Any one who compares the habits and social practices of the latter-day Hindus with those of the Ancient Aryans he will find a tremendous change almost amounting to a social revolution.
The Aryans were a race of gamblers. Gambling was developed to science in very early days of the Aryan. Civilisation so much so that they had even devised certain technical terms. The Hindus used the words Krita, Treta, Dwapara and Kali as the names of the four Yugas or periods into which historical times are divided. As a matter of fact originally these are the names of dices used by the Aryans at gambling. The luckiest dice was called Krita and the unluckiest was called Kali. Treta and Dwapara were intermediate between them. Not only was gambling well developed among the ancient Aryans but the stakes were very high. Gambling with high money stakes have been known elsewhere. But they are nothing as compared with those which are known to have been offered by the Aryans. Kingdoms and even their wives were offered by them as stakes at gambling. King Nala staked his Kingdom and lost it. the Pandavas went much beyond. They not only staked their kingdom they also staked their wife Draupadi and lost both. Among the Aryans gambling was not the game of the rich. It was a vice of the many. So widespread was gambling among the Ancient Aryans that the burden of all the writers of the Dharma Sutras (Shastra?) was to impress upon the King the urgency of controlling it by State Authorities under stringent laws.
The relation of the sexes among the Aryans were of a loose sort. There was a time when they did not know marriage as a permanent tie between a man and a woman. This is evident from the Mahabharata where Kunti, the wife of Pandu refers to this in her reply to Pandu’s exhortation to go to produce children from someone else. There was a time when the Aryans did not observe the rule of prohibited degrees in their sex relations. There are cases among them of brother cohabiting with sister, son with mother, father with daughter and grand-father with grand-daughter. There was a communism in women. It was a simple communism where many men shared a woman and no one had a private property in or exclusive right over a woman. In such a communism the woman was called Ganika, belonging to many. There was also a regulated form of communism in women among the Aryans. In this the woman was shared among a group of men but the day of each was fixed and the woman was called Warangana one whose days are fixed. Prostitution flourished and has taken the worst form. Nowhere else have prostitutes consented to submit to sexual intercourse in public. But the practice existed among the Ancient Aryans. Bestiality also prevailed among the Ancient Aryans and among those who were guilty of it are to be reckoned some of the most reverend Rishis.
The Ancient Aryans were also a race of drunkards. Wine formed a most essential part of their religion. The Vedic Gods drank wine. The divine wine was called Soma. Since the Gods of the Aryans drank wine the Aryans had no scruples in the matter of drinking. Indeed to drink it was a part of an Aryan’s religious duty. There were so many Soma sacrifices among the Ancient Aryans that there were hardly any days when Soma was not drunk. Soma was restricted to only the three upper classes, namely the Brahmins, the Kshatriyas and the Vaishas. That does not mean the Shudras were abstainers. Who were denied Soma drank Sura which was ordinary, unconsecrated wine sold in the market. Not only the male Aryans were addicted to drinking but the females also indulged in during. The Kaushitaki Grihya Sutra I. 11-12 advises that four or eight women who are not widowed after having been regaled with wine and food should be called to dance for four times on the night previous to the wedding ceremony. This habit of drinking intoxicating liquor was not confined to the Non-Brahmin women. Even Brahmin women were addicted to it. That drinking was not regarded as a sin; it was not even a vice, it was quite a respectable practice. The Rig-Veda says:
“Worshipping the sun before drinking madira (wine)”
The Yajur-Veda says:
“Oh Deva Soma ! being strengthened and invigorated by Sura (wine), by thy pure spirit, please the Devas; give juicy food to the sacrificer and vigour to Brahmanas and Kshatriyas.”
The Mantra Brahmana says:
“By which women have been made enjoyable by men, and by which water has been transformed into wine (for the enjoyment of men),” etc.
That Rama and Sita both drank wine is admitted by the Ramayana. Uttar Khand says:
“Like Indra in the case (of his wife) Shachi, Ramachandra saw that Sita drank purified honey called wine. Servants brought for Ramahandra meat and sweet fruit.”
So did Krishna and Arjuna. The Udyoga Parva of the Mahabharata says:
“ Arjuna and Shrikrishna drinking wine made from honey and being sweet-scented and garlanded, wearing splendid clothes and ornaments, sat on a golden throne studded with various jewels. I saw Shrikrishna’s feet on Arjuna’s lap, and Arjuna’s feet on Draupadi and Satyabhama’s lap.”
The greatest change that has taken place is in the diet. The present day Hindus are very particular about their diet. There are twofold limitations on commensality. A Hindu will not eat food cooked by a Non-Hindu. A Hindu will not eat food cooked even by a Hindu unless he is a Brahmin or a man of his caste. The Hindu is not only particular on the question of whose food he should eat, he is also particular to what he should eat. From the point of view of diet Hindus may be divided into two main classes.
1. Those who are vegetarians.
2. Those who are non-vegetarians.
The non vegetarians again fall into several sub – divisions:
Those who will eat all kinds of flesh and fish.
Those who will eat only fish.
Those who will eat flesh are sub divided into following categories:
1. Those who will eat the flesh of any animal except the cow.
2. Those who will eat the flesh of any animal including that of the cow.
3. Those who will eat flesh but not of a cow (Whether dead or slaughtered) nor of chicken.
Classifying the Hindu population from the point of view of its diet, the Brahmins are divided into two classes (1) Panch Gauda and (2) Panch Dravida.
