So the only thing I don't understand are these two "rituals" I thought murder was forbidden. Are their any text which outright prohibit or demonize such evil rituals. Or if their was a ritual are their rules like only volunteers should be participated. Also Nara also means water write, so in places where Nara-Bali is used could it mean water sacrifice? Looking only for Vedic examples mainly.

  • There was a small temple during my father's time, and each time Kali Puja would be held, two small dogs would come up during aarti, irrespective of where they were and would join their hands and start crying again and again. Pandit Ji sensed these were good people but due to the burden of karma, their lives are short-lived. He invoked a form of goddess or something, and immediately these two dogs stopped and died peacefully in a few minutes. Its important to understand the context of Bali before judging them with their apperance of their body.
    – User 29449
    Dec 31, 2023 at 14:17
  • I intended to make one understand that Bali shouldn't be seen as a bad thing. Not only pashubali, but there are rituals of human sacrifices too, where people would perform suicide meditation in tantra. It's important to not see one with the association of their physical body, which is a temporary illusion, the real self never dies. All of them are supreme Brahman only, the sacrificer and sacrificed. (Bhagavad Gita: 4.24)
    – User 29449
    Dec 31, 2023 at 14:19
  • @AbhasKumarSinha I am talking about forceful and unwilling sacrifice sucidial practices ie Sati and all are by choice and usually are done by the person him/her -self when they feel they have fufilled their purpose in the world. So their is a big difference.
    – Haridasa
    Dec 31, 2023 at 22:23
  • To the best of my understanding of history, Sati was practiced by Royal Queens after the defeat of their Kings, so that they could be saved from necrophilic Mughal sexual predators. The burnt corpse wouldn't be a thing for them. But in some aspect it creeped into the common society too that was needed to be stopped.
    – User 29449
    Jan 1 at 2:41
  • @AbhasKumarSinha I know hence why that stuff is far more complex. I am talking about Purushvedham as in the metaphrocial human sacrifice ritual and why it isn't literal.
    – Haridasa
    Jan 1 at 12:05

5 Answers 5


Srimad Bhagavatam apparently mentions king Harishchandra Doing Human sacrifice and even pleasing devas with it.

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 9.7.20-23 Translated by Srila Prabhupada

षष्ठं संवत्सरं तत्र चरित्वा रोहित: पुरीम् । उपव्रजन्नजीगर्तादक्रीणान्मध्यमं सुतम् । शुन:शेफं पशुं पित्रे प्रदाय समवन्दत ॥ २० ॥ तत: पुरुषमेधेन हरिश्चन्द्रो महायशा: । मुक्तोदरोऽयजद् देवान् वरुणादीन् महत्कथ: ॥ २१ ॥ विश्वामित्रोऽभवत् तस्मिन् होता चाध्वर्युरात्मवान् । जमदग्निरभूद् ब्रह्मा वसिष्ठोऽयास्य: सामग: ॥ २२ ॥

Thereafter, in the sixth year, after wandering in the forest, Rohita returned to the capital of his father. He purchased from Ajīgarta his second son, named Śunaḥśepha. Then he offered Śunaḥśepha to his father, Hariścandra, to be used as the sacrificial animal and offered Hariścandra his respectful obeisances.

Thereafter, the famous King Hariścandra, one of the exalted persons in history, performed grand sacrifices by sacrificing a man and pleased all the demigods. In this way his dropsy created by Varuṇa was cured.

In that great human sacrifice, Viśvāmitra was the chief priest to offer oblations, the perfectly self-realized Jamadagni had the responsibility for chanting the mantras from the Yajur Veda, Vasiṣṭha was the chief brahminical priest, and the sage Ayāsya was the reciter of the hymns of the Sāma Veda.

Gaudiya Vaishnavacharya Srila prabhupada comments the following on verse 20 -

It appears that in those days a man could be purchased for any purpose. Hariścandra was in need of a person to sacrifice as the animal in a yajña and thus fulfill his promise to Varuṇa, and a man was purchased from another man for this purpose. Millions of years ago, animal sacrifice and slave trade both existed. Indeed, they have existed since time immemorial.


Scholars are not sure if narabali was actual or symbolical.

Narabali ('human sacrifice')

The word 'Purusamedha' ('sacrificing a human being') occurs in Apastamba Srautasutras (20.24, 25) and Baudhayana Srautasutras (24.11). It is a type of Somayaga spread over five days.

Whether a purusa (human being) was actually sacrificed or whether the whole act had been symbolical, is difficult to ascertain.

There are references to narabali in the Sathapatha Brahmana (1.2.3,6) and the Taittiriya Samhita (2.2.2,4) also.

According to one view, since a large quantity of human and animal bones were recovered at the site of excavations at Kausambi (the modern Kosam, about 50 kms to the east of Allahabad in UP including an ancient altar, this sacrifice must have existed.

