Animal sacrifice in Hinduism
Practices of Hindu animal sacrifice are mostly associated with Vedic religion. Animal sacrifices were carried out in ancient times in India. The Yajurveda is considered the Veda of sacrifices and rituals, and consists of a number of animal sacrifices, such as mantras and procedures for the sacrifices of a white goat to Vayu, a calf to Sarasvati, a speckled ox to Savitr, a bull to Indra, a castrated ox to Varuna and so on. In vedic sacrifices the sacrificed animals were not consumed as food later. They were offerings to gods for favors. The indigenous religions of India only offered animals which they consumed as food later. Buddhism criticized unnecessary sacrifices of animals in Vedic religion. Later some Puranas forbid animal sacrifice in vedic religion.
A Sanskrit term used for animal sacrifice is bali, in origin meaning "tribute, offering or oblation" generically ("vegetable oblations [... and] animal oblations,"). Bali among other things "refers to the blood of an animal" and is sometimes known as Jhatka Bali 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. For instance, Sir John Woodroffe published a commentary on the Karpuradistotram, where he writes that the sacrificial animals listed in verse 19 are symbols for the six enemies, with "man" representing pride.
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 some sects of Hinduism. The majority of practicing Hindus today choose not to participate in or acknowledge the practice. Adherents of the Sakta sect of Hinduism hold this to be a central tenet of their belief.
In history and Hindu mythology
The Ashvamedha ritual - in which a horse is sacrificed - is described in the Rigveda, the Shukla Yajurveda, the Taittiriya Shakha of Yajurveda, the Shatapatha Brahmana and in the Srauta-sutras of the Aitareya Brahmana and in the 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. The Mahabharata also contains a description of an Ashvamedha performed by the Chedi king Uparichara Vasu, however, no animals were sacrificed. The rulers of the Gupta empire, the Chalukya dynasty, and the Chola dynasty all performed the Ashvamedha.
In the Vedas, there are mention of animal sacrifices, such as mantras for the sacrifice of a Goat in the Rig; and the Jyotistoma sacrifice in which three animal-sacrifices are performed, namely, Agnisomiya, Savaniya and Anubandhya. Agnisomiya was the simplest of all Soma sacrifices in which animal sacrifice played an important part; it required that a goat be sacrificed to Agni and Soma preceding the day of offering of nectar to the gods. In the Savaniya sacrifice, victims were offered throughout the day of offering to Agni.
In the Anubandhya sacrifice either a barren cow or an ox was offered to Varuna and Mitra on the day of Soma sacrifice. The Yajurveda is considered the Veda of sacrifices and rituals, and consists of a number of animal sacrifices, such as mantras and procedures for the sacrifices of a white goat to Vayu, a calf to Sarasvati, a speckled ox to Savitr, a bull to Indra, a castrated ox to Varuna and so on.
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 Hotṛ priest to recite the verses. The sacrificial goat had to be completely healthy and free of any disabilities.
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. These rituals didn't focus on the killing of the animal but as a symbol to the powers it was sacrificed.
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 sacrificial animal. Animal sacrifices are forbidden by the Bhagavata Purana in the Kaliyuga, the present age. The Brahma Vaivarta Purana describes animal sacrifices as kali-varjya or prohibited in the Kaliyuga. The Adi Purana, Brihan-naradiya Purana and Aditya Purana also forbid animal sacrifice in Kaliyuga.
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.
Animal sacrifice in contemporary Hindu society
The Rajput of Rajasthan offer a sacrifice of buffalo or goat to their family Goddess ( Kuldevta) during the festival of Navaratri. 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.
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. 
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.
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. Animal sacrifice is also practiced by caste Hindus to placate deities at temples. In region around Pune, Goats and fowls are sacrificed to the God Vetala
Animal sacrifice is practiced in some Eastern states of India and Nepal., 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 ., These sacrifices are mainly done at temples 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 slain. 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.
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 while 5 million devotees attended the festival.
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.
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. During the Bali Jatra, male goats are offered as a sacrifice to the goddess Samaleswari in her temple in Sambalpur, Orissa.
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).[full citation needed]
Animal Sacrifice is practiced by some Hindus on the Indonesian island of Bali. 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. 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.
A popular Hindu ritual form of worship of North Malabar region in the Indian state of Kerala is the blood offering to Theyyam gods. 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
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. The reason for this is priests see an animal making a noise as a bad omen and the animal making noise indicates that it is suffering. 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.
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