Beef was widely eaten in ancient Hindu India – conclusive proofs, as assessed by Sanjeev Sabhlok

Scriptural citations re: beef eating in ancient India.

Copied for my record from here:


But the theory that in Vedic times there was no cow slaughter is historically inaccurate. Although cow was revered and treated as sacred, it was also offered as food to guests and persons of high status. The fact remains that ancient Hindu scriptures clearly permit the consumption of meat, even of cows. True scholars, and not modern frauds, know this. For example, Swami Vivekananda who is considered as a major force in the revival of Hinduism in modern India, admitted that ancient Hindus used to eat meat. He says,

"You will be astonished if I tell you that, according to the old ceremonials, he is not a good Hindu who does not eat beef. On certain occasions he must sacrifice a bull and eat it."

[The complete works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume 3, Pg 536]

In the same volume on page 174 he says,

"There was a time in this very India when, without eating beef, no Brahmin could remain a Brahmin;"

Let us now look at the evidence from Hindu texts, which proves that Hinduism not only permits beef eating but also requires its folowers to institute certain cow sacrifices. I will simultaneously refute the common arguments of Hindus.

Yajna and animal sacrifices

In Hinduism, Yajna is a ritual of sacrifice derived from the practice of Vedic times. It is performed to please the gods or to attain certain wishes. A Vedic yajna is typically performed by an adhvaryu priest, with a number of additional priests such as the hotar, udgatar playing a major role, next to their dozen helpers, by reciting or singing Vedic verses. How to deal with the animal, that is to be sacrificed in the Yajna, be it a goat, a horse or a cow, is mentioned in the Aitareya Brahman of the Rigveda as follows:


"6. …Turn the animal's feet northwards. Make its eyes go to the Sun, dismiss its breath to the wond, its life to the space, its hearing to the directions, its body to the earth. In this way the Hotar (priest) connets it with these world. Take of the entire skin without cutting it. Before opening the navel tear out the omentum. Stop its breathing within (by stopping its mouth). Thus the Hotar puts breath in the animals. Make of its breast a piece like an eagle, of its arms (two pieces like) two hatchets, of its forearms (two pieces like) two spikes, of its shoulders (two pieces like) two kashyapas (tortoises), its loins should be unbroken (entire); make of its thigs (two pieces like) two shields, of the two kneepans (two pieces like) two oleander leaves; take out its twenty-six ribs according to their order; preserve every limb of its in its integrity. Thus he benefits all its limbs. Dig a ditch in the earth to hide its excrements.

7. Present the evil spirits with the blood."

[Aitareya Brahman, Book 2, para 6 and 7]

Subsequently, the same Aitareya Brahman instructing on how to distribute different parts of the sacrificial animal says,


"Now follows the division of the different parts of the sacrificial animal (among the priests). We shall describe it. The two jawbones with the tongue are to be given to the Prastotar; the breast in the form of an eagle to the Udgatar; the throat with the palate to the Pratihartar; the lower part of the right loins to the Hotar; the left to the Brahma; the right thigh to the Maitravaruna; the left to the Brahmanuchhamsi; the right side with the shoulder to the Adhvaryu; the left side to those who accompany the chants; the left shoulder to the Pratipasthatar; the lower part of the right arm to the Neshtar; the lower part of the left arm to the Potar; the upper part of the right thigh to the Achhavaka; the left to the Agnidhra; the upper part of the right arm to the Aitreya; the left to the Sadasya; the back bone and the urinal bladder to the Grihapati (sacrificer); the right feet to the Grihapati who gives a feasting; the left feet to the wife of that Grihapati who gives a feasting; the upper lip is common to both, which is to be divided by the Grihapati. They offer the tail of the animal to wives, but they should give it to a Brahmana; the fleshy processes (maanihah) on the neck and three gristles (kikasaah) to the Grahvastut; three other gristles and one half of the fleshy part on the back (vaikartta) to the Unnetar; the other half of the fleshy part on the neck and the left lobe (Kloma) to the Slaughterer (Shamita), who should present it to a Brahmana, if he himself would not happen to be a Brahmana. The head is to be given to the Subrahmanya, the skin belongs to him (the Subrahmanya), who spoke, Svaah Sutyam (to morrow at the Soma Sacriice); that part of the sacrificial animal at a Soma sacrifice which beloings to Ilaa (sacrificial food) is common to all the priests; only for the Hotar it is optional.

All these portions of the sacrificial animal amount to thirty-six single pieces, each of which represents the paada (foot) of a verse by which the sacrifice is carried up…"

"To those who divide the sacrificial animal in the way mentioned, it becomes the guide to heaven (Swarga). But those who make the division otherwise are like scoundrels and miscreants who kill an animal merely."

"This division of the sacrificial animal was invented by Rishi Devabhaaga, a son of Srauta. When he was departing from this life, he did not entrust (the secret to anyone). But a supernatural being communicated it to Girija,the son of Babhru. Since his time men study it."

[Aitareya Brahman, Book 7, Para 1, Translated by Martin Haug]

I have come across certain bigots among Hindus, who make the excuse that these are the translations of a non-Hindu European scholar with 'ulterior motives'. This is a common response of  half-baked Hindus, who have negligible knowledge of Hindu scriptures. To establish the authenticity of the above translations, I will produce before you passages from the 'Purva Mimamsa Sutras' of Jaimini, its commentary called 'Shabarbhasya' and the views of renowned Arya Samaj scholar, Pandit Yudhishthira Mimamsak on them.

It must be noted that the Purva Mimamsa Sutras (compiled between 300-200 BCE), written by Rishi Jaimini is one of the most important ancient Hindu philosophical texts. It forms the basis of Mimamsa, the earliest of the six orthodox schools (darshanas) of Indian philosophy.

Commenting on Purv Mimansa Sutra Adhyaya 3, Pada 6, Sutra 18, the Shabarbhasya says,

???? ? ?????????- ???????, ??????, ???????? ????, ???? ????????, ????????, ?????????????????

There are also certain details to be performed in connection with the animals, such as (a) Upaakaranam [Touching the animal with the two mantras], (b) Upaanayanam [Bringing forward], (c) Akshanyaa-bandhah [Tying with a rope], (d) Yoope niyojanam [Fettering to the Sacrificial Post], (e) Sanjnapanam [Suffocating to death], (f) Vishasanam [Dissecting], and so forth.

[Shabhar bhashya on Mimamsa Sutra 3/6/18; translated by Ganganath Jha]

Expounding on this, Arya Samaj scholar, Pandit Yudhisthira Mimamsak writes in is 'Mimamsa Shabar Bhashyam'

"In this case and otherwise it appears from the Jaimini Sutras that the offering of sacrificed animals is to be made in the Yajnas. It is clearly mentioned in the Mimamsa Sutrs." 

[Mimamsa Shabharbhasyam, adhyaya 3, Page 1014]

Moving on let us see Mimamsadarshan Sutra 3/7/28 which says,

????? ? ??????????

The 'Shamita' (slaughterer of the animal) is not distinct from the major priests.

Commenting on it the Shabarbhashya says,

?????? ????????? ???????? ? ?????? ??? ?????????? ??????? ???? ????????? ??????

"The liver and the upper quarter belongs to the Shamita Priest ; one should give it to a Brahmana if he be a non-Brahmana."

[Shabhar bhasya on Mimamsa Sutra 3/7/28; translated by Ganganath Jha]

Notice that this is exactly the same things that we saw was said in Aitareya Brahman Book 7; Para 1 above (the highlighted part). This proves that Shabarbhashya is confirming the Aitareya Brahman and the translation is also accurate.

Pandit Yudhisthira Mimamsak also confirms this when he says,

"The division of the meat of the sacrificed animal as instructed in the Aitareya Brahman clearly proves that during the time of the writing of Aitareya Brahman and the time when it was edited by Saunaka, animals were sacrificed in the Yajnas and their meat was consumed by the Brahmins"

Some half-baked Hindus who like to play games might try to call all these references as later interpolations. However, the scholar Yudhisthir Mimamsak outrightly rejects such a bogus conclusion when he says,

"There is no strong evidence to consider these passages as later interpolations."

