According to SECTION LXXXVIII of the Ashwamedha Parva of Mahabharat besides the horse, there were two ninety-nine other animals (including birds and aquatics!) that were also sacrificed in the ritual:

Following the injunctions of the scriptures, the priests possessed of great learning then duly tied to the stakes both animals and birds, assigning each to its particular deity. Bulls, possessed of such qualifications as are mentioned in the scriptures, and aquatic animals were properly tied to the stakes after the rites relating to the sacrificial fire had been performed. In that sacrifice of the high-souled son of Kunti, three hundred animals were tied to the stakes setup, including that foremost of steeds.

My question is - Do any scriptures mention which animals, birds and aquatics were sacrificed along with the horse & if their sacrifice was also a part of the standard ritual?

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    Wow I didnt know so many animals were sacrificed in the Ashwamedha! Kind of weird if you think that the name of the sacrifice only mentions the horse! Commented Jan 5, 2019 at 15:00

2 Answers 2


The detail list of all animals, birds and marine creatures which were tied in Yajna-Shala is present in Ashwamedha Prakarana of Vajaseniya samhita of Shukla Yajurveda. The 24 adhyay of Shukla yajurveda samhita is only dedicated for description of those animals and the respected gods for whome they were tied to pole.

The creatures mentioned are as follows.

Horses ( one with black belly ,one who's back portion is white or black) , Bull with no horns , NeelGai or blue bull , goat with black neck , pied crested cuckoo (Chatak ), Pell or Titar,Kakar bird , Vikakar bird, Dolphin ,a marine creature called Nakra , Baguli bird , water crow , Chakwa bird , Uluk bird ,Nilkantha bird , peacock , Kapot bird , Baya bird ,GhuyaTal bird , Kulik bird ,Parushni bird , crow ,peagon , eagle ,deer of various types (ruru ,rushya) ,camel , elephants , mosquito, Weevil or bhunga , monkeys , a aquatic creature named Sus , red snake , bird that eats lotus flower , honeybee , white deer , maina bird ,lion , wolf , parrots ,water hen , tortoise , blue deer ,goha ,kalaka ,kathphod birds ,Cuckoo , female rat , wild sheep , phyton , dog of black color , donkey , rhino ,girgit (Chameleon), papiha and shakuni bird , crocodile ,swan, Vikakar bird ,Kakar Bird ,Baguli bird ( >Heron) , sarus crane ,Nilakantha bird ,Lava bird , Parushna Bird (gull) ,Cichapu bird , kash bird , small larvas ,Paraswat deer ,Red deer ,Tiger , Pushat deer, goat.

I am providing some of the verses here.

एण्यह्रो मण्डुको मूषिका तित्तिरिस्ते सर्पाणां लोपाशा S अश्विन: कृष्णो रात्र्या S ऋक्षो जतु: सुषिलीका त s इतर जनानां जहका वैष्णवी ।।36।।

For anha devata female deer , for vanspati deva , Kalaka and Kathphod bird and goha bird , Tamrachur bird for savita , swan for vayudeva ,for sea god crocodile ,Nakra and kulipaya , and for hri god the creature called sehi.

प्रजापतये पुरुषान्हस्तिन S आलभते वाचे प्लुषिम् श्चक्षुषे मशकात्रछोत्र्त्राय भृङ्गा:।।29।।

For the prajapatis elephants ,for Vaak devata Plushi , for Chakshu devata mosquito ,for Shrotra (ear) god bhunga.

समुद्राय शिशुमारानालभते पर्जन्याय मण्डूका न्द्भ्यॊमत्स्यान्मित्राय कुलिपयान्वरुणाय नाक्रान।।21।।

For sea dolphins ,for Parjanya(rain) god , toad , fish for water deity ,for mitra deva and Kulipaya Varuna a creature called Nakra.

वसुभ्य s ऋश्यानालभते रुद्रेभ्यो रुरूनादित्येभ्यो न्यङ्कुन्विश्वेभ्यो देवेभ्य : पृषतात्न्साध्येभ्य कुलुङ्गा न् ।।27।।

For Vasus a kind of deer called rushya , for rudra a kind of deer called ruru , Nyanku deer for adityas , spotted deer for vishwadevas ,for sadhyadevas a kind of deer called Kulunga.

