beef eating in the Veda

Vidhyanath Rao vidynath at
Fri Feb 14 19:56:14 UTC 1997

Robert J. Zydenbos <zydenbos at> wrote:
> [...] But still nicer would be passages describing everyday,
> non-ritualistic food habits, if such can be found. [...]

This is going to depend on what you mean by `everyday context'.
Just because Vedic Aryans ate beef in well-defined situations
does not imply that they would have considered `Golden Arches'
as less than barbaric. 

We know a more contemporary parallel. African pastoralists
(the tribes' names escapes me at the moment) restrict beef
to well-defined, culturally sanctioned occasions and
consider those who eat beef just to fill their bellies,
(I am deliberately being crude here, because that is how
they would probably put it), or to tickle their palates,
to be cruel and barbaric. Given the overall place of cattle
in the vedic belief system, it would not surprising if Vedic
Aryans had the same outlook.

On a more practical ground too, beef is unlikely to
have been an everyday food: Unless you can preserve
the meat, you have to eat an ox within a day or two.
This would be hard except in case of large feasts.
And such large feasts would most likely be set within
ritual contexts. `Guest reception' (madhuparka) is 
likely to be the least religious context in which
beef was consumed. [And note that killing of cattle
was limited to the cases where the guest was considered
to be sufficiently worthy, not neccessarily for each
and every guest.]


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