Review to the Wasson’s Soma

F.B.J. Kuiper

Indo-Iranian Journal, vol. 12, pp. 279-285, 1970

1. When Hillebrandt in his Vedische Mythologie (vol. P. pp. 193-498) gathered all the indications of the Rgveda and the later literature that might give a clue to the identification of the Soma plant—a much disputed problem up to that time and ever since —, he wrote in his preliminary remarks the following words which deserve to be kept in mind by anyone dealing with this subject: "Ich habe nicht den Eindruck, dass die Pflanze, welche einst den Vorvätern der vedischen Inder als die trefflichste galt, notwendig eins mit der gewesen sein muss, welche von ihren Naehkommen in indischen Landen zur Gewinnung ihres Göttertrankes gebraucht wurde." The complexities of the problem should not, indeed, be underestimated. Among them the following should be stressed:

a. The ancestors of the Aryans (both Indian and Iranian) pressed a beverage from a plant to which they attributed a miraculous potency. Both the plant and its juice they called *Sauma- "pressing". Parallels in the Old Nordish mythology, to which Adalbert Kuhn was the first to draw attention in 1859, suggest the conclusion that the practice of crushing the stalks of that plant and drinking its juice was a Proto-Indo-Iranian innovation and that the *Sauma has taken the place which the *médhu "mead" had in the older religion. This may account for the fact that mádhu is still occasionally used in the poetic idiom of the Rigveda to denote the Soma. Just when and where this change may have taken place one cannot say but it is not impossible that the use and worship of the *Sauma- was borrowed by the Proto-Indo-Iranian speaking peoples from Borne foreign culture at a time when they bad already split ~ as a separate community from the other groups which spoke Indo-European languages (see below, p. 284).

b. On the other hand, this Sauma soon got a central place, along with Agni, in the mythology and particularly in the cosmogonical myth. Both the Avesta and the Veda state that the plant grew on the top of mountains. As far as the Veda is concerned, it seem that Soma and Agni were conceived of as having originally dwelt within the primordial hill, where they were guarded by a snake or dragon (áhi) who impersonated the power of "resistance" (vrtra-). Hence Soma, like Agni, belonged to the primeval world of undivided unity which was the realm of the "Father Asura" (RS.X.124.3). The mythic pattern, accordingly, demanded that the plant which in the ritual functioned as the representative of its mythic prototype should grow on the mountains, and collecting it must have been considered an "impure," if not dangerous, affair. The ritual of the purchase of the Soma plant, as a preliminary to the Soma sacrifice, makes it quite clear that the Soma was at first identical with the inauspicious and dangerous god Varuna and that all precautions had to be taken with regard to it. Hence it is that Brahmin who sells it (not a sudra, As Hilldebrandt states on the basis of a late Sutra), is identified with the snake demon Krsanu, who guarded it in the primordial world of darkness (apad asta S.B., III.3.4.10, (à)star áhasta Krsana M.S. I.2.5: p. 14, 11, cf. III.7.7: p. 84,16, III.8.10: p. 109,10 and svana bhrajeti japati somavikrayinam iksamanah, Katy, VII.8.24). This brahmin takes on himself the darkness of the sacrificer (TS. VI.1.10.4, .Ap. X.26.14, Hir. VII.2.8).

c. In the light of this mythic background it would seem likely that the botanical identity of the plant with which the ancient Indians performed the pressing ritual of their ancestors was to them of minor importance, their main concern being the reiteration of the sacred act itself A confirmation of this conclusion may be seen in the circumstance that many substitutes for the authentic Soma plant (whatever idea the ritualists may have had of the latter) were admitted. According to modern scholars of the Vaidika Samsodhana Mandala in Poona the substitute has only to meet the following requirements (Wasson, p. 14): "the plant should be small, it should be leafless, and it should possess fleshy stalks."

2. In this magnificently produced book Gordon Wasson (if I am not mistaken, the only living ethno-rnycologist today) has set himself the task of identifying as a botanist the original Soma plant. The work is a monument of devotion, zeal and courage, in which the author tries to defend the unorthodox theory that the original Soma-plant was the fly-agaric (Amanita muscaria). Leaving aside Hiliebrandt’s detailed analysis of the characteristics of the plan. (Ved. Myth., F, pp. 204-247) and the convenient arrangement of the Rigvedic data in the Index to Geldner’s translation (pp. 234 f., 241-243, 248-250) he here checks his theory against the description of the plant as found in book IX of the Rigveda. In addition he has invoked the assistance of a professional Sanskritist, Dr. Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty, who contributed Part Two of the book, on "The Post-Vedic History of the Soma Plant" (pp. 95-147, including a chapter on "Later Researches in the Twentieth Century", pp. 130-147).

