Vedic Soma Yajnas and theirImprint on Christian Eucharist Rituals
(Compilation for a discourse by N.R.Srinivasan, Nashville, TN, USA, October 2015)
The General story of Soma sacrifice given in Rigveda Samhita is that Indra smote Vritra who encompassed waters, and set free the seven rivers (Sapta Sindhavah) for the sake of man and gave him the light of knowledge through the drink of Soma. The Soma sacrifice begins after the birth of Indra who was in his mother’s womb for thousand years; Indra is a Deva and not an ordinary being. The Soma sacrifice begins at midnight. As soon as Indra was born for killing Vritra he pervaded Heaven and Earth and was given Soma to drink by his parents Heaven and Earth, and he at once began his exploits and killed the Rakshasas.
Many Hindus and Western scholars think that Soma was really a juice which came to be regarded as a divine drink which bestowed everlasting life that was afterwards hypostatized and regarded as God, and a special ritual grew up with some chants under a special priest. This is a Puranic idea thrust upon the interpretation of the Rik Samhita due to lack of proper studies—lack of studying Rik Samhita and Yajurveda together and analyzing. Please go through my discourse Yajna, the Vedic Sacrifice for the proper understanding of the meaning of Yajnas.
Every now and then special Yajnas are performed in India and abroad by Hindus on a grand scale spending lots of money, time and elaborate preparations. Special sacrificial halls as described in Puranas are built in the form of a human body like temples; the mango leaves or festoons hung in front of the doors, and the position of the sacred Mandap (hall) in their midst suggests the position of the large intestines and of the heart in the body of a man with a view to achieve spiritual goals. The three sacrificial fires represent the three fires in the body.
Soma Yajanas are of different kinds and timings. They bare split into three different kinds: 1) Ekaaha-- one day ritual; 2) Ahina—2 to 12 days; ,and 3) Satra—12 days to one year. Looking at the present day Homas and Yajans in vogue it may be said Agnishta homa is an example of one day Yajna Ekaaha, Vaajapeya Yajna is an example of Ahina and Gavamayamna is an example of Satra type of Yajna.
Soma Yajnas are the most complex, controversial and misinterpreted of the Yajnas described in Vedas, particularly by the Western authors of Vedas. All the three fires Aahavaniya, Grahapatya and Dakshinaagni are used in these Yajnas. Vedas mention seven kinds of Agni (fires). The most important part of Soma Yajna is the offering of the Soma juice three times a day. These Yajnas call for four groups of four priests totaling sixteen. The Hota group (the Libator or Invoker priest and his assistants) of four priests is responsible for chanting the Rigveda to invite the Gods to the sacrifice. Adhvarya group (Path maker and his assistants) is the one that offers the oblations reciting the Yajurveda mantras (Yajuses) and also the overall coordination of the sacrifice. The Udgaata group (The Chanter and his assistants) of Samaveda Priests is responsible for singing Saamans (Saamaveda Mantras) in the sacrifice. The last Brahmaa group are responsible for the overall welfare of the sacrifice. They are also responsible for expiation rituals Praayaschitta whenever or wherever needed if a defect in performance arises. We find the first three groups only in Early Rigvedic tradition and the last one seems to be later addition and so also Atharva Veda.
The seven common Yajnas in soma Yajna are—Agnishtoma, Atyagnishtoma, Aptoryama, Atiraatra, Uktya, Shodasi, and Vajapeya. Agnishtoma is fundamental to all these and the foundation. In this Yajana Soma is offered three times a day for one day. Also this calls for a goat sacrifice as Pasu. Madhvacharya suggested an alternate to this practice by recommending goat made out of wheat flower and offering it to the sacrificial fire. It is evident this Yajna and animal sacrifice remained popular during his days and in later period also. The goat was offered as Pasu for devas Agni and Soma.
Gandharvas are demigods known for their melodies. You may recall how Arjuna became a talented dancer spending his time in the company of Chitrangadha and Urvasi in Indraloka. There is an interesting mythological story as to how Gandharvas attained talents in Fine Arts. Gandharvas sprang from the fragrance of the flowers. Once they stole the Soma plant whose inebriating and invigorating sap was much sought after by the Devas. Its theft made the Gods very unhappy. Saraswati promised to recover the Soma Plant. She went to the garden of the Gandharvas and with her Veena (lute) created enchanting tunes: Raaga and Raaginis. Gandharvas begged from her the music. Saraswati agreed to bless them with musical talent subject to their returning Soma plant. Gandharvas returned the Soma plant and learned the music from Saraswati. In time, they became celestial musicians whose melodies had more power to rouse the mind than any intoxicant. It became a powerful means to develop Bhaktimarga too.
