I was listening to Mahabharata audio podcasts. My doubt was when Rishi Kaushika met the butcher in Mithila nagara, did the butcher mention that king Rantideva also killed many animals including cows and later cooked them in his kitchen to feed the hungry and the needy?
Drona Parva says that he donates food cooked by 2000 cooks.
Narada said, 'Rantideva, the son of Srinjaya, we hear, fell a prey to death. That high-souled king had two hundred thousand cooks to distribute excellent food, raw and cooked, like unto Amrita, unto the Brahmanas, by day and by night, who might come to his house as guests.
Now time to analyse the passage of Vanaparva.
And, O Brahmana, king Sivi, the son of Usinara, of great forbearance attained to heaven, which is hard to reach, giving away his own flesh. And in days of yore, O Brahmana, two thousand animals used to be killed every day in the kitchen of king Rantideva; and in the same manner two thousand cows were killed every day; and, O best of regenerate beings, king Rantideva acquired unrivalled reputation by distributing food with meat every day.
Let's analyse the sankrit shloka.
राज्ञो महानसे पूर्व रन्तिदेवस्य वै द्विज द्वे सहस्रे तु वध्येते पशूनामन्वहं तदा अहन्यहनि वध्येते द्वे सहस्रे गवां तथा समांसं ददतो ह्रान्नं रन्तिदेवस्य नित्यशः अतुला कीर्तिरभवन्नृप्स्य द्विजसत्तम
Here VadhYate is translated as killing. Which is against the sankrit Grammer. VadhYate here means tieing. Similarly Mansam is a sankrit word which means both rice meal and meat.
- Shatpath Brahamn 1:2:3:8
Here, it is clearly written that rice means Mamasa translated as flesh. It means that he donates food not cow meat. If you translate these words as killing and meat that it will contradict the shloka given in Anushasan Parva.
He, who, without being checked by the restraints of the scriptures, sells a cow, or kills one, or eats the flesh of a cow, or they, who, for the sake of wealth, suffer a person to kill kine,--all these, viz., he that kills, he that eats, and he that permits the slaughter,--rot in hell for as many years as there are hairs on the body of the cow so slain.
Shanti Parva also prohibits cow slaughter.
You could read this blog for more shlokas prohibits cow slaughter.
According to the Vana Parva of the Mahabharata, he did slaughter two thousand cows everyday:
“And in days of yore, O Brahmana, two thousand animals used to be killed every day in the kitchen of king Rantideva; and in the same manner two thousand cows were killed every day; and, O best of regenerate beings, king Rantideva acquired unrivalled reputation by distributing food with meat every day. For the performance of the fourmonthly rites animals ought to be sacrificed daily. ‘The sacred fire is fond of animal food,’ this saying has come down to us. And at sacrifices animals are invariably killed by regenerate Brahmanas, and these animals being purged of sin, by incantation of hymns, go to heaven. If, O Brahmana, the sacred fire had not been so fond of animal food in ancient times, it could never have become the food of any one. And in this matter of animal food, this rule has been laid down by Munis :– Whoever partakes of animal food after having first offered it duly and respectfully to the gods and the manes, is not polluted by the act.”