RV 8.43.11 and beef-eating

aklujkar at unixg.ubc.ca aklujkar at unixg.ubc.ca
Tue Feb 25 22:06:24 UTC 1997

I have read with much profit the exchanges on beef eating. The
contributions of George Thompson and Narahari Achar have been particularly
valuable. As a non-specialist, I would like to add one possibility to the

The lesson I have learned from whatever little interpretation I have done
of ancient literature, particularly the Vedic, can be summed up thus: 'A
document like the .Rgveda must be interpreted literally (to ensure that
philological controls are maintained and the problems come to the surface).
A document like the .Rgveda must never be interpreted (only) literally (to
make up for the inadequacies of a purely linguistic, historical-linguistic
or philologically justifiable translation).æ

What one should particularly remember under the latter is that there is a
long tradition of riddle and shock poetry (shocking commonly to ordinary
religious or spiritual beliefs and norms but not always composed out of
acceptance of what we would call Tantra thinking) in India.

The Atharva-veda, in particular, seems to have much of such poetry.

Precisely because va;saa is associated with absence of milk (either as a
sterile cow or as a cow yet to be impregnated), she is spoken of as a
source of abundant milk. Similarly,  because she is aghnyaa, she may be
spoken of as being killed or, probably less likely, because she is
preferred for killing, if at all a cow is  killed, she is spoken of as

(Thus, Narahari Achar seems to be on the right track when he feels that
there is something special, exceptional, about the statements he cites.)

The kind of poetry I have referred to above characterizes the writings of
many figures of great  importance in the religious history of India
(Gorakhnath, Kabir, etc.). In Hindi, it has been called ula.tavaa.msii (cf.
Rame;sa-candra Mi;sra. 1969. Hindii santo.mkaa ula.tavaa.sii saahitya. New
Delhi: Arya Book Depot.)

For more details, particularly as they apply to the cow in later
literature, see Vidyut Aklujkaræs article "In search of the unholy cow,"
Religious Traditions, a Journal in the Study of Religion, vol. 12 (1989),
pp. 91-112.

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