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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?

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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

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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.

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Shanti Parva also prohibits cow slaughter.

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You could read this blog for more shlokas prohibits cow slaughter.

  • "Drona Parva says that he donates food cooked by 2000 cooks" - that whole chapter is missing from Critical Edition of Mahabharata. – sv. Apr 22 at 14:52
  • See commentary of that chapter of Satapatha Brahmana here: 'The drift of this story is most likely that in former times all these victims had been offered. We know it for certain in the case of horses and oxen, though afterwards these sacrifices were discontinued. As to sheep and goats, they were considered proper victims to a still later time. When vegetable offerings took the place of bloody victims, it was clearly the wish of the author of our passage to show that, for certain sacrifices, these rice-cakes were as efficient as the flesh of animals.' – sv. Apr 22 at 15:13
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    @sv. The passage of donating beef is also interplotation than this whole question is baseless. – Sanatan Darshan Apr 22 at 15:15
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    @sv. The commentries are not authentic. Anyone can write anything from his own understanding. Commentries could even contradict each other. – Sanatan Darshan Apr 22 at 15:16
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    @sv. I could quote many commentries from Arya samaji works. If you have a confusion regarding Shatpath brahman than for your kind information VS Apte dictionary also gives to meaning of mamsa. One meat and second fruit. Third curd and rice. – Sanatan Darshan Apr 22 at 15:27

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