Flesh-eating and ancient Vedic literature

By : Y. K. Wadhwa

Certainly we can find many references in the Vedas making it abundantly clear that Vedic tenets do not at all endorse beef eating and slaying of animals.

It is mainly the leftist historians who while following the literal translations of some of the Western scholars and their Indian ilk have grossly misinterpreted and misrepresented the true Vedic point of view.

 In this regard equally responsible are some of  the  Vedic exegesis produced generally during the medieval ages when ancient methodology as propounded in Nirukta of Yaskacharya and other works of Rishies to rightly interpret the Vedas had started falling  into disuse.

The term ‘Gau’ in Vedic Sanskrit may mean cow or earth, rays of sun, sense organs, speech, etc.

However, failure to understand the contextual  meanings of the  symbolic/multi-dimensional/figurative language of the Vedas led to distortion and twisting of the Vedic poetical expressions.

I am giving below few references from various Arsha Texts covering: Vedas/Mahabharata/Manusmriti/Satpath Brahman/Satyarth Prakash prohibiting meat eating  to smash the prevailing misgivings, misconceptions and misinterpretations in this regard.

Vedas and Vegetarian diet:

Atharva Veda says:

1.  Anago hatya vai bheema kritye.  Maa no gaamashvam purusham vadheeh.(Atharva Veda 10.1.29).

Abstract meaning: It is definitely a great sin to kill innocents.  Do not kill our cows, horses and people.

2.  Ya aamam maansamadanti paurusheyam cha ye kravih.Garbhaan kaadanti kshavaastaanito naashayaamasi.  Atharva Veda 8.6.23.

Abstract Meaning: We ought to destroy those who eat cooked as well as uncooked meat, meat involving destruction of males and females, fetuses and eggs.

3. Breehimattam yavamattamatho maashamatho tilamEsha vamm bhaago nihito ratnadheyaaya dantau maa hinsishtam pitaram maataram cha (Atharva Veda 6.140.2).

Abstract meaning: You eat rice, barley, gram and sesame.  These cereals are specifically meant for you.  Do not kill those who are capable of being fathers and mothers.

Yajur Veda:

4.  Aghnyaa yajamaanasya pashoonpahi.  Yajur Veda 1.1Abstract Meaning:  O human! Animals are Aghnya – NOT TO BE KILLED.  PROTECT THE ANIMALS.


Abstract Meaning:  Protect the animals.

6. Dwipaadava Chatushpaatpaahi – Yajur Veda 14.8

Abstract Meaning:  Protect the bipeds and quadrupedsRig Veda

7. Yah paurusheyena kravishaa samankte yo ashwena pashunaa yaatudhaanah. Yo aghnyaayaabharati ksheeramagne teshaam sheershaani harasaapi vrishcha.  – Rig Veda 10.87.16

Abstract Meaning: May those who feed on human, horse or animal flesh and those who destroy milk-giving Aghnya – cows be punished severely.

Source:  ‘Vedic Satsang – Authentic Vedic Perspectives’, Compiled and Edited  by Dr.Deen B Chandora, M.D.,Madhusudan Chandora MD, Aditya Chandora, et al,  Pub. by Greater Atlanta Vedic Temple Society, Inc., Lilburn, GA, USA, Ed.2012.

The Vedas do not at all sanction animal sacrifices.

The synonym for the Yajna in the Vedic lexicon called Nighantu is Adhvara.

The Word has been explained by Yaskacharya, an ancient vedic etymologist, as: Adhvara eti yajyanam dhvarati hinsa karma tatpratished Nirukta 1.7

Adhvara means where there is no violence of any kind (or the act which is perfectly non-violent).

This word (Adhvara) has been used in all the four Vedas hundreds of times clearly proving that the Vedas do not sanction animal sacrifices.

In the Sam Veda-176,  too it is clearly stated – We  act according to the injunctions contained in the vedic hymns.  We never kill animals.

Meat-eating is not sanctioned by the Vedas.

On the other hand it is strongly condemned and prohibited.

Rig Veda 10.87.16  says “One who eats human flesh, flesh of a horse or of any other animal and deprives others of the milk slaughtering cows, O King, if such a fiend does not desist by other means, then even cut off his head by your power.”

Who then started such obnoxious practice of animal sacrifice?

In reply to a question by Yudhishtra, Bhismacharya explains in Mahabharata (Shanti Parva – 261.9) “Dhortey pravriti  yajney naitadveydeshu vidyatey” i.e., Taking Wine, fish and flesh of animals, intoxicating drinks of various kinds, etc. is not sanctioned by the Vedas at all.  It is the wicked people that have introduced such ignoble practices.

