Vedic Beer

Whereas beer and other alcoholic beverages were not consumed by the brAhmaNa-s (and ascetics) unlike rest of Arya society, its production was still a part of brAhmaNa lore. The hindus of yore had an elaborate ritual of beer making connected with the exhalted rite called the sautrAmaNI. The adhvaryu priest bought the following items through barter: grass blades in exchange for a piece of zinc. Barley grains for goat wool, parched rice in exchange for yarn. Each bargain the priest uttered the formula “surAsomavikrayin krayyaste surAsoma”. Then these materials are carried to the prachIna vaMsha altar and prepares fungal powders known as nagnahU. He then boils the shyAmAka beans and rice and collects the supernatants to which he adds the nagnahU powder and then mixes the two and keeps them away for a while. This preparation is called mAsara. Then he mixes the mAsara with the boiled grains of rice and shyAmAkas in a large vessel called the surapAtra chanting the mantras svAdvIM… He deposits this vessel in a pit at the naiR^ita corner of the prAchina vaMsha altar for 3 nights. Then a cow is freshly milked with the mantra ashivibhyAM apAkaromi and the milk is poured into the ferment with the mantra parIto si~nchatA… He then shreds the rice leaves into fine pieces and adds them to the ferment and lets is stay for a night. The next morning he milks two cows with the mantra ‘sarasvatyai apAkaromi…’ and adds the milk to the ferment. He also adds the powder of fresh barley grains and lets it stand for a night. The next day he adds the milk of 3 cows into the ferment and adds the flour of parched grains into it. This is let to ferment for 4 days.

He then goes to the southern altar and pours the ferment through a ox hide funnel through a hoof-sieve with the mantra “si~nchati pari si~nchati..” to get a preliminary liquor. This liquor is further purified by straining through ox and horse hair filters in a pot made of palAsa wood by reciting the mantra “punAti te parisrutaM..”. This liquor is termed the surA. At this point if a yajamAna or his patni are morbidly reacting to the soma drink by vomitting or flux they are given the surA as a remedy. indra, ashvins and sarasvati are offered several cups of the beer, milk and soma in the sacrifice that follows. The brAhmaNas performing the rite reverse the direction of their yaGNYOpavItas and drink what is left behing in one of the cups or they merely smell the liquor, collect the remnants and offer it to a kshatriya or a vaishya to drink along with a gift. If they do not get a drinker, they may smell it and then burn all the liquor in charcoal pyres outside the ritual area with mantras to offer it to the ancestors.

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