The Myth of the Holy Cow

The Myth of the Holy Cow

by D. N. Jha
     
 

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A book the government of India demands be ritually burned.

The growth of religious fundamentalism in India is symbolized by the existence of a BJP government committed to the Hindutva. There is growing pressure to declare the cow a sacred, national animal and to ban its slaughter. This illuminating work is a response to this crazed

Overview

A book the government of India demands be ritually burned.

The growth of religious fundamentalism in India is symbolized by the existence of a BJP government committed to the Hindutva. There is growing pressure to declare the cow a sacred, national animal and to ban its slaughter. This illuminating work is a response to this crazed confessionalism. It challenges obscurantist views on the sanctity of the cow in Hindu tradition and culture.

Dwijendra Narayan Jha, a leading Indian historian, argues that beef played an important part in the cuisine of ancient India, long before the birth of Islam. It was very much a feature of the approved Brahmanical and Buddhist diet. The evidence he produces from a variety of religious and secular texts is compelling. His opponents, including the current government of India and the fundamentalist groups backing it, have demanded that the book should be ritually burned in public. It has already been banned by the Allahabad High Court and the author's life has been threatened.

Editorial Reviews

Foreign Affairs
Jha, a distinguished historian at the University of Delhi, received death threats when he tried to publish this book in India. The first Indian publisher backed off after ominous warnings, and the somewhat braver second publisher had to give in when a group of Hindu fanatics declared the book "blasphemous" and succeeded in getting a court order to constrain its circulation. What Jha has done is to document in great detail the fact that in ancient times Hindus and Buddhists ate beef. Indeed, the oldest Indian texts — the Vedas and their auxiliaries dating from 1500 BC to 600 BC — establish that the eating of flesh, including beef, was common in India. Hindus have argued that it was only with the Muslim conquest that cows were first slaughtered in India, but in truth it was only in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that the cow became the sacred animal of Hinduism. Western scholars of ancient India have no trouble with Jha's thesis, which is backed by copious footnotes and a bibliography in several languages. However, such scholarship only makes the Hindu fanatics more passionate than ever, especially now that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has given a degree of legitimacy to the violent expression of Hindu nationalism.
From the Publisher
“A well-argued and soundly documented study ...”—Choice

“Not since Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses ... has a book caused such a violent reaction.”—Observer

“While cow veneration and vegetarianism may be the hallmarks of Hinduism today, Mr. Jha compiles copious evidence that this has hardly always been the case.”—New York Times

“A meticulously researched, strongly worded, persuasively articulated challenge to long-held religious beliefs, The Myth of the Holy Cow is a unique and iconoclastic contribution to the study of Hindu beliefs, practices, history and customs.”—Wisconsin Bookwatch

“Jha draws on an amazingly wide range of material ... an enlightening endeavour, demonstrating a critical understanding of a popular misconception.”—Journal of Asian Studies

“The pen might still be, if not mightier than the nuclear arsenal, at least a weapon worth scanning for, like knives at airports, a weapon capable of subversion.”—Times Literary Supplement

“This book may not please Hindu fundamentalists, but its research is impeccable.”—The Telegraph, Calcutta, India

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781859846766
Publisher:
Verso Books
Publication date:
06/01/2002
Pages:
184
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

Dwijendra Narayan Jha is Professor of History at the University of Delhi. His books include Ancient India in Historical Outline and Feudal Social Formation in Early India.

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