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Animal Sacrifices in Hindu Scriptures

By: S.L.A © 2016

The majority of all Hindus will tell you that they are vegetarians and can’t fathom the idea of eating any animal, especially beef.  However, did you know that they have entire scriptures which command it, and when it is to be done, and how, etc.?

So, let’s look further into it.

Swami Vivekanand, an Indian Hindu monk, and lead disciple of the Indian mystic Ramakrishna in the 19th century, was central to the introduction of Vedanta and Yoga philosophies to the Western world. (Georg 2002, p. 600)[i]  He brought awareness to interfaith, and helped establish Hinduism as a major world religion, revitalizing it in India.

Regarding sacrificing and eating beef, he said: “You will be astonished if I tell you that, according to the old ceremonials, he is not a good Hindu who does not eat beef. On certain occasions he must sacrifice a bull and eat it”. (The Complete Works of Swami Vivekanand, vol.3, p. 445 ).

Scriptural Evidences of Animal Sacrifices

In the Vedas, there are mentions of animal sacrifices, such as mantras for the sacrifice of a goat in the Rig Veda HYMN 162, The Horse, verses 2-5 .[ii]

Oxen are slain for marriages according to the Rig Veda, Book 10, Hymn 85 Verse 13 “In Magha days are oxen slain, in Arjuris they wed the bride.”

Within the Yajur Veda, there are numerous animal sacrifices discussed, such as a white goat to Vayu, a calf to Sarasvati, a speckled ox to Savitr, a bull to Indra, a castrated ox to Varuna, and many others.

Kanda II, Prapathaka 1 is titled “The Special Animal Sacrifices”.  You will find a horned goat sacrifice is given in Yajur Veda, Kanda II, Prapathaka 1. 1.2-5 [iii] where it says “He who desires offspring and cattle should offer to Prajapati a hornless goat.” 

It also says to sacrifice a horse “He who desires cattle should offer to Tvastr a horse.” (Yahur Veda, Kanda II, Prapathaka 8.2 ).

During the Jyotistoma sacrifice three animal-sacrifices are done, called the Agnisomiya, Savaniya and Anubandhya. (Gajendragadkar, 1998) (Keith, 2007). [iv] [v]

The Agnisomiya, a Soma sacrifice, required that a goat be sacrificed to Agni and Soma before the day of offering of nectar to the gods.

The Savaniya sacrifices were offered throughout the day of offering to Agni.[vi]

In the Anubandhya sacrifice, either a barren cow or an ox was offered to Varuna and Mitra on the day of Soma sacrifice. (Sacred Books of the East, Volume 12. Clarendon Press. p. 379.)

Despite the mentioning of the rituals in the Vedas, Krishna tells people not to sacrifice, but that he will allow them to continue and will also accept it in the Bhagavata Purana in the Kaliyuga, because he himself resides in the animal. I can’t even fathom how it is logical to ‘eat god’.

“The eater who daily even devours those destined to be his food, commits no sin; for the creator himself created both the eaters and those who are to be eaten (for those special purposes).” (Manusmriti, 5:30 )

Then it continues and says “The consumption of meat (is befitting) for sacrifices,' that is declared to be a rule made by the Gods” (Manusmriti, 5:31 ). Also, “But a man who, being duly engaged (to officiate or to dine at a sacred rite), refuses to eat meat, becomes after death an animal during twenty-one existences.” (Manusmriti, 5:35 ).

“Svayambhu (the Self-existent) himself created animals for the sake of sacrifices; sacrifices (have been instituted) for the good of this whole (world)” (Manusmriti 5:39 )

For those unware of ‘Svayambhu’, based on details in Bhagavata Purana and Matsya Purana, Narayana or Krishna is said to be the self-manifested svayambhu form of Brahman as the first cause of creation.

The Rig Veda Book 6, Hymns 16 17 discuss sacrifices as well.

Maharishi Yagnavalkya, a revered Vedic sage, who is mentioned in the oldest Upanishadic scriptures, said regarding eating ox in Shatpath Brahmin “Nevertheless Yagnavalkya said, 'I, for one, eat it, provided that it is tender.”

There are countless more references I could provide, but this should be sufficient to prove the point that animal sacrifices is nothing foreign to Hindu teachings or scriptures.

Practiced in India and Nepal Today

Hindu Animal sacrifice festivalYou will find animal sacrifices held at Hindu temples all around India and Nepal for the Goddesses, such as Bhavani and Kali.  During the festival of Navaratri, a buffalo or goat is offered, and directed by a Brahmin priest.  Renuka is the Goddess that gets sacrifices in Karnataka, India.  It is usually a buffalo or goat.

In Maharashtra, they are done to please the deities that rule the local region.  Typically it is done by those that follow the Shakti school of Hinduism which worship the female nature of Brahman in the form of Kali and Durga. 

In Bengal, they sacrifice the animal to free it from the life and death cycle.

The Gadhimai Festival is a three day long festival in Nepal where Hindus slaughter sometimes over 250,000 animals, with approximately 5 million worshippers present.  They will either decapitate or strangle the animal or even drive a spike into the heart of the animal. (Lang, 2009) [vii]  This festival has received the title of the ‘largest animal sacrifice in the world ’. You can see images from the festival here .


