Monday, June 27, 2005

haywards 2000 - BC!

Gin and tonic? Vodka and orange juice? Shiva shiva apishtu… this is not what I was brought up to. It’s against my culture to drink such rubbish.

Time for history class again. This is what real Indians do – here are the recipes folks! :d

Liquors made from kinva

Kinva: 1 part rice : 3 part beans with added spices.
For eg: 1 drona – raw mango pulp/ cooked mashed beans
1/3 rd drona rice
1 karsha of the 6 mixed spices.

Medaka: 2 parts rice : 3 prasthas of ferment and 16 parts water.
For eg: rice wine – 3 prasthas of kinva
½ adhaka of rice
1 drona of water

Prasanna: Flour wine (white)
2 parts rice to 3 ferment and 16 parts water
For eg: 5 prasthas of kinva
12 adhakas flour
24 dronas of water
Bark and fruit of kramuka

Addition to Medaka and Prasanna:
5 karshas each of the following: patha, lodha, tejuvati, cardamom, valuka, liquorice, grape juice, priyangu, daruharidra (turmeric?), black pepper and long pepper.

Clarifying agent for Medaka and Prasanna:

A decoction of liquorice and jaggery

Varieties of prasanna:

Mahasura – white liquor and mango juice replacing in part the spice mixture given above. This is to be clarified with a handful of mixed spice, burnt jaggery, and pulp of herbs like partha. The liquor can be made sweeter by adding 5 palas of jaggery.

Other liquors:

For average quality: for 8 tulas of water –
1 tula of wood apple
5 tulas treacle
1 prastha honey

For higher quality add 1 quarter more of the 3 ingredients and for lower quality add 1 quarter less.

Spices to be added – 1 karsha each of cinnamon, chitraka, vilanga. A quarter of the quantity of each of these is to be kept in the liquor, tied up in a small piece of cloth and suspended.

Maireya: Decoction of the bark of the meshashringi with jaggery; spices to be added: long pepper and black pepper or tripala (nutmeg, arecanut and cloves)

Madhu: Grape wine - imported from Afghanistan
Harahuraka imported from Archosia.”

(Innnnteresting eh?! A round of applause for L.N. Rangarajan’s excellent translation please!)

Alcohol was certainly not an ascetic’s staple, but neither was it just for the reprobates. There are some parts of tantra where alcohol (of a type called “somapanam”) is consumed as part of the rituals. I would also remind you that bhang is still served at some north Indian weddings today as part of the traditional feast – amidst the array of strictly censored and approved food for pujas!

During surgeries, certain kinds of alcohol were administered to the patient to induce a soporific effect. Some medicines were also alcohol based. The generic name for alcohol made from sugarcane, fruits and even some roots, is “arka”, a Sanskrit word meaning “essence”. The arrack which we speak of today, is an anglicised corruption of arka.

So did our ancestors simply frolic and be gloriously drunk? Was it a one long bacchanalian orgy? Well, no. These were some of the provisions and legislations ensuring that though booze was available, people didn’t overdo the happy-and-high act:

The manufacture and sale of alcoholic drinks was basically under state monopoly. Again, there was an exclusive post for inspection and control - the Chief Controller of Alcoholic Beverages. Private manufacturing was very very limited and strictly controlled. The fine for selling, making or buying liquor in an unauthorised place was 600 panas.

There were separate drinking halls - a more charming version of the modern day pub by the sound of it – its actually stipulated in the arthashasthra that these should be pleasant always, well stocked with plenty of perfumes, water and fresh flowers!

Only people who were known to be of good repute could buy and take away alcohol in small amounts. Others could drink only in the halls. Large quantities of alcohol could not be purchased, taken away or stocked. Selling on credit was not allowed. Drunkards were punished. Like prostitutes, drinking hall owners had to report anyone who spent too lavishly and beyond their means.

Since drinking halls were common in all parts of the kingdom, some times these were also the scene for espionage and crime: a little poison could well find its way into someones glass to dispose of them. Doctors were required by law to report anyone suffering from poisoning by drink or food.

The master of the drinking hall was accountable to the Chief of Alcoholic Beverages: if there was any cheating, adulteration, illegal sale, etc. he was held responsible. If a customer had had too much to drink and had fallen asleep, secret agents would make note of his ornaments, cash and clothes – if there was any theft of these within the drinking hall, the liquor seller had to repay the loss and pay a fine. Hence sometimes the sellers also employed beautiful young women to serve the liquor, so that they could draw the customer into conversation and verify his identity and right to be in the hall.
and so on.

here's a toast to real indian culture! :d

ps: thanks to sanketh for the brilliant title! i loved it :))



Anonymous Charu said...

yes, and didn't the devas with Mr. Indra hinself at their head drink somapanam all the time? hic!
where, when, how did we get this whole morality cloak???

