Do Hindus Eat Beef? A Controversy.
The cow is India is revered as a source of food and as a symbol of life and may never be killed.
In ancient India oxen and bulls were sacrificed to the many Indian gods and eaten. However, the slaughter of cows was prohibited. The Rigveda refers to the cow as Devi (goddess), associated with Adit (mother of the gods) herself.
While meat eating was permitted, the ancient Vedic scriptures encouraged vegetarianism. One says, “There is no sin in eating meat … but abstention brings great rewards.”
When Jainism rose, Hindus stopped eating beef trough the influence of the strictly vegetarian Jains. Today, cows remain sacred and most rural families have one who is treated as a member of the family.
Cows are revered for its products (pancagavya): milk, curds, ghee, butter, urine and dung. They are all used in worship (puja) as well as in rites of extreme penance. The milk of the cow for children as they grow up, and cow dung (gobar) as a major source for heating households throughout India. Cow dung is often used as a source material for a tilik—a ritual mark on the forehead. Most Indians do not share the revulsion of cow excrement, but instead consider it an earthy and useful natural product.
Contrary to custom, a work by Professor D. N Jha, a historian at Delhi University, received multiple death threats to keep him from publishing his well-researched book entitled Holy Cow: Beef in the Indian Dietary Traditions. The scholarship of the work using contemporary scientific methods demonstrated that contrary to popular belief, large numbers of Indians, indigenous people to India and communities elsewhere, consumed beef unmindful of the dictates of the Hindutva forces. Source: The Hindu 8.14.01. One reason may be that beef is cheaper than pork.
In “The Séance”, a short story in Steampunk Mashup: A Collection of Victorian Adventures, the beef taboo plays a key role in the story.