Of these Panch Dravida are completely vegetarian. The Panch Gauda’s with the exception of one section namely Gauda Saraswatas are also completely vegetarian. The Untouchables who are at the other end of the Hindu Society are non – Vegetarian. They eat meat, not merely of goats and fowls but also of the cow irrespective whether it is dead or slaughtered. The Non-Brahmins who are midway between the Brahmins and the Untouchables have different ways. Some like the Brahmins are vegetarians. The rest unlike the Brahmins are non-vegetarians. all of them are alike in one thing namely that all of them are opposed to eating the cow’s flesh.
There is one other aspect of the question which needs to be mentioned. It is the question of killing an animal for purposes of food. On this the Hindu mind is more or less united. No Hindu will kill an animal not even for food. Except for a small caste known as Khatiks there are no butchers among the Hindus. Even the Untouchables will not kill. He eats the flesh of a dead cow. But he will not kill a cow. In India today the butcher is a Musalman and any Hindu who wants to kill an animal for his food has to seek the services of Musalman. Every Hindu believes in Ahimsa.
Since when did vegetarianism come into India? When did Ahimsa become an established belief? There are Hindus who do not understand the propriety of this question. They hold that vegetarianism and ahimsa are not new things in India.
The evidence in support of the contention that the ancient Aryans the ancestors of present-day Hindus were not only meat-eaters but beef-eaters is really overwhelming. As evidences in support of this view it is enough to draw attention to the following facts :
They are quite indisputable.
Take the case of Madhuparka.
Among the ancient Aryans there was well established procedure of reception to be given to a guest which is known as Madhuparka the detailed descriptions regarding which will be found in the various Grihya Sutras. According to most of the Grihya Sutras there are six persons who deserve Madhuparka. Namely (1) Ritvij or the Brahmin called to perform a sacrifice, (2) Acharya, the teacher, (3) the Bridegroom, (4) The King, (5) The Snatak, the student who has just finished his studies at the Gurukul and (6) any person who is dear to the host. Some add Atithi to this list. Except in the case of Ritvij, King and Acharya, Madhuparka is to be offered to the rest once in a year. To the Ritvij, King and Acharya it is to be offered each time they come. The procedure consisted first in washing by the host the feet of his guest, then the offer of the Madhuparka and the drinking of it by the quest accompanied by certain Mantras.
What were the components of the Madhuparka? Madhuparka literally means a ceremony in which honey is shed or poured on the hand of a person. This is what Madhuparka was in its beginning. But in course its ingredients grew and included much more than honey. At one time it included three ingredients curds, honey and butter . There was a time when it was made of five things, curds, honey, ghee, yava and barley. Then it came to be a mixture of nine items. The Kausika Sutra speaks of nine kinds of mixtures. Viz. Brahma (honey and curds) Aindra (of payasa), Saumya (curds and ghee), Mausala (saine and ghee, this being used only in Sautramani and Rajasuya sacrifces), Varuna (water and ghee), Sravana (sesame oil and ghee), Parivarajaka (sesame oil and oil cake). Then we come to the time of the Manava Grahya Sutra which says that the Veda declares that Madhuparka must not be without flesh and so it recommends that if the cow is let loose, goat’s meat or payasa (rice cooked in milk) may be offered; The Hir.gr.i.13.14 says that the other meat should be offered; Baud gr.says (1.2.51-54) that when the cow is let off, the flesh of a goat or ram may be offered or some forest flesh (of a deer & c.,) may be offered, as there can be no Madhuparka without flesh or if one is unable to offer flesh one may cook ground grains. But in the final stage flesh became the most essential part of Madhuparka. In fact some of the Grihya Sutras go to the length of saying that there can be no Madhuparka without flesh. This they base upon an express injunction contained in the Rig-Veda (VIII.101.5) which says, “Let the Madhuparka not be without flesh.”
Flesh eating was thus quite common. From the Brahmins to the Shudras everybody ate meat. In the Dharmasutras numerous rules are given about the flesh of beasts and birds and about fishes. Gaut 17.27-31, Ap, Dh.S.220.127.116.11 Vas.Dh.S.14.39-40.Yaj.I.177, Vishnu Dh.S.51.6, Sankha(quoted by Aparaka p.1167), Ramayana (Kiskindha 17.39), Markendey Purana (35.2-4) prescribe that one should also avoid the flesh of all five-nailed animals except of porcupine, hare svavidh (a boar of hedge-hog), iguana, rhinoceros and tortoise (some of these works omit the rhinocerous). Gautama adds that one should also avoid the flesh of all animals with two rows of teeth in the two jaws, of hairy animals, of hairless animals (like snakes), of village cocks and hogs and of cows and bulls. Ap.Dh.S.18.104.22.168-31 first forbids the flesh of animals with one hoof only, of camels, of gavaya (Gayal), of the village hog, of the sarabha and of cows, but adds the exception that the flesh of milch cows and of bulls may be eaten as the Vajasaneyaka declares the flesh of these to be pure. Ap.Dh.S.(II.2.5.15) forbids the use of flesh to a teacher of the Veda in the
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Source : ‘Riddles in Hinduism’ – Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar Writings and Speeches – Vol 4. published by the Government of Maharashtra, 1987.