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One of the most famous incarnations of Durga is the goddess Kali. As I discuss in this answer, she was created by Durga's incarnation Ambika in order to defeat the demons Chanda and Munda, which is why she's also known as Chamundeshwari. In any case, it is well-known that people do a variety of bizarre rituals to worship Kali, most notably non-Vedic animal sacrifice. (The Vedas prescribe animal sacrifice only in the case of Yagnas as I discuss here, not when worshipping goddesses like Kali.)

But my question is about the worship of a goddess closely related to Kali, named Tara. In this excerpt from the Narada Purana, various rituals to worship the goddess Tara are described, including this one:

In the cremation ground or in a vacant house, or in a temple, or in a lonely place, in a mountain, in a forest, the knower of the mantra shall climb onto a dead body that has been killed in the battle-field or on a child of six months, should make an effort for the propitiation of the vidya (of Tarini), thus he would soon be able to make it fruitful.

I can understand sitting on a dead body and chanting mantras. (Well, I can't really understand that either, but I can at least picture someone doing it.) But my question is, what does it mean to say that the devotee of Tara "shall climb ... on a child of six months"? Does that mean sitting on a live six-month old baby, or a dead body of a six-month old baby? Do any devotees of Tara do this practice today?

I should add the Narada Purana is considered to have a lot of interpolations, so this may not be a genuine passage.

  • dead body of 6 month old. I understand some Naga sadhus still practice these, but my knowledge is only second hand, I have not witnessed myself. These rituals are meant to cleanse the mind of seeing any difference between what is beautiful and what is abhorrent. Also among Shaktas, Kali and Tara refer to to the same Shakti, just seen in different aspects. I think there are many Brahmins in Bengal that would take exception to your statement that their animal sacrifices are non-Vedic. – Swami Vishwananda Sep 27 '15 at 4:09
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    @SwamiVishwananda Well, animal sacrifice to Kali and other such goddesses isn't mentioned in the Vedas, is it? The Vedas only prescribe animal sacrifice in the case of Yagnas. Apart from that there's a general prohibition on harm to animals. – Keshav Srinivasan Sep 27 '15 at 4:14
  • Well devotees of shakta sampradaya consider kali or devi adi parashakti as primary devotee or bramhan so sacrificing for her is like doing yagna so for them animal sacrifice could be justified. – Yogi Sep 27 '15 at 4:21
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    @Yogi Vaishnavas similarly say that worship of Vishnu is a Yagna, because Vishnu is the Yagna Purusha. But the Vedas don't sanction any animal sacrifice whatsoever so long as the ritual is called a Yagna. The Vedas have very specific injunctions, like "In this particular Yagna, at this particular stage of the Yagna, you should sacrifice this animal in this manner." But apart from that, an injunction of the Vedas is binding unless the Vedas themselves grant an exception. – Keshav Srinivasan Sep 27 '15 at 4:32
  • @Yogi It is a principle of interpretation, going back to the Mimamsa Sutras, that if a non-Vedic text prescribes something which the Vedas forbids, you shouldn't violate the Vedic injunction. – Keshav Srinivasan Sep 27 '15 at 4:33

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