Saturday November 18, 2017

Beef Controversy: Origins of beef consumption in India

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Photo: photography.nationalgeographic.com

By Nithin Sridhar

An Analysis of Hindu Symbols and Practices: Part 5

In the previous two parts (here and here), it was established how, contrary to current assertions, cow slaughter was neither widely prevalent among ancient Hindus nor were they practiced for the purpose of consumption. Further, it was shown how cows were held sacred and were declared ‘inviolable’.

So naturally, the next question that arises is: how and when did the consumption of beef originate in India? This is a complicated question which does not have any single definite answer. Yet, we can see how the consumption of beef has risen and fallen among certain sections of the Indian society over the last two millenniums.

Beef consumption and untouchability

In the current discourse of beef consumption, beef is almost always linked with Dalits and Muslims. It is widely held that Dalits have historically consumed beef and even today most of them continue to practice it. Hence, it is argued that any action aimed at protecting the cows is anti-Dalit.

Though it is true that a section of Indian society that includes members of Muslim, Dalit, tribal, and upper caste Hindu communities do consume beef today, the assertion that the majority of Dalits consumes beef and deem it a necessity is mostly hearsay and/or propaganda.

A recent mapping of the food habits of Dalit communities published by Swarajya Magazine clearly shows that though 80% of the Dalit communities are meat eaters, they discourage beef.

It further notes that, in states like Uttar Pradesh, over 75% of Dalit communities discourage beef consumption, though they eat meat. This raises serious questions regarding the portrayal of beef as being an integral part of Dalit life in present society.

But, there is a merit in the argument that beef consumption has been historically associated with Dalit communities. For example, the Mahar community in Maharashtra had an exclusive right over the dead animals including cows.

Photo: veganjains.com
Photo: veganjains.com

Tracing the origin of untouchability to the practice of beef consumption, Dr. Ambedkar, in his book “The Untouchables Volume 1” says: “The Brahmins made the cow a sacred animal. This made beef-eating a sacrilege. The Broken Men being guilty of committing sacrilege necessarily became beyond the pale of society.” He then builds up his case about how and when untouchability arose from beef eating.

He says that Untouchability is completely absent in not only Vedas but also in Dharma Sutras and in Manu and other Smritis. He further points out that the first proper account of untouchability was given by Chinese traveler Yuan Chwang who had come to India in 629 AD.

From this, Dr. Ambedkar concludes that Untouchability must have originated between 200 AD (approximate date he fixes for Manu Smriti) and 600 AD. He further traces the roots of the Untouchability to the complete prohibition of cow slaughter and the declaration of Gohatya (killing of the cow) as being equal to Brahmana-Hatya (killing of a Brahmin) during the Gupta rule in the 5th century.

He thus summarizes that, though Vedic Hindus had consumed beef, after the advent of Buddhism, the Brahmins and other upper classes adopted vegetarianism and the cow was made into a sacred animal. This transition was complete by the time of the Guptas, after which, those communities who continued their practices of eating beef were branded untouchables.

Though Dr. Ambedkar is right in his proposition that Untouchability is rooted in beef consumption, he is wrong in his assumption that beef consumption was prevalent in Vedic times and even the Brahmins used to consume beef for the sake of taste.

In the previous two articles, it has been clearly established that the Cow was considered ‘inviolable’ in the Vedas itself and only during Yajnas, Marriage and other such spiritual occasions, were the sacrifice of cows allowed. Even during those occasions, in all probability, the actual quantity of beef consumed as ‘Prasada’ (sacred food) was very small. Further, even Dharma Sutras affirm that sacrifice of cows is permitted only during those spiritual occasions.

Also, contrary to the assertions of Dr. Ambedkar that it was probably in the post-Manu period, especially during the Gupta period that cow slaughtering and beef consumption was made sacrilegious. We find that in Vedas itself, injunctions that say killers of cows must be punished (Rig-Veda– 10.87.16) are present. Manu-Smriti (11.59) also includes killing of cows under “Upapataka” (secondary crime).

