When did Indian kings stop performing animal sacrifices?

civfanatic

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
3,318
Des Moines, Iowa
In ancient India it was common for Indian kings to perform Vedic rituals, which often involved the slaughter of animals. The most common ritual performed by Indian kings was the ashwamedha ritual, a very ghastly ritual which involved the slaughter of a horse followed by ritual intercourse between the horse and the queen of the kingdom. Buddhists and Jains were staunchly against such rituals, but these were loved by Brahmins and Brahmanical dynasties. The emperor Ashoka, who ruled in the 3rd century BCE and was a great champion of Buddhism, tried to ban animal sacrifices during his reign. However, he was unsuccessful, and when the Mauryas were overthrown by the Brahman general Pusyamitra Sunga, a great ashwamedha was held. Following this, Vedic sacrifices seem to have been followed by dynasties throughout India for many centuries, including Satavahanas and Guptas.

Based on my study of South Indian history, it seems that rituals like ashwamedha lost their appeal during the Rashtrakuta period (c.750-980). I do not know of a single Rashtrakuta king who performed ashwamedha, while some earlier Chalukya kings of Badami did perform this. This is likely due to the influence of Jainism and its doctrine of ahimsa (non-killing), which was very popular in Karnataka at the time. This later gave rise to heterodox, popular movements like Lingayatism, which combined aspects of Jainism with Shaivism.

My question is when Indian kings stopped performing these rituals in other parts of India, especially in North and NW India?
 
Last edited:
Mar 2013
1,051
Breakdancing on the Moon.
For the Asvamedha I thought Shivaji was the last performer but a quick wiki brings up Jai Singh II of Jaipur at 1716. I think I remember similarly late performances of the Rajasuya too.
 

tornada

Ad Honoris
Mar 2013
15,389
India
When did they stop performing the sacrifices? Not till very late in history. And even some modern era rulers would do it. I even read of some politicians in modern times doing it.

However when did animal sacrifice stop? Bit difficult to say. Its my belief that it had fallen out of fashion sometime after the time of Ajatshatru, though some i believe argue that they went on till atleast the Gupta's in some form.
 
Jun 2014
4,516
India
In ancient India it was common for Indian kings to perform Vedic rituals, which often involved the slaughter of animals. The most common ritual performed by Indian kings was the ashwamedha ritual, a very ghastly ritual which involved the slaughter of a horse followed by ritual intercourse between the horse and the queen of the kingdom. Buddhists and Jains were staunchly against such rituals, but these were loved by Brahmins and Brahmanical dynasties. The emperor Ashoka, who ruled in the 3rd century BCE and was a great champion of Buddhism, tried to ban animal sacrifices during his reign. However, he was unsuccessful, and when the Mauryas were overthrown by the Brahman general Pusyamitra Sunga, a great ashwamedha was held. Following this, Vedic sacrifices seem to have been followed by dynasties throughout India for many centuries, including Satavahanas and Guptas.

Based on my study of South Indian history, it seems that rituals like ashwamedha lost their appeal during the Rashtrakuta period (c.750-980). I do not know of a single Rashtrakuta king who performed ashwamedha, while some earlier Chalukya kings of Badami did perform this. This is likely due to the influence of Jainism and its doctrine of ahimsa (non-killing), which was very popular in Karnataka at the time. This later gave rise to heterodox, popular movements like Lingayatism, which combined aspects of Jainism with Shaivism.

My question is when Indian kings stopped performing these rituals in other parts of India, especially in North and NW India?
Ashwamedha was revived but was not continously performed in North. As far as animal sacrifices are concerned, Vijaynagar had even more ghastly rituals which is even now repeated in many areas of Bihar and Jharkhand. There were large number of buffaloes who were slaughtered on ninth day of Navratra of Ashwin times( Chaitra navratra is different from ashwin which is dedicated to Durga while Chaitra navami is dedicated to Ram) in Vijaynagar, Solankis and Paramaras all were taunted for animal sacrifices by their Jain courtiers.

