Animal sacrifice in Hinduism

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A goat being sacrificed in a Temple festival in Tamil Nadu
A rooster sacrificed by decapitation in the month of Aadi Tamil Nadu

Practices of Hindu animal sacrifice are mostly associated with Shaktism, and in currents of folk Hinduism strongly rooted in local tribal traditions. Animal sacrifices were carried out in ancient times in India. However, Hindu scriptures, including the Gita, and the Puranas forbid animal sacrifice[1][2][3][4] and any meat processing, based on the doctrine of ahimsa.[3]

Terminology[edit]

A Sanskrit term used for animal sacrifice is bali, in origin meaning "tribute, offering or oblation" generically (“vegetable oblations [... and] animal oblations,”).[5] Bali among other things "refers to the blood of an animal"[5] and is sometimes known as Jhatka Bali[6] among Hindus.

The Kalika Purana distinguishes bali (sacrifice), mahabali (great sacrifice), for the ritual killing of goats, elephant, respectively, though the reference to humans in Shakti theology is symbolic and done in effigy in modern times.[7] for instance, Sir John Woodroffe published a commentary on the Karpuradistotram where he writes that the sacrificial animals listed in verse 19 are merely symbols for the six enemies, with "man" representing pride.[8]

The Vedic term for "sacrificial victim, animal sacrifice" is medha (c.f. Ashvamedha).

Practice[edit]

It is a ritual that is practiced today and is mentioned in Medieval Hinduism too. It is important to note that the practice of animal sacrifice is not a required ritual in Hinduism.[citation needed] The majority of practicing Hindus today choose not to participate in or acknowledge the practice.[9] Adherents of the Sakta sect of Hinduism hold this to be a central tenet of their belief.[10]

In history and Hindu mythology[edit]

The Ashvamedha in which a horse is sacrificed is described Rigveda, Shukla Yajurveda, Taittiriya Shakha of Yajurveda, Shatapatha Brahmana and the Srauta-sutras of the Aitareya Brahmana and Kaushtikati Brahmana of the Rigveda. In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad the symbolism of the sacrifice is described, with the horse symbolising the cosmos. In the Ramayana, Rama performed the Ashvamedha sacrifice for becoming the Chakravartin emperor. In the Mahabharata, Yudhishtra performs the Ashwamedha after winning the Kurukshetra war to become the Chakravartin emperor. Mahabharata contains description of an Ashvamedha performed by the Chedi king Uparichara Vasu, however, no animals were sacrificed.[citation needed] The rulers of dynasties like Guptas, Chalukyas and Cholas had performed the Ashvamedha.[11][12][13][14][15] In the Vedas, there are mention of animal sacrifices, such as mantras for the sacrifice of a Goat in the Rig,[16] whilst in the Jyotistoma sacrifice three animal-sacrifices are performed, namely, Agnisomiya, Savaniya and Anubandhya.[17][18] Agnistoma was the simplest of all Soma sacrifices. In this, animal sacrifice played an important part. In the first animal sacrifice a goat was sacrificed to Agni and Soma preceding the day of offering of nectar to the gods. In the second animal sacrifice, victims were offered throughout the day of offering to Agni.[19] In the Anubandhya sacrifice either a barren cow or an ox was offered to Varuna and Mitra on the day of Soma sacrifice.[20] The Yajurveda is considered the Veda of sacrifices and rituals,[21][22] and consists of a number of animal sacrifices, such as mantras and procedures for the sacrifices of a white goat to Vayu,[23] a calf to Sarasvati, a speckled ox to Savitr, a bull to Indra, a castrated ox to Varuna and so on.[24] In some cases the sacrifice of a goat to Agni and Soma was replaced by Nirudha Pashu-Bandha. This form of sacrifice is described in the Aitareya Brahmana and the Rig-Vedic Brahmanas. The rite was performed by a man yearly or half-yearly before he ate meat. The goat was sacrificed to either Indra, Agni, Varuna or Prajapati while a Maitravaruna priest gave directions to a Hotr priest to recite the verses. The sacrificial goat had to be completely healthy and free of any disabilities.[25] The animal sacrifices often required a large number of sacrifices and high costs, which virtually ensured they could only be performed by the royal families and the nobility.[26] These rituals didn't focus on the killing of the animal but as a symbol to the powers it was sacrificed.[27] In the Bhagavata Purana, Krishna tells people not to perform animal sacrifices although he says he will still accept the sacrifice since he resides in the soul of the sacrifical animal. Animal sacrifices are forbidden by the Bhagavata Purana in the Kaliyuga, the present age.[28] The Brahma Vaivarta Purana describes animal sacrifices as kali-varjya or prohibited in the Kaliyuga.[29] The Adi Purana, Brihan-naradiya Purana and Aditya Purana also forbid animal sacrifice in Kaliyuga.[30]

