Articles, Social (English)

Does Manusmriti suggest Meat Consumption?

A widespread propaganda has been happening about Manusmriti suggesting meat consumption, especially cow meat. Therefore, there are allegations that the Hindu’s cow reverence is unfounded. The same people who criticized Manusmriti to be a casteist and sexist book, are using it now to forward their anti-Hindu interests. Let us understand their double standards and verify the truth in the matter.

“Vedo’khilo dharmamoolam” (Manu 2.6)

It means that the Vedas are the root of all Dharma. Therefore, Manusmriti considers the Vedas as the fundamental text.

Over the ages, all texts other than the Vedas have undergone adulterations. They are known as “prakshepa”. Since Maharshi Manu had predicted the same for his text too, he mentioned the following:

“Yaa vedabaahyaah smritayo yaashcha
kaashcha kudrishtayah. sarvasthaa nishphalaah
jneyaah tamonishtaa hitaah smritaah.”(Manu 12.95)

Meaning: The Smritis (verses written out of experience and memory of contemporary societal norms) and Darshanas(aphorisms) that are against the Vedas are useless. Since they are born out of the darkness of ignorance, they should be avoided.

A lot of verses which were not composed by Maharshi Manu can be found in the presently available Manusmriti texts, which are being publicized as his opinions. There are 2685 shlokas nowadays, out of which only 1214 were present originally. More than half of them, i.e., 1471 shlokas are prakshiptas (interpolations) (1).

The words of Mahatma Gandhi on Manusmriti are notable:

“I hold Manusmriti as part of Shastras. But that does not mean that I swear by every verse that is printed in the book described as Manusmriti. There are so many contradictions in the printed volume that, if you accept one part, you are bound to reject those parts that are wholly inconsistent with it. (…) Nobody is in possession of the original text.”(2).

To elaborate, in the third chapter of Manusmriti, shlokas 55 to 62 give women high reverence while shlokas 3 to 17 of chapter nine present the straight opposite view. The people who talk against Manusmriti often take only these prakshipta slokas and debate that the text is fundamentally against women and is casteist. The prakshipta shlokas are referred widely in the matter of meat consumption too. Compared to other Smriti texts, Manusmriti is revered because it is composed by a Rishi. Its widespread acceptability was perhaps the reason why the Vaama Maargi people were encouraged to make many interpolations to the text.

In order to find out the prakshipta shlokas, there are some criteria that can be used. One among them is the stance against the Vedas, as explained earlier. The others are Vishayavirodha (against the subject), Sandarbhavirodha (against the context), Punarukti dosha (tautology), Shailivirodha (against the style of expression). When the shlokas of Bhakshyaabhakshyavidhi (i.e. in chapter 5) are analysed according to the above, a lot of shlokas turn out to be prakshiptas. If these prakshipta shlokas are removed from chapter 5, we get a picture of practical ahimsa. Maharshi Manu explains about practical conduct of ahimsa and avoiding meat consumption:

“yaa vedavihitaa himsaa niyataa’smimshcharaachare.
ahimsaameva thaam vidyaad vedaad dharmo hi nirbabhau.”(Manu 5.44)

Meaning: In this world of living beings, any himsa that is validated by the Vedas needs to be considered like ahimsa, because Dharma is enlightened by the Vedas.

Dharma is that which can be imbibed. Hence, it has to be practical. The ahimsa in Vedas also follows the same suit. When carnivores attack us, acting in self-defense is a kind of himsa validated by Vedas. Similarly, when a king punishes dacoits and murderers, that is also validated by the Vedas. Manu says that the above are all a part of Dharma. However, killing for meat is kept away from the above:

“yo’ahimsakaani bhootaani
sa jeevamshcha mritashchaiva
na kvachit sukhamedhate.” (Manu 5.45)

Meaning: Whoever kills harmless animals for their own benefit will not feel joy in any world.

“yo bandhana vadha kleshaan
praaninaam na chikeershati
sa sarvasya hita prepsu:
sukhamatyantamashnute.” (Manu 5.46)

Meaning: One who does not harm animals by caging, killing or other means, and wishes for their betterment gets eternal bliss.

“yadhyaayatiyat kurute
dhritim badhnaati yathra ca
yo hinasti na kinjana.’’(Manu 5.47)

Meaning: One who does not harm any living being succeeds without obstacles in whatever they think, do or apply mind.

“naakrtva praaninaam himsaam
maasamutpadyate kvachit
na ca praanivadhah swargyastasmaanu
maamsam vivarjayet.”(Manu 5.48)

Meaning: One cannot get meat without harming animals. Harming animals does not lead one towards joy. Hence meat should not be consumed.

“samutpattim ca maamsasya
vadhabandhau ca dehinaam
prasameekshya nivartteta
sarva maamsasya bhakshanaaat.”(Manu 5.49)

Meaning: The thought of the method of making meat, caging and killing animals should be reason enough to stay away from meat consumption.

“na bhakshayati yo maamsam vidhim
hitva pishaachavat.
sa loke priyataam yaati
vyaadhibhishcha na peedyate”.(Manu 5.50)

Meaning: Whoever doesn’t disobey the Vedic rules and doesn’t eat meat like a pishaacha is loved by all. They will not be attacked by diseases.