For his study of the Rigvedic evidence Wasson has mainly made use of the recent translations by Renou (Et.vê pan., VIII and IX) and Bhawe, The Soma Hymns (whose reliability in philological matters lie overestimated). Since this is no philological work the only thing that matters is what special contribution Wasson, with his unique knowledge of the use of hallucinogenic plants among archaic peoples, is able to make towards the problem of Soma. However, although a discussion of philological details would be out of place here, the difference between the general methodological approach of the philologist and historian of religion on the one hand, and that of the botanist on the other, can hardly be ignored since this affects even the primary question: what exactly is the "problem of Soma"?

The Indian priest who crushed the Soma stalks knew that this ritual meant the killing of King Soma in order to make free his victorious, invigorating and life-promoting power. Besides clear indications of a rain magic, some general cosmological notions should be borne in mind. Agni and Soma represent two parallel, but also contrasting aspects of the organized cosmos. In the cosmic classificatory system they are mostly attributed to different points of the compass and the phenomena of this world can be classified according as they have a predominant Agni-nature (manifested by téjas-) or a more pronounced Soma-character (saúmya-). Just as Agni Vaisvinara is conceived of as representing the cosmic totality and as such is identified with the Tree of Life in the world centre, so Soma is said to grow "in the navel of the earth, on the mountains" (IX.82.3). It may be of importance in this connection that where in the Vrtra-myth mention is made of "mountains" this appears to be a mere poetic variant for the more frequent reference to the "mountain", which no doubt means the primordial bill. So, when in another passage (IX.74.4) it is said with reference to the Soma-pressing that "the navel of the cosmic order, (the beverage of) life is born", the underlying idea must be that Soma in its mythic aspect was closely connected with the world centre.

3. It is a well-known fact that the constant references to the mythic prototypes constitute one of the main difficulties of the interpretation of the Vedic hymns. The words of the poets are often intentionally ambiguous since they refer at the same time so to say, to two different levels: that of the ritual and that of the myth. it is necessary to stress this point because for many passages which Wasson explains as descriptions of the fly-aganc the possibility of widely divergent interpretations is open.

As a single instance that illustrates this fundamental difficulty I may quote IX 71.2 pra krstihéva susa eti róruvad, asuryàm varnam ni rinite asya tám /jáhati vavrim pitúr etiniskrtam, upaprútam krnute nirnijam rana, which Wasson renders as follows: "Aggressive as a killer of peoples he advances, bellowing with power. He sloughs off the Asurian colour that is his. He abandons his envelope, goes to the rendez-vous with the Father. With what floats he makes continually his vesture-of-grand-occasion." These lines, when taken as referring to the mushroom, may be interpreted as follows (Wasson, p. 40): "In the first line the poet reminds us of the extraordinary strength displayed by a simple mushroom in forcing its way to the surface against obstacles. ‘Asurian’ is not a colour: it is the radiance associated with Asuras, which at this period in Indo-Aryan history meant the divinities. The fly-agaric sloughs off the radiant envelope that the ‘universal veil, and prepares to meet with the Sky (= Father). He dons of course his gorgeous apparel, his nirnij..."

The epithet krstihan-, which presents one of the minor difficulties of this stanza, may owe its origin to the fact that as early as the common Indo-Iranian period *Sauma- must have been considered a "slayer of resistance" (*vrtrajhán-, cf. Ved. vrtrahán-, Av. varatrajan-). On the "Asurian colour", however, the comments do not throw much light. Roth conjectured "Charakter" for várna- (PW, VI [1871], col. 739), which was accepted by Bergaigne, Rel.véd., III (1883), p. 85 ("nature") and von Bradke, Dyáus Asura (1885), pp. 27, 38 ("Art"). Ludwig, however, rejected Roth’s interpretation (Der Rigveda, 11, 1876, p. 475) and the modern translators Geldner and Renou follow him in rendering the phrase as "his Asuric colour". The main reason for this divergence probably was that Roth’s meaning "Charakter" was mainly based upon brahaman texts, whereas according to the current opinion the Asuras have only in the last period of the Rigveda and in the brahmanas come to be considered as "demons", in fact, however, Devas and Asuras can be shown to represent the two cosmic moieties and there would not seem to be a fundamental difference in this respect between the older parts of the RigVeda and the later Vedic literature: the Asuras are the gods of the primordial undivided world and, as such, the "elder brothers" of the Devas.