5:30 am  
Blogger sensiblystoned said...

cool, me cant wait to try out the recipes ;) The best part about the management of "bars" and prostitution, was accountability. It just speaks volumes about society then. Another thing in this post was the establishment maintaining tabs about the frequent visitors and their ability to spend money there. I guess this was easy with a small society then. This again brings out the accountability issue. Our past culture rocks!

9:38 am  
Anonymous AirBassPlayerMan said...

I guess this makes us Wayward 2000 AD.


AirBassPlayerMan strikes again!

12:14 pm  
Blogger Sanketh said...

To spoil the party again ...

It is one thing to have rules and a totally different issue to implement them. The book doesn't necessarily reflect on the actual practices does it? For eg. someone today could also write a similar book and quote the actual "law". He/she could come up with an ideal set of rules. To what extent were these actually implemented? That is the real issue. I am sure even with their wisdom there were definite ways around the rules.

I also understand this is about drinking being okay. As far as I am concerned most of the country doesn't have an issue with alcohol. There are some loonies going around waving the banner and condemning everyone. The majority of the population gives a damn. We know ourselves better than that.

I don't deny there is value to what you write here, but at the same time I do question if we really do have such a big problem?

12:27 pm  
Blogger Sriram K said...

I agree. One loner writing a book doesn't constitute practice. And, by God, this would have been a huge, bureacratic, inefficient state-machinery. Stalin would have cowed down in front of such a huge construct. Think about it. This guy figured out everything from economics to civil administration. Whatever happened to inflation and stuff. I belive he was considered a maverick even by his contemporaries.

But a really interesting point has been raised. When did we become what we are now? I don't know the answer, but I can raise a few questions. These are not claims by pseudo-secularists.

1. Were brahmins always vegetarians? There seems to be some proof to the contrary. (I have come across any in person. Hence this is an open question, atleast for me).

2. A friend of mine claimed that the practice of Mangalsutra (Thaali in tamil context) did not exist in ancient times. He gives me two examples. (He claims to have verified both. And I believe him:) One is Meenakshi's marriage to Sundareswarar. In all the elaborate description there seems to be no description of mangalsutra or anything like it. Second example is Vaaranamaayiram, which centres around a marriage. Here again there is no discussion of MangalSutra (there seems to be quite some detailed description of many other things).

So who are we? What we were 10,000 years back, or what we were 5,000 years back? I believe we are what we are now.

(Sorry for the really long comment).

8:58 pm  
Anonymous chuddieman said...

@airbassplayerman .. :)) wait ..cannot laugh with arch-nemisis ( huge internal struggle ) .. there is hope for you yet .. come over to the light (?) side! set aside your evil ways....

12:44 am  
Blogger Sridhar said...

well .. i guess it's just a defence mechanism thay society built to keep alcoholism down ...and "tradition" is always a good excuse for anything :)

@sriram k "I believe we are what we are now. " ... umm ..sorry but i couldn't resist .. :D .. if we aren't what we are then we'd be horribly confused wouldn't we ...

12:46 am  
Blogger wooaaooww said...

Ooooooooo kicku yerudae! :P

1:57 am  
Blogger krishna canchi said...

@sanketh : i dont believe most of the junta is fine with alcohol. the average indian middle-class family still categorises alcohol(or "daaroo") as "bad", as something unfit to be taken publicly. one often comes across this "i dont drink in front of my parents"!!we dont have bier and wine alongside juices at family functions!!
@sriram : ya, we dont know who we are - i think mainly because we have one of the longest and most complicated histories of immigration and cultural exchange..its taken soo many twists and turns that we dont know anymore where we started!!
@m : doesnt the very fact that there were so many restrictions on "where and when and how much to drink " emphasize the attitude towards alcohol in the society? though i agree that alcohol isnt foreign to us, my belief that we have always seen it as something "wrong and abnormal" has been enhanced by ur write-up!!

6:12 am  
Blogger Sanketh said...

@krishna: I believe they are. If not public at least private consumption. I don't know where you are from but I've noticed at least in Chennai there are some issues with it. Most "middle-class" families don't have problems and I am sure about this. We may not drink around our elders out of respect for them. That is a plus, I guess. But casual drinking is ok as far as I can see.

In addition to that the "middle class" isn't India.

6:10 pm  
Anonymous AirBassPlayerMan said...

Ha! ChuddieMan your weakness is exposed!

AirBassPlayerMan rules all.