“anumantaa vishasitaa
nihantaa krayavikrayee
samskarttaa chopaharttaa
ca khaadakshcheti ghaatakaah.”(Manu 5.51)

Meaning: The one who gives permission to kill, the one who kills the animals, the one who cuts the meat, the one who sells, the one who buys, the one who keeps, the one who serves, and the one who eats all are killers.

“swamaamsam paramaamsena yo
vardhayitumicchati anabhyarchya
pitrun devaamstatho’nyo
naastyapunyakrut.” (Manu 5.52)

Meaning: One who grows one’s own flesh through the flesh of other animals and one who does not look after one’s parents and Guru, and does not do the daily sacrifices (Agnihotra and Balivaishvadeva yajna), there is no bigger sinner than them.

“varshe varshe’shvamedhena
yo yajeta shatam samaah
maamsaani ca na khaaded
yasteyoh punyaphalam.”(Manu 5.53)

Meaning: The goodwill of conducting Ashvamedha yajna continuously for 100 years, and abstaining from meat for the same amount of time is similar.

“phalamoolaashanairmedhaiyarmunyannaanaam ca bhojanaih
na tatphalamavaapnoti yanmaamsa parivarjanaat.”(Manu 5.54)

Meaning: By eating fruits etc. or by accepting a muni’s diet, whatever results one obtains, one gets better results when one stays away from meat.

The above shloka takes the concept of vegetarianism above that of good diet onto the plane of ahimsa. When one stays away from himsa, it enhances one’s traits of harmony and sympathy. Therefore, one’s mind becomes peaceful. This is the better results talks about above.

“maamsa bhakshayitaamutra yasya maamsamihaadmyaham.
etanmaamsasya maamsatvam pravadanti maneeshinah.”(Manu 5.55)

Meaning: In this world whose meat I eat, in the next world they shall eat me. That is the meaning of the word maamsa. (maam (me)+ sah (he))

Manusmriti protests against meat consumption powerfully, as illustrated above. However, historians like D. N. Jha, Pandurang Vaman Kane, and Rajendralal Mitra ignore all the above shlokas and refer to the prakshipta shlokas only to debate that meat consumption is justified by Manusmriti. It is not right to consider that perhaps they do not know to separate the prakshipta shlokas. They might have also read the shlokas which are against meat consumption. But they never mentioned it anywhere in their writings. It is up to the followers of these historians to decide whether to believe these people who go behind the Vaama Maargi people just to keep their argument safe.

In between identifying and referring only the prakshiptha shlokas, D. N. Jha does a comical feat by referring to Manusmriti 5.41:

“Accordingly, one does not do any wrong by eating meat while honoring the gods, the Manes and guests (madhuparke ca yajne ca pitrdaivatakarmani)”(3)

The remaining shloka needs to be read to understand the comedy.

“madhuparke ca yajne ca
pitrdaivata karmani
atraiva pashavo himsyaa
naanyatretyabraveenmanuh.(Manu 5.41)

Meaning: It is permissible to kill animals for making madhuparka, in yajnas, and in pirudeva kriyas, but it should not be done anywhere else, says Manu.

The shloka ends as “ityabraveenmanuh” which means ‘which is told by Manu’. Hence, it can be inferred that this shloka was not composed by Manu, but was added later by someone else. This is Shailivirodha- against the style of expression. It is possible even for the layman to understand that the above shloka is prakshipta. But the historians have referred to such shlokas as well. Another prakshipta sloka, which has been elegantly added to feel that the group of prakshipta slokas following this shloka original, has been given below:

“na maamsabhakshane dosho na madye na ca maithune
pravrttiresha bhootaanaam nivrttisthu mahaaphalaa.”(Manu 5.56)

Meaning: Meat consumption, alcohol consumption, and sexual union are not sins. But abstaining from them gives unparalleled advantages, that’s all.

However, in the same Manusmriti, slightly before the above shloka, it was told that the one who does not eat meat shall not be attacked by diseases (Manu 5.50). It means that according to Manu meat consumption can lead to diseases. Hence the above shloka (Manu 5.56) is against this concept and is a prakshipta. D. N. Jha uses the above shloka too to support his argument.(4).

Since ‘prakshipta shlokas’ do not categorize cow meat under forbidden meats, D. N .Jha claims that killing cow for meat is not a sin(5). However, the mention in Manusmriti about the purity of cow and the rigorous atonement practices to be done if a cow is killed(6), is quite conveniently ignored by him.

Manu reiterates the point in 12.106 that Smritis which talk in favor of the Vedas should only be accepted. In 2.13 it is also said that ‘pramaanam paramam shruti’(Shruti is the highest Authority). Hence, any shloka written against the tenets of Vedas are not composed by Manu and should not be accepted. Those who announce around that Manu recommend meat consumption have not seen the text known as Manusmriti itself.

1. Ref: J Sinha (2014), Psycho-Social Analysis of the Indian Mindset, Springer Academic, Page 5.
2. M.K.Gandhi, Hinduism According to Gandhi, Orient Paperbacks (2013 Reprint Edition) P. 129
3. D.N. Jha, The Myth of the Holy Cow, chap. 3, p. 91.
4. Ibid p. 92.
5. Ibid p. 91.
6. Manusmriti 11.59, 11.79, 11.108-116.