kuiper 1948: 45 compares kuliGga 'fork-tailed shrike' Mbh., and *liG in Munda, Khasi,

Mon, Khmer, Malay); ikSvAku (RV, emigration from the Panjab eastwards, Witzel 1997: 307 sqq., 321, 1989: 237), niSAda/ *nisadha/naiSadha, mucIpa/mUtIba/muvIpa,

magadha (cf. pra-maganda), zaphAla cf. zAvasa, vasa etc. However the truly eastern words (Uttar Pradesh, Bihar) are, next to some remnants of language "X", of Munda nature:

there are many personal and place names (Witzel 1999), e.g. that of the river gaNDak(I), or even that of the Ganges, with popular etymology: gaGgA, a sort of intensive formation

of gam 'to go' (if not modeled after the tribal names aGga, vaGga). Pinnow (1953-4) has pointed out many river names, from the gaNDakI to the narma-dA which contain the Munda element

-*da', *-da'k 'water' (Pinnow 1959: 69), for gaNDa(kI) cf. Santali gADa, Ho gaDa 'river' (Pinnow 1954: 3). The gaNDakI is not attested in Vedic, and is referred to as sadAnIra 'always having water'.

Apart from the Epic, it appears in local context, the early Licchavi inscription (467 CE), Sanskritized as gaNDakI and in other Skt. texts: kAla-gaNDikA, gaNDArikA, apara-, pUrva-; the shorter version,

gaNDI, appears from the Epic onwards, and several times early on in Nepal as gaNDi-(gulma-viSaya) (998, 1092, 1165 CE, see Witzel 1993). The gaNDaka appear as people in Mbh. as well.

Further, tribal names such as pulinda/Pali bUli, Pali moriya (from Skt. mayUra 'peacock') and also mara-Ta (PS), (from Munda mara• 'peacock'), kunti from Munda kon-ti'd 'bird', cf. RV za-kunti,

Epic za-kuntalA, etc. (contrast the IA matsya 'fish' (RV), a tribe just west of the Kunti), mUtiba (mUcIpa), zabara (mod. Saora?), puNDra (Bengal), the aGga, at the bend of the Ganges, and

the neighboring vaGga (Bengal). The prefix change in aGga (AV) / vaGga (AB) is indicative of a Munda formation (Kuiper 1991: 43). Mundas may also have lived in the hills and valleys of the

Sub-Himalayas, for example in the Kathmandu Valley (see below, Witzel 1993). Other typical words of the Gangetic plains are, from west to east: sardigRdi TS, palAza TB, palANDu

ApDhS, tumbara KauzS, kazIti JB, kirmira VS, kaSAya ZB, pra-kudrata ZBK, pra-kubrata ZBM, ka-hoDa ZB, JB, kul-mASa Up. etc. Especially informative for regional dialect features of the

substrate, from W. to E.: jaSa AV, TS : caSa VAdhB : jhaSa ZB 'a certain large fish'. The Rgvedic substrate thus has the same grammatical structure as the words in the yajurveda-saMhitAs

and the brAhmaNas that newly appear from the substrates of the KurukSetra (Haryana) and Ganges regions (doAb, Uttar Pradesh). It is of great importance that we can detect the same

Indus substrate as found in the RV. In other words, the Rgvedic Panjab as well as the post-Rgvedic Gangetic Plain were largely settled by speakers of Para-Munda (including remnants of

Masica's 'Language X'). They had been joined, in the early Rgvedic period, by speakers of Indo-Aryan and, in the later Rgvedic period, by those of early Dravidian (see above). Dravidian

In the new IA speaking, culturally Vedic "eastern territories" of the Gangetic plains some Drav. words occur for the first time in literature, e.g. nIr 'water' in the name of the eastern river sadAnIrA,

the modern gaNDak (Witzel 1987), or the verb 'to speak in barbaric fashion', mleccha-ti. However Drav. nIr is not found in the neighboring N. Drav. languages (Malto, Kurukh), but is only found in
Baluchistan (Brahui dIr, DEDR 3690). This may be accidental, but it may also indicate that Brahmanical educated speech of the Kuru with their IA-Drav.-Munda symbiosis and acculturation had

incorporated some Drav. words which appear only now in the texts. The word mlecch has been discussed above. Its appearance in the eastern context is not surprising. From the point of view of

the Brahmins, the easterners are 'foreigners', mleccha. The word may at first have designated only the southern (Sindh) foreigners, and later on all others. These central and eastern

North Indian territories, however, have no Dravidian names; the river names belong to other substrates. A study of present and medieval north Indian places names has not been undertaken

in earnest. We will have to account for such names as that of the town of goND(A) in Uttar Pradesh, some 180 km north of Allahabad. The name goND appears nowadays only on the

Central Indian Vindhya mountains, and is not known in U.P. from medieval and classical sources. (For some supposedly Drav. river names such as sadA-nIrA from Drav. nIr 'water' see above,

and for the varaNAvatI at Benares, see Witzel 1999.) There are, as always, wrong leads, such as the river name kankai in the Eastern Nepal Terai, which looks like the Tamil form of the name

gaGgA (Witzel 1993); there are, however, no traces of an earlier S. Drav. occupation in the area. The Dravidian Kurukh living in the Terai now have recently been imported as laborers from

Central India (K.H. Gordon, Phonology of Dhangar-Kurux, Kathmandu 1976) where they are known as Kurukh or Oraon. For a different view of early Dravidian settlements in N. India, see

R. Shafer 1954, Parpola 1994: 168, and Burrow 1973 : 386. Burrow points to the fact that most of the Drav. loan words are found in post-RV texts and concludes: "the influence took place

in the central Gangetic plain and the classical madhyadeza." Therefore, "the pre-Aryan population of this area contained a considerable element of Dravidian speakers."

If that had been the case, we would expect some Drav. river names in the Gangetic plains. However, only Munda (and Tib.-Burm.) names are found (Witzel 1999). $ 2.4.

Substrates of the Lower Gangetic Plains and "Language X". Next to the Mundas, there must have been speakers of other languages, such as Tibeto-Burmese, who have left us names

such as kosala, kauzikI (mod. kosi), perhaps also kAzi and kauzAmbi (mod. kosam), from Himalayan khu, ku (Witzel 1993). In IA they also have left such words as the designations

for cooked rice IA *cAmala and probably also PS zAli 'rice'. In Uttar Pradesh and North Bihar (attested in Middle and Late Vedic texts, c. 1200-500 BCE) another apparent substrate appears

in which the 'foreign' words do not have the typical Para-Munda structure, with the common prefixes, as described above. Masica (1969) called this unknown substrate "language X".

He had traced it in agricultural terms in Hindi that could not be identified as IA, Dravidian or Munda (or as late loans from Persian, S.E. Asia, etc.). Surprisingly some 30% of the terms are of

unknown, language "X" origin, and only 9.5% of the terms are from Drav., something that does not point to the identity of the Indus people with a Drav. speaking population. However,

only 5.7% of these terms are directly derived from Munda. Obviously, the pre-IA population of the Gangetic plains had an extensive agricultural vocabulary that was taken over into

all subsequent languages. F.B.J. Kuiper has pointed out already in 1955: 137-9 (again in 1991: 1) that many agricultural terms in the RV neither stem from Drav. nor from Munda

but from "an unknown third language" (cf. Zide & Zide 1973: 15). This stratum should be below that of Para-Munda which is the active language in the middle and late Vedic texts.

Again, it has been Kuiper who has pointed the way when he noted that certain 'foreign' words in the Vedic substrate appear with geminate consonants and that these are

replaced in 'proper' Vedic by two dissimilar consonants (1991: 67). Examples include: pippala RV (1.164.20,22; 5.54.12, su- 7.101.5 ) : piSpala AV (in Mss.) 9.9.20,21; 6.109.1,2;

su-piSpala MS 1.2.2:11.7, guggulu AV, PS : gulgulu KS, TS, kakkaTa PS 20.51.6, KSAzv. : katkaTa TS. Kuiper adds many other cases of Vedic words that can be explained on

the basis of words attested later on. In RV geminates also occur in 'onomatopoetic' words: akhkhalI-kR 'to speak haltingly' or 'in syllables?', cf. now Nahali akkal-(kAyni) '(to cry)

loudly in anguish' MT II 17, L 33 (kAyni < Skt. kathayati 'to tell' CDIAL 2703, cf. 38) MT II 17; cf. also jaJjan- RV 8.43.8 etc., ciccika 10.146.2 'a bird'?, and cf. also azvattha 1.135.8 :

azvatha a personal name, a tree, 6.47.24, with unclear etymology, (Kuiper 1991: 61, 68). Post-RV, new are: hikkA PS 4.21.2, kakkaTa PS 20.51.6 (MS kakuTha, TS katkaTa!),

KSAzv in YV: kikkiTA KS, TS, kukkuTa VS, pilippilA TS, cf. also TS Akkhidant, prakkhidant TS, Ajjya Especially interesting is the early gemination *dr > ll:

AV 2.32.5, TS kSullaka, < kSudra 'small' (a children's word?); later on, among others, bhalla-akSa ChU4.1.2, bhalla Br., MBh (with variants phala, phalla! EWA s.v.);

JB malla 'a tribe' (in the Indian desert, Rajasthan; cf. DEDR 4730), etc. Though certain geminates, especially in word formation and flexion (-tt-, -dd-, -nn- etc.), are allowed and common,

they hardly ever appear in the stem of a word (Sandhi cases such as anna, sanna etc. of course excepted). Until the late BrAhmaNa texts, other geminates, especially bb, dd, gg, jj, mm, ll,

but also kk, pp, etc., are studiously avoided, except in the few loan words mentioned above (pippala, gulgulu, katkaTa etc. (Kuiper 1991: 67 sqq.). It will be readily seen that Kuiper's

seminal observation reflects a tendency that can be observed throughout the Vedic texts. Geminates, especially the mediae, apparently were regarded, with the exception of a

few inherited forms such as majj 'to dive under', as 'foreign' or 'barbaric'. They did not agree with the contemporary Vedic (and even my own) feeling of correct speech (Sprachgefu"hl).

However, starting with Epic Sanskrit, forms such as galla, malla, palla, etc. are normal and very common (however, -mm-, perhaps regarded as Drav.(?) remains rare); such words, in part derive

from normal MIA developments, in part from the substrate. This tendency can be sustained by materials from various other sources. In the language 'X' only a few of Masica's agricultural

substrate words that do not have a clear etymology (1969: 135) contain such geminates: Hindi kaith < Skt. kapittha CDIAL 2749 (Mbh), piplI/pIplA < pippala (RV), roTI

< *roTTA, roTika 10837 (Bhpr.);

karela < karella/karavella 3061, khAl < khalla 3838-9 (Suzr.); to these one can add the unattested, reconstructed OIA forms (Turner, CDIAL, see Masica 1969: 136):

*alla CDIAL 725, *uDidda 1693, *carassa 4688, *chAcchi 5012, *bAjjara (see, however, OIA *bAjara, 9201 bAjjara HZS: varjarI!), *balilla 9175, *maTTara 9724, *suppAra 13482,

*sUjji/sOjji 13552. However, these words have come into NIA via MIA, and that their geminates may go back to a consonant cluster without geminates (see below, on Turner's reconstructs).

All of these tendencies are reconfirmed by what we can discern in the other substrate languages. While there still are but a few cases in the northwest, the substrates located further east and
south all have such geminates. (Incidentally, the northwest has retained the original, non- geminate consonant groups, such as -Cr-, to this day, cf. Khowar bhrar, Balkan Gipsy phral 'brother',

W. Panj. bhrA, E. Panj. bh(a)rA : Hindi bhAI, etc.). In the unstudied substrate of the Kathmandu Valley (inscriptions, 467-750 CE, see below), geminates are found in the following place names:

gamme, gullataMga, gollaM, jajje-, dommAna, daGkhuTTA-, bemmA, cf. also bhumbhukkikA (onomat. with double consonant: < *bhumbhum-ki-kA?); cf. also village names such as joJjon-diG,

tuJ-catcatu, thuMtuM-rI, daNDaG-(guM). In the substrate of modern Tharu: e.g. ge~TTI, ghaTTI, TippA (?), ubbA; cf. also 'onomatopoetic' words such as jhemjhemiyA 'small cymbal or drum',

bhubhui 'white scurf', gula-gula 'mild' (with the usual middle Vedic, OIA, Tamil, etc. form of the "expressive" and onomatopoetic words: type kara-kara versus older Vedic bal-bal).

In modern Nahali (Kuiper 1962: 58 sqq., 1966) the following substrate words can be found, though apparently various types of consonant groups are allowed:

bekki, beTTo, bokko, coggom, cuTTi, joppo/jappo, kaggo, kAllen, maikko, oTTi, poyye, unni. Additions to this list can easily be supplied now from that of A. Mundlay (MT II)

which are not obviously from NIA include 8 aDDo, 91 attu', 182 bekki, 203 beTTo, 221 bijjok, 232 biTThAwi, 255 buddi, etc. In the Drav. Nilgiri languages (Zvelebil 1990:63-72)

there are a few isolated geminating words that go back to a pre-Drav. substrate, e.g. Irula mattu 'lip', Dekkada 'panther', muTT(u)ri 'butterfly', vutta 'crossbar in a house'.

The Vedda substrate contains the same type of words:: cappi 'bird', potti 'a kind of bee', panni 'worm' (de Silva 1972: 16). Finally by way of appendix, in the isolated Andamanese

language (Aka BIada dialect), a few consonant groups seem to be allowed, but hardly any geminates are found (Portman 1887): dAkkar-da 'bucket' p.18, kAttada, badda 'crab' 22,

chetta-da 'fruit' 34, tokko dElE kE 'to go along the coast', chetta-da 'head' 36, sissnga kE 'to hiss' 38, udda 'maimed' 48, peggi 'many' 48, teggi lik dainga 'noise' 52,

teggi lik dainga kE 'to obey' 54, molla-da 'smoke' 72, tekke yAbadO 'straight' 78. It can be stated, therefore, that the substrate languages outside of the extreme northwest

indicate broad evidence for original geminates. Differently from IA (cf. below, on Turner's reconstructions), these words have not been pushed through the 'filter' of MIA,

 that means their original consonants clusters have not been 'simplified' (e.g. kt > tt, kS > kkh,
etc.) Such striving for simpler syllable structure is known from many
languages, e.g. Latin noctem > Italian notte, French nuit [nu"i], or O.Tib.
bgryad > Tib. [yƒ] 'eight', Jpn.-Austro-Thai *krumay > Jpn. kome 'rice'
(Benedict), Kathmandu Valley substrate kicipriciG(-grAma) > Newari
kisipi~Di, etc. Even then, the tendency seems especially strong in S. Asia
and probably has worked on IA from the beginning, as for example in the
early example AV kSullaka < kSudraka. In Drav. various consonant groups are allowed, including geminates (Zvelebil 1990: 10 sqq.:) e.g.,

kakku, kaccu, kaTTu, kattu, kappu, kammu; (cf. also the interchange p- :: -pp-/-v- :: -p/-u). One can therefore put the question whether this old substrate tendency

has already influenced the Para-Munda of the RV. In Munda itself, such geminates are very rare (cf. Kuiper 1991: 53), and open syllables are common.

