By Swami Harshananda
Sometimes transliterated as: Masabhaksana, MAsabhakSaNa, Maasabhakshana
Māsabhakṣaṇa literally means ‘eating of flesh’.
It has been a subject discussed in the dharmaśāstras. During the early Vedic period, and also during the period of the Upaniṣads, flesh-eating, including beef, seems to have been quite common. It was a part of the madhuparka usually offered to an honored guest.
However, as the Aryans moved towards the Indo-Gangetic plains and cultivation of food-crops picked up in momentum, eating of the flesh of animals gradually reduced and was even looked down upon. The growth of Jainism and Buddhism also delivered a powerful blow to this practice.
Development of the doctrine of ahinsā, gradual replacement of the Vedic sacrificial religion by the paurāṇic modes of worship and the Bhāgavata-sect, contributed to the disappearance or minimization of the practice of eating meat. Protection of the cow, the roots of which are found even in the Ṛgveda, became an article of faith with the whole society. Now, even those who have been meat eaters for ages, have either given it up or take it only occasionally and not daily.
- Aśvalāyana Gṛhyasutra 1.24.25
- Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa 18.104.22.168
- Aitareya Brāhmaṇa 6.8
- Ṛgveda 1.164.27; 4.1.6; 8.69.21
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore