Drinking Alcohol Common Practice Among Women Of Ancient India


Apart from ancient Indian texts, an old book written circa 1922 also gives descriptions of women indulging in alcohol consumption from the Vedic/Puranic literature.

In fact, one study by F. R. Allchin suggests that India may be the original home of alcohol distillation. There were many kinds of alcohol consumed in ancient India, strong and mild versions, only they were not called wine, beer or whiskey.

Mahabharata, ‘Rigveda’, ‘Gath-Saptasati’, ‘Puranas’ and in the works of classical Sanskrit, authors such as Kalidasa and others reveal that intoxicating beverages were known by various names: the most common drinks were Sura and Soma as well as Parisrut, but others included Madya, Madira, Asava, Madhu, Surasava, Gaudasava, Madhasava, Kailavat Madhu, Phaljam and Kadambari among others.

In ancient India, women would enjoy their gossip sessions over several rounds of alcohol as a common practice. Various snacks were consumed in between like roast meat, fried gram egg and fish fries as also peppery tender mangoes and pulp of bilva seasoned with salt, ginger and pepper.

Drinking was not the preserve of men; there is considerable literary evidence to suggest that women regularly drank intoxicating beverages.

In the Mahabharata, the princesses Draupadi and Subhadra, along with their female attendants, accompanied Krishna and Arjun to the bank of the river Yamuna where they abandoned themselves to drunken joy.

Draupadi also figures in another story of drunkenness when Queen Sudeshana sent Draupadi to fetch wine from her brother Kichak’s palace. When Draupadi approaches Kichak with a jar, he promptly invites her to drink with him.
Kalidas too described the drinking of wine by women in his poems. Vatsyayana, a Hindu philosopher of the Vedic period, also records that women and queens had drinks in the palace on festival days. Writer Dandin, mentioned that city women and wives of chiefs took drinks in the company of men and mixed freely with them during parties arranged by the King.

There is considerable literary evidence to suggest that women also regularly drank intoxicating beverages. A sculpture of about 578 A.D. in the III cave Badami depicts two women sipping alcohol amidst chattering. Even the deity is depicted holding a goblet in her hand. Khetappayya Narayana in Bhatkal temple has sculpture of a drinking couple.

Besotted women who lost control over their body and dress,and had to be carried off are also depicted.

While in ancient India, any occasion for celebration and social gathering, be it religious or secular, turned into a drinking party, a few other castes besides the Kshtriya and Brahmins like Buddhism and Jainism, were famous for their anti-alcohol doctrines.

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