However, there is a tendency in the Munda languages to eliminate consonant groups caused by vowel loss in prefixes (Pinnow 1959: 457); this does not cause

geminates in such cases but is in line with the similar developments from Old to Middle and New IA (e.g. akSi 'eye' > akkhi > A~kh,
rakta 'colored, red' > ratta > rAt, etc.). One may therefore explain many
of the 'foreign' words with geminates in Vedic and post-Vedic, excluding
Drav. loans, in the same way.
For the same area that is covered by Masica's language "X", and for N.
India in general, one may also adduce the many words in NIA that are not
attested in Vedic, Classical Skt. or the various MIA languages such as Pali
but that occur only in their NIA form. They have been collected and
reconstructed by V. Turner in his CDIAL. These include the starred forms,
appearing in their reconstructed OIA form, and those words that do not
appear in Ved. but are more or less accidentally attested in late Skt.
texts, and the substrate words dealt with by Turner. They have a typical,
often non-IA structure, including the very common cluster -ND-, -TT-. Their
root structure follows the following pattern. (C = any consonant, @ any
*C@kkh, C@g, C@gg, C@cc, C@cch, C@jj, C@Jc, C@T, C@TT, C@NTh, C@D, C@DD,
C@Dg, C@ND, C@dd, C@n, C@pp, C@mp, C@bb, C@mm, C@r, C@rC, C@l, C@ll, C@v,
C@s, C@zz, C@h.
In Turner's CDIAL there are only a few forms such as *Cr@k, Cr@c, Cr@NT,
Cr@ll, Cl@kk; this does not surprise as all reconstructed words have passed
through the filter of MIA and have lost such clusters, -- except in the
extreme northwest (Lahnda and Dardic).
Double consonants at the end of roots may go back to complicated
clusters that can no longer be reconstructed, for example *C@kkh < **C@kS (cf. RV kSviGkA, ikSvAku, and compare Ved. clusters such as matkuNa, matkOTaka, kruJc).

Consonant clusters with various realizations in pronunciation may also be hidden in many Vedic loan words (Kuiper 1991 : 51 sqq., Ved. cases p. 67 sqq.). $ 2.5.

Tibeto-Burmese Still, this is not all as far as the Gangetic plains are concerned. The eastern section of the North Indian plains (E. Uttar Pradesh and N. Bihar) provides

some indications of Tib.-Burm. settlements. The name of the Avadh (Oudh) area north of Benares in late Vedic texts is kosala; this form should not appear in Vedic/Skt.;

it should have been *koSala or *kozala (as is indeed found in the Epics). The word clearly is foreign, and should belong, together with the slightly more eastern river name

kauzikI (post-Vedic, mod. kosi) to a Tib.-Burmese (TB) language. Such designations for 'river' are indeed found in eastern Himalayish: R. kosi, many Rai river names in -ku, -gu,

in medieval Newari (kho, khu, khwa; ko 'river' in the unpublished Newari amarakoza) and modern Newari (khu, khusi 'streamlet, creak') in and near the Kathmandu Valley, where

it is already found in Licchavi time inscriptions, 467-750 CE, as: cUllaM-khu, theG-khu, japti-khU, huDi-khU, pi-khu-, vihliM-kho-srota, ripziM-ko-setu. It is perhaps derived from

TB *kluG (details in Witzel 1993). Perhaps one may add the name of the tribe around Benares (kAzI) whose older, Vedic form is kAzi (AV, still regarded as outsiders to whom one

sends one's fever, PS 12.1-2), and its western neighbor, the kUzAmba, kauzAmbi (the later town kauzAmbI, mod. village of kosam near Allahabad). R. Shafer (1954) has a host of names,

taken from the list of peoples in the much later mahAbhArata Epic that must be taken with caution (redaction only c. 500 CE, where even the Huns are included with hUNa, harahUNa,

- they have become a Rajput clan!) Indeed, early evidence for mountain tribes which might have been Tib.-Burm. is found in the Vedic texts all along the Himalayas. These mountain tribes,
probably of Himachal Pradesh and Western Nepal, lived on the border of the Vedic settlement. They are first encountered in AV (1200 BCE) under the names kirAta, in the western

Himalayas where they appear as herb collecting mountain girls (kairatikA kumarikA PS 16.16.4, ZS 10.4.14., kailAta PS 8.2.5). The more eastern text VS 30.16 has them as living in caves;

cf. also the popular form kilAta PB, JB, ZB; (for details see Witzel 1993, 1999, and cf. KEWA I 211, EWA I 352, and also EWA I 311, s.v. KAR, and Prakrit cilada). An alternate form of the name,

kIra, may have been retained in Kashmir, attested in 550/600 CE (bRhatsaMhitA 14.29). Its name is close to that of the kirAta who are attested in the early inscriptions of Nepal (467 CE sqq.).

Hsuan Ts'ang, Hsiyuki (c. 600 CE, cf. T. Funayama 1994: 369), however, knows of them as kilito (Karlgren 1923, no. 329-527-1006), a people in Kashmir who had their own king shortly

before his time. The -ta/ -Ta suffix is common in many North Indian tribal names (Witzel 1999, cf. above). Since the RV, tribal names are found have the suffix -ta/-Ta (Witzel 1999),

e.g. kIkaTa, bekanATa (certainly a non-IA name: b-, -T-), maraTa PS 5.21.3, 12.2.1, kirAta AV, PS, AraT(T)a/arATTA BZS (cf. Sumer. aratta, an Eastern country, Sistan), kulUTa, kulUta (MBh),

kulU-ta(ka), (but also: kolUta, kaulUta, kuluTa, and even ulUTa, ulUta, see Kuiper 1991: 38 (cf. Pinnow 1959: 198f., cf. S. Le'vy, JA 203, 1923, 52 sqq. = Bagchi 1929: 119 sqq.), finally luLu in

W. Pahari, CDIAL 3348, with the typical prefix change of Munda; virATa, a king of the Matsya (Mbh) and a country in bRhatsaMhitA, Pkt. virADa, mod. Berar. However, names in -ta (and -nda)

are restricted to the Himalayan mountains while those with -Ta (and -NDa) occur all over the northern Indian plains (Witzel 1999). As for the origin of the suffix -Ta, compare the

plural suffix -To in Nahali (Berger 1959, Mundlay MT II, 1996, 5, cf. Kuiper, 1991: 45 on 'Dravidian' -Ta). Beyond this, the early texts do not allow us to decide on the language

and appearance of the kirAta. (The Epic calls them gold-colored). However, MS and ZB list them with the Asura ('demons') kilAta-akuli. Apart from these Vedic sources for (possible)

early Tibeto-Burmese, the earliest datable, and so far not utilized evidence is found in Nepalese inscriptions (467 CE+) (fn. 16). The inscriptions are in classical Sanskrit, but contain

a host of place names, some personal and tribal names, and even a number of non-Sanskritic, traditional local names for government offices which must be considerably older

than c. 200 CE. A note on the transcription of 'foreign' words in Sanskrit and in Indian alphabets is in order here. Just as in the case of adaptation of 'foreign words' to the Rgvedic

phonetical pattern, the local words of the Kathmandu Valley had to be adapted to the possibilities of Sanskrit pronunciation and of spelling them in the Gupta (NAgarI style) alphabet.

# several vowels are used intermittently: i/e, i/I, u/U/o (also va/o), R/ri/o [@,o]; # there is variation in some consonants as well, notably: d/D (no retroflex!), tt/D, k/kh, b/bh, ll/ l, s/z (no S ?);

jJ (common N. Indian pronunciation: gy?); note aspirated m, n, r |hm, hn, hr|. Typical is the spelling of the government office zolla/zullI/zulI or of the name of the town of Bhaktapur in