The practice of animal sacrifice is a part of Tamil society since it is rooted in Tamil culture. It has been mentioned in the Sangam period literature. The Tirumurugarruppatai , a work from the Sangam period literature refers to worship of the god Murugan with animal sacrifices, consumption of liquor and frenzied dancing by the priests.[31][32]

Animal sacrifice in contemporary Hindu society[edit]

The Rajput of Rajasthan offer a sacrifice of buffalo or goat to the their family Goddess ( Kuldevta) during the festival of Navaratri.[33] The ritual requires slaying of the animal with a single stroke. In the past this ritual was considered a rite of passage for young men. The ritual is directed by a Brahmin priest.[34]

Animal Sacrifice is practiced by people in Southern Indian states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu by local Hindu people. It is most notably done in front of Local Deities or Clan Deities. The ritual involves most caste members of the village with each caste performing different roles. In Karnataka, the Goddess receiving the sacrifice tends to be Renuka. The animal is either a male buffalo or a goat.[35] [36]

The Kathar or Kutadi community of Maharashtra while observing the Pachvi ceremony, after delivery of a child in the family, offer worship to their family deity, Saptashrungi and also offer a sacrifice of a goat. Following this they hold the naming ceremony of the child on the 12th day.[37]

In some Sacred groves of India, particularly in Western Maharashtra, animal sacrifice is practiced to pacify female deities that are supposed to rule the Groves.[38] Animal sacrifice is also practiced by caste Hindus to placate deities at temples[39]

A goat about to be sacrificed by a priest in the Durga Puja festival.
1652 illustration of the Ashvamedha of Kaushalya in the Ramayana epic

Animal sacrifice is practiced in some Eastern states of India and Nepal.,[40][41] The Hindu temples in Assam and West Bengal in India and Nepal where this takes place involves slaying of goats, chickens and sometimes male Water buffalos .,[40][42] These sacrifices are mainly done at mandirs following the Shakti school of Hinduism where the female nature of Brahman is worshipped in the form of Kali and Durga. A number Tantric Puranas specify the ritual for how the animal should be slayed. In Bengal, a priest recites the Gayatri Mantra in the ear of animal to be sacrificed, in order to free the animal from the cycle of life and death.[43]

Animal sacrifice en masse occurs during the three day long Gadhimai festival in Nepal. In 2009 it was speculated that more than 250,000 animals were killed[44] while 5 million devotees attended the festival.[45]

In India, ritual of animal sacrifice is practised in many villages before local deities or certain powerful and terrifying forms of the Devi. In this form of worship, animals, usually goats, are decapitated and the blood is offered to deity often by smearing some of it on a post outside the temple.[26] For instance, Kandhen Budhi is the reigning deity of Kantamal in Boudh district of Orissa, India. Every year, animals like goat and fowl are sacrificed before the deity on the occasion of her annual Yatra/Jatra (festival) held in the month of Aswina (September–October). The main attraction of Kandhen Budhi Yatra is Ghusuri Puja. Ghusuri means a child pig, which is sacrificed to the goddess every three years.[46] During the Bali Jatra, male goats are offered as a sacrifice to the goddess Samaleswari in her temple in Sambalpur, Orissa.[47][48]

Bali Jatra of Sonepur in Orissa, India is also an annual festival celebrated in the month of Aswina (September–October) when animal sacrifice is an integral part of the ritual worship of deities namely Samaleswari, Sureswari and Khambeswari. Bali refers to animal sacrifice and hence this annual festival is called Bali Jatra (Barik, 2009:160-162).

