beef eating in the Veda

thompson at thompson at
Tue Feb 11 13:20:45 UTC 1997

>Recently I read Agehananda Bharati's _Great Tradition - Little
>Traditions_, in which he refers to Vedic passages which prove that
>beef was a common foodstuff among the Vedic people. Not being a Veda
>specialist myself, I want to ask: has anyone here on the list seen any
>such clear, unambiguous passages? (Please give references.)

Perhaps the most notorious instance of beef-eating in Vedic is
YAjJavalkya's at Zatapatha BrAhmaNa [besides being referred to in
the "Vedic Index" of Macdonell & Keith [II.145], Renou cites the passage
with clear amusement and perhaps even a little awe ["Religions of Ancient
India", p.45; further discussion of the passage is surveyed by Alsdorf in
his "Beitraege zur Geschichte von Vegetarismus und Rinderverehrung in
Indien", pp.611f.].  In this ZB passage it is debated whether or not it is
permissible to eat the flesh of cows and oxen.  It seems clear that the
author of the passage is reluctant to admit it, but he quotes Y. as saying
that, yes, he ate the flesh of these animals, "as long as it is tender."
It is the sort of passage that has given Y. the reputation of being a great
Vedic iconoclast [pace Alsdorf and Rau, who argue that Y. was no
iconoclast: beef-eating outside of the ritual sphere was in fact the norm
at the time].


George Thompson

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