Mahabharata further states – “It is only such absolutely foolish people, who do not know the real import and tradition of the ancient Dharma, who are atheists and who are skeptics that have mentioned slaughter of animals.”

Source:  “Teachings of the Vedas”: An introduction by Pt.Dharma Dev Vidya Martand, pub.by Shree Ghudmal Prahaladkumar Arya Dharmarth Nyas, Hindaun City, Raj.

In the Vedas the cows are called Aghanya  which derivatively means ‘not to be killed’. This word Aghanya has been used in all the four Four Vedas repeatedly.  In the book “Vedic Culture, pub.by Ved Bharati, Allahabad, Ed.1985, its author Pt.Ganga Prasad Upadhyaya says that he found the word Aghnya “At 20 places in the Rig Veda, 5 in the Yajur Veda, 2 in Sama Veda and 33 in the Atharva Veda.

As per Pt.Ganga Prasad Upadhyaya  while seeking blessings, almost equal regard has been paid to Ashwa, i.e., horse  which has been used at numerous places in the Vedas.

Swami Vidyanand Saraswati, (formerly Principal and Fellow Punjab University) writes while quoting Atharva Veda 1.16.4 “Capital punishment has been ordered for one who kills or tortures our cows or men, deserves to be shot dead, because such a person is a murderer(viraha).  How can we then conceive the killing of animals in any yajna which has been termed as the noblest act or ‘shreshthatam karma’ .

It has been generally held by western scholars and their zealous followers here, that horses were sacrificed as the Ashvamedha.

But the word Ashvamedha, during the Vedic period, was used in the sense of administration or welfare of the state (Rashtram va Ashvamedha –  Shatpatha 13-1-6).

There is no evidence whatsoever of the sacrifice of horse in the yajnas, performed during that period.  It is clear that animal sacrifice in the yajnas were started only by outlaws.

And since it is not in harmony ith the Vedic spirit, any reference to it anywhere should therefore be taken as interpolation.

Source:’On the Vedas – A Clue to understanding of the Vedas’ by Swami Vidyanand Saraswati, pub.by Vijaykumar Govindram Hasanand, New Delhi.

There are enumerable references available in uninterpolated Arsha texts against flesh eating and intoxicants and in favour of Ahimsa  (non violence).

Manusmriti says at one place “Men should abstain from flesh diet and intoxicants”(Manusmriti 5-5).

Maharishi Dayanand (1824-1883)  started a signature campaign against cow slaughter and sent a memorandum to Queen Victoria.

Maharishi Dayanand writes in his book Satyarth Prakash  “Neither we should kill, nor allow others to kill animals like cow, who in one generation does good to four lakhs seventy five thousand and six hundred people.  During the rule of Aryas, no slaughter was allowed of cows or other serviceable animals.  Then men and other creatures lived happily in the Aryavartta and other parts of globe.  Milk, butter, oxen and other animals were in abundance and supply of food articles was in abundance.”

Source: Satyarth Prakash (Chapter 10).

The stand of Arya Samaj since its inception in 1875 has  been for a ban on slaughter houses and for protection of animals and, therefore, carried out several Andolans in this regard.

After the publication of the book “Gokaronanidhi’ in 1881 by Swami Dayanand Saraswati and other scholars of Arya Samaj have written extensively with a rational approach about the  core message of the Vedic texts,  in order to  explode the myths regarding meat eating as well as  to put the  concept of Ahimsa in its right perspective.

For more information on this subject, you may like to read the book  “Vedas-The Myth and Reality” (A Reply to Vedic Age) by Bharat Bhooshan (former Deputy Editor, PTI) published by Arsh Sahitya Prachar Trust, Khari Baoli, Delhi.

The above book is an english translation of the book “Vedon Ka Yatharth Swaroop” by Pt.Dharam Dev Vidya Martand  published by Samarpan Shoodh Sansthan, Sahibabad.

Cow finds  a  prominent  part in Indian  culture which has also been  the back bone of our agrarian economy.

Traditionally, Hindus have been using five products of cow, i.e.,  pancha-gavya which include milk, curd, ghee, urine and cow dung and not its flesh.

Therefore, Godaan ritual i.e., gifting of cow to the bridegroom by the bride’s family is performed even today(though as a formaility) during the marriage ceremony.

Most suitable time for performing marriage ceremony is supposed to be Godhuli bela.   After cooking the food, some families even today offer first  measure to cow described as Gogras.

As per an Upanishadic story, Satyakama was given charge of four hundred cows by his Guru and was asked to take care of them in the pasture land until they become one thousand.

Conclusively, the emphasis of Vedic culture has  always been on the growth of cattle wealth by care, love and compassion and not otherwise.


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