Animal Sacrifice Among Hindus in India

Animal sacrifice has been a part of Hinduism for many centuries. Animals are offered to the Goddess Shakti, Goddess Kali or other local deities. Even to this day, the laws have been bypassed when people have been driven to sacrifice animals in the name of religion. Animals have been sacrificed to continue age-old traditions and to appease the Gods. Often, worshippers believe that by sacrificing an animal they will be driving away the evils plaguing their community and washing away their sins. This practice is less popular these days but persists. It is still widespread in different parts of the country at different times of the year.

History of Animal Sacrifice

In the Vedic age, a famous example of animal sacrifice was the Ashwamedha Yajna that was conducted by a king to declare his power and glory. A stallion would be set free to roam for a year and then sacrificed. Though the cow was always considered to be a holy animal, there are accounts of cow slaughter in this period too.

Ancient Harappan seals also showed pictures of animal sacrifice. While the leader of the Jains, Mahavira, and Gautama Buddha distanced themselves from these practices and even spoke against it, there were instances of animal sacrifice during their periods too. Unfortunately, there were even some horrific instances of unwanted girl children being sacrificed.

Significance of Animal Sacrifice

For some believers of this tradition, an animal sacrifice is a spiritualizing experience. The sacrifice comes to represent the sacrifice of God. Additionally, this ritual becomes a way of offering the animal to the God. In later times, offering rice, sesame seeds, coconuts and pumpkins have become substitutes for animal sacrifice in some communities. In recent years, animal sacrifices have invited the wrath and protest of animal rights activists. They have tried to draw the attention of the government to the practice where animals are butchered in the name of religion. While these sacrifices are prohibited in certain states, they are still carried on in others.

Animals Sacrifice: Locations and Rules

In India today, animal sacrifices are most common in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu and also in some of the eastern states. Most commonly, goats, roosters and bufffaloes are sacrificed. Other animals that have been sacrificed include horses, pigeons and ducks. Animal sacrifices occur commonly during Durga Puja, Kali Puja and Navratri.

There are certain rules that are followed for animal sacrifice. For instance, the animal’s blood must be shed and his bones must not be broken. The animal is killed through strangulation, by driving a spike through this heart or by decapitation. After such a sacrifice is conducted, the flesh is often cooked and consumed by the devotees.

Last updates on 6 September 2012