Thoughts on economics and liberty

Sale of beef (including beef jerky) was OFFICIALLY ALLOWED by Hindu KINGS during the Maurya period (reported in Arthashastra)

[Title corrected to reflect Maurya empire – based on correction by a commentator]

My previous notes on archeological findings of meat eating (including beef) should be supplemented by the following proof that there was REGULAR MEAT EATING in India during the Maurya period (550 to 320 BC) – INCLUDING BEEF. 

If not all of them, then at least a good proportion of Indians during the Gupta empire were clearly NON-VEGATARIAN. Eating cow meat (see details below) was PERFECTLY FINE, during that period.

In fact, there was so much meat eaten in  Hindu society that the king established significant bureaucracies to manage both the animals and revenues arising from butchery. Also, like any other good system, there were protections for animal welfare.

With this, I can't find even the slightest shred of evidence that Hindus worshipped cow in the so-called Vedic or post-Vedic period. And during Indus Valley Civilisation, beef was consumed in great quantities. That I've already outlined.

This means that the idea of a "sacred cow" in Hinduism was invented well after the 5th century AD – most likely in the last 150 years.

==EXTRACT from the L N Rangarajan's translated and annotated Arthashastra==

1) Sale of beef was officially permitted by the King



The Chief Superintendent shall employ, for each herd of 100 animals, one cowherd or buffalo herdsman, a milker, a churner and a hunter-guard [to protect the herd from wild animals]. They shall be paid only in cash, because if they are paid in milk or ghee, they will starve the calves to death [by milking the cows dry, leaving nothing for the calves]. {2.29.2,3}

Every animal shall be identified in the records with the details of the branding mark, any natural identification marks, the colour and peculiarity of horns. An account shall be maintained of cattle lost (by theft, straying into another herd or disappearance) and of cattle totally lost [by death]. 

(v) By-products:

Churned buttermilk [from which butter for making ghee had been removed] shall be fed to dogs and pigs. Cheese shall be delivered to the armed forces. Whey shall be mixed with oilcake [from the expeller] for [use as] animal feed.

Hair, skin, bladder, bile, tendon, teeth, hooves and horns of all animals dying naturally shall be delivered to the Chief Superintendent. The flesh may be sold by the herdsman, either as fresh meat or dried. {2.29.26-29}  [Sanjeev: as beef or other meat jerky]

2) The king collected revenues from butchers.

The text refers to the Chief Protector of Animals and Controller of Animal Slaughter simply as the Head of the Department of Meat. However, his main responsibility was the protection of animals, thereby making him responsible also for control over butchers and the sale of meat.]



Butchers shall pay tax at the rates given below:
Sale of meat : revenue collected by Chief Protector of Animals and Controller of Animal Slaughter:
  • Animals, not in sanctuaries, whose slaughter is permitted 1/6th
  • Fish and birds 11/60th
  • Deer and cattle 1/60th + (4 or 5%)
Control of butchers
Only meat from freshly killed animals shall be sold.The sale of swollen meat, rotten meat and meat from [naturally] dead animals is prohibited. Fish without head or bones shall not be sold. Meat may be sold with or without bones. If sold with bones, equivalent compensation [for the weight of the bone] shall be given. {2.26.7,8,12}

3) But animal welfare was also ensured

Some animals, like deer, were given special treatment {4.10.5}. Temple bulls, stud bulls and cows for up to ten days after calving were exempt from payment of grazing charges {3.10.24}. Riding or driving a temple animal, a stud bull or a pregnant cow was prohibited {4.13.20}. Animals fights between horned or tusked animals was also prohibited {4.13.19}.
Among animals customarily slaughtered for meat, the killing of the calf, the bull and the milch cow shall be prohibited. [Sanjeev: Note that if a cow was no longer producing milk or if it died naturally – as noted above, then it could be slaughtered for meat]
New terrritories
In newly conquered territory, animal slaughter was prohibited for four days around full moon day and during one fortnight in each of the four months of devotion (chaturmasya). Slaughter of female and young animals and castration of males was prohibited {13.5.12,13}.
Slaughter of animals shall be prohibited during one fortnight in each month of chaturmasya [the four-month period set apart for devotions], for four days around the full moon day and for a day on the birth star of the king or country


Sanjeev Sabhlok

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10 thoughts on “Sale of beef (including beef jerky) was OFFICIALLY ALLOWED by Hindu KINGS during the Maurya period (reported in Arthashastra)
  1. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    You are right. It was the Maurya period I was referring to. I’ve removed the rest of your comment which is entirely wrong.

  2. Rick

    How is it relevant whether Hindu’s ate beef in historic time or not. Religion is not static. Hinduism definitely not, Islam probably a bit

    Laws in contemporary society should reflect and respect sentiments of the people. If you kill a cow, you have hurt sentiments of contemporary Hindu, similar to if you burn a Quran you will hurt sentiments of Muslims.

  3. Sanjeev Sabhlok


    Do you respect that? Do you respect the rule of law? First respect that then other things can follow.

  4. Rick

    I respect rule of law, I am a middle class person, I don’t want to get into any trouble by not respecting “rule of law”.

    Freedom to Practice your own thing is fine only till it does not hurt sentiments of others and does not incite others to get violent. e.g., when VHP/Bajrang dal practice freedom of speech to incite others for violence, they should be prosecuted.

    As I had mentioned when you kill cow you are inciting religious violence, just as you will if you destroy something considered holy by other groups, e.g., their religious books.

    Hence per rule of law if Hindu’s are deliberately made aware that a cow is being slaughtered or that person eats beef, they have right to sue for inciting communal violence.

  5. Rick

    If it adds to your research on cow slaughter included below are the views of Gandhi on cow slaughter, source:

    This just shows historical facts might not be same as contemporary practice/beliefs. We need to respect beliefs and sentiments of majority of Indians, provided it does not stop other minorities from practicing their religion. No religion requires their practitioners to eat beef.

    Gandhi’s view:
    1. Hindus will be judged not by their TILAKS, not by the correct chanting of MANTRAS, not by their pilgrimages, not by their most punctilious observances of caste rules, but their ability to protect the cow.

    2. Cow protection is the gift of Hinduism to the world. And Hinduism will live so long as there are Hindus to protect the cow……

    3. I would not kill a human being for protection of a cow, as I will not kill a cow for saving a human life, be it ever so precious.

  6. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    “Freedom to Practice your own thing is fine only till it does not hurt sentiments of others”

    Indeed, then there is no freedom, really. What you are saying is that you are free to say things that I AGREE WITH. Then what kind of freedom is that? It violates all basic principles of liberty.

    Liberty is meaningless unless it is the liberty to “offend” – whether deliberately or not. This the ONLY meaningful way to understand liberty.

    You are wrong on most other arguments but I’ve not time, so I’ll move on. Just this one: please shut down India’s constitution if in your land people who DON’T believe that the cow is holy have no rights.

  7. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Thanks. I’m aware of Gandhi’s views. I don’t agree with many of his views which don’t make sense. He was right on many things, though.

    And don’t keep generalising about “Hindus”. You are ENTIRELY wrong on this. Pl. read up my compilation (book).


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