[Mimamsa Shabarbhashyam by Yudhishthir Mimamsak Adhyaya 3, Page 1075]

Further in Mimamsa Sutra 3/8/43 it is mentioned,

????? ?? ????????? ????????????

"Only the 'Savaniya' cakes should consist of flesh"

All these passages prove that the flesh of the sacrificed animal was consumed as per the instructions of the Hindu texts.

Refuting the modern Hindu polemic of 'No violence in Yajna'

Hindu Argument (quoted from a Hindu apologetics website)

Yajna never meant animal sacrifice in the sense popularly understood. Yajna in the Vedas meant a noble deed or the highest purifying action.

Adhvara iti Yajnanaama – Dhvaratihimsaakarmaa tatpratishedhah
Nirukta 2.7

According to Yaaska Acharya, one of the synonyms of Yajna in Nirukta or the Vedic philology is Adhvara.

Dhvara means an act with himsa or violence. And therefore a-dhvara means an act involving no himsa or no violence. There are a large number of such usage of Adhvara in the Vedas.


This argument is incorrect because the word 'Adhvar' has been misplaced and interpreted incompletely. Yaska is merely giving the etymology of the word 'Adhvar' and not where it is to be applied and what constitutes violence. To know the true application of the word 'Adhvar' we will have to turn to Shatapath Brahman, which gives the complete understanding of why 'Yajna' is called 'Adhvar'. Shatapath Brahman 1/4/1/40 says,

dev?nha vai yajñena yajam?n??tsapatn?
asur? dudh?r??? cakruste dudh?r?anta eva na ?ekurdh?rvitu? te
par?babh?vustasm?dyajño adhvaro n?ma


"For once when the gods were engaged in sacrificing, their rivals, the Asuras, wished to injure (dhvar) them; but, though desirous of injuring them, they were unable to injure them and were foiled: for this reason the sacrifice is called adhvara ('not damaged, uninterrupted')."

Thus the argument of the polemicist turns out to be a deception aimed at fooling those who have no access to the original texts. The passage of Shatapath Brahman makes it clear that 'Adhvar' is called so because the priests performing the Yajna did not become victims of violence. It has no connection to the violence of the animals done in the Yajna.

Renowned classical commentator of the four Vedas, Sayana Acharya, also gives the same reason for calling Yajna as 'Adhvar'. He says in his comments on Rigveda 1/1/4,

?????? ??????????? ????????? ?????? ?????? ????? ?????????? ???????? ????????

"Adhvar is called 'without violence' because being protected by Agni on all sides it is uninterrupted by Rakshashas or violent enemies, who are unable to mar it."

Again we see that Acharya Sayan expresses the same view as that of the Shatapath Brahman i.e the violence referred in the 'adhvar' is not for the sacrificial animal in the Yajna.

Renowned Hindu scholar, Swami Prabhupada explains the so-called violence in the Yajna in the following words,

“Although animal killing in a sacrifice is recommended in the Vedic literature, the animal is not considered to be killed. The sacrifice is to give a new life to the animal. Sometimes the animal is given a new animal life after being killed in the sacrifice, and sometimes the animal is promoted immediately to the human form of life.”

[Bhagavad Gita As It Is 18/3]

Even Manu Smriti echoes the same opinion in a more clear way in Chapter 5, verse 39 when it says,


"Svayambhu (the Self-existent) himself created animals for the sake of sacrifices; sacrifices (have been instituted) for the good of this whole (world); hence the slaughtering (of beasts) for sacrifices is not slaughtering (in the ordinary sense of the word)."

Again Manu Smriti Chapter 5, verse 44 says


"Know that the injury to moving creatures and to those destitute of motion, which the Veda has prescribed for certain occasions, is no injury at all; for the sacred law shone forth from the Veda."

Thus, this argument stands nullified. For more scholarly explanation that the violence of animals in the Yajna is actually no violence please see the last section of this article namely 'The testimony of classical scholars'.

Animal sacrifices in Vedas, including cow sacrifice

Chapter 24 of the Shukla Yajurveda is a unique chapter that will help us throw light on the animal sacrifices in the Vedas. This chapter contains an exact enumeration of animals that are to be tied to the sacrificial stakes, with the names of the deities to which they are dedicated. Several of the animals cannot be identified. This entire chapter is a weird puzzle, which is difficult to solve for the  modern vegetarian Hindus. They are simply unable to explain the coherent meaning of this chapter. You will be amazed to know that even a Vedic scholar like Swami Dayanand is unable to throw any light on it. He merely says that we should know the  qualities of each animal by relating to the qualities of the deity to whom they are dedicated.  This statement of the Swami is itself a puzzle, as it gives no clear beneficial knowledge to us. Even Pandit Devi Chand, an Arya Samaj scholar, who based his English translation of the Yajurveda on Swami Dayanand's work is clueless about the exact meaning of this chapter. He says in  the footnote to verse #1,

"The exact significance of these animals being attached to the forces of nature (or Deities) is not clear to me." (words in brackets  mine)

Does this mean that no Hindu scholar for thousands of years has been able to understand the meaning of this chapter? I would say that is not the case. If we go to the Brahmanas and the classical commentators of the Vedas, the puzzle is solved. According to them each animal dedicated to a particular diety in this chapter has to be sacrificed to that deity. See Shatapath Brahmana 13/2/2/1-10

If this view is not accepted as the correct one, then every verse of this chapter would be a question mark with no answer.  For example, verse 1 dedicates 'a cow that slips her calf' to Indra. But the question is, what will Indra do with such a cow? Is Indra going to give a sermon to her? or is Indra going to punish her? Such questions require satisfactory answers which modern vegetarian Hindus are unable to provide.

In the Yajnas meant for obtaining Rice, meat of bulls was cooked and offered to the diety.

 Rigveda 10/28/3 mentions this as

??????? ?? ?????? ?????? ????? ????????? ????? ????? ??????? |

?????? ?? ??????????? ????? ???????? ??????? ??????? ||

"Your worshippers express with the stone fast flowing exhilarating Soma-juices for you. You drink them. They roast bulls for you, you eat them when you are invoked, Maghavan, to the sacrificial food."

This is interpreted by Sayana Acharya as follows:

"You (O Indra), eat the cattle offered as oblations belonging to the worshippers who cook them for you."

Acharya Sayana explicitly mentions about sacrificing a bull in the introduction to Atharvaveda 9/4/1 as follows


"The Brahman after killing the bull, offers its meat to the different deities. In this hymn, the bull is praised, detailing which parts of the bull are attached to which deity as well as the importance of sacrificing the bull and the rewards of doing the same."

The Ashwamedha Yajna

The 'Practical Sanskrit English Dictionary' by V. S. Apte (1890) gives the following meaning of 'Ashwa-medha'

????? ????????? ??????? ???????? ????

"A Yajna in which a Horse is primarily sacrificed is called Ashwamedha. [A Horse Sacrifice]"

The dictionary further goes on to say

"In Vedic times this sacrifice was performed by kings desirous of offspring."

This statement is right when we turn to Shatapath Brahman 13/1/9/9.

To give readers a brief idea of Ashwamedha Yajna, I will briefly mention the entire ritual based on Hindu texts like Katyayana Srauta Sutra, Apastamba Sutra, etc; but I will not mention the obscene portion of the Ashwamedha ritual as it is irrelevant with the topic at hand.

The horse to be sacrificed is sprinkled with water, and the Adhvaryu and the sacrificer whisper mantras into its ear. Anyone who should stop the horse is ritually cursed, and a dog is killed symbolic of the punishment for the sinners. The horse is then set loose towards the North-East, to roam around wherever it chooses, for the period of one year (or half a year, according to some commentators). The horse is associated with the Sun, and its yearly course. If the horse wanders into neighbouring provinces hostile to the sacrificer, they must be subjugated. The wandering horse is attended by a hundred young men, sons of princes or high court officials, charged with guarding the horse from all dangers and inconvenience. During the absence of the horse, an uninterrupted series of ceremonies is performed in the sacrificer's home.

After the return of the horse, more ceremonies are performed. I HAVE OMITTED THE OBSCENE PORTION OF THIS YAJNA IN THIS ARTICLE. Those who wish to read them can see Shukla Yajurveda Chapter 23; verses 19-31 and the commentary of classical scholars.