Rama - The Carnivorous Hindu God

According to the Valmiki Ramayana, Rama was a carnivore. 

“Having hunted there four deer, namely Varaaha, Rishya, Prisata; and Mahaaruru (the four principal species of deer) and taking quickly the portions that were pure, being hungry as they were, Rama and Lakshmana reached a tree to take rest in the evening.” (Ayodhya Kanda 2-52-102 )

Thereafter having travelled only a couple of miles the two brothers Rama and Lakshmana killed many consecrated deer and ate in the river-forest of Yamuna. (Ayodhya Kanda 2-55-32/33 )

Having shown Mandakini River in that manner to Seetha, the daughter of Mithila, Rama set on the hill-side in order to gratify her appetite with a piece of flesh. Rama, whose mind was devoted to righteousness stayed there with Seetha, saying; "This meat is fresh, this is savoury and roasted in the fire." (Ayodhya Kanda 2-96-1/2 )

Raghava then on killing another spotted deer and on taking its flesh, he hurried himself towards Janasthaana. (Aranya Kanda 3-44-27 )

[Sita to Ravana] "Be comfortable for a moment, here it is possible for you to make a sojourn, and soon my husband will be coming on taking plentiful forest produce, and on killing stags, mongooses, wild boars he fetches meat, aplenty. (Aranya Kanda 3-47-23 )

[Kabandha to Rama] "Thereabout birds will be unflustered on seeing humans, because they are artless to avoid hunting, because none kills them, and you may savour them because those birds will be best and burley, similar to ghee-gobs. "Oh, Rama in that Pampa Lake there are best fishes, red-carps, and blunt-snouted small porpoises, and a sort of sprats, which are neither scraggy, nor with many fish-bones. Lakshmana will reverentially offer them to you on skewering them with arrow, and on broiling them on iron rod of arrow after descaling and de-finning them. While you eat those fishes to satiety, Lakshmana will offer you the water of Pampa Lake, which will be in the bunches of flowers of that lake, and which will be lotus-scented, pellucid, comfortably cool, shiny like silver and crystal, uncontaminated and that way pristine, by lifting it up that water with lotus leaf, making that leaf a stoup-like basin... (Aranya Kanda 3-73-13/17 [3-73-16b, 17, 18a])

Sacrifices were made during ceremonies as seen below:

[Purifactory ceremony] Seeing that hut, which was firmly built and thatched as well as beautiful to look at, Rama spoke the following words to Lakshmana who listened to his command and who was closely attentive to him: "Oh, Lakshmana! Bring the meat of an antelope. We shall perform a purifactory ceremony while entering the house. Which is to be done by those who wish to live long. Oh, large-eyed Lakshmana! Killing the antelope quickly, bring it here. The prescribed rite according to scriptural point of view indeed is to be performed. Keep in mind the sacred obligation." Lakshmana the slayer of enemies, understanding his brother's words, acted as instructed. Rama spoke again to Lakshmana as follows: "Oh, gentle brother! Boil this antelope's meat. We shall worship the leaf-hut. This day and this instant also are of a distinctive character. Be quick."  Then, Lakshmana the strong man and son of Sumitra, killing a holy back antelope, tossed it in an ignited fire.  Feeling certain that it is cooked and heated thoroughly with no blood remaining, Lakshmana spoke to Rama the lion among man as follows:  "This black antelope, with its complete limbs, has been cooked completely by me. Oh, Rama resembling God! Worship the concerned deity, as you are skilled in that act." (Ayodhya Kanda 2-56-21/28 )

[Jatayu's funderal] Then that resolute Rama on going into forest along with Soumitri hunted a robust-bodied, big Rohi animal, or, Kesari animal, and then he spread sacred grass on ground to place that offering to the deceased soul of that bird. On drawing up the flesh of that Rohi animal and lumping it to gobbets, that highly observant Rama placed those gobbets on pleasant greenish pasturelands as obsequial offerings in respect of that bird Jataayu. (Aranya Kanda 3-68-32/33 )

Despite being found in scriptures, there are laws in some states of India making killing, or buying, or possessing, or eating beef to be a crime

Hindus claim that there is religious tolerance in India, however this is easily proven misleading.  It is a religious right of Muslims, Christians, and Jews to eat meat if slaughtered in an appropriate manner.  However, this religious right is denied to them in the state of Maharashtra according to reports from the BBC and FirstPost , which can get a person 5 years in jail, and a 10,000 rupee fine for killing, buying, possessing, or eating beef.  Is it really religious tolerance if you are telling people what they can and can’t eat?

Recommended Reading: 

Human Sacrifices in Hindu Scriptures 


[i] Georg, Feuerstein (2002), The Yoga Tradition, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass

[iv] A. B. Gajendragadkar; R. D. Karmarkar, eds. (1998). The Arthasamgraha of Laugaksi Bhaskara . Motilal Banarsidas Publishers. p. 34. ISBN 9788120814431.

[v] Arthur Berriedale Keith (2007). The Religion and Philosophy of the Veda and Upanishads . Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. pp. 324–326. ISBN 9788120806443.

[vi] The Religion and Philosophy of the Veda and Upanishads. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. p. 327.

[vii] Lang, O. (2009-11-24). "Hindu sacrifice of 250,000 animals begins | World news |" . London: Guardian. Retrieved 2012-08-13.


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