However, it was only when Vaishnavism of medieval times became stronger, these animal sacrifices were stopped to a large extent. Even today, most of vegetearians among Hindus are vaishnavas so decline in animal sacrifices mathces with popularity of Vaishnavism of Bhagavat variety( I mean Bhagavata Purana)
 

civfanatic

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
3,318
Des Moines, Iowa
Ashwamedha was revived but was not continously performed in North. As far as animal sacrifices are concerned, Vijaynagar had even more ghastly rituals which is even now repeated in many areas of Bihar and Jharkhand. There were large number of buffaloes who were slaughtered on ninth day of Navratra of Ashwin times( Chaitra navratra is different from ashwin which is dedicated to Durga while Chaitra navami is dedicated to Ram) in Vijaynagar, Solankis and Paramaras all were taunted for animal sacrifices by their Jain courtiers.

However, it was only when Vaishnavism of medieval times became stronger, these animal sacrifices were stopped to a large extent. Even today, most of vegetearians among Hindus are vaishnavas so decline in animal sacrifices mathces with popularity of Vaishnavism of Bhagavat variety( I mean Bhagavata Purana)
Thank you for this information. I have read about Navratra festival and it seems that this was also performed in Mysore kingdom until modern times.

In general, it seems that Shaivites in South do not have a problem eating meat, with beef being the only taboo. Notable exception of course are Lingayats who are strict vegetarians. I think there are many animal sacrifices performed in Tamil Nadu even today with goats and roosters being slaughtered, and there is also an old tribal festival in Telangana called Sammakka Saralamma Jatara in which animals are sacrificed. However, I am not sure if the kings themselves partook in these festivals.

Do you know what is the date of the last full-fledged ashwamedha in North?
 
Jun 2014
4,516
India
Thank you for this information. I have read about Navratra festival and it seems that this was also performed in Mysore kingdom until modern times.

Mysore region was ancient home of cult of Bhagavati and Chandika and hence this thing.


In general, it seems that Shaivites in South do not have a problem eating meat, with beef being the only taboo.
That is my impression also and this is true for shaivas of North also, I remember we agreeing that taboo on beef was one thing that glues all astika sects together more than any theology. However, in north there are many shaiva cults which are pure vegetarians.


Notable exception of course are Lingayats who are strict vegetarians.
Lingayatism is product of shaivism and Jainism. Before I read about them, I wondered why Karnataka has so many vegetarians as compared to rest south and Bengal and Assam, it is only now that I have the answer. What is important here is that Lingayats have a purity concept also just like most of brahmins . When few years back, some MLA s of Congress were fasting before Karnataka Vidhansabha and they broke fast by chicken and mutton, Yedaruppa said that they had made Vidhan Sabha premises "Apavitra". Lingayats despite being anti brahmanic are closer to us than say brahmins of Assam who happily eat buffaloes.


I think there are many animal sacrifices performed in Tamil Nadu even today with goats and roosters being slaughtered, and there is also an old tribal festival in Telangana called Sammakka Saralamma Jatara in which animals are sacrificed.
Both old Vedic religion and early Dravidian religion were full of animal sacrifices
so they complemented each other. Except Gujrat, Rajasthan( shaivas and vaishnavas of rajasthan are mostly vegetarians) and parts of UP, the sacrifices are still common. Mithila had this when I last visited the area.
Jatras are mostly tribal festivals in Telangana, Bengal and Jharkhand. Feudal lords did these rituals though kings might not have done them.


Do you know what is the date of the last full-fledged ashwamedha in North?
Sawai Jai Singh was last king to perform full fledged ashvamedha ritual. Gayatri parivar of Haridwar has revived this in a symbolic manner- they use wooden horses and such.

As for original question, Ashwamedha fell into disuse in North at same time( that is Rashtrakutas) and Jaina works which taunt Paramaras and Solankis talk about goats and other animals and not Ashwamedha so far as I know. Infact, one reason why British called Rajputs as scythic, kushan etc. was that we do not have evidence for early Rajputs performing this which led British to conclude that Rajputs being a foreign group could adopt nice features of Hinduism but not this obscene ritual.
 

tornada

Ad Honoris
Mar 2013
15,389
India
My understanding of the subject is that animal sacrifice went in and out of vogue in different regions of the country at different times. i don't think there was a pan-indian phenomenon.

What do you guys think, is this correct?
 
Jun 2014
4,516
India
My understanding of the subject is that animal sacrifice went in and out of vogue in different regions of the country at different times. i don't think there was a pan-indian phenomenon.

What do you guys think, is this correct?
That is right, Gujrat saw it being completely stopped earlier than other places, Assam even now can not do away sacrifices. There is rule of thumb- wherever shaktas are stronger, animal sacrifices are still common.