After this, the horse, a hornless he-goat, a wild ox are bound to sacrificial stakes near the fire, and seventeen other animals are attached to the horse. A great number of animals, both tame and wild, are tied to other stakes, according to a commentator 609 in total (Yajurveda, chapter 24 consists of an exact enumeration).

Then the horse is slaughtered. The horse is dissected, and its flesh roasted. Various parts are offered to a host of deities. Prayers are made for wealth, offspring and body strength.

In Rigveda, the clearest mention of Ashwamedha is made in Mandal 1 Sookt 162.  I will be quoting those verses of this hymn which directly prove that a horse was sacrificed and consumed. As we have already read the passages of Aitareya Brahman concerning the method of sacrificing the animal and distributing its meat, the following passages of the Rigveda will be easier to comprehend.

 Rigveda 1/162/3 says,

?? ???? ???? ?????? ?????? ?????? ???? ????? ??????????? |

????????? ?? ????????????? ?????????? ????????? ??????? ||

This goat, the portion of Pushan, fit for all the gods, is brought first with the fleet courser, so that Twashtri may prepare him along with the horse, as an acceptable preliminary offering for the (sacrificial) food.

Simultaneous Hindi Translation and Commentary:

Next verse 1/162/4 says,

?? ??????? ????? ??????? ???????????? ???????? ?????? |

????? ?????? ????? ??? ??? ????? ???????? ????????????? ||

'When the priests at the season (of this ceremony) lead forth the horse, the offering devoted to the gods, thrice round the (sacrificial fire) ; then the goat, the portion of Pushan (or Agni), goes first, announcing the sacrifice to the gods.'

That is, the goat is first sacrificed and then the horse.

Simultaneous Hindi Translation and Commentary:

Verse 9 says,

???????? ??????? ???????? ?? ?? ???? ?????? ?????????? |

?? ??????? ????????? ????? ????? ?? ?? ??? ??????????? ||

Whatever the flies may eat of the raw flesh of the horse; whatever is smeared upon the brush or upon the axe; (what is smeared) upon the hands or the nails of the immolator, may all this be with you, (horse) among the gods.

Here we clearly see that the belief of the Vedic people was that horse was not actually dying. It was rather going to the world of the gods to enjoy a much better life, quite similar to the explanation given by Swami Prabhupada above.

Simultaneous Hindi Translation and Commentary:

Verse 10 says,

???????????????????? ? ????? ?????? ????? ????? |

???????? ?????????? ??????????? ???? ???????? ?????? ||

Whatever undigested grass fall from his belly whatever particle of raw flesh may remain;let the immolators make the whole world free from defect, and so cook the pure (offering) that it may be perfectly dressed.

Simultaneous Hindi Translation and Commentary:

verse 11 says,

?? ?? ????????????? ??????????? ???? ?????????????? |

?? ?? ???????? ????? ?? ??????? ??????????????????? ???????? ||

Whatever (portion) of your slaughtered body fall from your carcase when it is being roasted by the fire, (escaping) from the spit; let it not be left on the ground, nor on the (sacred) grass, but let it (all) be given to the longing gods.

Simultaneous Hindi Translation and Commentary:

verse 12 says,

?? ?????? ??????????? ????? ? ?????? ???????????????? |

?? ??????? ???????????????? ??? ???????????????? ?????? ||

Let their exertions be for our good who watch the cooking of the horse; who say, it is fragrant; therefore give us some; who solicit the flesh of the horse as alms.

Simultaneous Hindi Translation and Commentary:

verse 21, addressing the horse says,

? ?? ? ??? ?????? ? ??????? ?????????? ?????? ??????? |

??? ?? ?????? ?????? ?????????????? ???? ???? ??????? ||

Verily at this moment you do not die; nor are you harmed; for you go by auspicious paths to the gods. The horses of Indra, the steeds of the Maruts shall be yoked (to their cars), and a courser shall be placed in the shaft of the ass of the Ashwins (to bear you to heaven).

Again, this verse explicitly proves the belief of the Vedic people that the sacrificial horse did not actually die but was trasported to noble heavenly worlds.

Simultaneous Hindi Translation and Commentary:

After finishing all the rites of the sacrifice, prayers were made for wealth, male offspring and bodily strength as is revealed by verse 22.

??????? ?? ???? ???????? ????? ????????? ?????????? ???? |

??????????? ?? ?????? ??????? ?????? ?? ????? ????? ???????? ||

May this horse bring to us all-sustaining wealth, with abundance of cows, of excellent horses, and of male offspring: may the spirited steed bring us exemption from wickedness: may this horse, offered in oblation, procure for us bodily vigour.

Simultaneous Hindi Translation and Commentary:

This hymn would be nonsense if the horse was not really killed and cooked. That the horse was to be actually immolated and that the body was cut up into fragments is clear ; that these fragments were dressed, partly boiled, and partly roasted, is also undisputable ; and although the expressions may be differently understood, yet there is little reason to doubt that part of the flesh was eaten by the assistants, part presented as a burnt offering to the gods.

Refuting Hindu polemics concerning Ashwamedha

Hindu Argument (quoted from a Hindu apologetics website)

The biggest accusation of cattle and cow slaughter comes in the context of the Yajnas that derived their names from different cattle like the Ashwamedh Yajna, the Gomedha Yajna and the Nar-medh Yajna. Even by the wildest stretch of the imagination the word Medha would not mean slaughter in this context.

It’s interesting to note what Yajurveda says about a horse
Imam ma himsirekashafam pashum kanikradam vaajinam vaajineshu
Yajurveda 13.48

Do not slaughter this one hoofed animal that neighs and who goes with a speed faster than most of the animals.

Aswamedha does not mean horse sacrifice at Yajna. Instead the Yajurveda clearly mentions that a horse ought not to be slaughtered.

In Shathapatha, Ashwa is a word for the nation or empire

The word medha does not mean slaughter. It denotes an act done in accordance to the intellect Alternatively it could mean consolidation, as evident from the root meaning of medha i.e. medhru san-ga-me

Raashtram vaa ashwamedhah
Annam hi gau
Agnirvaa ashwah
Aajyam medhah


Even this argument is not upto the mark.  The tactic used by the Hindu apologists here is quoting only part of a verse (Yajurveda 13.48) and ignoring the rest; thus, attempting to mislead the gullible. Doing so gives a completely different picture that Vedas are instructing people not to kill a horse.

Firstly, we need to ascertain that who is this mantra being spoken to? Is it a legal prohibition or a prayer? Is this general or specific? Let us read the full mantra.


"O Agni, don't harm this one-hoofed beautiful horse, swifter than most animals. I point out to you the wild rhinoceros. Let the wild rhinocerous be harmed by you. Let the enemy whom we hate be harmed by you."

As you can see this is actually a prayer by a selfish person asking his firegod Agni not to harm his own horses but to harm the wild animals, in this case a rhinocerous. So this verse is not a legal prohibition from killing horses. It is also prayer for the welfare of one's own animals as every animal owner will naturally do. For example, there are many shepherds who pray to God to protect their cattle from undue harm so that he can sell them or kill them for food and thus they do not go waste. This prayer is on the same lines and thus cannot be taken as a prohibition of slaughtering horses.

altThe next argument that Ashwa means a nation or empire, in the reference to Shatapath Brahman is also incorrect. For example, we all know that water is essential for the existence of life on this planet. But in many campaigns to prevent the wastage of water, we find slogans like 'Water is Life'. Does this make the meaning of water to be life or the meaning of life to be water? Not at all. It is a mode of speech where figuratively water and life are equated to establish the importance of water. Similarly, in Vedic times, the horse-sacrifice was considered essential for a strong empire so much that it was equated to the nation itself. Performance of this sacrifice depicted the royal granduer. But the meaning of Ashwa can thus never become a nation. To claim so is ignorance.

If we read the quoted Brahman (13.1.63) further, it clearly differentiates between a nation and the ashwamedha by saying, "let him who holds royal sway perform the ashwamedha".

