10th July 2013
The precise method of cow slaughter in the Indus Valley Civilisation
A few days ago I chanced upon HD Sankalia's comment (which I recall seeing earlier as well somewhere):
“After a survey of the evidence from various excavations since 1921, the doyen of Indian archaeologists, H.D. Sankalia, has opined that ‘ the attitude towards cow slaughter shows that until the beginning of the Christian era the cow/ ox were regularly slaughtered for food and for the sacrifice etc., in spite of the preaching of Ahimsa by Mahavira and the Buddha. Beef eating, however, did decrease owing to these preachings, but never died out completely’ http://iis-db.stanford.edu/
I sporadically review evidence both in favour of and against beef eating in ancient India because this is a MAJOR political issue in India, and so the true facts about this question are important.
In this case, regardless of my deep respect for Sankalia, I'm not one to "believe" in Sankalia blindly. I needed first hand evidence regarding actual studies and actual artefacts.
I don't care for Vedic/scriptural translations to that extent since these are highly debatable and my problem is that I can't personally confirm which translator is right.
Archeological evidence is ALWAYS best in such cases. And I really appreciate this science. I spent nearly two years in 1980-82 visting Deccan College in Pune tens of times (where my cousin Arun Sabhlok was studying for a doctorate). I met all the faculty many times, attended lectures by world-reknowned archaeologists, and visited the museum and studied various artefacts.
While browsing google scholar today I chanced upon the first genuine proof I have about cow slaughter in ancient Indian history: Harappan settlement of Gola Dhoro: a reading from animal bones (Brad Chase, Social change at the Harappan settlement of Gola Dhoro: a reading from animal bones, ANTIQUITY 84 (2010): 528–543)
This is the MOST CONCLUSIVE proof one can possibly get that Indus Valley Civilisation was a MAJOR beef consuming civilisation.
These are specific illustrations about how cows were slaughtered in ancient Panjab:
This is not based on debatable Vedic translations.
The following discussion is based on a study of over 20 000 bone fragments sampled from all spatial areas of the site during the first two occupational phases at Gola Dhoro (Chase 2007: 50-82). In conjunction with the archaeological context of deposits from which they derive, these observations suggest that the faunal assemblages under consideration are largely comprised of domestic food waste rather than the contents of more functionally specialised butchers’ dumps. Given the greater frequency of their remains in conjunction with the larger body size of cattle and buffalo, as compared to sheep and goats, it is clear that beef was by far the most common meat consumed during Phase I. This pattern of heavy reliance on the meat of large domesticates is characteristic of archaeological sites in the region (Thomas et al. 1997) as well as throughout the Indus civilisation more generally (Meadow 1989). Consumers obtained whole animals on-the-hoof and processed them near the location where their meat was consumed and the resulting bones discarded.
I will search some more, but one thing is now 100 per cent clear, that Ancient Panjabis were MAJOR beef eaters.
Now comes the twist.
Prof. NS Rajaram argues that Harappan civilisation is Vedic. He writes: "Harappan archaeology represents the material remains of the culture and civilization described in the Vedic literature." [Source]
Now there are two possibilities: He is right or he is wrong.
If he is right then there is now 100 per cent evidence that the Vedic period was a MAJOR beef eating period in India's history. But this contradicts those who use their own translation of the Vedas to argue that the Vedic period did not involve cow slaughter. So is Prof. NS Rajaram right?
If he is wrong, then the Vedic period started post-Indus civilisation, which contradicts those who believe that Vedas are older than 1900 BC (some Hindutva leaders have suggested that the Vedas are well over 5000 years old – and I must admit I started thinking in these lines myself, briefly!). I'm not passing any judgement on that since I've not had time to examine this properly.
But one thing is very clear. You can't place the Vedas before 1900 BC and YET claim that the cow was protected during the Vedic period.
There is a line in the sand which says that at least till 1900 BC India was a MAJOR beef consumer.
What about Sankalia's view? I suspect he had evidence of this right up to 1 AD, but I don't. I need to wait till I find solid peer reviewed journal articles on that topic.
I'd appreciate if anyone can point me to peer reviewed journal articles re: archaeololgical evidence on cow slaughter (or the absence of it) in India betewen 1900 BC and 1 AD.