Wall Street Journal: Chaddi beef with India's bovine butchers is woefully undercooked

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Wall Street Journal: Chaddi beef with India's bovine butchers is woefully undercooked

Post by Rashmun on Wed Aug 09, 2017 5:09 am

In the past year India has been witness to numerous gruesome public murders of men suspected of eating beef or transporting ostensibly sacred cows for slaughter. A band of radicals calling themselves [i]gau-rakshak, or cow-protectors, may lay claim to being the world’s first terrorists in a bovine cause. Yet this intolerant movement’s appeal to religion is greatly at odds with the facts.

The great Hindu sage Yajnavalkya, who lived in the eighth century B.C., made a delicious observation on the flesh of the cow, rarely invoked in present times except by historians. In the “Satapatha-Brahmana”—a text that describes many of the rituals in the Vedic religion that preceded modern Hinduism—Yajnavalkya says of beef: “I, for one, eat it, provided that it is tender.” These awkward words are ignored by the Hindu extremists who wage a thuggish campaign against beef eating, as well as by their more sophisticated enablers in the Indian Parliament, who urge Indians to empathize with the wounded religious sentiments that give rise to today’s vigilante violence.

The sage’s affirmation occurs in a passage that speaks against the eating of beef—a practice that was widespread in India at the time—but certainly does not prohibit it. And as the Indian archaeologist D.R. Bhandarkar pointed out in lectures published in 1940, this particular exhortation against eating beef in the “Satapatha-Brahmana” was made “not on religious, but on utilitarian grounds.” In fact, cows had been consumed in India since the arrival of the Indo-Europeans around 1800 B.C.

The “Rigveda,” the first canonical Hindu text (composed between 1700 and 1500 B.C.), is replete with references to the ritual sacrifice of cattle. Indians used the meat to propitiate the gods—especially Indra, god of rain, and Agni, the fire-god.

The most ancient texts of the Hindu religion offer no evidence for a prohibition on beef-eating. One of them, the “Taittiriya-Brahmana,” states, “Verily, the cow is food.” Some scriptural passages suggest that eating beef is not a great idea, but never for reasons of bovine sanctity. Unlike in modern India, where Hindu radicals and even secular Hindus believe that all forms of cattle are sacred, the ancient beef-eating Hindus made practical distinctions. As pastoralists and farmers, they knew the value of a fertile cow. Thus bulls and sterile cows were more suitable for consumption than milch cows.

Oxen were sacrificed frequently at cremations—the corpse being covered with bovine fat to aid immolation—and as offerings for honored guests. The archaeologist Bhandarkar explained in his lectures that the killing of an ox “formed such an essential part of the hospitality to be shown to a distinguished guest that a compound word consisting of two words meaning ‘a bull’ and ‘to kill’ respectively was coined to denote a guest.” The word is [i]goghnotithih, “he for whom a bull is killed.”

Lest one believe that beef was only eaten after ritual sacrifice by the Hindus of old, archaeological evidence in northern India suggests a widespread nonritual killing of cattle. In his writings Manu, the legendary first man and lawgiver, does not give Hindus permission to consume camel. Yet cows are acceptable.

[size=13]The Indian historian D.N. Jha—whose book “The Myth of the Holy Cow” (Verso, 2004), is available in India only in bootleg form due to opposition from Hindu hard-liners—writes that animal sacrifice remained a feature of the life of the Indo-Europeans after their migration into India for several centuries, “until sedentary field agriculture became the mainstay of their livelihood.” Lawgivers began to discourage beef-eating “around the middle of the first millennium, when society began to be gradually feudalized, leading to major socio-cultural transformation.” The eating of beef, he observes, came to be viewed as a sin and a source of pollution largely from the early medieval period. [/size]

This ascription of sinfulness has no ancient textual support, and many Hindus eat beef to the present day—particularly among the lower castes, who cannot afford to be fussy about their food, and in southern India, where higher educational standards make people less susceptible to the fevers of religiosity. The holiness of the cow, to give Mr. Jha the last word, “is elusive.” There isn’t a cow-goddess in Hinduism, nor any cow temple in her honor anywhere in India. Calls for a ban on beef are no better than an attempt by Hindu chauvinists—who depict beef-eating as a “Muslim” practice—to impose a rigid monolithic culture on a religion that has more varieties than any other faith on earth.



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