According to other scholars, the rite was only symbolical. After the paryagni-karana rite - wherein the agnidhra priest goes round the human beings and the animals with a lighted torch - the human beings are released and only goats are sacrificed (vide P. V. Kane, History of Dharmasastra, Vol 3, Poona, BORI, 1946; pages 961-962).

In the puranas we do come across the practice of narabali by certain aboroginal cults (vide Bhagavata 5.9.15 to 17). The great spiritual teacher Sankara (A.D. 788 - 820) is said to have been approached for sacrifice by the Kapalikas. He was later on saved by his disciple Padmapada.


The rite might have existed at least in the aboriginal tribes.

A Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism by Swami Harshananda

There is a puzzling mention of naramedha in Mahabharata Ashamedhika Parva.

"Vyasa said, 'O Yudhishthira, thy wisdom, I conceive, is not adequate. None doth any act by virtue of his own power. It is God. who engageth him in acts good or bad, O bestower of honour. Where then is the room for repentance? Thou deemest thyself as having perpetrated impious acts. Do thou, therefore, O Bharata, harken as to the way in which sin may be removed. O Yudhishthira, those that commit sins, can always free themselves from them through penance, sacrifice and gifts. O king, O foremost of men, sinful people are purified by sacrifice, austerities and charity. The high-souled celestials and Asuras perform sacrifices for securing religious merit; and therefore sacrifice are of supreme importance. It is through sacrifices that the high-souled celestials had waxed so wondrously powerful; and having celebrated rites did they vanquish the Danavas. Do thou, O Yudhishthira, prepare for the Rajasuya, and the horse-sacrifice, as well as, O Bharata, for the Sarvamedha and the Naramedha. 1 And then as Dasaratha's son, Rama, or as Dushmanta's and Sakuntala's son, thy ancestor, the lord of the Earth, the exceedingly puissant king Bharata, had done, do thou agreeably to the ordinance celebrate the Horse-sacrifice with Dakshinas. Yudhishthira replied, 'Beyond a doubt, the Horse-sacrifice purifieth princes. But I have a purpose of which it behoveth thee to hear. Having caused this huge carnage of kindred, I cannot, O best of the regenerate ones, dispense gifts even on a small scale; I have no wealth to give. Nor can I for wealth solicit these juvenile sons of kings, staying in sorry plight, with their wounds yet green, and undergoing suffering. How, O foremost of twice-born ones, having myself destroyed the Earth can I, overcome by sorrow, levy dues for celebrating a sacrifice? Through Duryodhana's fault, O best of ascetics, the kings of the Earth have met with destruction, and we have reaped ignominy. For wealth Duryodhana hath wasted the Earth; and the treasury of that wicked-minded son of Dhritarashtra is empty. (In this sacrifice), the Earth is the Dakshina; this is the rule that is prescribed in the first instance. The usual reversal of this rule, though sanctioned, is observed, by the learned as such. Nor, O ascetic, do I like to have a substitute (for this process). In this matter, O reverend sir, it behoveth thee to favour me with thy counsel'. Thus addressed by Pritha's son, Krishna Dwaipayana, reflecting for a while, spoke unto the righteous king,--'This treasury, (now) exhausted, shall be full. O son of Pritha, in the mountain Himavat (The Himalayas) there is gold which had been left behind by Brahmanas at the sacrifice of the high-souled Marutta.' 1 Yudhishthira asked, 'How in that sacrifice celebrated by Marutta was so much gold amassed? And, O foremost of speakers, when did he reign?' Vyasa said 'If, O Pritha's son, thou art anxious to hear concerning that king sprung from the Karandhama race, then listen to me as I tell thee when that highly powerful monarch possessed of immense wealth reigned.'"

Mahabharata Ashwamedhika Parva Section III

The translator Kisari Mohan Ganguly thinks that the sacrifice of human beings was in vogue at the time. What is puzzling is that Yudhishthira does not even talk of naramedha. So may be it is an interpolation.

  • 1
    Even if it is, it must be symbolic as Sri Krishna clearly states human slaughter during rituals is forbidden. It could be the metaphorical Naramedha seen in the Satapatha Brahmana.
    – Haridasa
    Dec 31, 2023 at 12:52
  • @Haridasa You are probably confusing one deity with another. Shamshan and ugra deities usually require that. Krishna is not a ugra deity. You may read about shava sadhana on choice of human being - the deity sends the human for sacrifice themselves, although what a person does has a lot to do with their personal beliefs: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – User 29449
    Jan 1 at 12:06
  • @AbhasKumarSinha I don't believe all Shaivas accept vedas as authority however?
    – Haridasa
    Jan 1 at 12:11
  • @Haridasa It's usually the different way in my opinion. Vaishnavas don't accept the authority of Vedas, modern ones usually accept Bhagavad Puran over all others (even at contradicting things). Almost all schools have something they don't accept but usually - BG, BS, and 13Upanishads is acceptable to all (except Vishnavas). Btw, shava sadhana is tantric of the left-handed side which is a rival school to vedas in usual sense.
    – User 29449
    Jan 1 at 12:14
  • @AbhasKumarSinha Vishnu is supreme in the vedas and most Vaishnavas do accept their authority I cannot see one Vaishnava text which states otherwise.
    – Haridasa
    Jan 1 at 12:16

Human sacrifice is prohibited, going by Sri Krishna's statements censuring Jarasamdha in the Mahabharata, Sabha Parva.