It must be noted that the usage of ‘secondary’ to denote killing of the cow does not mean it was insignificant. It only means that crimes, which were of lesser magnitude when compared to the five main sins that were branded as “Mahapataka” were called as ‘Upapataka’. It’s similar to the current practice of listing crimes, according to their severity and magnitude. One such list, for example, may contain rape at the first spot and groping and eve-teasing at the fifth spot, but this will not mean that groping and eve-teasing are acceptable or that they are ‘lesser crimes’ than rape.

Similarly, though it is true that during the rule of the Guptas in the 5th century, the offense of cow killing was raised from being a secondary crime to being equal to the killing of a Brahmin, this in itself does not mean that the cow was considered less sacred before.

Instead, it points towards a possibility that, certain communities who never consumed beef during early Vedic or Smriti period, may have slowly started consuming beef in a large manner. This in turn must have caused the elevation cow-slaughter to the level of ‘Mahapataka’.

Thus, we can safely conclude that the present practice of beef consumption that is observed among certain Dalit communities originated around 5th century during Gupta period and not before it.

Beef Consumption and Islamic Invasion

Another community that is closely associated with beef consumption is the Muslim community. Though, it is often argued that Beef eating is integral to the Islamic way of life and any attempt at banning beef will be an infringement on the freedom of religion of the Muslims, a thorough analysis reveals that this is not the case.

Dr. Ambedkar writes: “Islamic law does not insist upon the slaughter of the cow for sacrificial purposes and no Musalman, when he goes to Haj, sacrifices the cow in Mecca or Medina. But in India they will not be content with the sacrifice of any other animal.” Regarding the killing of cows on Bakrid, an Islamic Scholar says: “It is undoubtedly true that to discharge the qurbani-liability on the Baqrid day, killing a cow is not farz, wajib or even mandub.”

Therefore, it is quite incorrect to assert that killing of cows is integral to the Islamic practice. Yet, what is true is that the origins of beef eating among Muslims can be traced to the Islamic invasions of India.

The practice of beef consumption or the killing of cows during Bakrid was practically absent in Arabian countries. The Muslims in Arabia usually consumed meat of sheep, goat, or camel. But, when the Islamic invaders started entering India around 1000 AD, they adopted the practice of beef consumption to humiliate and insult the religious feelings of Hindus and used it to establish the hegemony of Muslim rule.

Photo: http://gaumatagausala.blogspot.in
Photo: http://gaumatagausala.blogspot.in

While summarizing the attitude of Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi, the famous Sufi mystic of the 15th century, Yohanan Friedmann writes: “The honor of Islam demands the humiliation of the infidels and their false religion. To achieve this objective, jizyah should be mercilessly levied upon them, and they should be treated like dogs. Cows should be slaughtered to demonstrate the supremacy of Islam. The performance of this rite is, in India, the most important symbol of Islamic domination.” Similarly, Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmer, another famous Sufi mystic who is eulogized for his tolerance today, is said to have slaughtered a cow and cooked a beef kebab at a sacred place surrounded by temples, near the Annasagar Lake at Ajmer.

Taking note of such actions of Islamic rulers, Justice Guman Mal Lodha writes in his report about Cattle in India: “The Islamic rulers, from Central and West Asia were not habituated to beef-eating, as there were no cows in Arabic countries in those days. When the invaders came to India, they started sacrificing cows, especially on the occasion of Bakri-Id. This was done more to humiliate the natives of this country and establish their sovereignty and superiority rather than for food purposes.”

Therefore, the historical practice of beef consumption among Muslims is clearly rooted in the invasion of Islamic rulers and their attempts at humiliating native Hindus whom they considered as Khafirs (non-believers) and not in any Islamic doctrines that make it a religious compulsion.

But, it is interesting to note that, with time, partly owing to the assimilation of Muslims into Indian way of life, and partly owing to the pressure from Hindu subjects, some Muslim rulers like Mughal Emperor Akbar did ban cow-slaughter. But, such a ban was almost always overturned after a duration of time.

