Kshatriyas and alcohol consumption


Kshatriyas and Vaishyas are allowed to drink certain forms of alcohol. Kumarila Bhatta discusses this in this excerpt from his Tantra Vartika, one of his commentaries on Jaimini's Purva Mimamsa Sutras. The context is that Kumarila Bhatta is discussing the fact that the practices of good men knowledgable about the Vedas are a Pramana or means of knowledge concerning morality, since such men naturally make sure that their actions are in accordance with the Vedas. But then an objection is raised that there are various stories in Hindu scriptures of good men acting contrary to Dharma, one example being that the Mahabharata describes Krishna and Arjuna drinking alcohol, even though drinking alcohol is a sin. Kumarila Bhatta responds that Krishna and Arjuna drank the kind of alcohol that is allowed for Kshatriyas, not the kind that is forbidden:

Then remains the case of Krishna and Arjuna being drunk with wine, ... being [an] instance[] of [a] direct transgression[] of the law. But it is only the wine distilled from grains, which is called "Sura," that is prohibited for the three higher castes; says the Smriti: "Sura is the impure essence of the grains at it is spoken of an impure; hence the Brahmana, Kshatriya and the Vaishya should never drink Sura." As for the particular wines "Madhu" (wine distilled from certain fruits, as grapes and the like), and the "Sidhu" (that distilled from molasses), these are not prohibited for the Kshatriya and the Vaishya, as "all intoxicating drunks" have been prohibited for the Brahmana alone.

Though there as a passage that declares - "all the three kinds of wine, the Gaudi (that distilled from molasses), Paishthi (that distilled from grains) and Madhvi (distilled from fruits), being the same, they should not be drunk by the Brahmavadis," - yet here the word "Brahmavidi" should be taken as denoting the Brahmanas only, as the word literally means "one who is capable of teaching Brahma", or "whose duty it is to teach Brahma", or "whose excellence lies in such teaching", and as the root "Vada"' is synonymons with "Bru" such duties are distinctly restricted to the Brahmana alone, by such texts as - "from among the three higher castes, the Brahmana, alone should teach". And it has also been pointed out in connection with the vilificatory Arthavada, that are taken along with the prohıbıtıon of wınes ın general, that the Brahmana, deluded under the influence of wine, might do many such things as should not be done which shows that wine in general is prohibited for the Brahmana only. Hence we take the passage-"All the three kinds of wine, &c.," to mean that just as the one, Sura distilled from grains, is not drinkable by the three higher castes, so are all the three undrinkable by the Brahmana. Otherwise, if the sample prohibition of wine in general were meant, then the words "Yathaiva, &c.," and "Brahmavadibhih" would be totally redundant. The mention of "the three castes" we shall supply from out of another verse. For this reason, the fact of Krishna and Aruna - both Kshatriyas - being intoxicated with Madhu (grape wine) is in no way a transgression of the law.

And, as a matter of fact, we have Vedic texts that distinctly show (1) that the prohibition of wine is for others (i. e., Brahmanas), and also (2) that it is distinctly permissible (in the case of others). For instance, (1) "That which was impure came out afterwards, wine is that ampurity, this became attached to the Kshatriya, hence it is that superiors, daughters-in-law, and the father-in-law drink the wine and go on talking; evil indeed is impurity, hence the Brahmana, should not drink the wine; lest he be attached to evil", and (2) "The Kshatriya should say to the Brahmana - the drinking of wine does no harm to him who knows this", and this latter is with reference to the "Madhu" and the "Siddhu" (and not the "Sura" which is in no case allowed to anyone else but the Shudra).

So to sum up, Brahmanas are not allowed to drink any kind of alcohol, whereas Kshatriyas and Vaishyas are allowed to drink Madhu and Siddhu but not Sura. But Sura can be consumed during certain Yagnas, like the Sautramani Yagna.

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