Animal Sacrifice is practiced by some Hindus on the Indonesian island of Bali.[49][50][51] The religious belief of Tabuh Rah, a form of animal sacrifice of Balinese Hinduism includes a religious cockfight where a rooster is used in religious custom by allowing him to fight against another rooster in a religious and spiritual cockfight, a spiritual appeasement exercise of Tabuh Rah.[52] The spilling of blood is necessary as purification to appease the evil spirits, and ritual fights follow an ancient and complex ritual as set out in the sacred lontar manuscripts.[53]

The three methods used by Hindus to kill an animal are Jhatka (decapitation with a single blow), piercing the heart with a spike and asphyxiation.

Ritual[edit]

The ritual slaughter normally forms part of a festival to honor a Hindu god. For example, in Nepal the Hindu goddess Gadhimai,[54] is honoured every 5 years with the slaughter of 250,000 animals. Bali sacrifice today is common at the Sakta shrines of the Goddess Kali.[55]

Ritual animal sacrifice also includes the religious belief of Tabuh Rah, a religious cockfight where a rooster is used in religious custom by allowing him to fight against another rooster in the religious and spiritual cockfight of the Balinese Hinduism spiritual appeasement exercise of Tabuh Rah, a form of animal sacrifice. The spilling of blood is necessary as purification to appease the evil spirits. Ritual fights usually take place outside the temple proper and follow an ancient and complex ritual as set out in the sacred lontar manuscripts.[56] Likewise a popular Hindu ritual form of worship of North Malabar in Kerala, India is the Tabuh Rah blood offering to Theyyam gods, despite being forbidden in the Vedic philosophy of sattvic Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism, Theyyam deities are propitiated through the cock sacrifice where the religious cockfight is a religious exercise of offering blood to the Theyyam gods.

Method of sacrifice[edit]

Methods for sacrificing range from decapitation, strangulation, to a spike being driven into the heart of the animal.

