- Meat-eating was apparently well established for all classes and castes in very ancient India. The VEDAS show BRAHMINS and others eating beef as well as an assortment of other meats. With the rise of the notion of AHIMSA (nonharm), first introduced by the Jains (see JAINISM) and Buddhists, meat-eating became less sanctioned.In the Manu Smriti or Manavadharma Shastra (LAW S OF MANU) (c. 400 B.C.E.), a transitional stage can be seen; meat, including beef, that is killed as part of a Vedic ritual is allowed for Brahmins. However, non–ritually killed meat was not to be eaten by them. Eventually orthodox Brahmins adopted a Jain-like scrupulous VEGETARIANISM that became a cultural ideal of the faith.However, many sectors of society in India still eat meat and fish. The most common meat eaten in India by Hindus is chicken, followed by lamb and goat. Water buffalo meat is also sometimes eaten. Only the lowest sectors of Hindu society eat pork or beef. Pork is raised by Dalit (untouchable) communities as a regular food source. Dalits also eat beef, taken as carrion.Under British rule, tensions arose between Muslims and Hindus over the issue of beef. Mus-lims do not eat pork but do eat beef. Tensions have persisted into postindependence India. Par-ticular offense can be taken if Muslims cook beef on a Hindu holiday, or in an area where Hindus can smell the process. Some cities, such as Delhi, have simply banned the slaughter of cows entirely. McDonalds, Wimpy’s, and other international hamburger outlets have been open in India for a long time, but they never serve beef, usually sub-stituting the meat of water buffalo.Further reading: Sandria Freitag, Collective Action and Community: Public Arenas and the Emergence of Commu-nalism in North India (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989); D. N. Jha, The Myth of the Holy Cow (London: Verso, 2002); Brian K. Smith, “Eaters, Food and Social Hierarchy in Ancient India.” Journal of the Academy of Religion 58, no. 2 (1990): 177–205; Francis Zimmerman, The Jungle and the Aroma of Meats (Berke-ley: University of California Press, 1987).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.