But, with the decline of the Mughal Empire and the rise of the Maratha Empire, the consumption of beef had slowly declined and one can note that only a few instances of cow slaughter have been recorded between 1700 AD and 1800 AD.

In fact, Dharampal writes in his book “The British Origin of Cow-Slaughter in India”: “‘It can be reasonably assumed that there was very little cow killing after about 1700 AD since the domination of Islam waned and converts to Islam did not take to eating of cow flesh.”

Therefore, it is safe to conclude that, whatever beef consumption that was practiced by Muslims during Islamic rule, it got minimized to a great extent by 1700 AD. Thus, the current practice of beef consumption by the community must be traced to post 1800 AD.

Beef Consumption and the British Rule

The arrival of the British brought a new wave of beef eaters into the country. To the British, beef consumption was not only an issue of adhering to their own diet, but also that of fulfilling the food demands of their military as well as the usefulness of the cows in creating tensions among native Hindus and Muslims.

Photo: www.youtube.com
Photo: www.youtube.com

Regarding this, Dharampal writes: “State-sponsored and State-regulated slaughter of cattle would have started, depending on British military requirement, sometime after 1750 AD.”

It must be noted that the strength of British officers and soldiers posted in India was only around 20,000 in 1800. This raised to around 100,000 by the end of the First War of Indian Independence. The total British population in India, including British civilians during the 19th century was around 3-5 lakhs.

This steep increase in the British population (especially of those in the military) in India resulted in many fold increase in cow-slaughtering and beef consumption. Lodha report notes that, in some places, the increase was as high as fourfold. The report further notes that as against 20,000 cows per year that were killed during Islamic rule, around 30,000 cows were killed every year at the height of the British period.

Regarding the British attempts at using the cow-slaughter to revive and strengthen the old differences between Hindus and Muslims, Dharampal writes: “That the Muslims continued to sacrifice the cow at least on festive occasions like Bakri Id and they were made to feel that the job of a butcher was honorable, was also a basic political requirement of the British rule in India.”

This becomes even more clear in the letter written by Queen Victoria to Viceroy Lansdowne, wherein she states: “Though the Muhammadan’s cow-killing is made the pretext for the agitation, it is, in fact, directed against us, who kill far more cows for our army than the Muhammadans.”

It was also a part of British strategy that, along with killing and consuming of cows on a mass scale, they also started condemning Indian cows and Indian ethos that held cows as sacred. Lodha observes: “It was at this juncture that the British started condemning Indian cows. They propagated the notion that India was a land of superstitious people, who had a blind faith in animals, rivers, trees and plants, and that the Indians were weak, unhygienic and inferior, and even their cattle breeds were inferior.”

This condemnation of cows was in sync with British condemnation of other aspects of Indian life. By this strategy, they successfully dismantled Indian institutions and way of life and replaced them with British ethos and world-views.

Therefore, the British rule not only gave rise to the current practice of cow-slaughter and beef consumption (especially among Muslims), but also to the current ethos of celebrating beef consumption as a virtue by the liberal Indians.

More under Beef Controversy:

Part 3: Hinduism and Cow

Part 4: Yajna, Madhuparka, and the use of beef

Part 6: Beef Controversy: Beef parties and the celebration of violence

More under Hindu Symbols and Practices:

Part 1: The practice of Idol Worship

Part 2- Fallacies in Criticism of Idol Worship

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Sins in Hinduism: Facts, Meaning,Philosophy,Types & Atonement

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The sins in Hinduism can be washed away with devotional means. Pixabay.
  • Sin is regarded as an impurity arising in one’s body as a consequence to his own evil deeds. It is an effect that can be neutralised through various practices to lead your life into Moksha or liberation.
  • A liberated being or Jivanmukta is purified of all his sins who does not have to go through any further sins and rebirth. In order to make your soul pure and sinless, practice every deed with God’s grace.
  • The Sins in Hinduism, sinful conduct and their remedies have been referred to in Hindu Scriptures such as in Upanishads, Bhagavadgita, Yoga Sutras, Manu Smriti and Garuda Purana. 

