Excerpts From: Hinduism and Islam A Comparative Study

It is interesting to note that the cow used to be slaughtered by the ancient Hindus to enjoy its beef, entertain the guests and offer it as sacrifice to their deities.

[Mahatma] Gandhi himself says, "I know there are scholars who tell us that cow-sacrifice is mentioned in the Vedas. I... read a sentence in our Sanskrit text-book to the effect that Brahmins of old [period] used to eat beef" [M.K. Gandhi, Hindu Dharma, New Delhi, 1991, p. 120]. He, however, refrained from showing enough courage in clearly speaking the truth, may be because he did not like to hurt the sentiments of the people who were the main source of his political strength.

There are clear evidences in the Rig Veda, the most sacred Hindu scripture, that the cow used to be sacrificed by Hindus for religious purposes. For instance, Hymn CLXIX of the Rig Veda says:

"May the wind blow upon our cows with healing; may they eat herbage ... Like-coloured various-hued or single- coloured whose names through sacrifice are known to Agni, Whom the Angirases produced by Ferbvour - vouschsafe to these, Parjanya, Those who have offered to the gods their bodies whose varied forms are all well known to Soma" [The Rig Veda (RV), translated by Ralph H. Griffith, New York, 1992, p. 647].

In the Rig Veda (RV: VIII.43.11) Agni is described as "fed on ox and cow" suggesting that cattle were sacrificed and roasted in fire. Another hymn (RV: X.16.7) mentions the ritual enveloping of the corpse with cow flesh before applying the fire on it.

In the Brahmanas at 1.15 in the Aiteriya Brahmana, the kindling of Agni on the arrival of King Some is compared to the slaughter of a bull or a barren cow on the arrival of a human king or other dignitary.

Similarly, at II.1.11.1 in the Taiteriya Brahmana and XXXI.14.5 in the Panchavinsha Brahmana, the rishi Agastya is credited with the slaughter of a hundred bulls.

In verse III.1.2.21 in the Satapatha Brahmana, sage Yajnavalkaya asserts that even though the cow is the supporter of everyone, he would eat beef "if it is luscious." At IV.5-2.1 in the same Brahmana, it is said that a barren cow can be slaughtered in the Some sacrifice. Not only for religious purposes, but also for other purposes one could kill a cow and eat beef. Thus at II.4.2 of the same Brahmana, it is suggested that a fat bull or fat goat should be sacrificed in honour of an important guest.

Similarly, the Brihadaranyaka Upanishada (VI.4.18) advises a couple to take an evening meal of beef or veal pulao, if they desire to beget a son who is learned in the Vedas [Robert Trumbull, As I see India, London, 1957, p.241].