Now it is a well-known fact that according to the brähmanas "King Soma", when bought from the Soma vendor, is Varuna as long as he is tied up. Cf. MS. 111.7.8 (p. 85,17ff.), KS. XXIV.6 (p. 96,2), KKS. XXXVII.7 (p. 201,6f.), TS. VI.l.11.4-5. During this time Soma has a dangerous and inauspicious character, cf. AB. 1.13.24-26. In this light it may be understood that both Agni and Soma are called asurya- (JB. 11.155,1.7 tasmad ahur agnisomav asuryav iti, cf. KS XXX1V.3: p. 37,19f. Somo va eso ‘surya iva tu, tasman na ‘bhisutyah) and that Soma is sometimes even identified with Vrtra. Cf. MS. 111.7.8 sómo vai vrtráh, KS. XX1V.9: p. 100,14, KKS. XXXVIII.2: p. 206,12 somo vrtro, SB. III. 4.3.13, IV.2.5.15 vrtró vai sóma asit, tásyaitác chariram, yad giráyo.

Geldner, in a note to IX.71.2, rightly refers to IX.99.1 "where Soma in his first stage [that is, in the shape of Varuma] is apparently called asura" (similarly IX.73.1, 74.7). In the course of the ritual, however, Soma casts off his Asuric várna-. It is curious that Geldner here translates "colour" although in a note ad 1.176.6, where it is said of Agastya ubhaú varnav rsir ugráh puposa, he bad tightly pointed to a specific meaning of várna- in the two oldest Yajurvedic texts (MS., KS.). He omitted to quote, however, KS. IX.11 (p. 112,20-113,1), a passage which depicts how Prajapati created the Devas and Asuras at representatives of the two cosmic moieties: ahna devan asrjata, te suklam varnam apusyan, ratrya surams, te krsna abhavan. With this passage we may compare vs. 11.4, VSK. 11.3 where the garment of the consecrated (diksita-) is addressed in the words tam tva sivam sagmam pári dadhe bhadrám várnam púsyan. Here the corresponding brähmana (SB. III.I.2.20) opposes the bhadram varnam to the papam várnam, which the diksita had "fostered" when unconsecrated. It is clear that as early as the Rigveda varnam pus- was a set phrase. Agastya, who (like Prajapati, and Kasyapa in the later mythology) represented the totality, "fostered the two moieties", that is the dasa- varna- (11.12.4) as well as the arya- várna- (111.34.9). A similar interpretation may be suggested for 1.73.7 nákta ca cakrúr usása virupe, krsnám ca várnam arunám ca sám dhuh, where the reference is not so much to the colour as rather to the contrasting cosmic moieties.

It is, indeed, especially with reference to the contrast between day and night that the word varna- is used. Cf., e.g., KS. VIII.3 (p. 86,3 if.), KKS. VI.8 (p. 67.15ff.) âgneyi vai ratry, aindram ahar, yad udite surya adadhita gneyad varnad iyad, yad anudita aindrad, anudite ‘pare adheya, udite purva, ubha eve ‘ndragnyor varna apnoty, asurya vai ratri varnena, sukriyam ahas, sukriya adhatte ya [yad KKS] udite surya adhatte. That varna- here denotes a group, rather than "Charakter" (as Roth translated it) is apparent from such passages as AB. VL36.l4, where Indra asuryam varnam abhidasantam apahan "smote away the Asuric party when attacking" (not "the Asura hue", as Keith rendered it, because it paraphrases the preceding asuravisam. So varna- denotes what later in a non-religious sense was expressed by paksa- "a half, side, party, faction". These two "parties" (note the reference, not to dvaú but to ubhaú várnau RS. I.179.6, MS. III.3.3, p. 34,19, PR. XII.3.5. etc.) manifested themselves on the level of the gods in the contrast of Devas and Asuras, on the social level in that of aryas and dasas1 and on the level of nature in that of day and night (usasa-nakta).