It's explained in the translation of the Yajurveda Samhita that by the author all those creatures after the ashwamedha yajna were released free. None were slain during those times.

So considering this fact they were only tied and not killed. So may be sacrificing all the animals are not part of standard ritual.

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    Thanks @SwiftPushkar for the swift answer! The next section of the Mahabharat actually mentions that the animals were sacrificed - Vaisampayana said, 'Having cooked, according to due rites, the other excellent animals that were sacrificed, the priests then sacrificed, agreeably to the injunctions of the scriptures, that steed (which had wandered over the whole world). That's why my question about it being a tradition. What would be the purpose of gathering all these animals if they were to be released in the end? Commented Dec 15, 2017 at 11:56
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    @Dr.VineetAggarwal - Thank you for your appreciation. Yes OK , I just concluded about the animal sacrifice according the explanation given in the book. Actually the author is denying this. And this idea is strongly highlighted through out the book. But since MB is mentioning as such , I will check the other versions also and will update the answer. Commented Dec 15, 2017 at 12:02
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    I am still searching for the creatures throughout YV. book and may be if found i will update the answer soon. Thanks.:-) Commented Dec 15, 2017 at 12:03
  • That would be great. If we can get more references I can select your answer as the ideal one. Commented Dec 15, 2017 at 12:04
  • Yes I can read & write Hindi & Sanskrit. Will check it out thanks! Commented Dec 15, 2017 at 12:13

This chapter of the Shatapatha Brahmana of the Yajur Veda describes the animals sacrificed in an Ashwamedha Yagna:

  1. For this (day) there are those sacrificial animals--'A horse, a hornless he-goat, and a Gomriga,' fifteen 'paryaṅgyas': the mystic import of these has been explained. Then these wild ones--for spring he seizes (three) kapiñgalas, for summer sparrows, for the rainy season partridges: of these (wild animals) also (the mystic import) has been told.
  2. Then those (victims) for the twenty-one (stakes). He seizes twenty-one animals for each of the (eleven) deities of the Seasonal offerings; for as many as there are gods of the Seasonal offerings so many are all the gods; and all objects of desire are in the Asvamedha: 'by gratifying all the deities I shall gain all my desires,' so he thinks. But let him not proceed in this way.
  3. Let him seize seventeen victims for the central stake, in order that he may gain and secure every-thing, for the seventeenfold is Pragâpati, and the seventeenfold (stoma) is everything, and the Asvamedha is everything;--and sixteen at each of the other (stakes) in order that he may gain and secure everything, for everything here consists of sixteen parts, and the Asvamedha is everything. Thirteen wild (beasts) he seizes for each intermediate space, in order that he may gain and secure everything, for the year consists of thirteen months, and the Asvamedha is everything.

If I'm reading it right, verse 13 lists 21 animals, verse 14 lists 231 animals, and verse 15 lists 597 animals. Also, I think the words "But let him not proceed in this way." mean that you shouldn't do what verse 14 says, but you should instead do what verse 15 say. (The Vedas frequently contain statements like "people commonly do a Yagna this way, but actually you should do it that way".)

By the way, the 597 figure given in verse 15 exactly matches a Vedic verse quoted in Gaudapada's Samkhya Karika Bhashya:

According to the injunction in the aśvamedha, six hundred animals, minus three, are employed (i.e., slaughtered) at midday.

That looks like a vindication of my math skills!

In any case, I'm not sure why the Mahabharata says only 300 animals. It may be only counting wild animals, or only counting tame animals. By the way, there are many Vedic Yagnas where after the wild animals and tame animals are tied up, the wild animals are all released and the tame animals are sacrificed (or vice versa, I forget which). The Ashwamedha Yagna may be one of them.

By the way, in case anyone is wondering, see my answer here for the moral justification for Vedic animal sacrifice.

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    Great answer again & thank you for adding some additional references. Wonder why the number of animals differs in all the texts I would think this would be quite well outlined given the clear instructions for all rituals. Commented Dec 15, 2017 at 13:10

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