Krishna said,--'O thou of mighty arms, there is a certain person of the head of a (royal) line who upholdeth the dignity of his race At his command have we come against thee. Thou hast brought, O king, many of the Kshatriyas of the world as captives (to thy city.) Having perpetrated that wicked wrong how dost thou regard thyself as innocent? O best of monarchs, how can a king act wrongfully towards other virtuous kings? But thou, O king, treating other kings with cruelty, seekest to offer them as sacrifice unto the god Rudra! O son of Vrihadratha, this sin committed by thee may touch even us, for as we are virtuous in our practices, we are capable of protecting virtue. The slaughter of human being as sacrifice unto the gods is never seen. Why dost thou, therefore, seek to perform a sacrifice unto god Sankara by slaughtering human beings? Thou art addressing persons belonging to thy own order as animals (fit for sacrifice)! Fool as thou art, who else, O Jarasandha, is capable of behaving in this way?


I would like to answer my own question it seems in in very old vedic literalism the Srauta text do prescribe animal and human sacrifice. However, the Satapatha Brahmana 13.6.2 clearly states by Purusha himself, "Then a voice[8] said to him, 'Puruṣa, do not consummate (these human victims[9]): if thou wert to consummate them, man (puruṣa) would eat man.' Accordingly, as soon as fire had been carried round them, he set them free, and offered oblations to the same divinities[10], and thereby gratified those divinities, and, thus gratified, they, gratified him with all objects of desire." https://www.wisdomlib.org/hinduism/book/satapatha-brahmana-english/d/doc63525.html

The Chandoyoga Upanishads mentions it metaphorically as human life being a sacrifice in section 3.16. "The human body is like a sacrifice, and the first twenty-four years are like the morning libation. The gāyatrī has twenty-four syllables, and the morning libation is accompanied by the gāyatrī. The Vasus reside in this morning libation. The Vasus are the vital breaths and the sense organs, for the word vasu means those who make others live and who live themselves." https://www.wisdomlib.org/hinduism/book/chandogya-upanishad-english/d/doc239018.html

The Srimad Bhagavatam at 5.26.31 states anyone who does it goes to hell this is slightly graphic in description so view descretion is adviced. "(When) men who, in this world, verily propitiate (gods like Bhairava) by offering human sacrifice and the women eat the human victim so offered, the human beings so sacrificed become a battalion of demons (Rākṣasas) in the region of Yama (in the hell called Rakṣogaṇa-bhojana). There Rākṣasas torture their former slayers in many ways, cut them into slices with their axes like butchers, drink their blood, dance and sing merrily just as those who ate them (as human victims) did on the earth." https://www.wisdomlib.org/hinduism/book/the-bhagavata-purana/d/doc1127143.html

These are three of many examples which outright either reinterpret Purushmedha metaphorically or outright ban the literal ritual.


Vedas, smriti, itihasa and puranas are in agreement that human should not be killed in a sacrifice :

bhagavata puraNa 9.7.20-23 is not supporting human killing in sacrifice rather it is pointing to a story which is also found in aitareya brahmana book 7 chapter 3 where harischandra is "tested" by varuna with a "human sacrifice"  condition which Harishchandra follows cautiously with a faith that his son will not be slaughtered. The story ends with "preparation of soma juice" as the codified meaning of purushamedha and a loss to Ajigarta who misinterpreted and agreed for killing human in sacrifice (not added all verses, go through the translation of the entire chapter of aitereya brahmana) :

Then, after having been touched by Harischandra, he sacrificed the Soma, under the recital of the four first verses, which were accompanied by the formula ...

sunashepa answered, "What is not found even in the hands of a shudra, one has seen in thy hand, the knife (to kill thy son) ; three hundred cows thou hast preferred to me, 0 Anigiras ! ” Ajigarta then answered, " 0 my dear son ! I repent of the bad deed I have committed ; I blot out this stain !

 bhagavata purana  5.26.31 forbids human killing in sacrifice consistent with aitareya brahmana and shatapatha brahmana :

ye tv iha vai puruṣāḥ puruṣa-medhena yajante yāś ca striyo nṛ-paśūn khādanti tāṁś ca te paśava iva nihatā yama-sadane yātayanto rakṣo-gaṇāḥ saunikā iva svadhitināvadāyāsṛk pibanti nṛtyanti ca gāyanti ca hṛṣyamāṇā yatheha puruṣādāḥ.

  • 1
    Thank you for showing the full story! :) Even more reaosn to believe such was not part of vedic culture.
    – Haridasa
    Jan 1 at 12:10

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