Oped

Falsified truths

  • Vedic mantras are being misinterpreted to support arguments for animal sacrifice
- MANEKA SANJAY GANDHI

Jul 12, 2015-

Many of us believe what the media says to be the truth. But that is not always the case. Producers of harmful products and processes use media as a channel to lobby false claims  and this is more evident when it comes to laws regarding animal protection.

A shark-fishing ban attracted hostile articles and when the sources were revealed it was discovered that these articles were pushed by public relation agencies of shark fin travel owners. The cattle killing ban in Maharashtra has led to a great numbers of people with vested interests—exporters of illegal meat, illegal slaughterhouse owners, restaurant owners who sell beef, transporters and policemen—into launching a shrill tirade against the ban. They are supported by the strangest of people, the so-called ‘secularists’, who embark upon any cause that gives them publicity.

The arguments made by such people do not consider the economy, the farmers’ views or any agricultural good. They refuse to understand that illegal slaughter is considered killing in India and the money made out of it goes to illegal activities such as terrorism. Additionally, illegal trafficking encourages bribes, which corrupts police effectiveness and turns many of them into criminals instead of defender of the innocent. The arguments are simple: everyone should be allowed to eat what they want and the Hindus always ate beef according to the Vedic scriptures.

Regarding the first point, 90 percent of meat is mainly for export, so it is not a question of eating and feeding people, it is simply a business—for, by and of the rich—many of whom are not even Indian citizens. Secondly, these same people criticise the government for allowing young people access to alcohol, cigarettes, pan masala and chemicals. What do they want? An anarchic government where everybody does what they want no matter how it affects the society or a government that regulates what is best for all?

False assertions

However, it is this second point that I wish to take up in this piece. It has been repeatedly written that according to the Vedas, Hindus ate beef and especially Brahmins practiced rituals in which they killed animals. These ‘scholars’ use out of context quotes from bad western translations of Vedic literature and use them for their personal agenda. Their misleading analysis of ancient scriptures goes uncontested. Their interpretations of the Vedas come from the interpretations of commentaries written by Mahidhar, Uvat and Saayan in the medieval times and to what Vam-margis or the Tantra cult propagated. In the name of translating the Vedas, the Western scholars, with their incomplete knowledge of Sanskrit or the ancient people of India, mutilated these commentaries of our ancient scriptures.

Shri Vardhman Parivar & Akhil Bhartiya Krishi Go Seva Sangh has done an excellent amount of research at this attack on the Vedas and I reproduce some of their research.

Let’s start with the allegation that animal sacrifice is common in Vedic yajnas.  The word Yajna is derived from root ‘Yaj’ by adding ‘nan’ pratyaya. Yaj root has three meanings: Devapuja (behaving appropriately with the entities around—worshipping divinity and respecting parents are few examples), Sangatikaran (Unity) and Daan (Charity). These form the primary duty of human beings and so Yajna is emphasised not only in Vedas but in all ancient Indian literature.

Yajna has no reference to animal killing. In fact, Nirukta (Vedic vocabulary) clearly states in 2.7 that Yajna is called Adhwara, Dhwara means violence and hence it is totally banned in Yajna. In other words, any kind of violence—through mind, body or voice—is completely forbidden in Yajna. Adhwara is used to imply Yajna in a large number of mantras in the Vedas. Around 43 mantras in Yajurveda refer to Adhwara, especially mantra 36.18 clearly states that “May I look upon all beings— Sarvaani Bhootani—with friendly eyes.”

But, our beef eaters, exporters and secularists question about Ashwamedha, Naramedha, Ajamedha, Gomedhayajnas. They believe ‘medha’ means killing and Vedas even talk about Naramedha (human sacrifice). But ‘medha’ does not necessarily mean slaughter. It denotes an act done in accordance to the intellect. It also means consolidation or nurturing. If the Yajnas are supposed to be Adhwara or non-violent, why should we assume that Medha means violence? An intelligent person is called Medhaavi. So many children are named Medha. Do we imply they are violent people or intelligent ones?

Misinterpreted texts

Further, the cremation of the body of a dead person in accordance with the principles laid down in the Vedas is called NaramedhaYajna. An effort made for the training and productivity of people is also NaramedhaYajna or PurushmedhaYajna or Nriyajna. Aja means grains, thus  Ajamedha Yajna refers to increasing agricultural productivity or using grains in Agnihotra.

Yajurveda 24.29 which uses words ‘Hastina Aalambhate’ is understood as sacrifice of elephants by the critiques. Alambha is derived from Labha root does not mean sacrifice or killing. Labha means to acquire or gain. While ‘hastina’ has a deeper meaning beyond elephant, even if we take it as an elephant, it means that the king should acquire elephants to nurture his kingdom.

What about Yajurveda 25.34-35 or Rigveda 1.162.11-12 which states that “What from thy body which with fire is roasted, when thou art set upon the spit, distilleth—Let not that lie on earth or grass neglected, but to the longing Gods let all be offered.” “They who, observing that the Horse is ready, call out and say, The smell is good; remove it; And, craving meat, await the distribution—may their approving help promote our labour.”

Evidently, there is explicit description of horse sacrifice. But this misinterpretation is done by Ralph T.H. Griffith, which like all his works, has taken practically everything out of context. The first mantra has no reference to horse. It simply means that when people have fever, doctors should care for them unselfishly. In the second mantra, all he did was to assume that Vaajinam word means ‘horse’. ‘Vaajinam’ simply means a dynamic or fast entity and is an attribute of the horse. None of the interpretations of the mantra leads to horse sacrifice. Even if Vaajinam refers to a horse, the verse could mean those who attempt to kill horses should be stopped. The translations by Swami Dayanand Saraswati are closer to the truth. It is hardly likely that hundreds of mantras in the Vedas explicitly prohibit animal killing and demand severe punishment for killers of horses and cows, while one mantra says just the opposite.

To join the animal welfare movement contact gandhim@nic.in

Published: 12-07-2015 08:27

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