A counter example to further nullify this argument will come from the same Shatapath Brahman. Who does not know that the Sacrifice (Yajna) and the Sacrificer (Yajmaan) are two different things. Yet Rishi Yajnavalkya says in Shatapath Brahman 13:2:2:1

Yajmaano Yajna

meaning the 'Sacriice is the Sacrificer'. This mode of speech is very common in the Brahmanas. Only a person with the intention of twisting the meanings does not reveal this. Seeing all these evidences this argument of the Hindtuva polemicist also turns out to be false.

The final blow to this argument comes from the historical narratives of Mahabharata and Ramayana, where Hindus are clearly shown sacrificing a horse and other animals including cows.

The Ashwamedha Parv of Mahabharata, section 89, shlokas 1-5 says

1 [?]

???????? ???? ?????? ?????? ???????????

????? ?? ??????????? ?????? ????????

2 ??? ????????? ????? ?????? ??????????

????????? ????? ??? ??? ????????????

?????? ?????? ???? ??????? ?????????

3 ???????? ?? ???? ???? ??????????? ??????????

?????? ???? ????????? ????????? ???????

4 ?? ??? ???????? ?? ???????? ???????

????????? ????????? ????????????? ???

5 ????????? ??????? ????? ???? ??????????? ??????

????? ????? ??????? ????? ??????? ????????????

Vaisampayana said, 'Having cooked, according to due rites, the other excellent animals that were sacrificed, the priests then sacrificed, agreeably to the injunctions of the scriptures, that steed (which had wandered over the whole world). After cutting that horse into pieces, conformably to scriptural directions, they caused Draupadi of great intelligence, who was possessed of the three requisites of mantras, things, and devotion, to sit near the divided animal. The Brahmanas then with cool minds, taking up the marrow of that steed, cooked it duly, O chief of Bharata's race. King Yudhishthira the just, with all his younger brothers, then smelled, agreeably to the scriptures, the smoke, capable of cleansing one from every sin, of the marrow that was thus cooked. The remaining limbs, O king, of that horse, were poured into the fire by the sixteen sacrificial priests possessed of great wisdom.

Meat Eating in Vedas including Cow meat

The Sanskrit word for meat is 'Maamsam'. Yaska Acharya's Nirukt 4:3 says 'Maamsam maananam va' (????? ????? ??) and 'Maanasam va' (????? ??). The meaning of the former is 'it is honoured', while the later means 'it is thought'. Durga Acharya, the most important classical commentator of Yaska's Nirukt, explains the phrase 'Maamsam maananam va' to mean, "It is prepared for a person who is honoured". Explaining the phrase 'Maanasam va' he says, "It is enjoyed by a person with hearty pleasure or by those who are intelligent'.

So we see that the very sanskrit word for meat is actually a permission for meat eating.

Atharvaveda 18/4/20 mentions the following.


Rich in cakes, rich in flesh, let the dish (charu) take seat here; to the world-makers, the road-makers, do we sacrifice, whoever of you are here, sharing in the oblation of the gods.

verse 42 of the same hymn reads.


The mingled draught, the mess of rice, the flesh which I present to you, May these be full of food for you, distilling fatness, rich in sweets.

The serving of meat to the guests is confirmed by Shatapath Brahman 3/4/1/2 which says,


Now as to why it is called 'guest-offering.' He, the purchased Soma, truly comes as his (the sacrificer's) guest,–to him (is offered) that (hospitable reception): even as for a king or a Brâhman one would cook a large ox or a large he-goat–for that is human (fare offered to a guest), and the oblation is that of the gods–so he prepares for him that guest-offering.

Goghna- the guest for whom a cow is killed

Literally the word 'Goghna' means a killer of cows. However in the ancient Indian context it has a unique application. The word 'Goghna' occurs in ancient Indian Grammarian Panini's book Ashtadhyayi. He mentions in Ashtadyayi 3/4/73

????????? ?????????

"The words 'daasa' and 'goghna' are irregularly formed and the affix in these denotes the idea of the Dative or Recipient."

 What does Panini mean that the word 'goghna' denotes the idea of recipient? He intends to say that in popular usage 'goghna' does not mean 'the killer of cow' but 'he on whose coming the cow is killed in order to give him, that is to say, a guest'. It is this irregularly formed word 'goghna' which is made applicable to the priests, guests, sons-in-law, and not the regularly formed word 'goghna' which means 'a killer of a cow'.

Thus guests in ancient India were called 'goghna', because on their coming a cow was slaughtered to be served to them.

This is exactly the explanation given in the 14th century grammar book Siddhanta Kaumudi by Pandit Bhattoji Dikshit. This book is taught to university level students across India for learning sanskrit grammar. In it, the sutra of Panini ????????? ????????? is explained in the 'Uttarkradant' chapter as follows:

??? ???? ????? ??????.??????

For it a cow is slaughtered; a guest is called 'goghna'

Almost similar definition of 'goghna' is provided by the Vedic commentator Acharya Sayana in his book Maadhaviya dhaatuvrittih. He writes

????????? ????? ?????? ? ?????? ??????

"A person for whom a cow is slaughtered, is known as 'goghna' and 'atithi' (guest)."

Thus it is clear that in ancient India, cows were slaughtered for honouring the guests.

Refuting the Hindu polemic of cow being called 'Aghnya'

Many Hindus trying to somehow hide these clear evidences give some lame arguments. One common argument is that a cow in Vedic literature is called 'Aghnya' meaning 'not fit to be killed' and therefore a cow cannot in any way be killed. Let us address this argument.

Hindu Argument

Not only the Vedas are against animal slaughter but also vehemently oppose and prohibit cow slaughter.Yajurveda forbids killing of cows, for they provide energizing food for human beings

Ghrtam duhaanaamaditim janaayaagne maa himsiheeh
Yajurveda 13.49

Do not kill cows and bulls who always deserve to be protected.

In Rigveda cow slaughter has been declared a heinous crime equivalent to human murder and it has been said that those who commits this crime should be punished.
Sooyavasaad bhagavatee hi bhooyaa atho vayam bhagvantah syaama
Addhi trnamaghnye vishwadaaneem piba shuddhamudakamaacharantee
Rigveda 1.164.40 or Atharv 7.73.11 or Atharv 9.10.20

The Aghnya cows – which are not to be killed under any circumstances– may keep themselves healthy by use of pure water and green grass, so that we may be endowed with virtues, knowledge and wealth.


As with the previous arguments, this argument also has serious shortcomings. We've already dealt with Yajurveda 13/48 and seen that it wasn't a legal prohibition against killing a horse. Similarly, this verse also is a prayer to protect one's cows. Let me post before you the full mantra to demonstrate my position.


"O Agni, don't harm this our cow, the giver of thousands of comforts, the source of immense milk, yielding butter for the people.  I point out to you the forest cow. Let the wild forest cow be harmed by you. Let the enemy whom we hate be harmed by you."

Again we see, as in verse 48, that there is no legal prohibition in this verse on killing a cow for food. It is a prayer being made to the fire god Agni to protect one's cows from undue harm due to the wrath of the fire god.All cowherds in the world pray to their own god to keep their cows safe from harm, so that they can sell their milk and other dairy products and earn profit. This does not mean that certain cows cannot be killed for food. To say so will be just an assumption.  If this verse was about prohibiting killing of cows, why would it talk about killing the forest cow? Anyone who would read the complete verse will realize that this verse cannot be taken as a prohibition for killing cows. That is why the Hindu polemicists never give the complete verse to their audience.

The next argument was that in the Vedas, a cow is called 'Aghnya' meaning 'not fit to be killed'. By this argument they try to establish that as per the Vedas cows are not to be killed. This is again a flawed argument as even according to the cultures who have beef for food know that certain cows are not fit to be killed who bring more profit through dairy products; but there are also cows who do not give much profit and thus are fit to be killed.  Even the Vedic references where a cow is called 'Aghnya' cannot in any way be generalized for all the cows. 

Consider the following mantra from Rigveda 1/164/27.