Licchavi inscriptions: khRpuG, khopRG [kh¤priG], (mA-)kho-, > medieval khvapo, khvapva(M), khvapa, khapva, khopva
[khopa]) > mod. khvapya [khope], (for medieval names see Witzel 1999,
1993). Of importance is a variation (just as in Kanauri) that indicates
implosive consonants: co/cok/cokh. -- For all such variant spellings in the
Licchavi inscriptions, see Witzel 1980: 327, n. 60,69, 72, 74, 75, 87,
1993: 240 sqq., 248, n. 171-3, and 1993, n. 120, 152.
The actual attribution of the locally spoken language and its
substrate found in the Licchavi inscriptions remains in the balance. It may
be early Newari or a predecessor, the kirAta language of the so-called
kirAta dynasty (see below) that reigned in the valley well before 200 CE
and has left us with names of government offices such as zulli, kuthera. If
it is indeed early Newari, it is a very archaic form, characterized by a
large numbers of initial clusters (Cr-, etc.), which differ even from the
oldest attested Newari texts ( 983 CE.) Such consonant clusters are very
rare in medieval and certainly in modern Newari.
A clear case for TB is ti 'water'; I have compared (1980 n. 90, n.
94) co(kh)-, bu-, dol/dul, khu, gal/gvala of the Licchavi inscriptions with
mod. New. words: -co 'hill, mountain top', mod. New. cwa, cwak-, cf. Kaike
chwang, Khaling cong; (note also cuk 'mountain range' in Gilyak); -bu,
'land'; O.New. bu/bru, cf. Tamang pU; -gaa '*village'? cf. Mod. New.
"classifier for round objects, part of Kathmandu", O.New. gvala(M), but
note Skt. gola(ka), 'ball, globe'; perhaps cognate with TB (Benedict, 1972:
444) *r-wa / *g-wa; cf. 91 *wal 'round'; -ko 'slope', kwa, kwaa 'down';
pA-kA 'slope of a hill'; cf. Thakali koh-plen. (K. P. Malla has explained
some of such place names as being of Newari origin (1981: 17).
The long list of substrate names includes (place names not specified):
aziG-ko (area) (ko 'river? or ko 'slope?'), uTTane, uDra, etaG- (village),
kaGku-laM (area) (lam 'road'?), kaDam-priG (area) (priG = pRG),
kampro-yambI, kambIlampra, kAduG- (village), kuthera-(office),
kuhmuM-(area) (see hAhmuG), keTumbATa (name of a KirAta official), kozI
(river), khaDabraMzai, khArevAlga-co (co, cok 'pass'), khuDU-(deity),
khRpuG- (village), khainaSpu (area), kho-pRG- (village), gamme (area),
tuJ-catcatu- (village), thuMtuM-rI- (fortress), daNDaG-guM, dommAna,
panapphu (area), puNDri-(palace), puttI- (river), prayiTTikhA (area),
proGprovAG, brahmuG (office), bhumbhukkikA- (deity), mAp-cok-(office) cf.
-co(k/kh) 'pass', yebraMkhara, rogamAcau (watchman), liG-gvala- (office),
vottarino?, voddi- (province), zulhmuG (office), zolla, zullI, zulI
(office), hasvimavallI- (village), hAhmuG- (place), hnA-guM, hmas-priG-
(village), hnu-priG, hrIm-ko (area), and many more.
All these data have not yet been exploited for Tib.-Burm. linguistics. (For
place names, see Witzel 1980, 1993; for relations between the eastern
Himalayan languages and Munda, s. Kuiper 1962: 42, with Nahali, p. 46f; cf.
Laufer 1916-18, 403 sqq.).
The Kathmandu Valley, however, seems to have has its own strange
substrate, below this Tib.-Burm. level. It is visible in some place names
which definitely do not look Tib.-Burm. Some of them are characterized by
the geminates studied above: gamme, gullataMga, gollaM, jajje-, dommAna,
daGkhuTTA-, bemmA, cf. also bhumbhukkikA (onomatopoetic with double
consonant < *bhumbhum-ki-kA?). $ 2.6. Other Himalayan Languages D. D. Sharma, Old-Indo-Aryan element in Kinnauri (in: R.K. Sharma et al. (eds.), Dr. B. R. Sharma felicitation Volume, Tirupati 1986,
149-155) describes older elements in the kOchI dialect, spoken in the western part of the former state of Bashahr, along the upper Satlej River. The vocabulary given by Sharma, however, shows traces of
OIA, MIA and NIA -- as might have been expected. One curious feature of L.Kin. is the division of nouns in animate (suffix -s) and inanimate (suffix -G) which he compares to that of the Munda languages,
while he links the endings to OIA masc. -s, neuter -m. However, his materials represent a mixture of OIA, MIA and NIA forms that have to be separated. Typically, we find OIA kvath 'to boil' preserved as
kwath or grAma 'village' as grAma-G (as opposed to NIA gau~/gao~ etc.); next, forms which represent a MIA stage such as sappa-s 'snake' < sarpa, and NIA forms such as bAyA 'brother' < bhrAtA, tau
'heat' < tApa, dauya-G 'curds' < dadhi, ana-G 'food' < anna, or mAmA 'maternal uncle'. There are several cases of "gAndhArI metathesis" as well: trAma-G 'copper' < tAmra, cf. grota-N 'cow urine' <
gomUtra etc. The case is of interest as it shows, just as that of early Burushaski, the interaction of plains and mountain people (cf. also, below, on Bangani). The present case also provides some indication
of the early date of such interaction between IA and TB speakers; this may be reflected even in AV, if the kirAta indeed are TB speakers, and if the name has not been passed on from an unknown earlier
population (cf. the Kashmiri pizAca, nAga traditions, above) to TB speakers. However that may be, from at least 1100 CE onwards, we see an increasing Aryanization of the western Himalayas and W.
Nepal with the spread of the khaza tribe (found already in Manu's law book); by 1150 CE they are still mentioned in the rAjataraGgiNI as settling southwest of the Kashmir Valley. khas kurA is the self-
designation of what was called the "language of the Gurkhas" (in Newari called khaMy < khas); they have substituted the name Nepali only in this century. By 1150 CE they had established the W.
Nepal/C. Tibetan Malla kingdom; by 1769 they had conquered the Kathmandu Valley; and by 1900 they had settled, mixed with Gurung, Magar, and other TB tribes speaking Nepali as lingua franca, in
Darjeeling, Sikkim, S. Bhutan and some parts of Assam. This movement is indicated by their renaming of river names all across the Himalayas (Witzel 1993). Some part of the Himalayas may also have
been occupied by the pre-Tibetan language of W. and Central Tibet, Zhang Zhung. (See the list of Zhang Zhung words, Thomas 1933, C. Beckwith, The Tibetan Empire in Central Asia. Princeton
University Press: 1987. The history of the settlement of the Himalayas is far from clear. (For some details, based especially on hydronomy, see Witzel 1993, and cf. now van Driem For example, the thAmi tribe who live higher up in the tAma kosi valley east of Kathmandu belong, as their language shows according to Shafer (1964: 3 n.1), to the
Western Himalayish group of the Bodic division of Tibeto-Burmese (Kanauri, etc.). Indeed, the thAmi claim to have immigrated from Humla in northwest Nepal. This is one indication among others (Witzel
1993) that there was a west-east flow of population and languages, similar to the much later one of the Nepali speaking Khas tribe. The intriguing question of Bangani has not been entirely resolved.
Bangani is spoken just east of Kinnauri, in the western-most tip of Garhwal, Uttar Pradesh. Zoller (1988,1989) has reported a non-IA substrate in this otherwise typical NIA language found high up in the
western Himalayas. Surprisingly, this substrate is a strange western variety of IE with words such as ogno~ 'unborn' (not Skt. a-ja) and goNo 'give birth' (not Skt. jan), kotro 'fight' (not Skt. zatru), dokro 'tear'
(not Skt. azru); the initial d- is W. IE, cf. Greek dakru, Engl. tear, as opposed to E. IE : Skt. azru, Avest. asru, Lithuanian aSara. This claim has been disputed by G. van Driem (1996, 1997), but has been
sustained by research carried out in Bangan by Anvita Abbi of Delhi University (see H.H. Hock [On Bangani], with further discussion). Anvita Abbi
recognizes three layers in Bangani: words of the type dokro, lokto, gosti, the general NIA Pahari level, and recent loans from Hindi, etc. In principle, bands or tribes who have 'lost their way' and turn up in
unexpected areas are not altogether unknown. Tokharian, the easternmost IE language, has western characteristics (ka"nt, ka"nte '100'), and the North Iranian Alani, ancestors of the Ossetes, traveled all
the way through Central Europe, Spain and North Africa with the Germanic Vandals, to settle in Tunisia. Tib.-Burm. is, however, not the first language in the Central Himalayas. In Nepal it has been
preceded by the isolate of Kusunda, genetically unrelated to other language families just as Burushaski (see below). Kusunda has recently been treated at length in MT II and III (cf. Shafer, 1966 : 145;
1954 :10 sqq. The language is reported to have died out by now. It is important to point out the difference between Hodgson's (1848, 1880) and Reinhard's (1969, 1970) Kusunda, a point also mentioned
by P. Whitehouse MT III : 31; however, these differences extend beyond the grammatical forms cited to the basic vocabulary, e.g. gipan 'hand' H(odgson) : Aibi R(einhard); ing gai 'star/night' H : sA'nAm R
(cf. ing, ing ying 'sun'); jum 'moon' H : niho' R; cf. also smaller variations: toho 'tooth' H : uhu R; gitAn 'skin' H gitat R. It goes without saying that, for a thorough investigation of Kusunda, the loans it has
received from Nepali and some of the neighboring TB languages such as (Kham-)Magari, Gurung, Chepang, Newari, etc. must be taken into account, and that its relation to the nearby substrate in Tharu
(and Masica's "Language X") needs to be evaluated. In passing, the old theory of a Munda substrate in the Himalayas should be revisited. It goes back to S. Konow, On some facts connected with the
Tibeto-Burman dialect spoken in Kanawar, ZDMG 59, 1905, 117-125. This has been denied by P.K. Benedict, Conspectus, p. 7, n. 23, by J. J. Bauman (1975) Pronouns and Pronominal Morphology in
Tibeto-Burman; and G. van Driem 1992a, 1993b, 1993f, 1993g, 1994b, 1995a, 1997c, Rutgers 1993, Turin 1998 (see website : Nevertheless, it
must be remembered that the name of the R. gaNDakI can be traced back to Munda. It is found all over Central Nepal, where the major rivers are called "the seven gaNDaki". How far into the Nepalese
hills did the settlements of a Munda speaking people reach? Even in exclusively Nepali speaking W. Nepal, the common hydronomical 'suffix' gAD denoting 'river' may be connected with the Munda word
da'k, ganda'k (Witzel 1993, 1999; further materials in Kuiper 1962: 10, with lit.; and already B. H. Hodgson, Comparative vocabulary of the languages of the broken tribes of Nepal, in: Miscellaneous
Essays related to Indian Subjects, Vol. I p. 161 sqq., London 1880; cf. On the Che'pa'ng and Ku'su'nda Tribes of Nepa'l, JASB XVII/2, 1848, p. 650 sqq.). A further hint may be provided by the implosives
found in the substrate of the Kathmandu Valley (cokh/cok/co, see above) and in Kanauri (see Grierson, LSI on Kanauri). We may see here an areal feature of implosives that has influenced both the Tib.-
Burm. languages in Kinaur (Kanauri) in the western Himalaya and in the Kathmandu Valley. Apart from Munda and Sindhi, this feature is otherwise not found in S. Asia. There are indications in the eastern
Himalayas of a pre-TB population (Witzel 1993). Even today, the Munda languages Satar and Santali are actually spoken in the extreme south-east of Nepal (probably, like the Kurukh, recent imports).
Other Munda speakers are, after all, found south of the Ganges, only about a hundred miles south of Eastern Nepal. Finally, there are the various Tharu tribes who live in the foothills of the Himalayas,
from the rAmgaGgA river in U.P. (India) to the eastern border of Nepal, and in some bordering hill tracts, such as in the rAptI Valley (Chitawan, just 50 miles SW of Kathmandu). They practice slash-and-
burn agriculture and nowadays speak a form of one of the neighboring NIA languages, just like the Nahali or Vedda (see below); however, I believe that we can find, again, a so far unstudied substrate
from a pre-IA, Pre-Munda language. Although often referred to as an archaic, remnant group, they have been little studied (cf. the bibliography in Leal 1972). Some of the vocabulary looks TB: for example
TB ti- 'water' in Tharu suitI 'small river.' (For -ti in Himalayan river names, see Witzel 1993). And indeed, D. N. Majumdar, The Fortunes of Primitive Tribes, Lucknow 1944 reports blood group types
'predominantly Mongoloid.' This is now supported by recent, more advanced genetic studies. The Tharu are very isolated within S. Asia (L. Cavalli-Sforza 1994: 84, 239 with fig. 4.14.1). As for the
suspected substrate, D. Leal, Chitwan Tharu Phonemic Summary. Kirtipur Summer Inst. of Linguistics 1972, provides an example of the influence of their original non-NIA language, i.e. the difficulty the
Chitaun Tharu have to pronounce aspirated mediae (bh > b@h; cf. above, on the Kathmandu Valley substrate).
The Tharu word list in S. M. Joshi (ed.) paryAcavAcI zabda koz,
Kathmandu : nepAl rAjakIya prajJA-pratiSThAn VS 2030 (1974) contains lists
of 2914 words, most of which are close to Bhojpuri and Nepali; there are,
however, a number of words (cf. Witzel 1999, n. 43) which are neither
related to the surrounding IA languages nor to the nearby TB ones (Magar,
Chepang, Newari, Tamang) such as: ubbA 'small box,' koGhilA 'tiger', khUdI
'sugar cane', gukhA 'shaman', gulagula 'mild', gÆTTI 'splinter',
jhemjhemiyA 'small cymbal or drum', TippA 'mountain top' (probably NIA), ta
'small', tIra 'afterbirth', tIlvA 'whore house', nimak 'salt', bhubhui
'white scurf', yedi 'brick'. But the agricultural terms are NIA: bAjrA
'millet', dhAn 'rice', makai 'maize', gehUM 'wheat', as well as most of
their basic vocabulary.

All these cases indicate that we probably can discover more
substrates if more work along these lines would be done. But we lack
etymological dictionaries for most NIA languages (apart from Turner's great
work, CDIAL), not to speak of Munda (in preparation by D. Stampe et al.)
and TB; (see, however, those on the internet: Starostin et al., accessible
from: For example, it may very well be that the
Bihari languages have more Tib.-Burmese substrate words. There is, after
all, cAmal 'cooked rice' in Nepali, cAwal in Hindi, etc. which can be
connected with TB *dza 'to eat', Newari jA 'cooked rice, etc.' Yet, nobody
in Indian Studies is looking for such substrate material.

$ 3. Central and South India.
Turning further South, the language isolate Nahali is spoken on the
upper TaptI river on the border of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. To be
more specific, Nahali nowadays is a NIA language, but it shows below this,
at successively lower levels, a Dravidian, a Munda and an isolated level
which comprises some 24% of its vocabulary (Kuiper 1962: 51, 1966). The
speakers of modern Nahali, to be short, the Nahals are the remnants of the
first Indian population. At least, they have preserved the remnants of the
earliest language spoken in India that we can ascertain so far. Future
comparisons may lead us beyond that, for example the proposed comparisons
between Nahali and Ainu, or between Andamanese and Papua (Indo-Pacific).
Nahali has been extensively treated in this macro-comparative way
in MT II and III. As has been first seen by Shafer and Kuiper, Nahali has
connections with Ainu, etc. (for which now see MT II), and thus represents
remnants of the earliest substratum of modern homo sapiens sapiens that
moved from the Near East all the way to E. Asia (and S.E. Asia, Australia).
However, it must be noted that the retroflex sounds in Australian are a
relative new development as well and cannot be the cause of their (almost)
Pan-South Asian prevalence in prehistoric times.
Berger (1959) was of the opinion that the Nahals were identical
with the well known niSAda of the Chambal, Malwa and Bandelkhand areas. He
discussed their mythology as found in the Mahabharata; however the niSAda
are found already in the Middle Vedic texts. The nihAl or nAhal are also
found (Berger 1959: 35) in many medieval texts, such as in Hemacandra's
Grammar (c. 1200 CE) as lAhala; in Padma Pur. nAhalaka, together with the
bhilla, as mountain/jungle tribe; in puSpadanta's harivaMzapurANa as
nAhala, synomym of bhilla, savara (another jungle tribe : modern Saora);
also in vikarmaGkadevacaritra of bilhaNa (c. 1150 CE), and in rAjazekhara's
drama bAlarAmAyaNa (on the R. narmadA). Berger wanted to identify them with
the DahAla as well; they are found in inscriptions of the kalacuri dynasty
of tripurI and in Albiruni (1030 CE). All of their territories are c. 400
km away from the modern eastern Nahalis near Nimar.
He thus derived Nahal/Nihal from a form such as *nezad reflected by
Ved. NiSAda. Indeed, the word is found in early post-RV texts: KS, MS, and
with the typical sound changes in 'foreign' words: NiSAda : *NiSidha : ZB
NaDa NaiSidha, (apparently the Vedic 'ancestor' of the Epic Nala NaiSadha :
*NiSadha); thus d: dh (as in magadha : pra-magandha, etc.). The name
certainly is a popular etymology (however, the modern self-designation of
the Nahals is kalTo, du. kalTih-Tel, pl. kaliTTa; < stem *kaliT-o, s. Kuiper 1962: 82, 17, 27, Mundlay MT II 5-7, no. 858 kalTo, pl. kolTa).

The niSAda are described in Vedic texts (first MS 2.9.5 =KS 17.13, TS, VS 16.27) as being ¸neither wilderness (araNya) nor settlement (grAma);› who are ¸given over to the earth:›

(asyAm eva parIttAH), next to jana '(foreign) tribe' PB, other non-Brahmins (JB), and samAnajana ¸one's own people› (cf. PB 16.6.7-9); cf. also KB 25.15, LZS 8.2.8 on temporary residence
in a naiSAda settlement. Similarly, MS 2.9.5 describes the niSAda, among Rudra's names and his people, together with hunters and other low caste people (=KS 17.13, TS, VS 16.27);

-- AB 8.11 as robbers in the wilderness; similarly the dasyu JB 2.423:$168, where the text insists on kSatriya accompaniment during travel, necessary to keep the dasyu at bay

and turn them ¸sweet (madhu)›, cf. AB 8.11 where the dasyu rob a wealthy man or a caravan in the wilderness. Acculturation is seen at MS 2.2.4, where their chief (sthapati) is

allowed to offer sacrifices, cf. KZS 1.1.12. The inclusion of the headman of the niSAda reflects the well-known process of upward social movement, called ¸Sanskritization.› (Witzel 1997)

Their Vedic designation obviously is a popular etymology "those who sit at home." However, they are more frequently described as robbers (still a favorite occupation of the Nahals

in early British times) -- against whom one had to guard when traveling through uninhabited territory. Their chieftains (sthapati), however, were allowed into the Aryan fold and could

perform solemn Vedic sacrifices, clearly an early form of Sanskritization. It may very well be that Rajasthani has a strong Bhili (and Nahali) substrate; Koppers (1948: 23, Kuiper 1962,

1966, 1991) and Shafer (1940, 1954: 10) thought that the Bhils once spoke Nahali as well. The Bhils are now widely spread between the arAvaLA (Aravalli) Mountains, the Vindhya Mts.

and the Tapti River (Khandesh area); they now speak Gujarati-like IA. In the Vindhyas we find a number of north and central Dravidian languages. However, both North Dravidian languages,

Kurukh (Oraon, on the borders of Bihar/Orissa/Madhya Pradesh; the settlement in Nepal and Assam is recent) and Malto (on the bend of the Ganges in S.E. Bihar) are late-comers to

Munda territory as many loans from Munda languages indicate. On the other hand, the third north Drav. language, Brahui, spoken in Baluchistan has returned to E. Iran only a few

hundred years ago (Elfenbein 1987); it has no older Iranian loans (from Avestan or Pashto, just from their symbiotic neighbors, the Baluch). In the Vindhya Mountains we find such

names as the following: the Vidarbha people, in the area around Nagpur, (the mod. barhAD, Berar < virATa, Mbh) are mentioned (JB), along with their fierce mAcala dogs

'that kill even tigers' (note that this is an area with early iron and horses). vidarbha seems to be a popular etymology vi-darbha 'with widely spread darbha (grass)', especially if

connected with Munda da•b 'to thatch' (Pinnow 1959: 69), cf. vi-bhindu in the Gangetic plains (above). The name of the vibhindus is related to that of the bainda tribe (derived from *bind)

that still survives in the Vindhyas today, and names such as ku-sur(u)-binda (above). The very name of the Vindhya (post-Vedic) can be related, with typical Sanskritizing interchange of d : dh,

as in pra-maganda : magadha, (above). East of these mountains, we have the kaliGga (cf. triliGga south of Orissa) and aGga, vaGga. All of these are names that hardly have a Drav.

etymology, but which look Austro-Asiatic because of their prefix changes. However, all around Vidarbha, the first Drav. river names are met with : the pUrNA (< *pEN) west of it, the vEn-gaGgA

east of it, and the pain-gaGgA south of it. They all are adaptations of a Drav. term for rivers, DEDR 4160a *pEN-: *peN-V- 'to twine, twist'. It seems that the area which still has a Munda

name in the Vedic middle period (vidarbha) has also received a Dravidian overlay. This is confirmed by Drav. place names in -oli in Maharastra and in -palli, -valli, -pal in Bastar,

just east of the Vidarbha area (now southernmost Madhya Pradesh) where they range from 21% in the south to only 0-4% as one approaches the Raypur plains. The south and southwest

of Bastar is occupied by the Drav. Gonds, all other regions by Chattisgarhi Hindi speakers. (For an overview of studies in (South) Indian place names see the paper by

M.N. Nampoothiry, Indian Toponymy. A critical evaluation of the work done in this field in India with a bibliography in: Puthusseri Ramachandran and K. Nachimuthu (eds.)