As stated about sins in Hinduism, sin may form up with disobedience to God’s divine laws of Dharma. It may however be difficult to follow, but is considered obligatory for humans. The sins in Hinduism can be forgiven if Dharma is upholded as a service to God through self-effort and pure devotion to God.

Sins in Hinduism
Meditation is considered as the easiest from of removing sins in Hinduism. Pixabay.

What is the meaning of Sins in Hinduism?

The word Pāpam (paap) is often used to describe sins in Hinduism as mentioned in the Vedas and Hindu scriptures. Punyam (punya) is the opposite (antonym) of sin. It does not acquire an equivalent word in English since the concept of sins in Hinduism is different in western culture and Christianity.

Separating the word, ‘Pa‘ means to drink, inhale or absorb. ‘Apa‘ means water, combinedly meaning consuming or drinking impure water or poison. Pāpam also denotes evil, wicked, mischievous, destructive, inferior, corrupt and guilt.

It is believed that the sins of Hinduism manifests in the body with the impurities of worldliness (vishaya-asakti). The human body becomes subject to various poisons (visham) such as egoism, greed, ignorance, selfishness, desires and so on, which emerge with our attachments with worldly things (vishayas). These poisons of sins make the humans to take rebirths and deaths until they are removed completely. In the Hindu culture, Lord Shiva is regarded as the destroyer and the healer who gets invoked by devotees prayers and can remove or destroy such poison or sins to grant them liberation.

Sins in Hinduism
The sins in hinduism have been depicted in the scriptures. Pixabay.

What is the Philosophy of Sins in Hinduism?

The sins appear from physical, mental or oral actions, due to the impurities or poisons pertaining to Dharma and Hinduism. The poison of sin is stimulated if one harms intentionally to others or oneself by way of pain and suffering continuing the cycle of rebirth and death.

The repurcussions of sinful acts or karma are fault or mistake (aparadha), worry or anxiety (cintha), impurities or imperfections (doshas), evil intentions (dudhi), evil qualities (dhurta lakshana), immorality (adharma), demonic nature (asura sampatti), chaos or disorderliness (anrta), mental afflictions (klesha), destruction (nirtti), karmic debt (rna), sorrow (shoka), darkness or grossness (tamas) and suffering (pida). Others include: inferior birth, birth through demonic wombs, downfall into hells, increased suffering to ancestors, adversity, loss of reputation.

Sins in Hinduism
Visit Pilgrimage shrines to erase your sins in Hindusim. Pixabay.

What are the types of Sins in Hinduism?

The Dharmashastras of the Hindu scriptures denote sin as Pātaka which represents the causes of one’s downfall or destruction (patanam).The following are the three types of sins in Hinduism: Mortal Sins (Mahapatakas), Secondary Sins (Upa Patakas) and Minor Sins (Prakirna or prasangika Patakas)

The Mahapatakas

These are the gravest and darkest sins in Hinduism leading to the worst downfall of the mortals into the darkest of hells. They can neither be neutralized or washed away without suffering. Some Puranas and Vedas indicate to devote oneself purely to God to remove such sins. The Dharmashastras have stated such five gravest sins termed as the Pancha Mahapatakas. In Hinduism,the company of sinners is also not advisable as associating with sinners will lead you to the same consequences.

The Upa Patakas

These secondary sins may emerge out of minor offenses that include incompetency to perform sacrifices regularly, displeasing the Guru, selling harmful and intoxicating drinks, disbelief in God, giving false witness, making false acclaims, and performing a sacrifice for an unworthy person or unworthy cause and engaging in illicit sex.