??????????? ???????? ?????? ??????????? ??????????? |

?????????????? ??? ????????? ? ??????? ???? ?????? ||

"Making the 'hin' sound, the treasure queen, desiring the calf of treasures with her mind, has approached. Let this cow (aghnya) yield milk for the two Asvins, and may she grow for greater prosperity"

This mantra is speaking about a particular cow which gives milk to the Asvins, the divine twin horsemen in the Rigveda. Again it is not a legal prohibition, but rather is a prayer to yiled milk for the Asvins. Moreover, classical Hindu commentators like Acharya Sayana interpret this verse and the one before it i.e. verse 26 in terms of metaphors of clouds, rain and the earth. He opines that the cow may be the rain cloud, the milk being the rain and the milker Vaayu, the god of wind who causes it to flow. The calf is the world longing for the rain to fall.

Thus, it will be incorrect to insist that this verse is speaking about all cows in the world, referring to them as 'Aghnya'. In order for anything to be prohibited it should be stated explicitly and without any ambiguity, This is the basis of all law. However, nothing on the lines of prohibition can be deduced from this verse and other verses where the word 'Aghnya' exists.

But this one more important point I wish to share with regards to the meaning of the word 'Aghnya'. I agree that a meaning of 'Aghnya' is 'not fit to be killed', however, this does not tell us the entire story. According to Yaska Acharya's Nirukt, the word has two meanings as follows:


Aghnya means 'not fit to be killed' or 'destroyer of sins'

Thus, we see why all the noise is being made on the first meaning of the word i.e. 'not fit to be killed'; while the second meaning i.e. 'destroyer of sins' is being completely brushed under the carpet. This is a clear proof of intellectual dishonesty. Applying the second meaning to the verses where the word 'Aghnya' appears in the Vedas appears to be a more appealing prospect. Let us now read Rigveda 1/164/40 with this very meaning:

??????? ????? ?? ???? ??? ??? ??????? ???? |

????? ??????????? ?????????? ??? ????????????????? ||

"O Aghnya (destroyer of sins), may you be rich in milk through abundant fodder; that we also may be rich (in abundance); eat grass at all seasons, and roaming (at will), drink pure water."

Notice that now this verse speaks nothing about not killing cows. A cow may be called 'destroyer of sins' due to the very fact that it was sacrificed as a burnt offering for cleansing a person's sins. This is not a far fetched conclusion. However, the primary point is that in no terms in this verse and other verses like it implying any prohibition of cow slaughter. Even if 'Aghnya' is taken to mean 'not fit to be killed', it can only be taken to mean a particular kind of cow.

Thus, this argument also is not valid.

Some Hindus still try to show more mantras. which according to them, prohibit the killing of cows. However, when we look at those mantras, we find that they are again quoted out of context. One most commonly used mantra of that sort is Atharvaveda 1/16/4 which says,


"If you destroy a cow of ours, a human being, or a steed, We pierce you with this piece of lead so that you may not slay our men."

Even on a simple reading of this mantra, one cannot conlude that it is prohibiting killing cows for food. It is a merely threat for the enemies to not kill any cow, horse or people of the Vedic people so as to cause loss to them. For example, we know that chicken are bred in poultry farms so that they can later be sold in the market and people can consume them as food. Any owner of such a farm knows this. But still, if someone would want to harm his chicken unnecessarily, it would mean loss of wealth for him. As such he is ready to take protective action and ensure the safety of his chicken. He makes sure that no one steals any chicken from his farm to kill them, even though chicken are meant for food. So, he will ensure that such theieves are punished. Also, there is threat from many animals who might eat the chicken when he is unaware. For that he even kills the harmful animals to save his chicken. Consider that chicken owner saying, "if anyone will harm MY chicken, I will punish him". Will the Hindutvavadis interpret his statement to mean that the chicken are not meant to be eaten? No. That would be totally ridiculous.

Similarly, in the verse of Atharvaveda, it is a threat of punishment for those who harm the cattle of Aryans. It is in no way a prohibition on slaughtering a cow for food. Considering all the evidences presented in this article, insisting that cows and other animals are not meant for food will be illogical.

Other evidences of beef eating

Brihadaranyak Upanishad 6/4/18 suggests a 'super-scientific' way of giving birth to a super intelligent child. It says,


"If a man wishes that a son should be born to him who will be a famous scholar, frequenting assemblies and speaking delightful words, a student of all the Vedas and an enjoyer of the full term of life, he should have rice cooked with the meat of a young bull or of one more advanced in years and he and his wife should eat it with clarified butter. Then they should be able to beget such a son."

Some Hindutvavadis try to play tricks even here by trying to twist the translation of few words like 'Auksha' and 'Aarshabh". They say they refer to certain medicinal plants and not a bull. To refute them, we are fortunate to have available the most ancient commentary on this mantra by none other than Adi Shankaracharya, revered by Hindus as the reviver of Hinduism in India and finishing off Buddhism and Jainism. Commenting on this verse he writes,

?????????????? ?????????. ?????????????????? – ?????? ?? ??????. ????? ?????????? ???????????? ??????. ?????????.????????????? ?????????? ??????.

"Odan' (rice) mixed with meat is called 'Mansodan'. On being asked whose meat it should be, he answers 'Uksha'. 'Uksha' is used for an ox, which is capable to produce semen. Or the meat should be of a 'Rishabh'. 'Rishabh' is a bull more advanced in years than an 'Uksha'."

Thus people trying to twist the mantras have no ground to stand on except deceit and fraud. This verse of Brihadaranyak Upanishad is clearly encouraging the eating of beef.

Animal Sacrifices in Mahabharata

The Anushasan Parv (Book 13); section 88 mentions many animal sacrifices which are can be done to please the Pitris (fathers). I will quote the significant sholkas

1 [?]
      ??? ???? ????? ???????? ?? ????? ?????? ?????

      ??? ???? ?????????? ??? ????????? ??????

"Yudhishthira said, 'O you of great puissance, tell me what that object is which, if dedicated to the Pitris, becomes inexhaustible! What Havi (oblation), again, (if offered) lasts for all time? What, indeed, is that which (if presented) becomes eternal?'"


5 ??? ???? ?? ???? ??????? ???????? ????????? ?

   ???? ????? ?????????? ???????????? ???? ??

6 ???? ????? ???????? ?????? ????? ???

   ??????? ?? ?? ????? ???? ?? ??????? ??

7 ????? ????? ???????? ?????? ???? ??

   ?????? ?? ?????? ??????? ???? ?? ??????

8 ????? ????? ?????? ??????? ??????? ??

   ?????? ????? ??????? ?? ???????? ????????

9 ??? ????? ????????? ????? ??????? ??

   ??????????? ?????? ??????? ????? ????????

10 ????????? ???? ????? ????????? ?????????

   ??????? ? ???? ????? ???????? ??? ??????

Bhishma said, "With fishes offered at Sraddhas, the Pitris remain gratified for a period of two months. With mutton they remain gratified for three months and with the flesh of the hare for four. With the flesh of the goat, O king, they remain gratified for five months, with bacon for six months, and with the flesh of birds for seven. With venison obtained from those deer that are called Prishata, they remain gratified for eight months, and with that obtained from the Ruru for nine months, and with the meat of the Gavaya for ten months. With the meat of the buffalo their gratification lasts for eleven months. With beef presented at the Sraddha, their gratification, it is said, lasts for a full year. Payasa mixed with ghee is as much acceptable to the Pitris as beef. With the meat of the Vadhrinasa the gratification of the Pitris lasts for twelve years. The flesh of the rhinoceros, offered to the Pitris on the anniversaries of the lunar days on which they died, becomes inexhaustible.

Clearly there can be no doubt that meat of all kinds was extensively used in sacrifice rituals to please one's fathers who had died.

Sacrificial slaughter of cows is also  mentioned in Mahabharata, Shalya Parv, Section 41. A king called Rantidev is mentioned in the Vana Parv, section 207 as well as section 199, as follows

7 ?????? ?????? ?????? ??????????? ?? ????

   ??? ?????? ?? ??????? ?????? ?????? ???

8 ?????? ???? ?? ????? ??????????? ???????

   ????? ??????? ???? ?????? ?????????

"And in days of yore, O Brahmana, two thousand animals used to be killed every day in the kitchen of king Rantideva; and in the same manner two thousand cows were killed every day; and, O best of regenerate beings, king Rantideva acquired unrivalled reputation by distributing food with meat every day."