Since the Rigveda in its use of the phrases varnam pusyati and ubhaú várnau fully agrees with the linguistic usage of the brähmanas, the words asuryàm varnam in IX.7 1.2 may also be interpreted in the light of the later evidence. Consequently asuryam várnam ni rinite asya tám must mean that Soma "casts off this Asuric party that is his", that is, that aspect that is connected with Varuna and the primeval world. Later texts would have said that Soma is no longer varunadevatya- (MS. III.7.8: p.85,18) or vâruna- (KS. XXIV.6: p. 96,17, KKS. XXXVII.7: p. 201,21). In stanza 8 of the same hymn, Soma’s várna- is said to assume a resplendent appearance; tvesam rupám krnute varno asya (which Geldner and Renou, unlike Ludwig, erroneously take as two sentences). This can only refer to Soma’s new "party" (against Renou, EVP., IX, p. 82).2

4. A comparison M.S. IX.71.2 with IX.68.2 (and 14.4), to which Geldner refers, shows that the whole verse depicts the Soma-pressing and that the words jahati vavrim (like hitvi vavrim in 69.9) must be interpreted in the light of IX.14.4 jáhac cháryani tanva, 68.2 ní saryani dadhate devá á váram. See Geldner and Renou, EVP., 1X, p.75: "parties fibreuses".

It is not, of course, the object of this lengthy discussion to show that Wasson’s comment on IX.71.2, viz. "The fly-agaric sloughs off the radiant envelope that is his" cannot be accepted for philological reasons. Generally speaking, his 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.

Such a passage like IX.86.44c ahir ná jürnam áti sarpati tvácam, rendered as "like a serpent he creeps out of his old skin" (p. 41), when considered separately, might suggest the idea that it depicts the fly-agaric. Tempting though this may seem at first sight, the whole stanza, with the words mahi ná dhara ‘ty ándho arsati "like a big stream the juice runs through (the filter)" immediately preceding in b, shows that this passage, too, refers to the ritual pressing.

In spite of the beautiful and suggestive photos of a fly-agaric in day-light and at night (plate VIII a and b) it remains doubtful if IX.97.9 diva harir dadrse náktam rjráh proves anything in favour of his theory. Cf., e.g., Hillebrandt, Ved.Myth., I2, p. 327, Lüders, Varuna, pp. 214, 267.

If we were to look for Vedic evidence in support of Wasson’s theory, the strongest argument in my opinion would be the frequent statement of the poets that Soma is the cosmic pillar which supports the sky in the world centre (p. 471.). Cf., e.g., IX.72.7 nabha prthivya dharúno mahó divó. The same, however, is said of Agni, who is also "in the navel of the earth" (I.59.2. cf. 1) and supports the sky (111.5.10, V1.8.3) and, besides, the notion of a world pillar is primarily a mythical one. The question as to whether Soma as a pillar has been directly identified with the world tree has been answered in different ways (pro: Lommel, Wörter und Sachen, 19 [1938], p. 244, contra: Thieme, Untersuchungen zur Wortkunde und Auslegung des Rigveda, p. 70 n. 5, cf. Adalbert Kuhn, Die Herabkunft des Feuers unddes Göttertranks [1859]. p. 149f.). In any case, the general mythical notion of a central cosmic pillar hardly owes its origin to any natural phenomenon. It must be admitted, though, that the fly-agaric, if it would have occurred in the Panjab, might have been regarded as a striking manifestation of that notion (see plate XI).

Similarly the enigmatic epithet sahásrabhrsti- in IX.83.5, 86.40, where it is applied to Soma, would find an interesting illustration in the mushroom (p. 59 and plate XII) but its more frequent occurrence as an epithet of the vájra- (four times) points to a different meaning from that assumed by Wasson. It must be conceded that Hillebrandt’s identification of Soma with the Moon (Ved.Myth., I, p. 312) does not account for the use of this word but the great number of epithets of Soma with sahásra- as their first member (Renou, EVP., VIII, p. 62) should be noted. Incidentally it may be noted that Bhawe’s translation of vás4uni IX 15.6 by "shining" (p. 59) is one of his unacceptable eccentricities.

