beef eating in the Veda

thompson at thompson at
Thu Feb 13 13:21:28 UTC 1997

RZ wrote:

That is unambiguous: people (priests) who eat sacrificial cows. But
still nicer would be passages describing everyday, non-ritualistic food
habits, if such can be found....

Well, it is hard to find reference to non-ritual events in Vedic, but
"everyday" events like weddings were accompanied by the slaughter of cattle
[RV 10.85.13, the wedding hymn]. The Grhya Sutras which catalogue and
describe domestic rites point out that cow-slaughter can accompany not only
weddings but also the arrival of a guest, and the aSTaka sacrifice to the
Pitaras [ApGS 3.9].  A cow is killed as part of the samAvartana ceremony at
the completion of the Veda student's studies [MG 1.2.8].  Apparently this
occurred also at funerals [ASvGS 4.2.4].

[I've pulled these refs from Gonda, "Vedic Ritual: The Non-Solemn Rites",
Handbuch der Orientalistik, Zweite Abteilung Indien, Vierter Band
Religionen, Erster Abschnitt; Leiden 1980 -- pp.99-100].

All of this is not to say, however, that ahiMsA and vegetarianism are
simply adopted from Buddhists or Jains [never mind the possibility of
pre-Aryan, non-Vedic influences].  There are good arguments in favor of the
view that these could have arisen purely within the context of Vedic
sacrificial ideology, without external influences [cf. Heesterman, Schmidt,
Brown, et al.]. By the way, concern for the sanctity of the cow, and
objections against its slaughter, is not just a Vedic phenomenon, but is
Indo-Iranian, as is evident from Zarathustra's famous "Bovine's Lament"

Best wishes

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