Some Hindus bigots try to claim that these are interpolation and later additions in Mahabharat. However, there is no evidence to conclude that. This is only a bogus claim of those who are unwilling to accept that their ancestors used to eat beef.

Nowadays an effort is being made in India to establish the society based on the principle of Manu, however, no clear-cut picture or its implementation is drawn out. It is interesting that the same Manu permits eating of meat and does not list the killing of cows in the major sins.

Manu Smriti 5/35 mentions,


"But a man who, being duly engaged (to officiate or to dine at a sacred rite), refuses to eat meat, becomes after death an animal during twenty-one existences."

Manu Smriti 5/56 says


"There is no sin in eating meat, in (drinking) spirituous liquor, and in carnal intercourse, for that is the natural way of created beings, but abstention brings great rewards."

The testimony of ancient Indian medical texts

Modern Hindus usually are seen boasting about India's scientific heritage, especially of medical texts like Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita, which they think are proof of the advancement of science in the ancient Hindu society. No doubt that like other nations of the word ancient Hindus too have contributed to our knowledge, epecially science and mathematics. I will now reveal before you the medicinal benefits of cow meat as enshrined in ancient Indian medical texts. I will not be commenting on the medical validity of the passages. They are only given to prove that cow meat was consumed.


"Cow meat is beneficial in curing breathing problems, Ozaena, Ague, dry cough, fatigue, diseases due to burns and marasmus."

[Charaka Samhita, Sutra Sthaanam, 27/79-80]

Charaka Samhita, Chikitsa Sthaanam 8/163 says,


"A person of magnanimous heart who eats meat along with a wine named as 'Maadhveek', is quickly relieved of tuberculosis.

Charaka Samhita, Chikitsa Sathaanam 8/165 says,


"While consuming the above mentioned kinds of meat, one may have a dose of whichever wine is appropriate such as 'Prasanna', 'Vaarooni', 'seedhu', 'arisht', 'aasava' and 'madhu'."

Besides the cow, meat of other animals is also prescribes for various diseases. For example, Sutra 158 of the same chapter says,


"Meat of a peacock, patridge, rooster, goose, swine, camel, donkey, cow and buffalo is beneficial for developing one's body."

Although there are numerous other references from Charaka Samhita prescribing meat for various other ddiseases, I feel the above mentioned passages are sufficient to prove that no meat was prohibited in ancient Indian society. It was freely taken as cure for various diseases and improving one's health.

The testimony of classical scholars

To conclude my article establishing that the Vedas and the subsidiary texts permit beef eating as well as sacrificing animals, I will post the testimony of renowned classical Hindu scholars, besides the other notale scholars I have already quoted.

1. Adi Shankaracharya

Adi Shankaracharya has written an extensive commentary on the famous Brahma Sutras. In his commentary on Brahma Sutra Adhyaai 3, Paada 1, Sutra 25 he writes,

"None therefore can know, without scripture, what is either right or wrong. Now from scripture we derive the certain knowledge that the gyotishtoma-sacrifice, which involves harm done to animals (i.e. the animal sacrifice), is an act of duty; how then can it be called unholy?–But does not the scriptural precept, 'Do not harm any creature,' intimate that to do harm to any being is an act contrary to duty?–True, but that is a general rule, while the precept, 'Let him offer an animal to Agnîshomau,' embodies an exception; and general rule and exception have different spheres of application. The work (i.e. sacrifice) enjoined by the Veda is therefore holy, being performed by authoritative men and considered blameless;"

2. Acharya Ramanuja

Acharya Ramanuja also has written a very famed commentary on the Brahma Sutras called 'Sri Bhasya'. Commenting on the same Sutra 25 he writes,

"Scripture declares that the killing of sacrificial animals makes them to go up to the heavenly world, and therefore is not of the nature of harm. This is declared in the text, 'The animal killed at the sacrifice having assumed a divine body goes to the heavenly world'; 'with a golden body it ascends to the heavenly world.' An action which is the means of supreme exaltation is not of the nature of harm, even if it involves some little pain; it rather is of beneficial nature."

3. Sikand Swami

This 7th century commentator of the Vedas, while commenting on Rigveda 1/1/4 writes,

"Yajna is good for everyone, and no one is injured. The animals who are sacrificed, also gain ultimate good. The ancestors say, "the animals that are sacrificed in the Yajna, obtain the higher worlds"

There must remain no doubt in the anyone's mind after seeing all these testimonies that the Vedic religion permits beef eating and also sacrificing the animals is considered as an investment for greater good.


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2 thoughts on “Scriptural citations re: beef eating in ancient India.
  1. charriramesh

    Do the Vedic literature allow meat-eating? Did Hinduism adopt vegetarianism from Buddhism?

    Posted by Chaitanya Charan das • January 13, 2012 • Printer-friendly

    To hear the answer, please click  here

    Answer summary:

    1. Vedic literature not uni-form, but omni-form: not just one way for all people, but multiple ways depending on levels of people.

    2. Vegetarianism is their recommendation, as seen from the verses below, but meat-eating is their concession. eg. doctor to diabetic patient: medicines and sugar-less diet are the recommendation, sweet once a week is a concession.

    3. When patient misrepresents concession to be recommendation, the doctor rejects the concession entirely to prevent such future abuse. That's what Lord Buddha did.

    4. Buddhism brought to the forefront of practical application the recommendations for vegetarianism that had been gradually sidelined.

    5. Vedic literature lead the way in pioneering a global elevation of human consciousness through the adoption of vegetarianism.


    Quotes that disapprove, even denounce, meat-eating

    Rig Veda:

    "One who partakes of human flesh, the flesh of a horse or of another animal, and deprives others of milk by slaughtering cows, O King, if such a fiend does not desist by other means, then you should not hesitate to cut off his head."

    Rig-veda (10.87.16)


    "Meat can never be obtained without injury to living creatures, and injury to sentient beings is detrimental to the attainment of heavenly bliss; let him therefore shun the use of meat. Having well considered the disgusting origin of flesh and the cruelty of fettering and slaying corporeal beings, let him entirely abstain from eating flesh."

    (Manu-samhita 5.48-49) "He who permits the slaughter of an animal, he who cuts it up, he who kills it, he who buys or sells meat, he who cooks it, he who serves it up, and he who eats it, must all be considered as the slayers of the animal. There is no greater sinner than that man who though not worshiping the gods or the ancestors, seeks to increase the bulk of his own flesh by the flesh of other beings." (Manu-samhita 5.51-52)

    "If he has a strong desire (for meat) he may make an animal of clarified butter or one of flour (and eat that); but let him never seek to destroy an animal without a (lawful) reason. As many hairs as the slain beast has, so often indeed will he who killed it without a (lawful) reason suffer a violent death in future births." (Manu-samhita 5.37-38)

    "He who injures harmless creatures from a wish to give himself pleasure, never finds happiness in this life or the next." (Manu-samhita 5.45)

    "By subsisting on pure fruits and roots, and by eating food fit for ascetics in the forest, one does not gain so great a reward as by entirely avoiding the use of flesh. Me he [mam sah] will devour in the next world, whose flesh I eat in this life; the wise declare this to be the real meaning of the word 'flesh' [mam sah]." (Manu-samhita 5.54-55)

    "He who does not seek to cause the sufferings of bonds and death to living creatures, (but) desires the good of all (beings), obtains endless bliss. He who does not injure any (creature) attains without an effort what he thinks of, what he undertakes, and what he fixes his mind on." (Manu-samhita 5.46-47)

    "By not killing any living being, one becomes fit for salvation." (Manu-samhita 6.60)


    "He who desires to augment his own flesh by eating the flesh of other creatures, lives in misery in whatever species he may take his [next] birth." (Mahabharata, Anu.115.47)

    "The purchaser of flesh performs violence by his wealth; he who eats flesh does so by enjoying its taste; the killer does violence by actually tying and killing the animal. Thus, there are three forms of killing. He who brings flesh or sends for it, he who cuts off the limbs of an animal, and he who purchases, sells, or cooks flesh and eats it–all these are to be considered meat-eaters." (Mahabharata, Anu.115.40)

    "The sins generated by violence curtail the life of the perpetrator. Therefore, even those who are anxious for their own welfare should abstain from meat-eating." (Mahabharata, Anu.115.33)

    Bhishma started, "Numberless discourses took place between the Rishis on this subject, O scion of Kuru's race. Listen, O Yudhisthira, what their opinion was. (Mahabharata, Anu.115.7)

    "The highly wise seven celestial Rishis, the Valakshillyas, and those Rishis who drink the rays of the sun, all speak highly of abstention from meat.

