The Wine and The Vedas

RRR is sad.

RRR regrets about the stories he has told you on alcohol. He bites his tongue hard and presently mulls over getting the first ‘R’ expand into something else other than ‘Rum’, urlhmm…say, ‘Railway’? No, railway sounds dull. Hmmm…got it! ‘Ram’! Yeah, that’s good! Ram reflects our culture! RAM! The symbol of noble manhood of our nation. The Maryada Purushothaman. Prayers on my ears. Ram will sure wash away half the sin of singing paeans on alcohol until now. Yeah, from now on, the name of the site would be ‘Ram, Road and Ravings’. For Ram, I will wax on spirituality.

So what happened to the drink-poet? Has he gone insane!

Well, RRR finally has seen light through the dark clouds. He has found his true ancestors and realizes that they were all ardent teetotalers. Why isn’t he!

At the beginning of the row when thousands of people turned jobless as 418 bars were closed down in our state, RRR was a bit furious. He was concerned about the hapless families whose men worked in the bars. But as you know RRR never jumps the gun. He perked his ears up and listened to logic:

“Ban alcohol. It is against our culture, it will destroy our fragile customs and beliefs. We need not have to toe the line of the western culture.”

That ‘tradition’ part devastated RRR, he reeled on his feet.

Even though he puts up a lot show to prove himself suave and metro-sexual, he is at the core traditional. “Is it really against our culture, our tradition, the spirit of our ancestors?” He went out in broad daylight with a burning lamp to find the truth.

Of late RRR has changed quite a bit, he has turned incorrigibly silly and mawkish that you only have to remind him about the stories he has been regaling us with about alcohol in his blog to see him whimper like a school boy. He stammers. He regrets. He never knew, he says through snuffles, he has such good Samaritans and teetotalers as ancestors.

urluuHe sits down at his desk, still hurt, and begins to leaf through the ancient treatises and scriptures of our great nation just to see what his people in the hoary past once replenished themselves with.

Which side are you on? Deva or Asura?

After one hour of intense reading of Rig Veda I took my eyes from the soiled pages and gulped. A big gulp it was. Thank god, I write in the 21st century. Thank God, Rig Veda was written in the past. I gulped again. RRR would not stand a chance had it got the Vedas as its competitors.

Rig Veda celebrates wine and beer more ardently than all the alcohol stories I have ever written in RRR and the Economic Times.

“O Soma, you have been crushed, you flow as a stream to Indra, scattering joy on all sides, you bestow immortal food.”

That was only a curtain raiser.

Soma juice was a milky white juice fermented from a creeper called soma in ancient times. The creepers were pressed, and the juice was mixed with special ingredients, like milk or butter and was allowed to ferment. It was stored and carried around in leather vats by our ancestors in the Vedic period.

The poet of the Rig Veda goes ecstatic every time he gets a chance to extol the virtues and exhilarating powers of the juice. Even gods, he notices, drooled and lined up in the queue whenever a king or a sanyasin threw a yajnga. They greedily accepted the drink offered as it gave them strength and vitality. A whole book (1X) of the Veda was devoted to exalt the virtues of the drink which, he claimed, can tease the gods out from their heavens.

Indra was a funny, Falstafian guy. He used to get so inebriated that his belly inflated to huge proportions (beer belly?) and saliva flowed freely from his mouth (And I find fault with my neighbour Kuttan pillai in following the path of the God)!

While Sura was the drink of the masses, the upper class people – both the priests and the warriors– treated themselves with Soma. Comeurltg to Atharva Veda.  A dead man should only be sent to the nether world with “seas of wine, sugar, butter, milk etc,” it says.

Puranas regale us with the story on how gods attained monopoly over their preferred beverage.

Most of you know the story of how gods and demons churned the sea Palazhi to get Amrit. Well it was ‘sura’ which bobbed up first.  All those eyes which gathered around mount Manthara twinkled. But the poor demons were slow in the take off.  They were beaten on the race track and finally were cruelly denied even a small share of the catch – ‘sura’(alcoholic drink).