5. Since the evidence of the ninth book of the Rigveda turns out to be so elusive, the question arises whether one of "The Ground Rules of the Search" (p. 12) is likely to be correct. Here Wasson states that "It is certain that the poets of the Rgveda knew the original Soma at first hand, and they never strayed from it for long. I invoke later texts and the Avesta only where they help us to know what the Rgveda means." One wonders why this preference should be given to hymns that for the greater part must have been composed in the hot plains of the Indus valley. The Avesta, it is true, does not yield much useful information but, on the other hand, Zarathustra lived in a non-tropical climate. Why could he not have known "the original Soma" (in any case, something nearer to the original hallucinogenic plant) better than the Vedic Indians? The fly-agaric grows only in an underground relationship with the pines, the firs and above all the birches" (pp. 13, 212). Since there is ample evidence to show that the fly-agaric can also be "taken in the urine of the person who has ingested it" directly (p. 25 and passim), the surprising novel interpretation of Zarathustra’s words mütram ahyâ madahya Y. 48.10 (p. 32) may well contain a grain of truth, more so than the ambiguous term áva mehanti in RS. IX.74.4 (p. 29).

However that may be, the *Sauma- must have been firmly rooted in the proto-Indo-Iranian cosmogony, as is shown by the myth of the eagle bringing the Soma plant (apparently from the primordial world, called "rock" or "heaven") to Indra in order to give him the strength necessary for performing his mythic exploit. It should be noted that sometimes the poets still use the ancient Indo-European word mádhu in this connection, as in 1V. 18.13 ádha me syenó mádhv jabhara "then the eagle brought me the mead". As far back as 1859 Adalbert Kuhn drew attention to a similar myth in the Snorra Edda, where Odhin contrives to get access to the mead of Suttung, which was hidden in the mountain Hnitbjorg, by boring a hole and entering the mountain through it in the shape of a snake. After having drunk all the mead of the three barrels he flies away in the shape of an eagle but, being pursued by Suttung, he loses some of the mead (just as the archer Krsanu shoots some feathers from the eagle). See Die Herabkunft des Feuers und des Göttertranks, p. 149f. (A translation of this passage can be found, e.g., in Hugo Geriong, Die Edda übers undd erläutert, p. 356f.) It would seem a reasonable conjecture, therefore, that at some moment in their common prehistory the Indo-Iranians, having become acquainted with the practice of crushing and pressing a certain plant and drinking its juice which had an invigorating effect, substituted the *Sauma- for the older mádhu. At that time, however, they may still have been living far to the north or north-east of their later habitat. This means that the search for "the original Soma" might lead as far beyond the field of Indo-Iranian studies proper. Wasson also points to the possibility that, if there has been borrowing (in whatever direction, this might have occurred "before the Aryans emigrated to what has since been called Iran" (p. 331).

The invigorating effect of the drinking of the Soma, of which the Rigvedic poets tell us, may ultimately have been based upon real experience and is, indeed, strongly reminiscent of the effects of JUSTIFYeating the fly-agaric. In the Rigveda, however, this is primarily sacred tradition and it remains doubtful how much factual knowledge about the original hallucinogen still survived among the priests. 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.

6. In conclusion it should be stressed that in view of the amazingly wide horizon of Wasson’s work, which deals with botany, modern folk-lore, prehistoric and historical cultures and linguistic details ranging from the British Isles to China, no specialist in a comparatively small field like the Rigveda is competent to judge on the theory as a whole. One reads the book with absorbed interest and its main theory deserves thorough consideration from the viewpoint of different disciplines. It must be regretted, therefore, that neither the small number of copies issued (only 680), nor the price of the book (S 200 or Dglds. 720), nor even its title are conducive to such an ample discussion. If the title were "The role of the fly-agaric in the prehistoric and historical cultures of Eurasia", the book might attract the attention of a wider circle of competent critics. "Soma" is not comprehensive enough as a title of this book because it focuses the interest on the minor problem of "the original Soma", which in my opinion cannot be solved beyond doubt.