Perspectives in Place Name Studies : Proceedings of the National Seminar on South Indian Place Names, Held at Trivandrum on 21-23 June 1985. A Festschrift to

Prof. V.I. Subramoniam, On His Sixtieth Birth Day. Trivandrum: Place Name Society, 1987. p. 1-47, --- including a good bibliography, also of unpublished Indian theses).

The South is frequently supposed to have been Dravidian from times immemorial. However, in the refuge area of Nilgiris with their isolated Drav. tribes (Toda, etc.),

we find a substrate, see Zvelebil 1990, 63-70. Isolated words indicating this pre-Drav. substrate (Zvelebil 1990: 69f., Zvelebil 1979: 71f.) include the following Irula words mattu 'lip',

Do"kene, dekene, Dekena, Dekkada 'panther', ovarakaGku, OrakaGku, OraGgeku, OraGge, Orapodu 'tomorrow' (unless DEDR 707 Tam. uR2aGku 'to sleep'),

buNDri 'grass hopper' (unless DEDR 4169), muTT(u)ri 'butterfly' (unless DEDR 4850 miTL 'locust'), vutta 'crossbar in a house'. These instances should encourage Drav.

specialists to look for substrates in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, etc. However, just like the propagators of indigenous "Aryans" in the North, Dravidians of the South frequently

think that they are autochthonous. In Sri Lanka, the remnant population of the Vedda now speaks Sinhala. (De Silva, M.W. Sugathapala, Vedda language of Ceylon;

texts and lexicon. Mu"nchener Studien zur Sprachwissenschaft. Beiheft n.F. 7. Mu"nchen: R. Kitzinger, 1972). The substrate that they may have preserved is in urgent need of

thorough study, carried out by comparing Pali, Sinhala and Tamil words. Some typical words, interestingly many with geminates, that cannot be linked either to Sinhala or to

Tamil are: cappi 'bird', munDi 'monitor lizard', potti 'a kind of bee', panni 'worm', rukula 'home, cavity' (see de Silva 1972 : 16; his vocabulary, pp. 69-96, does not contain etymologies).

Finally there is Andamanese, but unlike the Austro-Asiatic Nicobarese, so isolated that it can only be compared in long-range fashion, with other Australo-Pacific languages. $ 4.

The Northwest. We now return to a region for which we have larger amount of early sources, the Greater Panjab, the area of the first Indo-Aryan influx into the subcontinent as

reflected by the hymns of the RV. As has been pointed out, the Rgvedic area is characterized by an almost total substitution of local, pre-IA river names by those of IA type,

such as gomatI 'the one having cows' (mod. Gomal), mehatnu ' the one full of fluid", asiknI 'the black one' (now Chenab). Tribal names, include next to typical IA ones

(druhyu 'the cheaters', bharata 'the ones who carry (sacred fire?),' many that have no plausible IA etymologies, such as: the gandhAri tribe of gandhAra, the area between Kabul

and Islamabad in Pakistan; zambara, a mountain chieftain; vayiyu and prayiyu (chieftains on the suvAstu, modern Swat); mauja-vant, a Himalayan peak. This kind of evidence

indicates the typical picture of an intrusive element, the IA, overlaying a previous population. Unlike Northern America for example, only a few pre-IA river names have survived,

such as: kubhA (mod. Kabul river), krumu (mod. Kurram), and maybe even the sindhu (Indus); these have no clear or only doubtful IA/IE etymologies (see below). North of this area,
at the northern bend of the Indus (Baltistan/Hunza), the language isolate Burushaski is spoken whose prehistory is unknown (cf. now MT II, III). However, the language and the

 tribal name are indirectly attested in this general area ever since the RV: *m/bruZa (mod. buruSo) > Ved. mUja-vant, Avestan muZa (see below). Indeed,
already the RV contains a few words which are still preserved in Bur., such
as Bur. kilAy, Ved. kIlAla- 'biestings, a sweet drink' RV 10.91.14, (note
AV 4.11.10 next to the loan word kInAza, see above); kIlAla cannot have a
IA etymology (EWA I 358 'unclear'); continuants are found in the Dardic
branch of IA (Khowar kiLAl), and in Nuristani (kilA' etc.), as well as in
later Skt. kilATa 'cheese', cf. DEDR 1580 Tam. kil~AaN2 'curd'); for
details see Kuiper 1955: 150f., Turner, CDIAL 3181, Tikkanen 1988. Further,
the following words, mES 'skinbag', CDIAL 10343 < Ved. *maiSiya 'ovine', meSa 'ram' RV; gur 'wheat' pl. guriG/gureG < *ghorum, gurga'n 'winter wheat',

cf. Ved. godhUma; bras 'rice', different from briu' 'rice (< Shina briu' ), cf. Ved. vrIhi; bus 'sheaf', CDIAL 8298, cf. Ved. busa, bRsI 'chaff' (cf. Pinnow 1959: 39);

ku(h)a' (Berger ghua') 'new moon', cf. Ved kuhU 'deity of new moon'; ghupas (Berger gupa's) 'cotton', cf. Ved. karpAsa, Kashm. kapas; baluqa 'stone' (in a game),

cf. ba'ltaS 'stone thrown at someone', cf. Ved. parazu '(stone) ax', Greek pe'lekus, see EWA II, 214; baG 'resin of trees', baG ~ IIr bhaGga 'hemp, cannabis',

cf. Khowar boG. Most of the words from IA languages in Turner's CDIAL that have Bur. correspondences are, however, late loan words from the neighboring

Dardic languages, especially from Shina and Khowar (cf. Lorimer 1937, Berger 1959, 1998). Importantly, in Proto-Burushaski (or in its early loans from the lowlands)

and the pre-Vedic Indus language there is, as treated in $ 1.10, there is interchange of k/z, and retention of -an- (not > -o-): Bur. kIlAy
: Ved. kIlAla, but Son 'blind one-eyed' : Ved. kANa; ghoro (Berger ghuro')
'stone, pebbles', cf. Ved. zar-kara, cf. also (Witzel 1999) ghoqares,
Berger gho'kura.c. 'raven', Ved. kAka; Bur. ghazu' 'onion', cf. Ved.
lazuna, Shina kazu; ghon, Berger ghu'un 'quail', cf. (?) Ved. laba. It has
indeed occasionally been maintained that Burushaski extended into the
Panjab in earlier times (L. Schmid 1981, Tikkanen 1988), but the Vedic
evidence does not support this. We cannot be sure exactly how far Rgvedic
geographical knowledge extended northwards, and how much practical
interaction existed between RV and Proto-Burusho people. Yet, the RV knows
of some small right side contributory rivers of the Indus that are located
north of the confluence with the Kabul River; they have IA names: RV
10.75.6. tRSTAmA '< tRS 'the rough, (or) the dried up (river)', susartu 'the one running well', rasA 'the one full of sap', zvetI 'the white one'.

While it is questionable how far south Burushaski territory extended at this early time, some of the loan words mentioned above indicate that there was early contact.

That extends perhaps also to medicinal and other herbs (cf. below on KirAta), for it may be that the name of the BuruSo is reflected by the RV mountain name mauja-vant "having mUja (people)",

cf. the east Iranian equivalent, Avestan muZa. This is the mountain where the best Soma, a hallucinogenic plant, comes from. The RV and E. Iranian (Avestan) forms look like adaptations of

the local self-designation, *mruZa, Vedic mUja-, Avest. muZa, and are attested since the middle of the first millennium in early Tib. bru-Za, Sanskritized puruSa (von Hinu"ber 1989, 1980), local 10th cent.

inscriptions prUzava (Jettmar 1989: xxxvii), mod. Bur. buruSo. Phonetic reflexes of Bur. have been seen (Tikkanen 1988) in the Vedic (and Dravidian) retroflex consonants that have otherwise

found a number of explanations, from a Dravidian substrate to an internal East Iranian and Vedic development. The occurrence of these sounds clearly reflects an areal feature that is strongest

in the Northwest, but extends all the way to Tamil in the South, and has also influenced Munda to some extent. Below, it will shown that it is an ancient feature of the Indus language as well, and

that it must not be traced back to Bur. influence, which seems to have been limited, even in Rgvedic times, to the upper Indus valley. Some early syntactic influence by Burushaski on Vedic in the

formation of the Absolutive has been assumed by Tikkanen (1988); it is found already in earliest RV but only as past verbal adverb/conjunctive participle. This clearly S. Asian feature, unknown in the sister
language of

Vedic, Old Iranian, is also found in various degrees in Drav. and Munda, and may have been an early regional feature whose ultimate origin remains unclear (cf. Witzel 1999)

Another modern language in the same area is Khowar which belongs, along with Kashmiri, Swati, etc. to the Dardic branch of IA. In its phonetics and vocabulary, however,

it shows a strong local substrate, similar to Burushaski. Unique for Khowar, however, is a particular substrate whose origin remains unclear so far. It seems that the Khowars are

a late immigrant group who have taken over a Dardic language. Substrate(?) words in Khowar which are neither IA nor Burushaski include (Kuiper 1962: 11, cf. Morgenstierne 1947:

6, Lorimer 1935 : xxi): ghec 'eye', ap•ak 'mouth', krem 'back', camoTh 'finger', iskI 'heel', askAr 'lungs'. Kuiper (1962: 14) compares ghec 'eye' with

Bur. ghai(c)-, gh'i-, ghe-ic- 'to appear, seem, be visible', and with g'e- 'to look, seem, appear', da-g'e- 'to peer' of the Munda language Sora and with Parengi gi- 'to see'.

(Differently, Morgenstierne, FS Belvalkar, 2nd section p. 91.) For Bur. loans in Dardic and in Nuristani see Tikkanen 1988: 305 (cumar 'iron', ju 'apricot', etc.),

cf. Fussman 1972 II, 37 sqq.; Lorimer 1938: 95, Morgenstierne 1935: xxi sqq., 1947: 92 sqq.; Schmidt 1981, Berger 1998. The neighboring area, Kashmir,

is of great interest. Its prehistory is little known. In the Neolithic, there were relations with Central Asia and China, but the influence of the Indus civilization (2600-1900 BCE)

is strong and long-lasting; of course, this does not tell us anything about the language(s) spoken then. Unfortunately, the Vedic texts, which know of the neighboring Indus valley

do not mention Kashmir by name. It is first mentioned by the grammarian PataJjali (150 BCE). The native Kashmiri texts (rAjataraGgiNI, nIlamata purANa, cf. Witzel 1994, Tikkanen 1988,

L. Schmid 1981), however, know of the previous populations, the pizAca 'ghouls' and the nAga 'snakes' (that can change into human shape at will). These are common names for 'aboriginals';

cf. the Tib.-Burm. Naga tribe on the Burmese border. Yet, these designations may retain some historical memory. The chief of the pizAca is called nikumbha (nikumba in MilindapaJho),

and the NAgas have such 'foreign' names such as karkoTa, aTa, baDi, bahabaka, cATara, cikura, Ccukkaka, etc. The list of some 600 Kashmir nAga names in the local nIlamatapurANa

contains many such non-Sanskritic names; they have not been studied (see Witzel, in press). Just as in Northern India and Nepal, most river and place names in Kashmir have been

Sanskritized; note, however, the river and place names: ledarI, a river in the SE of the Valley (also in the place name levAra < ledarI-agrahAra); -muSa, a 'suffix' in the names of several

villages: khonamuSa (mod. Khunamoh), katImuSa, (mod. Kaimoh, next to lati-kA), rAmuSa (mod. Ramuh); also, the paJcAla-dhAra mountain, (mod. (pIr) pantsAl range, south of the Valley),
may reflect an old name, cf. the Ved. tribal name paJcAla, and Grierson, Dict. of Kashmiri III : 744; cf. Nepali himAl 'Himalaya range', CDIAL 14104. Such names have not been studied in

detail (cf., however, L. Schmidt 1981, Witzel 1993). Like all other Indian languages, the Kashmiri language itself has not been thoroughly scrutinized for more substrate materials,

cf., however, the report by L. Schmidt (1981), who assumes that 25% of the vocabulary and toponymy belong to a pre-IA substrate. A. Parpola (Tikkanen 1988: 305) thinks of a Proto-Tib.

or Sinitic substrate. However, the peculiar phonology of Kashmiri (and Dardic in general) sustains the assumption of a strong northwestern substrate influence. In the northwest another IIr.

language which shares some regional peculiarities with Dardic, is spoken: Nuristani or Kafiri, as it was formerly called, is (differently from the older handbooks which lump it together

with the Dardic branch of IA) a third branch of the Indo-Iranians (G. Morgenstierne, Irano-Dardica. Wiesbaden 1973). It has survived in the mountains of East Afghanistan and in neighboring

Chitral (N.W. Pakistan). The Kalasha (Chitral) subgroup have even preserved their ancient non-Hindu and non-Iranian religion. Nuristani has preserved such sounds as IIr. c' that has been

 changed even in the RV > z (c. 1500 BCE) and in Old Iranian >
s. It has transmitted at least one loan word into Vedic, Nur. *kat'S'a >
Ved. kAca 'shining piece of jewelry' (K. Hoffmann 1986, EWA I 335).