Soma is a leafless plant whose stalks are immersed in water and crushed with stone to extract the Soma juice. Ephedra, the one plant used by Kerala Brahmins and used to this day by the Parsis grown as mountain grown hallucinogen Haoma could be the Soma mentioned in Rigveda according to the information available today. It is however a secret kept with the Rishis in ancient days like the secret mantras they kept to themselves. Somas may not also mean a single plant for extraction. They are strained and poured into various vessels made of wood. Each vessel is intended for one deity or group of deities. Thus the Aindra-Vaayavya cup is meant for Gods Indra and Vaayu. This Soma juice in cups is offered to the deity by singing Saamaveda and reciting Rigveda Mantras. Then the juice is offered to the fire requesting it to carry the same to the desired deities. Then all the priests partake a little of this blessed juice from various vessels like Teerhta prasaadam and not drink for getting intoxicated as explained wrongly in the literary translation of Vedas.
Encyclopedia Britannica says “The soma cult exhibits a number of similarities to the corresponding haoma cult of the ancient Iranians and is suggestive of shared beliefs among the ancient Indo-Europeans in a kind of elixir of the gods. Like haoma the soma plant grows in the mountains, but its true origin is believed to be heaven, whence it was brought to earth by an eagle. The pressing of soma was associated with the fertilizing rain, which makes possible all life and growth. In the post-Vedic classical period, soma is identified with the Moon, which wanes when Soma is drunk by the gods but which is periodically reborn”.
Please note Soma juice is not the intoxicating Sura juice mentioned by Manu. It is an invigorating Elixir rich in minerals. I believe even today some Namboodaris of Kerala perform this Soma yajna. One may visit these Yajnas and personally experience the effect of Soma juice. Persons who perform regularly without fail Agnihotra, the Havir and Soma is called Ahitaagnis. Similarly one who performs Vajapeya Yajna is called Vajapeyee. Whether one performs these Yajnas today or not they retain the title as family lineage and are called Somayajis, Vaajapayees and Agnihotris.
In Soma Yajna Soma plant was deified and sacrificed by crushing through stones to express the liquid. All plant life contains Soma, but it requires one adept in the yogic practice to concentrate it to unlock its full potential effect as subtle and not concentrated.
Experts in Ayurveda will usually pick herbs by the Sukla Paksha (bright half) phase of the moon in order to unlock their full healing potential. Because of this the moon is known as Annamaya (providing potency to herbs and plants) as well as Amritamaya (the source of life for all living entities).
It is important to note that in the Vedic tradition the moon is intimately tied to all plant life. We learn that Soma is the vital force in all vegetation allowing the living entity to relish the taste of food. It is deified and glorified in Bhagavad Gita as well as Rigveda:
Gaamaavisya cha bhootaani dhaarayamyaham Ojasaa |
Pushnaami chushadheeh sarvaah somoe bhootvaa rasaayakah ||
“Entering the earth with my energy as Soma, I support the Beings and I nourish all the herbs, becoming the watery moon” – Bhagavad Gita 15.13
“Freeing himself he flows away, leaving his body severed limbs, and meets his own companion here.” -Rig Veda 9.14.4
The taste of Soma is described as sweet, lovely, and pleasant.
But it is the effects of the Soma drink that capture one’s attention: one who consumes it enters a rapture that is exhilarating, increasing one’s vitality, creativity, and intelligence. We are told it makes one happy, mentally powerful, increase one’s sensuality and beauty, prolongs life, and even frees one of sinful reactions.
In the Rigveda we learn that Tvastar, the maker of divine implements, is the guardian of the Soma drink. He fashions a golden chalice which holds this drink for Indra the King of Heaven. Some view the Moon as the cup that Tvastar made to hold Soma, with the waning of the moon the consumption and the waxing the refilling of the vessel. In time the gods ask the Ribhus to create four new drinking cups to hold the Soma so that other gods may partake.
Let us examine the Vedic tradition explained above Vis-a Vis the Christian Eucharist ritual as is performed today. The Eucharist (also called Holy Communion, the Lord's Supper) is a rite considered by most Christian churches to be a sacrament. According to The New Testament it was instituted by Jesus Christ during his Last supper. Giving his disciples bread and wine during the Passover meal, Jesus commanded his followers to "do this in memory of me," while referring to the bread as "my body" and the wine as "my blood”. Through the Eucharistic celebration Christians remember Christ's sacrifice of himself once and for all on the cross. Many modern Christians find the notion of continually killing of their teacher and consuming his literal flesh and blood unpalatable. As such they have instead viewed it symbolically while others have simply discarded the ritual entirely.
Soma as The liquid divine drink is usually described as golden or bright red, which is poured into milk which is described variously as Soma deified being adorned with white robes or the milk serving as a healing balm. Jesus of crimson red complexion was always seen clothed in white robes.
All plant life contains moonshine and as such simply by eating a plant-based diet one receives the benefits of the Soma juice – increased vitality, beauty, creativity, and prolonged life. But their effect is very subtle. Today red wine is recommended for heart patients as an elixir.
But a comparison with Soma Yajna and Eucharist Ritual provides a startling number of points of similarity.
Soma is a plant deified as Soma deva in Soma Yajana while Jesus describes himself the same as grapevine in the Holy Bible.
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” – John 15:1-2
This becomes even more obvious when we see that both Soma and Jesus are crushed for the sacrifice. The
grapes are crushed to produce symbolic Jesus’s blood which is poured into the cup of wine like Soma juice.
Both Soma and the blood wine are golden/red, sweet, and provide a gladdening effect. Both grant immortality/everlasting life. Both provide communion with God(s) and both are held in a golden cup.
Both Soma and Jesus are depicted clothed in white robes. Soma juice mixed with milk and consumed is deified as Soma deity clad in white in Rigveda.
The bread, known as the host, acting as the body of Jesus, is a white circle reminiscent of the moon. Moon is called Soma in Veda. Monday is called Somavara in Hinduism dedicated to Lord Soma or Moon.
During the ritual the host bread is encased in a ceremonial vessel known as a monstrance. This represents the rays of the Sun. The sun and moon are revered in this ritual, where Jesus is promoted to be physically present inside the ring. Perhaps this tradition is reminiscent of ancient Roman religion who worshiped Sun and Moo whom Catholics Christianized but kept the tradition to attract them to Christianity.
This ritual remind us of the Pravargya Ritrual of Rigvedas which has given rise to great amount of mystical speculation connected with the sun where sun is presented by means of golden disk.
The glass container, holding the bread/body in the center, is known as the Luna (Latin: Moon), and the crescent metal clip that holds the host is called the Lunette (little Moon).
The Bible was originally written in Greek the language of the intellectuals of that time. At the last supper, when Jesus picks up the bread he describes his body with one particular word:
“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread; and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take, eat; this is my sōma (body) | σῶμα).” – Matthew 26:26
By strange coincidence the word used in the original Greek for the body of Jesus is Soma. The Greek word Soma is of “undetermined” origin and refers to the body of a plant, a person (mystical/physical), as well as a heavenly body.
In this ritual lot of singing takes place like Samaveda chanting in Soma Yajana.
With all of these points of similarity we can state conclusively that the central religious ritual of Christianity is patterned on Vedic cosmology.
The central religious Eucharist ritual of Christianity involves the consumption of bread and wine transformed into the literal flesh and blood of Jesus. This ritual is known as the Eucharist, with the bread described as the ‘host’ or flesh and the wine as the blood. Christians refer to these as the ‘blood moons’ which occur as a consequence of an eclipse. I have talked about this in detail in my discourse “Hindu Reflections on Eclipses and Blood Moon”
There are four blood moons and one solar eclipse which fall on Jewish holy days starting from 4/15/2014 through 9/28/2015. This signals increased strife and war in the world.
In the Eucharist ritual we see the Moon (host) held directly in the center of the Sun, symbolic of the Solar eclipse. Many Christians believe that signs in the heavens will signal the return of Jesus:
“The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.” -Joel 2:31 and “The sun became as dark as black cloth, and the moon became as red as blood.” Revelations 6:12.
But Christianity does not properly explain the Blood Moon as the Hindu Purana does with its mythological story. During the Churning of the Ocean of Milk, the forces of darkness (demons) and the forces of light (demigods) cooperated to create Amrita – the Nectar of Immortality. The Chief Minister of the demons, Rahu, through subterfuge, begins to drink some of the Nectar. However, the Sun and the Moon see through his trickery and advise Mohini, the female Avatar of Lord Vishnu of this deception. She subsequently cuts off his head.
Because the Nectar of Immortality passed through Rahu’s throat his head remains immortal. Rahu (the head without a body) seeks to consume the Sun while Ketu (the body without a head) attacks the Moon. In art they are depicted as a snake. On a gross/physical level the Solar and Lunar eclipses represent the demon’s severed bodies continually attacking the Sun and Moon as revenge. On a subtle level these eclipses are inauspicious omens that portend trouble from the dark powers of the world.
Unfortunately Christianity lacks similar Hindu Puranic description and so they do not understand the maleficent effects. The Sun attacked by Rahu becomes black and the Moon attacked by Ketu appears as a golden/red cup full of blood.
There is also another story connecting Goddess Sarasvati with the immortality of the gods. The gods and the demons mutually agreed to churn the oceanic waters to retrieve soma or amrita, the elixir of life. Mainaka Mountain was used as the churning rod while the mighty python Vaasuki, was the churning rope. When Goddess Sarasvati appeared with the goblet of Soma Rasa the gods were pleased. Rapt by her beauty the demons were lured away. As the gods drank, somehow two demons Rahu and Ketu slipped in. Lord Vishnu noticed them having a drink and immediately slit their throats. The angry Asuras swallowed the sun and the moon but as their throats were slit, they could not be retained. This is the origin of solar and lunar eclipses. As the Goddess helped the gods, she was granted a supreme position in heaven. That is also the reason why snakes have split tongue.
It is also relevant here to talk about European studies on Mithraic Solar influence on Christianity and the Fire worship of Parsis in India and abroad.
Hindus are familiar with Parsi (Zoroastrianism) custom of Fire worship. They migrated from Iran persecuted by emerging Islamic faith followers in early days. They are fire worshipers. There are around hundred fire temples in India where-ever Parsis are settled. One of the more common technical terms - in use - for a Zoroastrian fire temple is dar-e-mehr (Roman darb-e mehr) or Agiyari in Gujarati. The etymology of this term means 'Mithra's Gate' or 'Mithra's Court. The term is a throwback to the age of the shrine cults, the name being retained because all major Zoroastrian rituals are solemnized between sunrise and noon, the time of day especially under Mithra's (Sun’s) protection.
One of the most unusual influences on European culture is that of the Vedic god Mitra. Mitra (Friend) is a solar Vedic deity among the twelve Aadityas. He is often clubbed with Varuna (one who encompasses and binds) and worshiped as Mitraa-varuna. This god, who the Romans referred to as Mithras, was a Vedic solar deity. He was very popular among Roman Emperors and soldiers alike. There are literally hundreds of temple remains scattered across the old Roman Empire as far off as Great Britain.
The famed civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., wrote one essay titled “A Study of Mithraism” in which he concludes that Christianity borrowed “unconsciously” from the Mithraic tradition. Christianity evolved through syncretism with local traditions and was eventually made the official Roman religion under Constantine I (272 A.D. – 337 AD).
It is most likely that Mithraism was brought back by Greek soldiers returning after Alexander’s invasions of the East. The Greeks and Romans were far below the Vedic standard. No doubt much of the religion was changed but a Vedic cosmological pattern was imprinted upon European religious symbolism.
A few examples of Mithraic influence on Christianity include:
1) The appearance day of Mithras on December 25 was made the birthday of Jesus.
2) The Jewish Sabbath was moved from Saturday to Sunday (the Roman Solar holy day).
3) Mithras had twelve followers representing the twelve signs of the Zodiac. Jesus had twelve disciples.
4) Mithraism had a religious ritual involving the consumption of bread and wine.
There are many scholars that have done in depth studies of the Mithraic Solar influence on Christianity. But surprisingly almost all seem to miss the Vedic Lunar cosmological pattern in Christian ritual.
[This discourse has been adapted from Soma – Elixir of the Gods, The Editor | May 20, 2015 IndiaDivine.Org with more clarification and details for wider appeal. It is the editor’s wish to spread this Vedic message to more audience. Original text is also reproduced in the Appendix ]
1) Ramachandra Rao, S. K., Rigveda Darshana, Kalpataru Research Academy, Bengaluru, India.
2) Editor, IndiaDivine.Org, Elixir of the Gods, May 2015.
3) R. Ramanathan, jayasreesaranathan.blogspot.com and Wikepedia.
4) Srinivasan, N.R., Yajna, Vedic Sacrifice, nrsrini.blogspot.com
5) Hans Heinrich Hock, An Early Upanishadic Reader, Motilal Banarasidass, Delhi, India.