There are two details that deserve special mention. Among the fascinating vistas opened by this book is the suggestion that mushrooms may have been used for shamanic practices among Uralian peoples from 6000 B.C. onwards. On the other hand, there as a remarkable mycophobia "in the ring of people who dwell around the shores of the North and Irish seas in gigantic and evil fairy-rings, as .. were, embracing the surviving Celts, many of the Germanic peoples, provincial France (where the ‘toad’ figure may have come down from the Gauls), and the Spanish Basque country of Guipuzcoa and Biscay" (p. 186). This mycophobia Wasson ascribes to a prehistoric taboo, which can explain why in these areas the fly-agaric has been considered poisonous up to recent years. On the other hand, it is here (though not exclusively here) that the mushroom is connected with the toad, it being called the toad’s "stool", "hat" or "skin". One can imagine that a mushroom evoked the idea of a stool, but why, then, a "toad-stool", "paddestoel"? Now, toads have of old been considered venomous, and in addition to the use of a toad as the first ingredient of the concoction of the three witches in Macbeth, Act IV, scene 1, line 6 (see Wasson, p. 188) may be quoted Topsell, History of Serpents, ed. 1658, p. 730 (which quotation occurs in the Arden Edition of Macbeth by Kenneth Muir, London, 1963, p. 109): "All manner of toads, both of the earth and of the water, are venomous... The women-witches of ancient time which killed by poisoning, did much use Toads in their confections." This venomousness, although explained from the fact that the secretion of their skin-glands "contains a poisonous substance (phrynin) acrid enough to be felt on tongue or eyes", seems nevertheless to a large extent to be due to superstition (see Handwörterbuch des deutschen Aberglaubens, V [1932-33], col. 608 f.). In some parts of Germany toads are considered "heilsam", just as in Ancientt Greece (col 612f) and sometimes, especially to >Switzerland, they are respected as "Hausgeist" (col. 628). This close relation between mushrooms and toads, however, is unlikely to be due to their supposed venomous nature, since "toad-mushroom" is in China the common name for the "fly-agaric" (Wasson, p. 189). On the other hand, if the popular belief in Western Europe which considers the fly-agarics venomous is rightly attributed to a very old taboo, the question may arise if a similar belief with regard to the toad may possibly have the same origin.

Finally a linguistic detail may here be briefly be touched upon because of the far-reaching conclusions that could possibly be drawn from it. In the beginning of this century Holger Pedersen, then still a young man, proposed to connect etymologically Old Church Slavonic goba, Old High German swamb, Greek sphóngos and Latin fungus (see Wasson, pp. 168. 319f.). At that time Pedersen could only conceive of such an etymological connection in terms of a common Proto-Indo-European origin, in which case, however, the phonological difficulties are considerable. It is significant that in spite of these difficulties some sound etymologists (like N. van Wijk and Berneker) considered this idea "seductive". Nowadays our judgment will be different in so far as not a few, while retaining Pedersen’s basic idea, will no longer try to trace these words back to a Proto-Indo-European ancestor. As for Greek spóngos, Latin fungus and Armenian sunk, sung, they are now explained as an "altes Wanderwort", see Frisk, Griech. etym. Wörterbuch, Lief. 19 (1968), p. 770. On the other hand, the Germanic words presuppose four different prehistoric variants, viz. *swamba-, *swamma-, *swampu- and *swumpa. See, e.g., Falk-Torp, Wortschatz der germanischen Spracheeinheit (1909), p. 549. They accordingly show the same type of variation as Dutch klem: kkzmp: MHG. klambe (see Mnemes Charin, I, p. 223 n. 53), which is not suggestive of taboo-deformation but rather points to borrowing from some non-Indo-European source. The idea that "the pon cluster of the Uralic peoples" (p. 169) may have correspondences in some Indo-European languages is attractive but, if so, the connection would have to be restricted to the Mediterranean word-family of fungus. This would rule out the possibility of an indo-European origin of the pon cluster. It may still be true, then, that the mushroom has played a role in the religious life of "our own remotest ancestors" or "our own European ancestors" (both p.172, cf. pp. 202, 209) if only this term is not taken in a too narrow, strictly linguistic, sense.


1) Cf. TB. daívya vai várno brahmanah, asuryàh sudrá.

2) It must be conceded that here the meaning "group, party" seems to border upon "group-character" so that the meaning might be paraphrased by "the character of his group manifests itself by its resplendent appearance". In later texts it seems to have become more or less synonymous with rüpa-, várnam kr- being used for what in the Rigveda still is rüpám kr-. Cf. TB. I.4.7.1 asuryh va etásmad várnam krtva pasávo viryam ápakramanti yásya yupo viróhati… yá evá rupanam tse, sò ‘smin pasun viryam yacchati. Similarly PB. IX.10.2, where the commentator glosses varnam by rüpam. The same shift of meaning may occur in TB. III.7.13.2 áhac chárrram páyasa samétya, anyò ‘nyo bhavati várno asya. A detailed investigation of the use of várna- in the later literature would, however, be out of order here.