History of beef eating in Kerala

Recently  members of Indian Youth Congress from Kerala had publicly killed a cow to protest against the ban on  sale of cattle for slaughter in Bharat, and this has triggered nationwide outrage against the Congress party.

Even the secretary of IYC was seen distributing beef.

The outrage against Congress made Rahul Gandhi himself come out and condemn the acts of his party members

In the background of all these issues, let us take a moment to analyse history of beef eating in Kerala.

Before getting recruited into the military of the kingdom, a Nair warrior (most of the military men were from Nair community) having finished studying the art of warfare from Kalari (military school) had to take oath in front of the King to protect Brahmins and cows. This is recorded by Duarte Barbosa, a 16th century Portuguese writer :

“The King then asks him if he will maintain the customs and rules of the other Nayres (Nairs), and he and his kinsmen respond ‘ Yes.’ Then the King commands him to gird on his right side a sword with a red sheath, and when it is girt on he causes him to approach near to himself and la, his right hand on his head, saying therewith certain words which none may hear, seemingly a prayer, and then embraces him saying ‘ Paje Gubrantarca, that is to say ‘ Protect cows and Bramenes (Brahmins)”

Source: https://books.google.co.in/books?id=cAgkDwAAQBAJ&pg=PT40

A similar oath was made by Samuthiris or Zamorins, the Nair kings of Calicut before their royal coronation

“At Yagneswaram he is met by Vemaneheri Namputiri,  a descendant of Melattur Agnihotri. The Eralped (Zamorin) gives him an ola (text), promising to protect Brahmins, temples and cows.”

Source: https://archive.org/details/TheZamorinsOfCalicut

It is interesting to note that Aithihyamala, a 19th century work detailing many folklore and legends of Kerala also records an incident in which the famous 18th century Raja of Cochin, Rama Varma Shaktan Thampuran executed a Muslim who had killed a cow.  The Raja also refused to observe Shivaratri vrata since the Muslim had killed the cow on that day.

So eating beef and slaughter of cattle was unthinkable in kingdoms of Kerala. How and whence did beef eating became widespread in Kerala? It could’ve become popular only after the jihad of the Islamist Hyder and his son Tipu on Kerala during the 18th century. Tipu had forced the Hindus to undergo circumcision and eat beef to prove their conversion to Islam:

” into that country in April, 1788, he directed his officers of Calicut, to begin by seizing on the Brahmins, and to render them examples to the other classes, by enforcing circumcision on them, and compelling them to eat beef; and accordingly many Brahmins were seized in or about the month of July, 1788, and were thus forcibly deprived of their caste; whilst others sought for shelter with the Rajahs of the Zamorin’s family “

Source: https://books.google.co.in/books?id=ZyUoAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA33

So taking all these evidences into account, it seems that slaughter of cows was forbidden in old kingdoms of Kerala and its popularity is a later trend after communism and Abrahamic religions like Islam and Christianity became popular.


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About the Author

Dauhshanti & Paanchajanyaa
@Dauhshanti - A proud Polytheist & Idolater, blessed to be born into the civilization of Bharata. @paanchajanyaa - Soldier of dharma... Yato dharmas tato jayah...
  • Ravikumar Ambadi

    When you mention Aithihyamala, I would like to draw your attention into one more story in that. The story of “Pakkanar” one of the sons of Panchami of “Parayipetta Pnthirukulam”. I would like to mention two incidents in his life.

    Once he saw a Brahmin Tantrik, Azhvanchery Thambrakkal going along with a cow made with gold. On those days there was a practice for feudal kings to donate golden cow to a Brahmin when they took the charge of the kingdom. Packanar asked the Brahmin to leave the cow for him as the right over dead cow is for him. Being a person belongs to lower caste as per the hierarchy prevailed on those days, dead cows belong to him as he can eat it.
    All the eleven children of Vararuchi (Except Vayilla Kunnilappan) used to assemble at the house of Agnihthri, the eldest among them once in every year to pay homage to their father. After the rituals, they used to sat together and used to have lunch together. Everyone will bring some food items and Agnihothri’s wife used to cook those items for lunch. Once, Packanar brought the nipples of cow. Seeing it, Agnihotri’s wife got irritated (Agnihotri was a Brahman) and threw it away. During lunch Packanar enquired about the things he brought and Agnihothri’s wife told the truth. Packanar then asked her to see at the place where she threw them. To her surprise she saw a plant there with several vetgs on it. They are the present day Ivy Gourds.

    These two stories or myths clearly states that eating beef was a practice among the low caste Hindus of those days. Almost same thing you can see in the myths about Muthappan also. At a time when the upper castes were ruling the land, these hapless people could not kill a cow and eat it but had to wait till they die because the power was with the upper caste. Now in a democracy they have the equal rights so that they can have a food of their own choice and do not want to wait till a cow or bull die.

    Beef eating is not alien to Kerala and not introduced by Tippu. It was not a practice among the upper caste people but that does not mean that the practice was not in Kerala because Kerala is not only the upper castes.

    • Bharata

      About Pakkanar, but keep in mind that he was from Paraya caste. They are known to eat flesh of cow, for this reason they were shunned from mainstream society. Also they were not that populous compared to majority of Ezhavas/Thiyyas, Nairs, Kammala/Vishvakarmas, Kaniyans, Ambalavasis, Brahmins etc which formed the mainstream society.

      Along with practicing mainstream taboo like beef eating, they also had practiced gruesome blackmagic, like the cult of Odiyan which involved extracting unborn embryo from womb of a women https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odiyan#Techniques. Obviously for these reasons they were feared by the society and rarely interacted with the mainstream society. The very term Pariah originates from their name.

      Also another thing is that the fact that they had to wait for dead cows to take flesh means that cows were not generally slaughtered for meat. Cow slaughter & beef eating became popular among mainstream society only after the Mysorean invasions.

      • Paraya was shunned for eating cow meat? Wow thats the worst justification of casteism I have heard in a long time. Kerala upper caste were scums. How depraved do you need to be to come up with a concept like mulakkaram.

      • Shridas

        I clicked on your Wikipedia link for “odiyan” and this is what it is;

        “Odiyan is an upcoming 2018 Malayalam-language Indian fantasy thriller film directed by V. A. Shrikumar Menon in his feature film debut and written by K. Harikrishnan. It is based on the legend of Odiyan, who in Kerala folklore are men possessing shapeshifting abilities, who could assume animal form.”
        You believe that? Citing it as proof?

    • Robert

      I want to eat your son – food of my choice. How about it?

      • