Dr. Raj Balkaran

Soma. Say it aloud: “SO-ma.” Slides off the tongue, doesn’t it? This delicious ancient Sanskrit word has long been associated with psychedelic culture. Why? Popularized by Aldous Huxley and other prominent figures in western psychedelics including Valentina and Gordon Wasson, soma invokes a potent overlap between the rich realm of Indian mysticism and spiritually oriented psychedelic use. Sometime in the second millennia BCE a number of Vedic Sanskrit hymns were compiled into what is now known as the Ṛg Veda. The Ṛg Veda comprises the oldest extant compositions in any Indo-European language and is the world’s oldest surviving religious text (1500–2000BCE). Comprised of over 10,000 Sanskrit verses, the Ṛg Veda consists of 1,028 hymns divided into 10 books (called maṇḍalas, literally “circles”). The most commonly invoked deities are Indra the heroic leader of the gods, Agni the fire god, and Soma, the god of a vision-inducing magico-medicinal, plant-pressed concoction of the same name. The active ingredient of this divine brew is probably some sort of hallucinogenic plant, also called soma, native to the Himalayan regions of India. Soma is then a plant and its brew, and the Vedic god who personifies both to which an entire Book of the Ṛg Veda (comprised of 114 hymns) is dedicated… continue reading.

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