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Economic Botany

, Volume 58, Supplement 1, pp S147–S173 | Cite as

A botanical perspective on the identity of soma (Nelumbo nucifera Gaertn.) based on scriptural and iconographic records

  • Andrew McDonald

Abstract

An examination of the mythic and artistic records of India and Southeast Asia indicates that the famous psychotropic of the ancient Aryans was the eastern lotus, Nelumbo nucifera. Vedic epithets, metaphors, and myths that describe the physical and behavioral characteristics of the ‘soma’ plant as a sun, serpent, golden eagle, arrow, lightning bolt, cloud, phallic pillar, womb, chariot, and immortal navel, relate individually or as a whole to the eastern lotus. Since most Hindu and Buddhist gods and goddesses trace their origins from the Vedas and have always shared close symbolic associations with Nelumbo, there is reason to believe the divine status of this symbolic plant derives from India’s prehistoric past.

Key Words

India lotus narcotic plants Nelumbo nucifera soma Vedas 

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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew McDonald
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Texas at Austin, Plant Resources Center

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