Throughout the Hindu scriptures, there have been instances of Kings offering Horses as sacrifice to the Gods in the Ashwamedha Yagna.

  • What is the significance of this ritual?
  • Why only horses were chosen and not any other animal?
  • How did this ritual originate?
  • Asvamedha Yajna means Horse Sacrifice; Horse stands for Indriyas or the senses; By killing a horse with proper Vedic procedure, the performer attains control over his senses; And this takes him to heaven; While living on the earth, he enjoys enough material pleasure due to the virtue acquired by the Horse sacrifice; The horse that is sacrificed also goes to heaven, which is otherwise impossible for a creature with an animal body; And, in the next birth, the horse gets a human body;
    – DR Hota
    Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 5:15
  • Ashvamedha means horse sacrifice.This was done only by the kings.The objective of horse sacrifice was to strenghen their position and to declare their glory and victory.Many kings perform ashvamedha after winning wars.It orginated from Later vedic period.
    – user4713
    Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 15:08

2 Answers 2


Aswamedha yajna was a royal rite. It was done only by the Kings to spread their glory throughout the world and for the benefit of their kingdom (rāṣṭram vā aśvamedhaḥ). Regarding its origin and usage of horses the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad says:

सोऽकामयत: मेध्यं म इदं स्याद् , आत्मन्व्यनेन स्यामिति ततोऽश्वः समभवद् यदश्वत् , तन्मेध्यमभूदिति तदेवाश्वमेधस्याश्वमेधत्वम् [Brh. Up. - 1.2.7]

He (the first purusha or Brahman) desired "let this (his body) be fit for sacrifice(medha) and let me be embodied by it". Then he became a horse as it swelled. He thought, it has become fit for sacrifice. Hence, the horse sacrifice is called as Aswamedha.

The sacrifice itself has been mentioned in the Vedas (taitariya samhita, 7th khanda). So its origin is prehistoric. From scriptures like Ramayan (Bal Kanda) Mahavarat (Aswamedha Parva), etc. their performance and processes are known.

It was also beleived that one who performs 100 Asvamedha yanjas obtains the position of Indra in heaven. So Indra tries to create hindrances in such performances. One example is the Indra's stealing of King Pṛthu's horse on his final horse sacrifice. Also, Bali, grandson of Prahlad, tried to perform 100 Aswamedha yanjas after which he would have been the king of gods. So Lord Vishnu in the Vaman incarnation hindered his completion of 100 Aswamedha yanjas by taking away everything from him.

  • 2
    the translation of the word 'medha' is often not interpreted as sacrifice. There are words like 'purushamedha' and 'sarvamedha'. Sarvamedha definitely doesn't mean sacrificing everyone. Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 6:46

Ashwamedha Yajna was done to empower your kingdom and glory, so the ashwa(Horse) was Sacrafice(send Free to go anywhere). And what so ever the land the Horse was going to cover would be considered as a Integral part of the Kingdom of the person/King who had performed the ritual of Ashwamedha Yajna(Yudhisther and Pariksheet had done for the said cause). If any king/person will stop the horse or refuse to accept the kingship of the King(who performed the Ashwamedha yajna) need to fight for that(Just like Luv-Kush fought against the army of Lord Rama).

It was considered if anyone does 100 Ashwamedha Yajna, he would be considered as Indra, as Indra was the King of Gods,and was the king of entire Swarga. Hence if anyone will perform the Ashwamedh yajna 100 time will naturally cover all the earth, and hence will be considered as Indra, as he would be the only King of the Kings on the Earth.

Ashwamedha Yajna was also done if anyone thinks he had committed any big Mistake or sin in his life and now want to do the Penanace for that(Lord Rama has done the Ashwamedha yajna to do the Penance for killing a women(Strihattya of Tarka) and a Bramhmin()Bramhahatya of Ravana).

  • Indra is not a God of Gods, instead he is King of Devtas...
    – Kedarnath
    Commented Oct 15, 2014 at 12:50
  • 1
    You should cite sources. Commented Oct 15, 2014 at 16:04
  • @Kedarnath I think it's perfectly fine to translate "Deva" as god. So it would be fine to call Indra king of the gods, just not god of the gods. Commented Oct 15, 2014 at 16:05
  • @Kedarnath sorry, the corrections are made. Commented Oct 17, 2014 at 6:49
  • 1
    Was Ashvamedha Yajna Not done to make the principal queen conceive sons for the king ?
    – Prakash RP
    Commented Oct 19, 2021 at 3:19

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