The Prakirna Patakas

These type of sins in Hinduism form the minor offenses committed intentionally or unintentionally out of ignorance or carelessness which can be removed or washed away by performing sacrifices (prayaschitta) or by punishments and requesting forgiveness. The law books regard more than fifty minor sins in Hinduism such as selling the wife, making salt, studying forbidden Shastras, killing a woman, marrying the younger son before marrying the elder one, killing insects and other creatures, ignorance to parents, accepting gifts without performing sacrifices,adultery etc.

What are the solutions to overcome Sins?

Fines and punishments

The Dharmashastras render both corporeal and monetary punishments for various offenses or sins in Hinduism, apart from the sufferings in hell or rebirth. According to Hindu scriptures, the ancient era saw immense difference in the application of punishments from caste to caste.

Confession

The best path to deal with sins of Hinduism is to surrender yourself infront of God and seek forgiveness with your own confession of the sin committed. The king was regarded as a similar figure to God who demanded a public confession (abhishasta) from the sinner.

Austerities and Atonement

By performing Vedic traditional rituals, the sins in Hinduism are removed by fasting, virtuous conduct, self-control, practice of nonviolence, truthfulness, austere living, practice of silence, concentration and meditation.

Sins in Hinduism
Your sins in Hinduism can be removed by Devoting yourself to the grace of God. Pixabay.

Rituals and sacrifices

The Vedas have recommended various rituals or sacrifices to wash away the the impurities (dhosas) arising from one’s birth, karma, relationships, place or direction related issues, vastu defects, dangerous diseases and evil conduct.

Prayers and Mantras

Vishnu Purana of the Hindu scriptures pronounce the effective importance of the continuous chanting of names of God (japam) in the Kaliyug. Some mantras and hymns are considered more significant than meditation and sacrifices to clean the impurities of the body.

Recitation of the Vedas and other Sacred Books

Knowledge (jnana) has the eternal power to remove the sins in Hinduism. It can be derived with regular reading up and learning from the scriptures of sacred importance.

Visiting pilgrimages

To grant your devotion and gratitude, Hinduism seeks to commit to Dharma by visiting holy pilgrimage place. It is a divine form of self-cleansing and experiencing peace and happiness.

Bathing in the sacred rivers

The sacred pilgrimages are mostly located near the banks of the rivers that are also treated as purifiers. Hence, bathing in those rivers lead your life into devotional worship as a purification rituals to overcome sins in Hinduism.

Yoga and Meditation

Pranayama and meditation are the suggested methods to practise peace and overcome past sins. They also form a major part of the austerities to cleanse the internal mind and body.

The blessings of saints and gurus

Saints, sadhus and mahatmas have been given a special status in Hinduism because of their respectful purity and virtue. They acquire divine knowledge and supreme powers, with which they cleanse those who approach them for blessings.

Sins in Hinduism
Worshipping the saints remove the sins in hinduism. Pixabay.

Virtuous conduct

Sinful karma can be countered with huge efforts into virtuous karma. The sins in Hinduism are washed away with kind and healthy conduct to everyone equally.

Charity

Dana (gift giving) or charity is very significant in Hindu Dharma. By conducting sacrifices and spiritual practices one must conduct charity as well. As a part of Vedas, the higher castes are under obligation to perform five daily sacrifices including offer food to gods, ancestors, sages, humans and creatures.

-Prepared by Bhavana Rathi of NewsGram. Twitter @tweet_bhavana

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Hinduism is Not an Official or Preferred Religion in Any Country of The World, Says a New Report

Though Hinduism is the third largest religion of the world, it is not the official state religion of any country according to a Pew Research Center Report

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Hinduism is not an official religion of any country in the world. Instagram.
  • No country has declared Hinduism as its official state religion – despite India being an influential Hindu political party
  • Hinduism is not an official or preferred religion in any country of the world, according to a Pew Research Center report.
  • 53% of 199 nations considered in the study don’t have an official religion
  • 80 countries are assigned either an “official religion” or “preferred religion”

Nevada, USA, October 16: Hinduism is the primeval and third largest religion of the world with about 1.1 billion followers of moksh (liberation) being its utmost desire of life. India is among the category of nations where the government do not have an official or preferred religion.

Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank headquartered in Washington DC that aims to inform the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world.

The report states that a country’s official religion is regarded as a legacy of its past and present privileges granted by the state. And a few other countries fall on the other side of the gamut, and propagate their religion as the ‘official religion’, making it a compulsion for all citizens.

It adds up on the context of allocation that more than eight-in-ten countries (86%) provide financial support or resources for religious education programs and religious schools that tend to benefit the official religion.

Hinduism
Islam is the most practiced official religion of the world. Instagram.

Commenting on Hinduism, the report states:

In 2015, Nepal came close to enshrining Hinduism, but got rejected of a constitutional amendment due to a conflict between pro-Hindu protesters and state police.

Although India has no official or preferred religion as mentioned in the Constitution,it was found by PEW that in India the intensity of government constraints and social antagonism involving religion was at a peak. “Nigeria, India, Russia, Pakistan and Egypt had the highest levels of social hostilities involving religion among the 25 most populous countries in 2015. All fell into the “very high” hostilities category,” the report added.

As per the 2011 census, it was found that 79.8% of the Indian population idealizes Hinduism and 14.2% practices to Islam, while the rest 6% pursuit other religions.

While Hinduism stands up with the majority, Article 25 of the Constitution of India contributes secularism allowing for religious freedom and allows every Indian to practice his/her religion, without any intervention by the community or the government.

Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, President of Universal Society of Hinduism, applauded the Hindu community for their benefaction to the society and advised Hindus to concentrate on inner purity, attract spirituality towards youth and children, stay far from the greed, and always keep God in the life.

According to Pew, these are “places where government officials seek to control worship practices, public expressions of religion and political activity by religious groups”.

-by Bhavana Rathi of NewsGram.  She can be reached @tweet_bhavana

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Paintings Which Beautifully Depict Scenes From Ramayana

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Ramayana
Ram lifting the bow during Sita Swayambar. Wikimedia Commons.

Ramayana, the ancient Indian epic which describes the narrative of Ayodhya Prince lord Rama’s struggles. The struggles include- exile of 14 years, abduction of his wife Sita, reaching Lanka, destruction of the evil. It is strongly ingrained in the Indian culture, especially, the Hindu culture since a long time. Hindus celebrate Diwali based on the narratives of Ramayana.

The story of Ramayana gives out the beautiful message that humanity and service to the mankind is way more important than kingdom and wealth. Below are five paintings describing the scenes from Ramayana:

1. Agni Pariksha in Ramayana

Ramayana
Agni Pariksha. Wikimedia.

When Lord Rama questions Sita’s chastity, she undergoes Agni Pariksha, wherein, she enters a burning pyre, declaring that if she has been faithful to her husband then the fire would harm her. She gets through the test without any injuries or pain. The fire God, Agni, was the proof of her purity. Lord Rama accepts Sita and they return to Ayodhya. 

2. Scene From The Panchavati Forest

Ramayana
scene from the panchavati forest. wikimedia.

The picture describes a scene from the Panchavati forest. It is believed that Lord Rama built his forest by residing in the woods of Panchavati, near the sources of the river Godavari, a few miles from the modern city of Mumbai. He lived in peace with his wife and brother in the forest.

3. Hanuman Visits Sita

Ramayana
Hanuman meets Sita. Wikimedia.

Hanuman reaches Lanka in search of Sita. At first, he was unable to find Sita. He later saw a woman sitting in Ashok Vatika, drowned in her sorrows, looked extremely pale. He recognized her. After seeing the evil king, Ravana making her regular visit to Sita, he hid somewhere in the Vatika. After Ravana left, Hanuman proved Sita that he is Rama’s messenger by showing her his ring. He assured her that Rama would soon come to rescue her. Before leaving Lanka, he heckled Ravana. Agitated by Hanuman’s actions, Ravana ordered to set Hanuman’s tail on fire. With the burning tail, Hanuman set the entire city on fire.