6:11 pm  
Blogger m. said...

@charu: really? oh thats another new one to me! verry interesting times, those days! :)

@ss: the woodapple sounds good: temme how it turns out! ;)

@abpm: owwww...i KNEW someone would say that! :p :))

@sanketh & sriram: of course these are only the suggested rules - who said they were all implemented properly! :) its just that if social issues were discussed so openly, there was also probably a better chance of addressing problems that came up in a very matter of fact way.
typically now, take something like sex work: hypocrisy politicises the issue and makes for a very messy scene.
plus if the adults could be that honest about drinking, sex etc. then theres also an increased likelihood of young people being given age-appropriate *accurate* information : something thats not happening now.
and yes, there IS still a big issue with drinking - especially with women consuming alcohol. social stigma definitely exists. we may choose to defy it, but its there.

sriram: heard the first question before. dunno. second : ah, innnteresting! it sounds like the "possession" issue came up only later then..i wouldnt be surprised! do tell me if you dig up something more :)
(long comments are perfectly fine: feel free to blah! :d)

@sridhar: oh yesh! "weve always done things this way". lethal! :)

@wooaaooww: you were always in kick mode - when did you ever need booze as an excuse! :p :))

@krishna canchi: i think the restrictions simply reflect a calm certainty that left to themselves, most people will act like asses where alcohol is concerned. it was simply sound horse sense to have some rules in place as a preemptive strike! :)) i dont know about the "abnormal" part... im of the belief that you wont die without alcohol, but if someone does have a peg it neednt mean theyll be drunk senseless and a total menace to society. if theyve control over themselves, its no big deal :)

@sanketh: "middle class isnt india"...?

@abpm and chuddie: LOL. WHEN am i getting to see the next episode featuring a face off betn you two?? :d

7:25 pm  
Anonymous AirBassPlayerMan said...

12 ... 12 ... 12... 12 ..

to many! AirBassPlayerMan shall disrupt the harmony!


11:36 pm  
Anonymous chuddieman said...

@airbassplayerman .. ahem .. well .. (looks embarrassed) psst.. you're supposed to be scary and evil .. not arbit and random ..

mutter mutter .. you can never find a good arch nemesis these days..

5:58 am  
Anonymous AirBassPlayerMan said...

ChuddieMan I propose we recruit Shaggy to illustrate our famous battles!

What say!

12:30 pm  
Blogger Gaurav said...

hmm can't we have pubs like those drinking halls with same rules and concerned abt citizens...dat details abt his belongings/money with him were found...and even the persons identity verified....if this all mazaa aajaaye..... ;)

seriously....these rules r amazing...and if this all is assumed to have happened...then the concern for the citizens that time was amazing...and just look today who all flock to the govt. run liquor shops...our govt. if learns something from past...then the current crime rate can come down in a big way.....

1:05 am  
Blogger Sridhar said...

@airbassplayerman ... there there ..stop getting over excited :))

11:47 pm  
Blogger IdeaSmith said...

Good writing. I'm here from Sagnik's blog.

Especially enjoyed the post on India's earlier views on sex. Incidentaly, have you read 'Memoirs of a Geisha'. Apparantly other Asian societies have been just as secure and evolved as ours, in matters of sex trafficking.

1:13 pm  
Blogger m. said...

@ gaurav: yesh, rather stunning rules! as for concern for citizens, kautilya seems to have laid out quite a comprehensive set of guidelines again.... its so well planned. the civil service shd use that treatise in their training! :)

@ideasmith: hullo :) ah yes, memoirs of a geisha - ive been meaning to read it, but i keep thinking itll be depressing so i dont! im not surprised about the orient having equally cool notions: all the old cultures seem to! :)

8:58 pm  
Blogger Chez said...


This is to inform you that your blog has been added/updated to Indibloggers.

Please take a look and verify it.
Thank You. Have a nice time, blogging!

[Glass Prism]

7:23 am  
Blogger KoPoS said...

But does alcohol or more spec. to say somapana, have the same levels of consumption that we have? More like where we have unsupervised kids going on drinking binges...

And that is prolly the fear "middle-class families" have? There have been many instances where this addiction to alcohol caused many a family abused? Or a mom who could not breastfeed her infant child crying aloud and the other women in the bus had to shake her out of her arrack-induced-afternoon-slumber?

Sometimes, we prolly are trying to pointlessly trying to describe our perfect past indian culture in a way that is devoid of all the foreign influences. And that is exactly the contrary of the core of Hinduism.

Years of mughal-prudence and european-gentlemanliness has been absorbed into our culture... premium on virginity, original sin, stress on sombreness, etc.

7:15 am  

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