The Myth of the Holy Cow

In this book, historian Dwijendra Narayan Jha argues that the ‘holiness’ of the cow is a myth and its flesh played an important part in the cuisine of ancient India. Citing Hindu, Buddhist and Jaina religious scriptures, he underlines the fact that beef-eating was not Islam’s ‘baneful bequeathal’ to India. Nor can abstention from it be a mark of ‘Hindu’ identity, notwithstanding the averments of Hindutva forces who have tried to foster the false consciousness of the ‘otherness’ on the followers of Islam.


This new Navayana edition features an excerpt from Dr B.R. Ambedkar’s 1948 work on the connections between untouchability and beef-eating. Ambedkar marshals evidence to argue that in the Vedic period, ‘for the Brahmin every day was a beef-steak day.’


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


‘Jha traces the history of the doctrine forbidding the eating of cows… soundly and thoroughly covering both the classic texts and cutting-edge scholarship, Indian and European.’—Times Literary Supplement


‘This little gem of a book provides a wealth of evidence exposing myth creation and the way symbols are used politically to divide people.’Socialist Review