Finally, one must be open to assume the influence of other
substrate languages in the Hindukush/Pamir areas. There are local personal
names such as RV zambara kaulitara and his father *kulitara who are 'in the
mountains', prayiyu and vayiyu in Swat; names of demons (as always,
intentionally confused with those of real, human enemies) such as cumuri,
namuci, uraNa, arbuda, pipru, zambara; tribal names such as gandhAri,
dRbhIka(?), varc-in(?); river names such as kubhA, krumu, sindhu(?). Note
also that the Avesta (Videvdad 1) speaks about some of these areas, notably
var@na (varNu) as an-airiia "non-Aryan".

$ 5. Indo-Iranian substrates from Central Asia and Iran

Beyond this area, Central Asia must have been the source of a host
of unstudied words in Proto-IIr., which are found both in IA and Old
Iranian but which do not have an IE etymology and must represent the
language of the Bactria-Margiana region (BMAC culture 2100-1900 BCE), or
other Central Asian substrate(s). They include plants, animals, and
material culture; their concentration in the area of brick-built settlement
and agriculture as well as some newly introduced animals should be noted.
Such words, as found in Ved. /Avestan, include:
# uSTra / uStra 'camel', middle and new Akkadian udru "Bactrian
camel" is a loan from Iran, see EWA I 238, KEWA III 652, cf. Diakonoff in
JAOS 105, 1985, 600; the camel was introduced into the BMAC area from
Central Asia only in the late 3rd mill. BCE.
# khara / xara 'donkey', cf. Toch.B ker-ca-po < *karca-bha?, with the common Indian animal suffix -bha (as in garda-bha, zara-bha, RSa-bha);

the word ultimately may be a late 3rd mill. Near Eastern loan, cf. Akkad. (Mari) HArum, ajarum 'male donkey', EWA I 447. Note also the overlap with Dravidian (denied by EWA 473):

Drav. *garda > Tamil kal_utai, etc., one of
the few possible links of a Central Asian substrate with Dravidian (and
with Vedic);
# iSTi, iSTikA / iStiia 'brick', z@mOiStuua 'clay brick'; OP. iSti,
MP., NP. xiSt; cf. Toch. izcem 'clay'? Clay bricks are unknown in northern
Central Asia (Kazakhtan), the putative homeland of IIr (except for their
sudden appearance in the Sintashta Culture east of the Urals, c. 2000 BCE,
for which a link with the BMAC has been supposed);
# sthUna / stUnA, stunA, OP. stUnA 'pillar', unless it belongs to
Ved. sthUra 'tall, thick', Avest. -stura, Khot. stura (thus EWA II 768);

# yavyA /O.P. yauviyA 'channel', > MP., NP. jO, jOy 'stream,
channel', Parachi ZI 'rivulet', EWA II 405; both words, typical for loans,
do not go back to exactly the same source;
# godhUma / gantuma 'wheat' from a Near Eastern language, cf.
Semitic *HnT, Hitt. kant (EWA 499) and Egyptian xnd;
# parSa / parSa 'sheaf', see EWA II 101;
# bIja / OIran. *bIza (in names), 'seed, semen', Buddh. Sogdian
byz'k, Parachi bIz 'grains';
# zaNa / kana- 'hemp', MP. San 'hemp', Khot. kaMha, Osset. gŽn,
gŽnŽ, Russ. Church Sl. konoplja, Gr. ka'nnabis, itself a loan from
Scythian, as also also Old High German hanaf, Dutch hennep < *kanap; # bhaGga / banga 'hemp, hashish', if the word does not belong to bhaJj 'to break'; # *sinSap 'mustard': Ved. saSarpa 'mustard',
Khot. zzazvAna, Parthian SyfS-d'n, Sogdian SywSp-dhn, MP. span-dAn 'mustard seed'; Greek si'napi; < pre-Iran. *sinSapa < **sinsap (Henning s1ens2ap); cf. also: Malay sawi, s@sawi, or Austro-As.
*sapi, sV(r)-sapi; further EWA 712, 727: ziMza'pA RV+ 'Dalbergia sissoo' NP. SISam, Pashto S@wa < *zISampA, CDIAL 12424), Elam. Se-iS-Sa'-ba-ut = /SeSSap/; # kazyapa / kasiiapa 'turtle', Sogdian
kySph, NP. kaSaf, kaS(a)p 'tortoise'; cf. Kashaf RUd, a river in Turkmenistan and Khorasan; # pard/pandh 'spotted animal, panther' : Ved. pRdAku 'snake' RV, pRdakU AV, pRdAkhu BZS (EWA II 163),
with Para-Munda prefix p@r?; Khowar purdu`m < *pRdhUma? KEWA II 335, CDIAL 8362; Bur. (Yasin) phu'rdum 'adder, snake'; later Skt. 'tiger, panther'; NP. palang 'leopard' < O.Iran. *pard-, Greek
pa'rdalis, pa'rdos, le'o-pardos 'leopard' (EWA II 163), all < **pard 'spotted, wild animal?'; Henning reconstructs **parth (but note Greek pa'nthEr), which may have been close to the Central Asian form; #
*kar(t)ka 'rhinoceros', Ved. khaDga 'rhinoceros' MS+, EWA 443, cf. N.P. karka-dAn, Arab. karkaddan, Aelianus karta'zOnos (*kargazOnos) 'Indian rhinoceros', all from a pre-Aryan source; however, cf.
Kuiper 1948: 136 sqq. # bheSaja / baEsaziia 'healing'; IIr *bhiS-aj > Ved. bhiS-aj; the
root *bhiS may be a loan word (cf. EWA s.v.);
# vInA 'lute': Ved. vINA Khot. bIna 'harp, lute', Sogdian wyn'
'lute', MP. win 'lute', Armen. vin 'lute', unless loans from India, cf. EWA
II 568;
# *kapauta 'blue': Ved. kapota 'pigeon', O.P. kapauta 'blue'; Khot.
kavUta 'blue', MP. kabOd 'grey-blue', kabOtar 'pigeon'; EWA I 303, Kuiper
# *kadru 'brown': Ved. kadru 'red-brown', kadrU 'a snake deity',
Avest. kadruua.aspa 'with brown horses, NP. kahar 'light brown';
The following words may be of still older origin and may have been taken
over either in E. Europe or in Northern Central Asia:
# *medh/melit 'sweet, honey': IE. *medhu 'sweet' is found in Ved.
madhu 'sweet, honey, mead', Avest. madhu, Sogd. mdhw 'wine', (cf. Bur. mel
'wine, from grapes'), Toch. B mit 'honey', Gr. me'thu 'wine' etc.; it has
spread to Uralic *mese, mete; Finnish mete, Hungarian me'z 'honey', Chin.
mi < *miet, Sino-Korean mil, Jpn. mitsu < *mit(u); Iran. *madhu > Turkish,
Mongolian bal 'honey'; Arabic mAdI?, and to > Toch. B mot 'intoxicating
drink'. --- From another source **melit, Greek me'lit-, Hitt. milit, Latin
mel, mell-, Gothic milith; in Nostratic (Illich-Svitych, Opyt II, Moskva
1976 : 38sq.) both forms are united under *majLa > *Ural. majdh'a', Drav.
maTT, miTT, Altaic /m/ala, bala; cf. also, still further afield, in
Polynesia: Samoan meli, Hawaiian mele, meli; mele, melemele 'yellow', Maori
miere; Tongan melie 'sweetness, sweet, delicious', Rarotongan meli 'honey',
Mangareva mere 'honey'.
# *sengha/singha 'lion' : Ved. siMha 'lion' < * sinj'ha < *sing'ha differs from Proto- Iran. *sarg: Khoresmian sargh, Parthian Sarg, Khot. sarau; Henning reconstructs **s1eNgha; -- loans into nearby
languages, such as Toch. A ziza"k, B zecake 'lion'; Tib. seGge, Chin. *suan-ngei (Henning, EWA), note, however, Karlgren 1923, no. 893 Arch. Chin. *,Si, Jpn. *si >
shi(-shi); cf. perhaps Armenian inc, inj EWA II 727, KEWA III 447; the
western IE languages have received the 'lion' word from a different source,
Gr. lIs, leon(t)-, Lat. leon-.
In short, western and central Iran must have been inhabited by
(archaeologically well attested) peoples of non-IIr speech. However, their
languages have left few remains in Iranian. Apparently, Elamian was spoken
up to simaSki (Kerman/Bandar Abbas area), while aratta (Sistan) and marhaSi
(W. Baluchistan, Bampur region) apparently had other language(s), (Vallat
1980). All of these data need to be studied in greater detail, especially
the early IIr substrate language(s).

$ 6 Conclusions.
In short, the early linguistic picture of South Asia in the second
and first millennium BCE, during the Indus and Vedic periods, is as complex
as, or even more so than its modern counterpart. The materials adduced
above also indicate that, even with the addition of the modern descendants
of Proto-Burushaski, -Nahali and -Kusunda, we have to reckon with, and make
use of a number of substrate words from such languages as Masica's
"Language X", Tharu, the Kathmandu Valley, or the Panjab and the Sindh
varieties of the Indus language. It must be underlined, that except for the
few items pointed out for the Vedda and Nilgiri languages, the prehistoric
linguistic situation of South India (before Dravidian) is entirely unclear:
in this respect, a lot of spade work needs to be done by Dravidian
specialists; the same applies to Munda and the eastern and central parts of
India; yet, just as in the modern North Indian languages, no progress has
been made in this respect over the past few decades.
The few available etymological dictionaries do not provide detailed
information about the historical and geographical spread of the words
discussed, though Mayrhofer's EWA now gives an idea at least of the
historical levels, but hardly of the geographical spread. DEDR does not
have any such information yet, and we need to check the on-line dictionary
at Cologne
(; and the
KWIC Concordance of Classical Tamil texts
( A Munda etymological dictionary
is still under preparation.
In addition, the ancient Vedic and Tamil texts still hold out a lot
of important and interesting data. We would profit very much from detailed
historical grammar of Tamil and a study of substrates in Tamil (and the
other Dravidian languages).
The data discussed above indicate that we have to reckon with a
number of layers of languages (and the populations which used them). The
situation is best illustrated by Nahali (see above) with its subsequent
layers of Proto-Nahali, Munda, Dravidian and NIA. If Hindi was studied in
the same way, we would find similar layers of Masica's "Language X",
Para-Munda, Old IA (with influences from the Indus language, and
Proto-Drav., -Munda, -Tibeto-Burmese), early Persian (dipi/lipi 'script')
and Greek (yavana 'Greek', suruGgA 'subterranean channel', but cf. Kuiper
1997: 186-190) loans, a continuous stream of Sanskrit loan words, medieval
loans from Arabic, Turkish, Mongolian and Persian, as well as the more
recent English loan words and Neo-Sanskrit words such as dUrdarzan
Especially, the etymology of Panjabi and Sindhi words should be
taken up, finally, in order to delineate the linguistic history of these
areas that are so critical for the immigration and acculturation of IA and
Drav. speakers. A thorough study of the (usually very conservative) river
names, not just of the major rivers mentioned above but even of small
creeks, as has been done in Europe during this century, would substantially
aid in this undertaking. Names of settlements change much more easily but
should not be neglected either.
In comparison with the linguistic history of the nearby East
Iranian languages (especially Pashto), this kind of investigation would aid
substantially in determining the history of human settlement in South Asia
and would be a major contribution to the ongoing debate about the "Aryan
invasion" or, rather, the trickling in, immigration and amalgamation of
speakers of IA (as well as Dravidian) languages. Once the data derived from
archaeology and genetics are added, a much clearer picture of the
settlement of South Asia will finally emerge that will put much of the
current speculation to rest.


Note: for ready reference, the five historical levels of Vedic are
indicated by numbers (1-5), followed by their geographical location, W:
western North India = Panjab, Haryana, C: central North India = Uttar
Pradesh, E: eastern North India = N. Bihar; S: southern N. India = between
the Jamna/Ganges and the Vindhya mountains).