    The self-created Manu has said that the man who does not eat meat, or who does not kill living creatures, or who does not cause them to be killed, is a friend of all creatures. Such a man is incapable of being oppressed by any creature. He enjoys the confidence of all living beings. He always enjoys the praise of the pious. The virtuous Narada has said that that man who wishes to multiply his own flesh by eating the flesh of other creatures meets with disaster. (Mahabharata, Anu.115.9-12)

    "That man, who having eaten meat, gives it up afterwards wins merit by such a deed that is so great that a study of all the Vedas or a performance, O Bharata, of all the sacrifices [Vedic rituals], cannot give its like. (Mahabharata, Anu.115.16)

    "That learned person who gives to all living creatures the gift of complete assurance is forsooth regarded as the giver of lifebreaths in this world. (Mahabharata, Anu.115.18)

    "Men gifted with intelligence and purified souls should always treat others as they themselves wish to be treated. It is seen that even those men who are endued with learning and who seek to acquire the greatest good in the shape of liberation, are not free of the fear of death. (Mahabharata, Anu.115.20)

    "What necessity be said of those innocent and healthy creatures gifted with love of life, when they are sought to be killed by sinful wretches living by slaughter? Therefore, O King, know that the discarding of meat is the highest refuge of religion, of the celestial region, and of happiness. Abstention of injury [to others] is the highest religion. It is, again, the highest penance. It is also the highest truth from which all duty emanates. (Mahabharata, Anu.115.21-23)

    "Flesh cannot be had from grass or wood or stone. Unless a living creature is killed it cannot be procured. Hence is the fault of eating flesh. The celestials who live upon Svaha, Svadha, and nectar, are given to truth and sincerity. Those persons, however, who are for satisfying the sensation of taste, should be known as Rakshasas [flesh-eating demons] pervaded by the quality of Darkness. (Mahabharata, Anu.115.24-25)

    "If there were nobody who ate flesh, then there would be nobody to slay living creatures. The man who slays living creatures kills them for the sake of the person who eats flesh. If flesh were not considered as food, there would then be no destruction of living creatures. It is for the sake of the eater that the destruction of living entities is carried on in the world. Since, O you of great splendor, the period of life is shortened by persons who kill living creatures or cause them to be killed, it is clear that the person who seeks his own good should give up meat altogether. Those dreadful persons who are engaged in the destruction of living beings never find protectors when they are in need. Such persons should always be molested and punished even as beast of prey. (Mahabharata, Anu.115.29-32)

    "That man who seeks to multiply his own flesh by (eating) the flesh of others has to live in this world in great anxiety, and after death has to take birth in indifferent races and families. High Rishis given to the observance of vows and self-control have said that abstention from meat is worthy of praise, productive of fame and Heaven, and a great satisfaction itself. This I heard formerly, O son of Kunti, from Markandeya when that Rishi discoursed on the sins of eating flesh. (Mahabharata, Anu.115.34-36)

    "He who purchases flesh, kills living creatures through his money. He who eats flesh, kills living beings through his eating. He who binds or seizes and actually kills living creatures is the slaughterer. These are the three sorts of slaughter through each of these acts. He who does not himself eat flesh but approves of an act of slaughter, becomes stained with the sin of slaughter. (Mahabharata, Anu.115.38-39)

    "That wretched man who kills living creatures for the sake of those who would eat them commits great sin. The eater's sin is not as great. That wretched man who, following the path of religious rites and sacrifices as laid down in the Vedas, would kill a living creature from a desire to eats its flesh, will certainly go to hell. That man who having eaten flesh abstains from it afterwards acquires great merit on account of such abstention from sin. He who arranges for obtaining flesh, he who approves of those arrangements, he who kills, he who buys or sells, he who cooks, and he who eats it, [acquire the sin of those who] are all considered as eaters of flesh. [Therefore] that man who wishes to avoid disaster should abstain from the meat of every living creature. (Mahabharata, Anu.115.44-48)

    "Listen to me, O king of kings, as I tell you this, O sinless one, there is absolute happiness in abstaining from meat, O king. He who practices severe austerities for a century, and he who abstains from meat, are both equally meritorious. This is my opinion. (Mahabharata, Anu.115.52-53)

    "Yudhisthira said: Alas, those cruel men who, not caring for various other sorts of food, want only flesh, are really like great Rakshasas [meat-eating demons]. (Mahabharata, Anu.116.1)

    "Bhishma said: That man who wishes to increase his own flesh by the meat of another living creature is such that there is none meaner and more cruel than he. In this world there is nothing that is dearer to a creature than his life. Hence, one should show mercy to the lives of others as he does to his own life. Forsooth, O son, flesh has its origin in the vital seed. There is great sin attached to its eating, as, indeed, there is merit in abstaining from it. (Mahabharata, Anu.116.11-13)

    "There is nothing, O delighter of the Kurus, that is equal in point of merit, either in this world or in the next, to the practice of mercy to all living creatures. (Mahabharata, Anu.116.19)

    "Hence a person of purified soul should be merciful to all living creatures. That man, O king, who abstains from every kind of meat from his birth forsooth, acquires a large space in the celestial region. They who eat the flesh of animals who are desirous of life, are themselves [later] eaten by the animals they eat. This is my opinion. Since he has eaten me, I shall eat him in return. This, O Bharata, forms the character as Mamsah [meaning flesh] of Mamsah [me he, or "me he" will eat for having eaten him]. The destroyer is always slain. After him the eater meets with the same fate. (Mahabharata, Anu.116.32-35)

    "He who acts with hostility towards another becomes victim of similar deeds done by that other. Whatever acts one does in whatever bodies, he has to suffer the consequences thereof in those bodies. (Mahabharata, Anu.116.36-37)

    "Abstention from cruelty is the highest Religion. Abstention from cruelty is the greatest self-restraint. Abstention from cruelty is the highest gift. Abstention from cruelty is the highest penance. Abstention from cruelty is the highest sacrifice. Abstention from cruelty is the highest power. Abstention from cruelty is the greatest friend. Abstention from cruelty is the greatest happiness. (Mahabharata, Anu.116.38-39)

    "Gifts made in all sacrifices [rituals], ablutions performed in all sacred water, and the merit which one acquires from making all kinds of gifts mentioned in the scriptures, all these do not equal in merit abstention from cruelty." (Mahabharata, Anu.116.40)

    Bhagavata Purana:

    "Those who are ignorant of real dharma and, though wicked and haughty, account themselves virtuous, kill animals without any feeling of remorse or fear of punishment. Further, in their next lives, such sinful persons will be eaten by the same creatures they have killed in this world." (Bhagavata Purana 11.5.14)

    Transcription by- Keshavgopal Das & Ambuj Gupta

    Question- Are there references for eating meat in the Vedic literature? Is the adoption of vegetarianism within Hinduism a later feature caused by the influence of Buddhism? Does the Vedic literature directly recommend vegetarianism?

    Answer- First question, are there references to eating meat in the Vedic literature. Yes, there are.

    But these references are not recommendations. They are concessions. Along with this answer I have pasted from various Vedic scriptures references that explicitly recommend vegetarianism. So there are references from Rig Veda, from Manu Samhita, from extensively from the Mahabharata and also from Srimad Bhagavatam; the Bhagavat Puran. So these four literature are considered to be ones which have influenced modern day Hinduism to a large extent. Rig Veda is considered by scholars  to be oldest of all scriptures which is preserved even today in its letters. Manu Samhita is widely recognized as law book for Hinduism. Mahabharata is a veritable compendium of of traditional dharma. And the Srimad Bhagavatam is considered to be the ripened fruit of the devotional essence of the Vedic literature.

