Holy Cow! You Ate Beef!

Varsha Bhosle, Sunday Observer. Re-Edited.

Indian Food, a scholarly look at the gastronomic traditions of ancient India by Dr. K. T. Acharya, says that the Vedic gods ate all kinds of meats, including that of horses, buffaloes, bulls and cows. For instance, the Rig Veda recounts the rituals in animal sacrifice, the roasting and carving - with Brahmin priests receiving choice cuts as prasad (the 'Communion,' co-partaking in the food sacrificed to the gods).

The god Pushan favoured the meat of black cows, Rudra red cows, Vishnu oxen, Agni and Indra bulls. Indra is urged to slay his foes 'just as cows are butchered at the place of sacrifice.'

In the epic Ramayana and Maha-Bharat, sumptuous feasts abound with the meat of pigs, deer, sheep, fowl, camels, and 'young buffalo calves roasted on spits with ghee (a kind of butter) dropping on them.'

The Atharva Veda mentions the sacrificed cow as destined for the gods and brahmins,' and in the Brhadaranyak Upanishad, Sushrutha, the father of Indian medicine, describes beef as pavitra (pure) for health.

When utilitarian needs sought to discourage the slaying of milch cows and draught oxen by declaring beef-eating a sin, the Upanishadic sage Yagnavalkya stated in the Shatapath Brahmana: "That may well be, but I shall eat of it nevertheless if the flesh is tender."

It wasn't until the rise of Mahavir and the Jain religion and later, the advent of the Mauryan emperor Ashoka who adopted Buddhism and made it the State Religion, that the ethos of total vegetarianism began to take hold among a section of the populace, mainly the brahmins.
Varsha Bhosle, Sunday Observer. Re-Edited.
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