AA Austro-Asiatic
AB aitareya brAhmaNa (4, W & E)
Akkad. Akkadian
ApDhS Apastamba dharmasUtra (5 C)
ApZS Apastamba zrautasUtra (5 C)
Armen. Armenian
Austro-As. Austro-Asiatic
AV atharvaveda saMhitA (2 C)
Avest. Avestan
AVP atharvaveda saMhitA, paippalAda version (2 W)
Beng. Bengali
Brah. Brahui
BZS baudhAyana zrautasUtra (4-5 C)
Bur. Burushaski
CDIAL Turner 1966-69
DED Burrow, T. and Emeneau M.B. 1960
DEDR Burrow, T. and Emeneau M.B. 1984
Drav. Dravidian
ep. Epic Sanskrit
EWA Mayrhofer 1956-76
Gr. Greek
GS gRhyasUtra(s) (5)
Guj. Gujarati
Hitt. Hittite
HZS HiraNyakezi ZrautasUtra (5 C)
IA Indo-Aryan
IE Indo-European
IIr Indo-Iranian
Indo-Ar. Indo-Aryan
Iran. Iranian
JB jaiminIya brAhmaNa (4 S)
Jpn. Japanese
Kan. Kannada, Canarese
Kazm. Kashmiri
KaThA kaTha AraNyaka (4 W)
KauzS. kauzika sUtra (5 C)
KB kauSItaki brAhmaNa (4 C)
KEWA Mayrhofer 1986-96
Khar. Kharia
Khot. Khotanese Saka
KS kaTha saMhitA
KZS kAtyAyana zrautasUtra (5 E)
Kur. Kurukh
LZS LATyAyana ZrautasUtra
Lit. Lithuanian
Mal. Malayalam
Mar. Marathi
Mbh. mahAbhArata
MIA Middle Indo-Aryan
MP. Middle Persian
MS maitrAyaNi saMhitA (2-3 W)
MT Mother Tongue
Mund. Mundari
Nep. Nepali
New. Newari
NP. New Persian
NIA New Indo-Aryan
Nir. Nirukta (5)
Nur. Nuristani (Kafiri)
OP. Old Persian
O.Pers. Old Persian
Osset. Ossetic
Panj. Panjabi
Pkt. Prakrit
PS paippalAda saMhitA (2 W)
PSK paippalAda saMhitA, Kashmir MS.
RV Rgveda saMhitA (1, Greater Panjab)
RVKh Rgveda khila (2 W)
SaDvB SadviMza brAhmaNa (4 W)
SaMh. saMhitA(s)
Sant. Santali
zA zAGkhAyana AraNyaka (4 C)
SB SadviMza brAhmaNa
ZB zatapatha brAhmaNa (4 E)
ZBK zatapatha brAhmaNa, kANva recension (4 C)
ZS zrautasUtra (5)
Skt. Sanskrit
Sum(er). Sumerian
SU. sUtra(s) (5)
Suzr. suzruta
SV sAmaveda saMhitA (2 W)
Suzr. suzruta
StII Studien zur Indologie und Iranistik
TA taittirIya AraNyaka (4 C)
Tam. Tamil
Tel. Telugu
TB taittirIya brAhmaNa (4C)
TB Tibeto-Burmese
Tib. Tibetan
Tib.-Burm. Tibeto-Burmese
Toch. Tocharian
TS taittirIya saMhitA (2 C)
Up. upaniSad(s) (4)
V. vIdEvdhAd (Vendidad)
VAdhB vAdhUla brAhmaNa (anvAkhyAna) (4 C)
Ved. Vedic
Ved. Index Macdonell - Keith 1912
VS vAjasaneyi saMhitA (2 E)
YV yajurveda (-saMhitA) (2)
ZDMG Zeitschrift der deutschen morgenla"ndischen Gesellschaft


Allchin, F. R. and N. Hammond, The Archaeology of Afghanistan from the
earliest times to the Timurid period. London, New York: Academic Press

Allchin, F. R. The Archaeology of Early Historic South Asia. The Emergence
of Cities and States. With Contributions from George Erdosy, R. A. E.
Coningham, D. K. Chakrabarti and Bridget Allchin. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press 1995

Bagchi, P. C. (ed.), Pre-Aryan and Pre-Dravidian in Sanskrit. Calcutta :
University of Calcutta 1929

Bartholomae, Christian. Altiranisches Wo"rterbuch. repr. Berlin 1961

C. Beckwith, The Tibetan Empire in Central Asia. Princeton University
Press: 1987

Bedigian, D. and J. H. Harlan. Evidence for the cultivation of sesame in
the ancient world. Economic Botany 1985

Bellezza, J.V. New Archeological Discoveries in Tibet. Asian Arts,
12/17/98, at:

Benedict, P. K. Sino-Tibetan. A Conspectus, Cambridge 1972
---, Japanese/Austro-Thai. Ann Arbor: Karoma 1990.

Bengtson, J. Nihali and Ainu. MT II, 1996, 51-55

Berger, H. Deutung einiger alter Stammesnamen der Bhil aus der vorarischen
Mythologie des Epos und der PurANa. WZKSOA 3, 1959, 34-82

---, review of: K. H. Pinnow, Versuch einer historischen Lautlehre der
Kharia-Sprache. (Wiesbaden 1959), ZDMG 112, 1963, 416-421

---, Die Burushaski-Sprache von Hunza und Nager. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz,

Bhattacharya S. Some Munda etymologies, in: N. H. Zide (ed.), Studies in
Comparative Austroasiatic Linguistics. London, The Hague: Mouton 1966 : 28-

Bista, D. B. Encounter with the Raute: The last hunting nomads of Nepal.
Kailash 4, 1976, p. 317-327

BlaZek, V. and C. Boisson, The Diffusion of Agricultural Terms from
Mesopotamia. Archi'v Orientalni' 60, 1992, 16-3

Bomhard, A. On the Origin of Sumerian. MT III, 1997, 75-92

Burrow, Th. Some Dravidian words in Sanskrit. Transactions of the
Philological Society, 1945, 79-120

---, Loanwords in Sanskrit. Transactions of the Philological Society, 1946,

---, Dravidian Studies VII: Further Dravidian Words in Sanskrit. Bulletin
of the School of Oriental and African Studies 12, 1947-48, 365-396

---, The Sanskrit language. London: Faber and Faber 1955

---, Sanskrit and the pre-Aryan Tribes and Languages, Bulletin of the
Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Febr. 1958, Transact. 19

---, The Sanskrit Language. (3rd ed.) London.

---, Sanskrit words having dental -s- after i, u, and r. In: A. M. Davies
and W. Meid. Studies in Greek, Italic, and Indo-European linguistics :
offered to Leonard R. Palmer on the occasion of his seventieth birthday,
June 5, 1976. Innsbruck : Inst. f. Sprachwissenschaft d. Univ. 1976,

--- and M. B. Emeneau, A Dravidian Etymological Dictionary. Oxford:
Clarendon Press 1960

---, A Dravidian Etymological Dictionary. Second Edition. Oxford: Clarendon
Press 1984

---, Dravidian Borrowings from Indo-Aryan. Berkeley : University of
California Press 1962

Cavalli-Sforza, L.L., P. Menozzi, A. Piazza. The history and geography of
human genes. Princeton: Princeton University Press 1994.

Cavalli-Sforza, L. L. and F., The Great Human Diasporas. The History of
Diversity and Evolution. Reading MA : Helix Books 1995

Crooke, W. The Tribes and Castes of the North-west provinces and Oudh.
Calcutta: Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing 1906

Dani, A.H. and V. M. Masson, History of civilizations of Central Asia.
Volume I. The dawn of civilization: earliest times to 700 B.C. Paris:
Unesco Publishing 1992, 357-378

Das, R. P. The hunt for foreign words in the Rgveda. IIJ 38, 1995, 207-238

Deshpande, M. M. and P.E. Hook (eds.), Aryan and Non-Aryan in India, Ann
Arbor: Center for South and South-East Asian Studies, University of
Michigan 1979

De Silva, M.W. Sugathapala, Vedda language of Ceylon; texts and lexicon.
Mu"nchener Studien zur Sprachwissenschaft. Beiheft n.F. 7. Mu"nchen: R.
Kitzinger, 1972

Diakonoff, I.M. Hurro-Urartian Borrowings in Old Armenian. JAOS 105, 1985,
597- 604

---, External Connections of the Sumerian Language. MT III, 1997, 54-62

Ehret, Christopher. Language change and the material correlates of language
and ethnic shift. Antiquity 62, 1988, 564-74

Elfenbein, J.H. A periplous of the 'Brahui problem'. Studia Iranica 16,
1987, 215-233

Emeneau, M. B. India as a linguistic area. Language 32, 1956, 3-16

---, and Th. Burrow, Dravidian Borrowings from Indo-Aryan. Berkeley :
University of California Press 1962

Erdosy, G. (ed.). The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia. (Indian Philology
and South Asian Studies, A. Wezler and M. Witzel, eds., vol. 1).
Berlin/New York : de Gruyter 1995

Fairservis, W. A. The Harappan Civilization and its Writing. A Model for
the Decipherment of the Indus Script. New Delhi: Oxford 1992

---, Central Asia and the Rgveda: the archaeological evidence. In: G.
Erdosy (ed.) The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia. Berlin/New York : de
Gruyter 1995, 206-212

---, The Harappan Civilization and the Rgveda. In: M. Witzel (ed.) Inside
the texts, Beyond the Texts. New Approaches to the Study of the Vedas.
(Harvard Oriental Series, Opera Minora 2). Cambridge 1997, 61-68.

Funayama, T. Remarks on Religious Predominance in Kashmir; Hindu or
Buddhist? In: Y. Ikari, A study of the NIlamata. Kyoto 1994, 367-375

Fussman, G. Atlas linguistique des parlers dardes et kafirs.

Paris 1972

Gardner, J. R. The Developing Terminology for the Self in Vedic India.
Ph.D.Thesis, Iowa U., 1998

Gardner, P. Lexicostatistics and Dravidian Differentiation in situ. Indian
Linguistics 41, 1980, 170-180

Gening, V.F. Mogil'nik Sintashta i problema rannikh Indoiranskikh plemen.
Sovietskaya Arkheologiya 1977, 53-73

Glover, L.C. and Higham, C.F.W. New evidence for early rice cultivation in
South, Southeast and East Asia. In: D. R. Harris (ed.), The origins and
spread of agriculture and pastoralism in Eurasia. London: UCL Press 1996:

Gordon, K. H. Phonology of Dhangar-Kurux, Kathmandu 1976

Grierson, G. Linguistic Survey of India. Calcutta: Office of the
superintendent of government printing, India 1903-22 (repr. Delhi 1967)

Haudricourt, A.G. Daªque (Daic) In: Shafer 1964, 453-525

Heine-Geldern, R. Das Dravidaproblem. Anzeiger der O"sterreichischen
Akademie der Wissenschaften, Jg. 1964, no. 9, Wien 1964: H. Bo"hlaus, pp.

O. v. Hinu"ber, Die Kolophone der Gilgit-Handschriften, Studien zur
Indologie und Iranistik 5/6, 1980, 49-82

---, BrAhmI inscriptions on the history and culture of the upper Indus
valley. In: K. Jettmar et al., Rock Inscriptions in the Indus Valley.
Antiquities of Northern Pakistan. Reports and Studies, vol. 1. Mainz:
Philipp von Zabern 1989: 41-72

Hock, H.H. Substratum influence on (Rig-Vedic) Sanskrit? Studies in the
Linguistic Sciences 5, 1975, 76-125

---, [On Bangani]

Hodgson, B. H. On the Che'pa'ng and Ku'su'nda tribes of Nepa'l. JASB 17,
1848, 650-58

---, Comparative Vocabulary of the languages of the broken tribes of
Ne'pa'l, JSAB 22, 317-427 = B. H. Hodgson, Miscellaneous Essay relating to
Indian subjects. Vol. 1. London: Tru"bner 1880, 171-175. >>

Hoffmann, Karl. Die alt-indoarischen Wo"rter mit -ND-, besonders im Rgveda.
Ph. Diss. Mu"nchen 1941

---, Aufsa"tze zur Indoiranistik. (ed. J. Narten, vols.1-2) Wiesbaden. 1975-76

---, Aufsa"tze zur Indoiranistik. (ed. S. Glauch, R. Plath, S. Ziegler,
vol. 3). Wiesbaden 1992

Illich-Svitych, V. M. Opyt sravneniya nostraticheskikh yazykov. II, Moskva:
Nauka 1976

Iyer, L.V. Ramaswamy, Dravidic place names in the plateau of Persia,
Quarterly Journal of the Mythic Society of India 20, 1929-30, 49-53

Jarrige, J.-F. Continuity and Change in the North Kachi Plain (Baluchistan,
Pakistan) at the Beginning of the Second Millennium B.C., in: South Asian
Archaeology 1983, ed. J. Schotsman and M. Taddei. Naples: Istituto
Universitario Orientale, 1985, pp. 35-68.

Jettmar, K. et al., Rock Inscriptions in the Indus Valley. Antiquities of
Northern Pakistan. Reports and Studies, vol. 1. Mainz: Philipp von Zabern

J•rgensen, H. A dictionary of the Classical NewarI, K•benhavn 1936

Joshi, S.M. (ed.) ParyAcavAcI zabda Koz, Kathmandu : NepAl RAjakIya PrajJA-
PratiSThAn VS 2030 (1974)

Kajale, M. D. Current status of Indian palaeo"thnobotany: introduced food
plants with a discussion of the historical and evolutionary development of
Indian agriculture and agricultural systems in general. In: J. Renfrew
(ed.) New Light on Early Framing. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press
1991, 155-189.

Karlgren, B. Analytical Dictionary of Chinese and Sino-Japanese. Paris 1923

Kenoyer, J. M. Ancient Cities of the Indus Valley Civilization. Oxford:
Oxford University Press/American Institute of Pakistan Studies 1998

Konow, S. On some facts connected with the Tibeto-Burman dialect spoken in
Kanawar, ZDMG 59, 1905, 117-125.

Koppers, W. Die Bhil in Zentralindien. Horn: F. Berger 1948

Krauskopf, G. Ma†tres et posse'de's; Les rites et l'ordre social chez les
Tharu (Ne'pal). Paris : Editions du Centre National de la Recherche
Scientifique 1989
Krishnamurti, Bh. Dravidian personal pronouns, Studies in Indian
Linguistics, Poona and Annamalainagar, 1968, 189-205

Krishnamurti, Bh. Comparative Dravidian Studies since Current Trends 1969.
In: V. Z. Acson and R. L. Leed (eds.), For Gordon Fairbanks. Honolulu:
Univ. of Hawaii Press 1985, 212-231

Kuiper, F.B. J.Beitrõge zur altindischen Wortforschung. tùlaµ "Geklatsch".
Zeitschrift fÔr Indologie und Iranistik 8,1931, 250-251

---, Ai. MandAkinI 'EN. verschiedener Flu"sse'. Acta Orientalia 17, 1939,
17-20 = 1997: 3-6

---, Proto-Munda words in Sanskrit. Amsterdam: Noord-Hollandsche Uitgevers
Maatschappij 1948

---, An Austro-Asiatic myth in the RV. Amsterdam : Noord-Hollandsche Uitg.
Mij. 1950.

---, The Genesis of a Linguistic Area. IIJ 10, 1967, 81-102

---, Proto-Munda words in Sanskrit. Amsterdam 1948

---, Rigvedic loan-words. In: O. Spies (ed.) Studia Indologica. Festschrift
fu"r Willibald Kirfel zur Vollendung seines 70. Lebensjahres. Bonn:
Orientalisches Seminar 1955.

---, Nahali, A comparative Study. Amsterdam 1962

---, The sources of Nahali vocabulary. In: N. H. Zide (ed.), Studies in
comparative Austroasiatic Linguistics. The Hague 1966, 96-192

---, Aryans in the Rigveda, Amsterdam-Atlanta: Rodopi 1991

---, On a Hunt for 'Possible' Objections. IIJ 38, 1995, 239-247

---, Selected writings on Indian Linguistics and Philology. A. Lubotsky,
M.S. Oort and M. Witzel (eds.). Amsterdam-Atlanta : Rodopi 1997

Laufer, B. Loan Words in Tibetan, T'oung Pao 17, 1916-18, 403 ff.