PS: To rub salt to the wound, the devas, half-drunk, began to tease the vanquished by calling them ‘asura’ (beings who didn’t get to Sura in time) in front of all those apsaras who broke into giggles. The name stuck.

When the woman in the home drinks.

We raise the roof over our women taking into drinks. “The evils of western culture,” reasons the psychologist referring his gargantuan textbook.

Here’s Ramayana.

” Having entered the rich Asoka forest abounding in many seats and houses and creepers Rama sat on an excellent seat, covered with a beautiful coverlet and well constructed. Like unto Purandara with Sachi he took Sita by the hand, made her sit and drink the wine distilled in the province of Mira. And in no time the servants brought for him well-cooked meat and various fruits. ” – The quote which captures the eye-opening scene is from Uttarakanda sarga 52 (or sarga 42 in some editions) of Valmiki Ramayana.

cave4The streets of Kishkindhaya reeked of spirits and the queen of the country, Tara was found merrily drunk. The queen of Birat used to send her servants to fetch her wine.

Oh, my God! Where were the moral police of the time! How did the Sanyasins of the times take to this social issue of drunk-women in the palaces and streets?

Few bothered.

The priests of those times themselves couldn’t resist the temptations of wine. Asuras mixed the flesh of his disciple Kacha in wine and served it to Sukracharya. Both Vasishta and Viswamithra, great sages, honoured guests with many kinds of food and wines.

Wine is called ‘the supreme being in liquid form’ in the Tantras, indispensable to rituals.

But on one condition.

Before you take it, the drink should be purified with mantras. That means, you have to wait patiently until the prayers are over. Five cups of wine is kosher, beyond that, the mind will separate from your body and even Tantra disapproves this.

(You are excused only when you become a national hero. Tantras pull out all stops in inspiring a hero to go the extreme:

” Drink, drink, and drink again, Till you be flat on the floor, Raising yourself, drink again. Liberation at your door.” )

Still most of the holy texts except perhaps the Vedas, wanted people to exercise caution, to take drinks moderately. In Mahabharata we see the whole clan of yadavas welcoming their doom with the aid of the drink. In Ramayana Lakshmana admonishes Sugreeva for getting drunk: “Wine is not to be indulged in by those who are in quest of religion or wealth or love for all these are destroyed through drink.” (Kish. 33).

Law giver Manu is firm: “There is no fault in taking meat, drinking wine or craving after flesh, these are natural, but to abstain from these is the highest attainment.”

The bar of our ancestors.
Perhaps it is from Sasthras like Artha Shasthra, Dharma Shasthra and Kama Shasthra we get a view of political and domestic codes regarding wine that existed during the times.

We would be pleasantly surprised to learn that a monitoring authority like our present day excise department existed in those times to look over the matters of wine. Wine shops were restricted to certain portions of the country and inspectors were appointed to take care of its functioning. Today we are familiar with stickers on bottles which prohibit a person from taking it outside a state. It is nothing new. The old law stipulated that: “Liquor shall not be taken out of  villages, nor liquor shop be closed to each other. Lest workmen spoil the work in hand, and Aryas violate their decency and virtuous character and may commnit indiscreet acts.”

Hey, does that sound a bell? We are copy cats!

It continues:

“These shops, shall contain many rooms (Now minimum 10 rooms required), provided with beds and seats apart (Now attached bathrooms are must). The drinking rooms shall contain scents, garlands of flowers, water and other comfortable things, suitable to varying seasons.”

A fashionable bar of the old times!

Click here to read the holy scripture of RRR: The Ten Commandments of RRR

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About Manu Remakant

Manu has written 301 stories in Rum, Road & Ravings. You can read all posts by here.

One Response to The Wine and The Vedas

  1. A beautiful piece on COCKTAIL RENAISSANCE ….. WELL WRITTEN Sir…..

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