    So you will find that here there are so many references that, if by example Manu Samhita says man should never obtain food that is got by injury to other living beings. Once we understand the disgusting origin of flesh and the cruelty of slaughtering and slaying other living beings, why should one eat meat at all. One should give it up entirely. So there are multiple references here. He who permits the slaughter of animal, he who cuts it up, he who kills it, he ho buy or sells meat, he who cooks it, he who serves it up, he who eats it, must all be considered the slaves of the animals. There is no greater sin on that man who though not worshiping the God or ancestor seeks to increase the bulk of his own flesh by the flesh of others, Manu Samhita 5.51-52. Further Bhishma Pitamah specially Anushasan parva, when he is instructing Yudhisthir Maharaja in the Mahabharata extensively recommends vegetarian food. So you can have a look at these references yourself. But coming to the important point, these references do exist. Some people who want to justify their meat eating habits may find out some references which also allow meat eating. If we look at those references practically all of them are in the context of Yagyam or sacrifice. So in the verse which I read out in Manu Samhita also, it is said that if one is sacrificing for the God’s then and then alone meat is allowed. Killing animal is allowed and then the meat can under certain circumstances be consumed.

    Why was this sort of statement given in the Vedic literature? The Vedic literature are not just offering spirituality in one form. The spiritual processes offered in the Vedic literature are not uniform but omniform. Uniform means it is only one form, for example we had the _____ religions. Jesus is the only way. Follow Jesus and you will go back to God otherwise you are going to hell. Mohammad is the zeal of all prophets. If you don’t follow Mohammad you are going to go to hell. So this is only one way path. The Vedic literature don’t talk about only this way or hell otherwise, my way or the highway. The Vedic literature recognize that different people have different levels of adhikar. Adhikar means, capacity to practice spiritual life. And based on their individual capacities they can follow recommendations at different levels. That is why for those who are addicted to meat eating, meat eating is allowed under certain restricted conditions. So these statements in the scriptures are concessions, not recommendations.

    What is the difference between a concession and a recommendation? If a patient goes to a doctor, the doctor tells him you have diabetes. You take this medicine in morning and evening and you absolutely avoid all sugar. So among the two things the doctor had said the taking medicines is the recommendation. That’s what the doctor wants the patient to do. On the other part don’t take sugar. The patient said I can’t live without sugar. No, I can’t live without sugar. I must take sugar. Doctor is ok, you take sugar. Take one sweet once a week. Then the patient comes back and starts telling oh! The doctors has instructed me to take a sweet. Now that is not instruction. That is a not a recommendation, it is a concession. Concession means that what is not necessarily good for me but because I want it I am allowed to do it. Recommendation means I am told to do it.

    So the Vedic literatures recommendation is be vegetarian but the concession is you can be non-vegetarian under certain circumstances. What are those circumstances? They are if we perform yagya in which the animal is sacrificed and then after that the animal is offered to Kali or some other devi or devata and then that food is taken that meat is consumed. So this creates certain restrictions. That only on the holy days related with the devi. Only when the proper yagya or proper worship and sacrifice is happening at that time the animal can be sacrificed. So just as the doctor’s purpose is to restrict the eating of the sugar. He would prefer, he would recommend not taking sugar at all. But if the patient is not capable of following that instruction, doctor recommends that you take the medicines regularly and he allowed as a concession to take sugar occasionally.

    Now if the patient comes back home and starts telling, my doctor told me to take sugar. That’s his instruction. All of you had make arrangements for giving me sugar. And not only that, he not only misrepresents, the doctor did not recommend, doctor gave a concession but he says he changes it not once a week but every day. Not every day, every day morning, after noon evening doctor instructing him to take a sugar. That is not at all true. So in such a situation the doctor may come and tell that nothing doing, sugar should not be taken at all. Sugar is very harmful. Sugar should not be taken at all. And strongly he rejects. He realizes that the concessions that he had given were misused. And then he dispenses away with the concessions entirely. This is exactly what happened with Lord Buddha.

    Now the acharyas in the Vedic tradition recognize Lord Buddha to be an avtar of the Lord, as he is mentioned in the Bhagavat Puran, as he is mentioned in Jaideva Goswami’s Geet Govinda and several others scriptures. But ________, when Lord Buddha came he rejected the Vedic literature because people were misusing there concessions for meat eating and converting them into licenses and justifications for meat eating. So Buddha said I ahimsa paramo dharmo, no meat eating at all. And historically speaking Buddhism also attracted a lot of followers. And then because of the influence of Buddhism when to the natural human moral conscience, the obvious reality of the violence that is involved in killing animals and eating them, even in non sacrificial contexts became obvious then even the Hindu leaders reformed themselves and then they started emphasizing vegetarianism much more strongly. So people who were getting attracted to Buddhism, they were told if you think Buddhism is good because there is vegetarianism in it. Vegetarianism is there in Vedic literature also. So it is not that Hindus adopted vegetarianism because of their influence of Buddhism. The influence of Buddhism brought to fore front what was originally there in the Vedic literature but what had been side lined, what had been neglected. So yes, the development of Buddhism did lead to the increased emphasis on vegetarianism. But that doesn’t mean that vegetarianism is not mentioned in the Vedic literature. It was as, you can see from all these references. But Buddhism did the service of getting back to the fore front in their Hindu tradition.

    Now moving forward several of the acharyas starting from Shakaracharya, Ramanujacharya, Madhvacharya, these were three great systematizes of Hinduism. In fact from the fifth century B.C to fifth century A.D, Buddhism practically predominated India, and to some extent Jainism also in some parts of India. But from the seventh century onwards when Shankaracharya appeared, there was a great revival of Hinduism. So because still substantially there were people who were Hindus and they were saying that the Vedic literature tell us to eat meat so therefore we have to eat meat. Then the acharyas introduce some further modifications as this based also on the verse which I read out from Manu Samhita- That if at all you say that you have to sacrifice animals, make animals out of clay, make animals out of wheat flour. So if you have to sacrifice a goat, this is not exactly a invention of the acharyas. These references are there in the scriptures but they were brought to the fore front again. Those who started saying that how can you say that meat should not be eaten because the Vedic literature say that in yagya animals have to be sacrificed. So then the acharyas showed references, that indicated that one need not kill living animals. One can just make replica of animals using clay or specially wheat flower.

    Similarly in the Kali temple instead of offering Her blood many temples now offer hibiscus flowers. So hibiscus is red in color. Blood is red in color. And Goddess certainly pleased by offering of the hibiscus flower also. Actually the Goddess never wants any meat or blood. But because the worshipers want it, to keep them under regulation, the sacrifices were originally started. Now in the original Vedic literature where are the animals cut and eaten? There are different kind of yagyas depending on the modes of the people who are involved. So the highest level of yagyas are, there if at all animals is used, the animal is put to death using the power of the mantra and then he gets the new body which everybody else sees and he gets the human body or a celestial body and he continues onward getting a jump start, getting a rapid leap forward in the evolution through the Vedic species. But in some other sacrifices, yes because the sacrifices were involving people who wanted to eat meat, so when the animal would be killed, the meat would be eaten also. This was for those people who are in rajo guna and specially in tamo guna, in the modes of passion and especially ignorance. But even these sort of sacrifices were stopped by the acharyas who systematized and revived Hinduism. Now at present the Hindu tradition is largely vegetarian. And all over the world people are recognizing the value of vegetarianism because of the substantial ecological problems created by trying to eat meat. You can refer to the article food for health which is posted below, which give the brief analysis of the problems because of which the world is turning over towards vegetarian food. The Vedic tradition, the Hindu tradition, pioneers in this context. And rather than searching out obscure verses from some Vedic literature to justify ones meat eating. Let us recognize the Vedic tradition, acclaimed vegetarianism right from the beginning. And it was brought into the fore front by Buddhism and now it has become the torch bearer for the rest of the world where the vegetarian alternative is not just the alternative but it is the necessity for the survival of our planet and for the survival of humanity. Thank you.



    With many thanks,




  2. Sau

    Sir, you quoted from Shabar Bhasya by Sri Yudhisthir Mimamsak. If will be better if you can share the pdf files of it or at least the screenshots from the book for the quoted matter. This book is unavailable in the market now.


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