Leal, D. Chitwan Tharu Phonemic Summary. Kirtipur: Summer Inst. of
Linguistics 1972

Le'vy, S. Pre'-Aryen et pre'-Dravidien dans l'Inde. Journal Asiatiqe 203,
1923, 1-57 [transl. in: Bagchi 1929, 63-126]

Littauer, M. and Crouwel, J. H. Wheeled vehicles and Ridden Animals in the
Ancient Near East, Leiden : Brill 1979

Lorimer, David L. R. The Burushaski language. Oslo : H. Aschenhoug 1935-38.

---, Burushaski and its alien neighbours: Problems in linguistic contagion.
Transactions of the Philological Society 1937, 63-98

Majumdar, D. N. The Fortunes of Primitive Tribes. Lucknow 1944

MacDonell, A. A. and A.B. Keith, Vedic Index of Names and Subjects, Delhi
1967 [repr. of 1912]

Malla, K. P. Linguistic Archaeology of the Nepal Valley. A Preliminary
Report. Kailash 8, 1981, 5-23

Manandhar, Th. L. Newari-English Dictionary. Modern language of Kathmandu
Valley, ed. by Dr. Anne Vergati. Delhi: Agam Kala Prakashan 1986

Masica, C. P. Defining a Linguistic Area. South Asia. Chicago: The
University of Chicago Press 1971

---, Aryan and non-Aryan elements in North Indian agriculture. In: M.
Deshpande, P.E. Hook (eds.). Aryan and Non-Aryan in India. Ann Arbor :
Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Michigan 1979,

Mayrhofer, M. Kurzgefasstes etymologisches Wo"rterbuch des Altindischen.
Heidelberg 1956-1976. (KEWA)

---, Wo"rterbuch des Altindoarischen. Heidelberg 1986-96 (EWA)

---, U"ber den spontanen Zerebralnasal im fru"hen Indo-Arischen. In:
Me'langes d'Indianisme. Fs. Renou, Paris 1968, 509-517

McAlpin, David W., Elamite and Dravidian: Further evidence of relationship.
(With discussion by M.B. Emeneau, W.H. Jacobsen, F.B.J. Kuiper, H.H.
Paper, E. Reiner, R. Stopa, F. Vallat, R.W. Wescott, and a reply by
McAlpin). Current Anthropology 16, 1975, 105-115

---, Linguistic prehistory: The Dravidian situation, in Deshpande and Hook
1979, 175-189

---, Proto-Elamian-Dravidian: the evidence and its implications.
Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, 71, Philadelphia 1981

Meadow, R. The Transition to Agriculture in the Old World. The Review of
Archaeology (Special Issue ed. by Ofer Bar-Yosef) 19, 1998, 12-21.

Morgenstierne, G. Preface to Lorimer 1935, vii-xxx

---, Notes on Burushaski phonology. Norsk Tidskrift for Sprogvidenskap14,
1947, 61-95

---, Irano-Dardica. Wiesbaden 1973

Mundlay, Asha. Nihali lexicon. MT II, 1996, 17-40
Nampoothiry, M.N. Indian Toponymy. A critical evaluation of the work done
in this field in India with a bibliography in: P. Ramachandran 1987: 1-47

Nurse, D. A Hypothesis of the origin of Swahili. Azania 18, 1983, 127-150.

Oberlies, Th. Review Article: F.B. J. Kuiper: Aryans in the Rigveda. IIJ
37, 1994, 333-349.

Parpola, A. Interpreting the Indus script. In: Lal, B. B. and S. P. Gupta,
Frontiers of the Indus Civilization: Sir Mortimer Wheeler commemoration
volume. New Delhi 1984: 179-191

---, Deciphering the Indus script. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1994.

---, The Dasas and the Coming of the Aryans. In: M. Witzel (ed.) Inside the
texts, Beyond the Texts. New Approaches to the Study of the Vedas. (Harvard
Oriental Series, Opera Minora 2). Cambridge 1997, 193-202

Piggott, S. The earliest wheeled transport: from the Atlantic coast to the
Caspian Sea. London: Thames & Hudson 1992

Pinnow, K.H. Zu den altindischen Gewa"ssernamen. Beitra"ge zur
Namensforschung 4, 1953, 217-234; 5, 1954, 1-19.

---, Versuch einer historischen Lautlehre der Kharia-Sprache, Wiesbaden 1959

Pokorny, J. Indogermanisches etymologisches Wo"rterbuch, Bern/Mu"nchen 1959

Possehl, G. Meluhha. in: J. Reade (ed.) The Indian Ocean in Antiquity.
London: Kegan Paul Intl. 1996a, 133-208

---, Indus Age. The writing System. Philadelphia: University of
Pennsylvania Press 1996b

---, The Transformation of the Indus Civilization, Journal of World
Prehistory 11, 1997, 425-72

Proferes, The Formation of Vedic liturgies. Harvard Ph.D. Thesis, 1999

Przyludski, J. Further Notes on Non-Aryan Loans in Indo-Aryan, in Bagchi
1929 : 145-149

Ramachandran, Puthusseri and K. Nachimuthu (eds.) Perspectives in Place
Name Studies : Proceedings of the National Seminar on South Indian Place
Names, Held at Trivandrum on 21-23 June 1985. A Festschrift to Prof. V.I.
Subramoniam, On His Sixtieth Birth Day. Trivandrum: Place Name Society,

Randhawa, M. S. A history of agriculture in India. New Delhi : Indian
Council of Agricultural Research 1980-1986.

Rau, W. The Earliest Literary Evidence for Permanent Vedic Settlements. In:
M. Witzel (ed.) Inside the Texts, Beyond the Texts. New Approaches to the Study of the
Vedas. Harvard Oriental Series. Opera Minora, vol. 2. Cambridge 1997,

Reinhard, J. Aperßu sur les KusuNDA. Objets et Mondes 9, 1969, 89-106

---, The Raute: Notes on a nomadic hunting and gathering tribe of Nepal.
Kailash 2, 1974, 233- 271

Reinhard, J. and Tim Toba. A preliminary linguistic analysis and vocabulary
of the Kusunda language, Kirtipur: Summer Institute of Linguistics and
Tribhuvan University 1970

Sankalia, H. D. Studies in the historical and cultural geography and
ethnography of Gujarat (places and peoples in inscriptions of Gujarat: 300
B.C. - 1300 A.D.) Poona: Deccan College 1949

Schmid, L. Report on a survey of Dardic languages of Kashmir. Indian
Linguistics 42, 1981, 17-21

Shafer, R. NahAlI, A linguistic study in paleoethnography. Harvard Journal
of Asiatic Studies 5, 1940, 346-371

---, Ethnogeography of Ancient India, Wiesbaden 1954

---, Introduction to Sino-Tibetan. Wiesbaden 1966-7.

Shaffer, J. G. and Diane A. Lichtenstein. The concepts of "cultural
tradition" and "palaeoethnicity" in South Asian archaeology. In: G. Erdosy
(ed.) 1995, 126-154.

Sharma, D.D. Old Indo-Aryan element in Kinnauri. Dr. B.R. Sharma
Felicitation Volume, Tirupati: Kendriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha 1986, 149-155

Southworth, F. Linguistic stratigraphy of north India. In: F. Southworth
and M.L. Apte (eds.), Contact and Convergence in Indian Languages,
International Journal of Dravidian Linguistics 3, 1974, 201-223

---, Lexical evidence for early contacts between Indo-Aryan and Dravidian.
In: M. Deshpande and P.E. Hook. (eds.). Aryan and Non-Aryan in India. Ann
Arbor : Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of
Michigan 1979, 191-233

---, Ancient economic plants of South Asia: linguistic archaeology and
early agriculture. In: Languages and Cultures. Studies in Honor of Edgar
C. Polome'. M.A. Jazayery and W. Winter (eds.), Berlin/New York : Mouton
de Gruyter 1988, 559-668

---, The reconstruction of Prehistoric South Asian language contact, in E.
H. Bendix (ed.), The Uses of Linguistics. New York: New York Academy of
Sciences 1990, p. 207-234
---, Reconstructing social context from language: Indo-Aryan and Dravidian
prehistory. In: The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia, ed. G. Erdosy (ed.).
Berlin/New York : de Gruyter, 1995, 258-277

Starostin, S.A. Rekonstruktsiya drevnekitaiskoi fonologicheskoi sistemy,
Moscow 1989

Szemere'nyi, O., Einfu"hrung in die vergleichende Sprachwissenschaft.
Darmstadt 1970

Tamot, K. and I. Alsop, The Kushan-period Sculpture from the reign of Jaya
Varma-, A.D. 185, Kathmandu, Nepal: Asian Arts, July 10, 1996, at:

Thomas, F.W., The Zan Zun language, JRAS 1933, 405-410

Tikkanen, B. On Burushaski and other ancient substrata in northwest South
Asia. Studia Orientalia (Helsinki), 64, 1988, 303-325

Turner, R. L. A comparative Dictionary of the Indo-Aryan Languages. London 1966

Tyler, Stephen, Dravidian and Uralian: the lexical evidence. Language 44,
1968, 798-812.

van Driem, G. and SuhnU RAm SharmA. In Search of Kentum Indo-Europeans in
the Himalayas. Indogermanische Forschungen 101, 1996, 107-146

---, Some Grammatical Observations on BaGgANI. Indogermanische Forschungen
102, 1997, 179-198 (cf.

Vallat, F. Suse et Elam. Paris : Editions ADPF 1980

---, Ele'ments de ge'ographie e'lamite (re'sume') PO 11, 1985, 49-54

Wells, B. An Introduction to Indus Writing. MA. Thesis, U. of Calgary 1998

[ 2nd ed.: Early Sites Research Society (West) Monograph Series, 2,
Independence MO 1999]

P. Whitehouse, P. The External Relationships of the Nihali and Kusunda
Languages. MT III, 1997, 4-44

Witzel, Michael, On the location of the Licchavi Capital of Nepal.
Festschrift fu"r P. Thieme (= StII 5/6) 1980, pp. 311-337

----, Zu den Namen einiger vedischer Schulen. StII 10, 1983/85, 231-237

---, On the localisation of Vedic texts and schools (Materials on Vedic
zAkhAs, 7). G. Pollet (ed.), India and the Ancient world. History, Trade
and Culture before A.D. 650. P.H.L. Eggermont Jubilee Volume. Leuven 1987,

---, Tracing the Vedic dialects. In: Colette Caillat (ed.), Dialectes dans
les litte'ratures indo-aryennes. Paris : Institut de Civilisation Indienne
1989, 97-264

--, Nepalese Hydronomy. Towards a history of settlement in the Himalayas.
G. Toffin (ed.), Nepal, Past and Present. Proceedings of the Franco-German
Conference, Arc-et-Senans, June 1990. New Delhi 1993

---, The Brahmins of Kashmir. In: Ikari, Y. (ed.) A study of the NIlamata -
Aspects of Hinduism in Ancient Kashmir -. Kyoto: Institute for Research in
Humanities, Kyoto University 1994, 237-294

---, Early Indian history: Linguistic and textual parameters. In: The
Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia, ed. G. Erdosy (ed.), = Indian Philology
and South Asian Studies, ed. A. Wezler and M. Witzel, vol. 1. Berlin/New
York : de Gruyter 1995, 85-125

---, Rgvedic history: poets, chieftains and polities. In: The Indo-Aryans
of Ancient South Asia, ed. G. Erdosy 1995, 307-352.

---, Early Sanskritization. Origins and development of the Kuru State. In:
B. Ko"lver (ed.), Recht, Staat und Verwaltung im klassischen Indien. The
State, the Law, and Administration in Classical India. Mu"nchen : R.
Oldenbourg 1997a, 27-52

---, The Development of the Vedic Canon and its Schools: The Social and
Political Milieu. (Materials on Vedic zAkhAs 8). In: M. Witzel (ed.) Inside the Texts,
Beyond the Texts. New Approaches to the Study of the Vedas. Harvard
Oriental Series. Opera Minora, vol. 2. Cambridge 1997b, 257-345

---, Aryan and non-Aryan Names in Vedic India. Data for the linguistic
situation, c. 1900-500 B.C. in : J. Bronkhorst & M. Deshpande, Aryan and
Non-Non-Aryan in South Asia. Evidence, Interpretation and Ideology.
Harvard Oriental Series. Opera Minora, vol. 3. Cambridge 1999, 337-404

Zide, N. H. Munda and non-Munda Austroasiatic Languages, in: Current Trends
in Linguistics, 5. The Hague: Mouton 1969, 411-430

Zide, A. and N.H. Zide, Semantic reconstruction in proto-Munda cultural
vocabulary. Indian Linguistics 34, 1973, 1-24

---, Proto-Munda cultural vocabulary: evidence for early agriculture. In:
Ph. N. Jenner et al., Proceedings of the First International Austroasiatic
Conference. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press 1976, 1295-1334

---, On Nihali. MT II, 1996, 93- 100

Zoller, C. P. Bericht u"ber besondere Archaismen im Bangani, einer Western
Pahari- Sprache. Mu"nchener Studien zur Sprachwissenschaft 49, 1988, 173-200

---, Bericht u"ber grammatische Archaismen im Bangani, Mu"nchener Studien
zur Sprachwissenschaft 50, 1989, 159-218
Zvelebil, K. The descent of the Dravidians. International Journal of
Dravidian Linguistics 1-2, 1972, 56-63

---, Review of McAlpin 1981, JAOS 105, 1985, 364-372

---, Dravidian Linguistics: an Introduction. Pondicherry: Pondicherry
Institute of Linguistics and Culture 1990


(1) Settlement in Gandhara/Panjab: early books 5, 6 up to
Yamuna/Ganga, e.g. atri poem 5.52.17; the relatively old poem 6.45.13 has
gAGgya, next to chieftain bRbu.

(2) Oberlies' criticism is written from an IE-centered point of view
similar to that of Mayrhofer (EWA). This is fine from the point of view of
someone who has to write an etymological dictionary of OIA; however, due to
the clear attestation of cultural, ethnical and religious amalagamation of
IIr/IA and local elements visible in the RV, the existence of such a large
number of 'foreign' words must not be minimized in its importance. Nor
does Oberlies offer an explanation or analysis of the remaining 250 words;
they are simply 'non-IA". In a similar vein, R.P. Das has written a much
more 'engaged' review of Kuiper's book, tellingly entitled 'The hunt for
foreign words in the ègveda' (IIJ 38, 1995, 207-238), which induced Kuiper
to write a well-deserved, rather scathing reply in the same volume. It is
difficult to understand, in view of the well-known evidence (added to in
this paper), how one can regard the language (and religion, culture) of the
ègvedic Arya as 'relatively free from foreign influences' (Oberlies 1994:
347). "Pristine" languages and cultures do not exist, nor did they at c.
1500 BCE.

