Violence in Service of Religion in the Pre-classical Sanskrit Texts


  • Edeltraud Harzer The University of Texas at Austin, United States image/svg+xml



agnyādheya, Dīrghatamas Māmateya, “dog”, Draupadī, íriṇa, keśī maitreya (possibly Dālbhya), sabhā, vibhītaka nuts


The instances of perpetrated violence represented here in this essay show a sophisticated society taking care of some exceptional (such as saving a widow) or shall we say extraordinary cases (sacrificial practices), that are not a day-to-day practice. Such occurrences demonstrate a responsibility to the society to deal with cases of extraordinary distress of a situation, but they lack sensitivity or compassion. The sacrificial practices show changes, such as using earlier on, a cow, but as time seemed to go by, it occurred that a horse was used instead. The example used here is of a horse. A prepubertal and just “graduated” Vedic scholar “won” the privilege (in getting kali as his “reward” of the last vibhītaka nut/“coin”) in becoming the butcher for the sacrificial animal at an important sacrifice, in this case a horse. In the second instance of violence, as for the widowed woman, young or old, an option is offered to her that certainly is contrary to the societal customs especially for women, though in support of survival. Be it the venue of becoming a common harlot. As for “expeditions”1 of the Vrātyas, and such.

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How to Cite

Harzer, Edeltraud. 2024. “Violence in Service of Religion in the Pre-Classical Sanskrit Texts”. Cracow Indological Studies 26 (1):163-71.