Jhatka is the prescribed method for Hindu ritual slaughter, however other methods such as strangulation and the use of a wooden spile (sphya) driven into the heart is used.[57] The reason for this is priests see an animal making a noise as a bad omen. The Jhatka method requires the instant killing of the animal in a single decapitating blow with an axe or sword. Those Hindus who eat meat prescribe meat killed by the Jhatka method.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Rod Preece (2001). Animals and Nature: Cultural Myths, Cultural Realities. UBC Press. p. 202. ISBN 9780774807241. 
  2. ^ Lisa Kemmerer, Anthony J. Nocella (2011). Call to Compassion: Reflections on Animal Advocacy from the World's Religions. Lantern Books. p. 60. ISBN 9781590562819. 
  3. ^ a b Alan Andrew Stephens, Raphael Walden (2006). For the Sake of Humanity. BRILL. p. 69. ISBN 9004141251. 
  4. ^ David Whitten Smith, Elizabeth Geraldine Bur (January 2007). Understanding World Religions: A Road Map for Justice and Peace. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 13. ISBN 9780742550551. 
  5. ^ a b Rodrigues, Hillary; Sumaiya Rizvi (10 June 2010). "Blood Sacrifice in Hinduism". Mahavidya. p. 1. Archived from the original on 17 August 2010. Retrieved 17 August 2010. 
  6. ^ O.P. Radhan (September 2002). Encyclopaedia of Political Parties. 33 to 50. Anmol, India. p. 854. ISBN 81-7488-865-9. 
  7. ^ "" Pramatha Nath Bose, A History of Hindu Civilization During British Rule, vol. 1, p. 65
  8. ^ Hymn to Kali: Preface
  9. ^ Farquhar J. N. (1 November 2008). "9 The Great Sects". The Crown of Hinduism. Unknown. p. 381. ISBN 1-4437-2397-5. 
  10. ^ Lipner Julius J. (23 July 1998). "3 Images of Time Space and Eternity". Hindus: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices (New edition ed.). Routledge. p. 287. ISBN 0-415-05182-7. Retrieved 12 August 2010. 
  11. ^ Roshen Dalal. Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin Books. p. 207. ISBN 9788184752779. 
  12. ^ Uma Marina Vesci (1992). Heat and Sacrifice in the Vedas. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. p. 103. ISBN 9788131716779. 
  13. ^ Upinder Singh (2008). A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century. Pearson Education. p. 210. ISBN 9788120808416. 
  14. ^ http://books.google.co.in/books?id=0xludqcKE4IC&pg=PA78&dq=rama+ashwamedha&hl=en&sa=X&ei=hV-EVIfcMoOguQTD3ICgBQ&ved=0CCoQ6AEwAw
  15. ^ http://books.google.co.in/books?id=Pplg_F0VyVEC&pg=PA15&dq=yudhisthira+ashwamedha&hl=en&sa=X&ei=IWGEVM3oCIuLuAS1uoCYCg&ved=0CCUQ6AEwAg
  16. ^ Rig 1.162.2
  17. ^ A. B. Gajendragadkar and R. D. Karmarkar (editors) (1998). The Arthasamgraha of Laugaksi Bhaskara. Motilal Banarsidas Publishers. p. 34. ISBN 9788120814431. 
  18. ^ Arthur Berriedale Keith (2007). The Religion and Philosophy of the Veda and Upanishads. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. pp. 324–326. ISBN 9788120806443. 
  19. ^ Arthur Berriedale Keith (2007). The Religion and Philosophy of the Veda and Upanishads. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. p. 327. ISBN 9788120806443. 
  20. ^ Max Müller (1882). Sacred Books of the East, Volume 12. Clarendon Press. p. 379. 
  21. ^ Ramanuj Prasad (2004). Vedas, a way of life. Pustak Mahal. p. 32. ISBN 9788122308624. 
  22. ^ Arthur Berriedale Keith, Ralph T.H. Griffith (2013). The Yajur Veda. Publish This, LLC. pp. 292–294. ISBN 9781618348630. 
  23. ^ Wout Jac. van Bekkum, Jan Houben, Ineke Sluiter and Kees Versteegh (2007). The Emergence of Semantics in Four Linguistic Traditions: Hebrew, Sanskrit, Greek, Arabic. John Benjamin Publishing Company. p. 77. ISBN 9789027298812. 
  24. ^ Arthur Berriedale Keith, Ralph T.H. Griffith (2013). The Yajur Veda. Publish This, LLC. p. 1035. ISBN 9781618348630. 
  25. ^ Arthur Berriedale Keith (2007). The Religion and Philosophy of the Veda and Upanishads. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. p. 324. ISBN 9788120806443. 
  26. ^ a b James G. Lochtefeld (2002). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism: A-M. The Rosen Publishing Group. p. 41. ISBN 9780823931798. 
  27. ^ Tom Regan. Animal Sacrifices. Temple University Press. p. 201. ISBN 9780877225119. 
  28. ^ http://books.google.co.in/books?id=3Z8CGJBo3z4C&pg=PA117&dq=purana+kaliyuga+animal+sacrifice&hl=en&sa=X&ei=lVqFVNrDB4OiugTMj4GwBQ&ved=0CCYQ6AEwAg
  29. ^ Rosen, Steve (2004). Holy Cow: The Hare Krishna Contribution to Vegetarianism and Animal Rights. Lantern Books. p. 24. 
  30. ^ http://books.google.co.in/books?id=91xAzuqbha0C&pg=PA144&dq=purana&redir_esc=y
  31. ^ Thol. Thirumavalavan (2004). Uproot Hindutva: The Fiery Voice of the Liberation Panthers. Popular Prakashan. p. 216. ISBN 9788185604794. 