(3) McAlpin 1981 is based on the lexico-statistic calculation of P. Gardner
1980; he distinguishes:
Proto-Drav.: South Drav./Central Drav. - Brahui 4100-3000 BC
PDr-1 : SDr/CDr - Kurukh-Malto 2800-1900 BC
PDr-2 : SDr - CDr (Kolami, Naiki, Parji) 1500-1100 BC
PDr-3 : SDr I - SDr II (Tamil, Telugu) 1000-900 BC.

(4) It has to be observed that the boar does not play a role in the Indus
civilization: "apparently not domesticated, not used in Indus economy"
Kenoyer 1998: 165; this rather seems to be an eastern phenomenon (thus
Munda?); cf. below Munda and Sino-Tib. 'pig' and cf. the ancient boar cult
on the Nicobar Islands.

(5) Pali milAca is influenced by a 'tribal' name, pizAca, as is Sindhi
milindu, milidu by pulinda; the word has been further 'abbreviated' by
avoiding the difficult cluster ml- : Prakrit mecha, miccha, Kashmiri
mIi~c.(h), Bengali mech (a Tib.-Burm tribe) and perhaps Pashai mec@ if not
< *mEcca 'defective' (Turner, CDIAL 10389. -- Parpola 1994: 174 has attempted a Dravidian explanation. He understands meluHHa (var. melaHHa) as

Drav. *mElakam [mElaxam] 'high country' (= Baluchistan) (=ta-milakam) and points to Neo-Assyr. baluHHu 'galbanum', sinda 'wood from Sindh'. He traces mlech,

milakkha back to *mlekS, which is seen as agreeing, with central Drav. metathesis with *mlExa = mElaxa-m. Kuiper 1991:24 indicates not infrequent elision of (Dravid.) -a-

when taken over into Skt. -- Shafer 1954 has a Tib-Burm. etymology *mltSe; Southworth 1990: 223 reconstructs PDrav. 2 *mu.z.i/mi.z.i 'say, speak, utter', DEDR 4989, tami.l.

'Tamil' < 'own speech'. (6) The earliest archaeologically found rice is said to come from Koldihwa near Allahabad (c. 5440/5430 BCE or even earlier); this has been doubted.

A more probable date is c. 4000 BCE, at Chirand in Bihar. (7) Southworth 1990: 229, n.10: PIA *camala/cAvala < TB ca-? (dza); cf. Southworth 1974, with an early Drav.

substrate in the northwest and in the Gangetic plains: < Tib.-Burm. *cA + vAl/vAr < Drav. vari? -- Other IA words for 'rice' (oryza sativa): OIA taNDula < Drav. (Southworth 1988: 660);

OIA zAli < Tib.-Burm. cau- / Austr. Csamaq (Benedict 1990); P.Drav.1 *manji(k) DEDR 3790, 'rice plant', but also 'seed' in Kurukh. (8) Benedict 1972: 123 [@bras, '@bras]; cf. also

TB *mruw 'grain, seed' Benedict 43: no.150 Tib. •bru 'grain' (and Nepal. inscriptions, with -brU, -bU, see below), and (?) Lushai buh 'boiled rice'. (9) Southworth 1990: 229 n. 9. - In

Drav. the word for 'rice' cannot be reconstructed for the early stages (PDrav. 1), where only the meaning 'seed' is found: Kurukh manj‡ 'seed in general' and Tamil arici 'seed' in: Elav-arici

'cardamom seed' DEDR 768. -- Cf. also Guj. varI "particular kind of grain", Mar. varI 'grain Coix barbata', Pkt. varaia 'a kind of rice'; CDIAL 11328 varI, -- all on the Drav. trail South from

Sindh. (10) Ved. vrIhi has been supplanted in NIA almost everywhere by Tib.-Burm. CDIAL 4749 *cAmala/cAvala, Pkt. caulù (pl.), cavala, and NIA bhAt 'cooked rice' (Southworth 1988: 666);

for this see Benedict 1972: 28 no. 66 'to eat', Kanauri za, Garo tSha 'eat', Lushai fa•, fAng, Bahing dz'a, Newari jA 'cooked rice', jAki 'uncooked rice' (cf. Lushai caw 'cooked rice', caw ciar);

the Tib.-Burm. word apparently is a loan from Austro-Thai: *Csamaq, s. Benedict 1990: 175. (11) Benedict 1972: 149 n. 408, 491-2 Tib.-Burm. *may as early loan-word from Austro-Thai,

e.g. Indones. *imay 'rice' (but O.Jpn. yo"ne, Jpn. ine, -shine 'rice plant' < *yinai, according to Benedict 1990: 234; cf. also ne 'root'); Chin. miei < *mi@r 'rice (paddy)', Bodo-Garo *m[a,e]y;

Karen *may; cf. Tib.-Burm. *s-min 'ripe, cooked' ) Benedict 1972: 106 $ 432 (< Proto-Miao-Yao *snang 'cooked rice'?, see Benedict 1992:234). (12) Benedict 1990: 43 reconstructs

Proto-W.-Malayo-Polynes. (Hesperonesian) *pajay (Mal. padi, Jav. pari, cf. the Engl. loan paddy; however he also has (1990: 77) Proto-Austrones. *pagr[@]y, that differs from the

S. Asian/Central Asian cluster *vr‡jhi/bras by a transposed(?) -r-,

(perhaps: Austric **w¾-r@ji / *pa-Cj/gr@y > *pagr@y, *pajay??).

(13) Benedict 1990 assumes Proto-Austro-Thai *krumay, whence Jpn. kome,
kuma(-shine). In connection with the Tib.-Burm. and Sinitic forms (*mi,
may, Benedict 1972) a compound **kru + **may may be construed. The
proto-form **kru seems to be the source for the words for 'rice' in
Sino-Tibetan, Austro-Asiatic and Austro-Thai (including Austronesian).

(14) The Austro-Asiat. words still are very close to those in Austro-Thai:
PMunda *runG-ku(•g/•b) < Austro-As. *@rig, 'millet, Panicum militare'. Pinnow 1959: 96 $ 139 derives *ruG from Kharia DuruG 'to pound rice' etc. (p. 92 $ 116),

and -ku(•b) from Sant. hoRo, Mundari huRu etc. (p.122 $ 244), cf. also Kharia kho~sRo~ pe• etc. (p. 171 $ 370). -- In Munda there is, next to Kharia romku•b,

also Juang ru(n)kU, Sora ruGkU-n, Bondo/Remo, Parengi ruGku, Gutob rukU (Pinnow 1959: 96), and in eastern Austro-As.: Khasi khau, Mon unko, Khmer oGkor;

- Thai khAu may be a loan word from Austro-As.? Further: Palaung ra-kO, Kuoi aGkau, Sue raGkao, Palaung ra-kO, Palaung-wa unko, Sakai: Krau (Ketiar) uG-kuok,

Sakai also: c@nroG 'husked rice', Krau (Kuala Tembeling) r@-kua• etc. (Pinnow 1959: 96, Kuiper 1962: 51f.). The variation in Austro-As., already observed by Kuiper,

points to a proto-form *(r)(n)-k(h)u. - Thus, Dhimal (= Tib.-Burm. Kiranti, eastern Himalaya) UnkhU 'rice', according to Kuiper < Munda *runku. (15) Details: kInAza 'plough man'

EWA: 'non-IE'; kInAra only RV 10.106.10; -- the following words all mean 'fisher' kevarta/kaivarta VS/TB; Pali, Pkt. kevaÈTTa, *kevATa, CDIAL 3469 and add., 3479;

Drav. according to Burrow, KEWA I 566, DEDR 1252

Tam. kayal 'carp', Mal. kayal 'a fish', etc.; kai- in kevarta; -- dAza VS, dazera lex. CDIAL 6314 a jAt tribe: DahA; -- daivara VS, see dhI, CDIAL add. 6819 NIA, Kuiper, KEWA II 105

~ tivara (lex.) = tribal name? -- puJjiSTha also 'bird catcher?', MS, VS, pauJjiSTha AV; no NIA etym.; -- bainda ~ SRbinda, Kuiper 1991,

EWA; -- mainAla < Drav. mIn 'fish'; --- zauSkala ~ zuSka 'dried up'? -- Further: talava 'musician' VS ~ taD Epic 'to play a muscal instrument'? Kuiper ZII 8,1931, 251;

-- ADambara-ghAta 'drummer' VS, A- ZB; Kuiper 1948: 85 f. from Proto-Munda, dundubhy-AghAta 'drummer' (RV), ëB EWA: onomatopoetic, Kuiper 1948: 84 Munda;

vINA-ghAthin 'lute player', also in Iran?, see EWA, Mayrhofer 1968, CDIAL 12048; vINA-vAda 'ditto'; -- pAlAgala 'messenger' ëB, -kalI ëS. no NIA continuants;

-- kaNTakI-kArI 'worker in thorns' VS; k- "thorn" ëB, Iran?, Greek akantha? -- bidala-kArI 'basket maker' VS, EWA "not clear", but cf. DEDR 5432 viL 'to split'; -- sirIn 'weaver?'

only RV 10.71.9 (Ved. Ind. 585-6); -- gaNaka 'astrologer' VS: RV, gaNa, *gRna, CDIAL 3993 and add.; Greek ageirO 'collect'; Kuiper 1948: 54 Munda; -- kusIdin 'money lender'

ëB, kusIda KS, TS; Pali kusIta 'lazy', etym.? ku+sad > Pali
ko-sajja?? -- parÕaka? a tribal name? VS "Bhilla" in commentary, EWA ~
paNi? -- paulkasa? VS a mixed tribe, Kuiper 1948: 54ff. -- Indo-Iran.:
malaga 'washer man' < AV, mala: IE *mel; -- upala-prakSinI from IA upalA 'mill stone' TS: kulAla 'potter' MS, KS, VS; EWA ~ RV kula 'hole, hollow', in mahAkula,

Pashai kOlAla 'potter' CDIAL 3341; -- kðRSI-vala RV a-, AV kArSivaNa : suffix variation!; -- vaNij RV, vANija KS 'trader' < van-ij 'winning goods' according to EWA,

Mayrhofer 1968. (16) Now there is one still older inscription which indicates Sanskritization of the valley already around the time of Jayavarman, c. 200 CE (see Kashinath

Tamot and Ian Alsop, The Kushan-period Sculpture from the reign of Jaya Varma-, A.D. 185, Kathmandu, Nepal: Asian Arts, July 10, 1996, at:





Michael Witzel, Autochthonous Aryans? The Evidence from Old Indian and Iranian Texts (2001)

Iravatham Mahadevan, Aryan or Dravidian or Neither? A Study of Recent Attempts to Decipher the Indus Script (1995-2000)

EJVS VOL. 11 (2004), ISSUE 2 (Dec)


Vol. 11 (2004) Issue 2 (December 13) : 19-57
(©) ISSN 1084-7561

Editor's note

This issue discusses a critical problem related to the beginnings of
the Vedic period: the supposed literate nature of the pre-Vedic
Harappan (or Indus) civilization (c. 2600-1900 BCE). The (Rg)vedic
texts contain a large number of words derived from pre-Vedic substrate
languages that refer to nature, village life, agriculture, music, and
folk religion (see EJVS 5-1, 1999). Therefore, it would be of great
interest to have access to any texts of preceding cultures in order to
expand on our knowledge of the genesis of early Indian civilization.

However, as argued in this issue, it is no longer tenable to claim that
the thousands of Indus inscriptions on 'seals', small tablets, and over
a dozen other media represent the systematic encoding of spoken
language, let alone to imagine 'lost' Indus literature. The degree to
which hints of language substrates may lay hidden in less systematic
puns involving Indus symbols is a matter of debate.

We must now seek other approaches to studying Indus symbols. This topic
will be explored in a forthcoming paper by S. Farmer, S. Weber, et al.,
discussed in latter sections of the present article, that looks at
regional and temporal variations in Indus sign use in different classes
of inscribed objects.

The resistance to writing of the Harappans (also apparent in the
contemporary Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex and other nearby
urban civilizations), in spite of their many centuries of contacts
with Mesopotamian writing, is of considerable interest to Vedicists,
given the post-Indus stress on oral composition and transmission seen
in the Rgveda, in later Vedic texts, and in early Sanskrit literature.
This topic will be explored in a future paper by M. Witzel, S. Farmer
and G. Thompson, that proposes a new model of the dating and
canonization of the Vedas.

A discussion of the topics presented in the current issue of EJVS is
scheduled to appear in SCIENCE Magazine on Dec. 17, 2004.



EJVS Vol. 11, Issue 2 : 19-57

The Collapse of the Indus-Script Thesis:
The Myth of a Literate Harappan Civilization

By Steve Farmer, Richard Sproat, and Michael Witzel


Archaeologists have long claimed the Indus Valley as one of the four
literate centers of the early ancient world, complete with long texts
written on perishable materials. We demonstrate the impossibility of
the lost-manuscript thesis and show that Indus symbols were not even
evolving in linguistic directions after at least 600 years of use.
Suggestions of how Indus inscriptions were used are examined in
nonlinguistic symbol systems in the Near East that served important
religious, political, and social functions without encoding speech or
serving as formal memory aids. Evidence is reviewed that the Harappans’
lack of a true script may have been tied to the role played by their
symbols in controlling large multilinguistic populations; parallels are
drawn to the later resistance of priestly elites to the literate
encoding of Vedic sources and to similar phenomena in esoteric
traditions outside South Asia. Discussion is provided on some of the
academic and political forces that helped sustain the Indus-script myth
for over 130 years and on ways in which our findings transform current
views of the Indus Valley and of the place of writing in ancient
civilizations in general.

The paper is available at: (fsw2.pdf)
and, of course, the EJVS website:

A discussion of the present paper is scheduled to appear in SCIENCE Magazine on Dec. 17, 2004.

ARTICLE: The Collapse of the Indus-Script Thesis: The Myth of a Literate Harappan Civilization (1217kb)

To top