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. However, Hinduism forbids animal sacrifice,[1][2][3][4] and indeed any meat processing, based on the doctrine of ahimsa.[5]


A Sanskrit term used for animal sacrifice is bali, in origin meaning "tribute, offering or oblation" generically (“vegetable oblations [... and] animal oblations,”).[6] Bali among other things "refers to the blood of an animal"[6] and is sometimes known as Jhatka Bali[7] 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.[8] 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.[9]

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


Animal Sacrifice is practiced by people in Southern state of Tamil Nadu. It is most notably done in front of Local Deities or Clan Deities.[citation needed] Animal sacrifice is practiced in some Eastern states of India and Nepal.[10][11] It is also practiced by some Hindus on the Indonesian island of Bali.[12][13][14]

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. Majority of practicing Hindus chose not to participate or acknowledge the practice. [15] Adherents of the Sakta sect off Hinduism hold this to be a central tenet of their belief.[16]


The ritual slaughter normally forms part of a festival to honor a Hindu God. For example, in Nepal the Hindu goddess Gadhimai,[17] 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.[18]

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.[19] 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.[20] 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.


  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. ^ 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. ^ Alan Andrew Stephens, Raphael Walden (2006). For the Sake of Humanity. BRILL. p. 69. ISBN 9004141251. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ O.P. Radhan (September 2002). Encyclopaedia of Political Parties. 33 to 50. Anmol, India. p. 854. ISBN 81-7488-865-9. 
  8. ^ "" Pramatha Nath Bose, A History of Hindu Civilization During British Rule, vol. 1, p. 65
  9. ^ Hymn to Kali: Preface
  10. ^ 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. 
  11. ^ 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" 
  12. ^ 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. 
  13. ^ 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. 
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^ Farquhar J. N. (1 November 2008). "9 The Great Sects". The Crown of Hinduism. Unknown. p. 381. ISBN 1-4437-2397-5. 
  16. ^ 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. 
  17. ^ Lang, Olivia (24 November 2009). "Hindu sacrifice of 250,000 animals begins". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 July 2010. 
  18. ^ 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. 
  19. ^ Indonesia Handbook, 3rd, Joshua Eliot, Liz Capaldi, & Jane Bickersteth, (Footprint - Travel Guides) 2001 p.450 [1]
  20. ^ Dutt 2008:195


  • 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. 

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