Among the 5 greatest sins, is the drinking of Surā or alcohol.

Basically, Tamasic foods are not recommended which include, fermented items such as alcohol. However the dharmashastras have carved an exception for spoilt foods as follows:

Among Soured Substances, the curd is fit to be eaten, and all that is prepared out of it; as also all that is distilled from pure flowers, roots and fruits;—(Manu 5.10)

The part to note is the emboldened one, which gives an exception to those substances made out of fruits and roots. If one sees, wine is made by fermentation of fruits (grapes) and sometimes Vodka is made by fermentation of potatoes, a root.

There is an answer here which talks of Surā being alcohol made from grains vs those that originate from fruits being allowed. (Somewhat in line with what I’ve written above).


  1. Is this above differentiation correct? And is what I’m interpreting correct?
  2. Are certain kinds of alcohol allowed? (I.e. not Tamasic or Tamasic but not those that cause problems for sadhana unlike others that even when consumed in small quantities are not recommend for sadhana?)
  3. My main question is: Why has an exception been carved out for spoilt items like some alcoholic beverages that originate from fruits and roots?
  4. Why is Sura considered so bad as opposed to other alcoholic drinks?

Please note: I’m satisfied if point 3 is answered and my basic interpretation that alcohol originating from fruits and roots are okay for consumption.

I have asked about the first part I.e. curd here

  • 1
    Well-asked questions are becoming rarer and rarer, so nice job asking this. It's a joy to see such a thoughtful post.
    – CDR
    Sep 2, 2023 at 20:30

2 Answers 2


As per bhagavatapurANa 11.5.13, intake of alcohol is permitted only as part of vedic shrauta yajna (sautramani, etc.) and drinking outside yajnas is forbidden for dvijas :

bhagavatapurANa 11.5.13 :

yad ghrāṇa-bhakṣo vihitaḥ surāyās tathā paśor ālabhanaṁ na hiṁsā evaṁ vyavāyaḥ prajayā na ratyā imaṁ viśuddhaṁ na viduḥ sva-dharmam

13. The smelling of wine (from yajna) is laid down as its intake (and no drinking of liquor is permitted); a beast is to be offered to the deities in sacrifices, but no killing for is allowed; similarly, sexual intercourse (with one’s wife) is to be indulged in for procreation but not for sexual enjoyment. But people do not understand this pure course of their own dharma.

There is restriction of sura for brahmans which applies as per shatapatha brAhmaNa 12:9:1:1 :

1. Verily, from this sacrifice the man is born and whatever food a man consumes in this world, that (food), in return, consumes him in yonder world. Now this sacrifice is performed by means of spirituous liquor, and spirituous liquor is not to be consumed by a Brâhmana: he thus is born from that which is not (to be) consumed, and the food does not, in return, consume him in yonder world. Therefore this (sacrifice), the Sautrâmanî, is a Brâhmana's sacrifice.

So the topic of consumption of liquor in dharmashastras has to in context of ritual only. From satapatha brahmaNa 12.8.2, it appears that in those rituals milk is added to 3 cups of sura to eliminate its intoxicating effect to the extent that only smell of sura remains (consistent with bhagavata purana verse above) :

11. The milk of one (cow) he pours (into the Surā) the first night, the milk of two the second night, and the milk of three the third night: he thus provides him with the pressings, in accordance with their forms, and in accordance with their deities.

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    I’m aware of the Bhagavatam verse thank you. But that applies to Sura again. My 4 Parted question is with respect to the alcohol produced from fruits flowers and roots.
    – Adiyarkku
    Sep 3, 2023 at 15:44
  • But the very same chapter of bhagavatam 11.5.11 uses the word "madya sevāh" while setting the context for verse 11.5.13. So it is possible that these verses apply not just to sura but to all types of alcohol.
    – ekAntika
    Sep 3, 2023 at 16:28
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    Yes I will upvote the answer for the Bhagavatam reference👍. Will wait for other points to be answered for accepting. As also why then does Manu exclude certain type s of things?
    – Adiyarkku
    Sep 3, 2023 at 17:11

We were in a discussion with some Bharadwaj gotra Brahmans whose Dharmashastra is the Apasthamba Dharma and Grihya Sutras, according to them.The apasthamba sutras mention that drinking alcohol is not a kilbisham, but habitual drinking , addiction, alcoholism is a grave sin. I have added an excerpt of the page from the translation.

Praśna 1, Patala 7, Khanda 21:

steam abhisastyam purusa vadho brahma ujjham garbha Sätanam mätuh pitur iti yoni sambandhe saha-apatye stri gamanam sura pânam asamyoga samyogah II 8 Il 8. [These are] (a) stealing [gold], (b) crimes whereby one becomes an Abhisasta, (c) homicide, (d) neglect of the Vedas, (e) causing abortion, (f) incestuous connection with maternal or paternal uncles or aunts, (g) and with the offspring of such persons (cousins), (h) alcoholism, and (i) socializing with persons the interaction with whom is forbidden.

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  • Surapanam as per your reference means simply drinking alcohol. There is nothing to justify continuous drinking of alcohol.
    – Adiyarkku
    Sep 3, 2023 at 7:19

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