  32. ^ Vijaya Ramaswamy (2007). Historical Dictionary of the Tamils. Scarecrow Press. p. 153. ISBN 9780810864450. 
  33. ^ Hiltebeitel, Alf; Erndl, Kathleen M. (2000). Is the Goddess a Feminist?: The Politics of South Asian Goddesses ,. Sheffield , England: Sheffield Academic Press. p. 77. ISBN 9780814736197. 
  34. ^ Harlan, Lindsey (1992). Religion and Rajput women. Berkley , California: University of California Press. p. 88. ISBN 0-520-07339-8. 
  35. ^ Hiltebeitel, Alf (February 1980). "Rāma and Gilgamesh: the sacrifices of the water buffalo and the bull of heaven". History of religions 19 (3): 187–195. Retrieved 18 December 2014. 
  36. ^ Times of India, Chennai Edition, 4 May 2008[dead link]
  37. ^ Kumar Suresh Singh (2004). People of India: Maharashtra. Popular Prakashan. pp. 962–. ISBN 978-81-7991-101-3. Retrieved 7 February 2013. 
  38. ^ Gadgil, M; VD Vartak (1975). "Sacred Groves of India". Journal of the Bombay Natural History 72 (2): 314. 
  39. ^ Gadgil, Madhav; Malhotra, K.C> (December 1979). Indian Anthropologist 9 (2): 84 http://repository.ias.ac.in/64206/1/21-pub.pdf |url= missing title (help). Retrieved 21 October 2014. 
  40. ^ a b Fuller Christopher John (2004). "4". The camphor flame: popular Hinduism and society in India (Revised and Expanded Edition ed.). Princeton University Press. p. 83. ISBN 978-0-691-12048-5. 
  41. ^ Fuller C. J. (26 July 2004). The Camphor Flame: Popular Hinduism and Society in India [Paperback] (Revised edition ed.). Princeton University Press. p. 83. ISBN 0-691-12048-X. Retrieved 29 July 2010. 
  42. ^ Fuller C. J. (26 July 2004). "4 Sacrifice". The Camphor Flame: Popular Hinduism and Society in India [Paperback] (Revised edition ed.). Princeton University Press. p. 83. ISBN 0-691-12048-X. Retrieved 29 July 2010. Animal sacrifice is still practiced widely and is an important ritual in popular Hinduism 
  43. ^ McDermott, Rachel Fell (2011). Revelry, rivalry, and longing for the goddesses of Bengal: the fortunes of Hindu festivals. New York, Chichester: Columbia University Press. p. 205. ISBN 978-0-231-12918-3. Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  44. ^ Olivia Lang in Bariyapur (2009-11-24). "Hindu sacrifice of 250,000 animals begins | World news | guardian.co.uk". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2012-08-13. 
  45. ^ "Ritual animal slaughter begins in Nepal - CNN.com". Edition.cnn.com. 2009-11-24. Retrieved 2012-08-13. 
  46. ^ http://orissa.gov.in/e-magazine/Orissareview/2009/September/engpdf/20-24.pdf
  47. ^ Georg Pfeffer, Deepak Kumar Behera (1997). Contemporary Society: Developmental issues, transition, and change. Concept Publishing Company. p. 312. ISBN 9788170226420. 
  48. ^ "Komna ready for animal sacrifice". The Times of India. The Times Group. October 2, 2014. Retrieved December 1, 2014. 
  49. ^ Gouyon Anne; Bumi Kita Yayasan (30 September 2005). "The Hiden Life of Bali". The natural guide to Bali: enjoy nature, meet the people, make a difference. Equinox Publishing (Asia) Pte Ltd. p. 51. ISBN 979-3780-00-2. Retrieved 12 August 2010. 
  50. ^ Smith, David Whitten; Burr, Elizabeth Geraldine (28 December 2007). "One". Understanding world religions: a road map for justice and peace. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 12. ISBN 0-7425-5055-9. Retrieved 12 August 2010. 
  51. ^ Kamphorst Janet (5 June 2008). "9". In praise of death: history and poetry in medieval Marwar (South Asia). Leiden University Press. p. 287. ISBN 90-8728-044-0. Retrieved 12 August 2010. 
  52. ^ Bali Today: Love and social life By Jean Couteau, Jean Couteau et al - p.129 [1]
  53. ^ Indonesia Handbook, 3rd, Joshua Eliot, Liz Capaldi, & Jane Bickersteth, (Footprint - Travel Guides) 2001 p.450 [2]
  54. ^ Lang, Olivia (24 November 2009). "Hindu sacrifice of 250,000 animals begins". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 July 2010. 
  55. ^ Julius J. Lipner (23 July 1998). "9". Hindus: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices (Library of Religious Beliefs and Practices) [Paperback]. Routledge; New edition. p. 185. ISBN 0-415-05182-7. Retrieved 27 October 2010. 
  56. ^ Indonesia Handbook, 3rd, Joshua Eliot, Liz Capaldi, & Jane Bickersteth, (Footprint - Travel Guides) 2001 p.450 [3]
  57. ^ Dutt 2008:195

References[edit]

  • Hastings, James (2003). Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Part 24. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishings. 
  • Masih, Y. (2000). A Comparative Study of Religions. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. 
  • Ryder, Richard D. Animal revolution: changing attitudes toward speciesism. Oxford: Berg Publishers. 2000. 
  • Sehgal, Sunil (1999). Encyclopaedia of Hinduism. Delhi: Sarup & Sons. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]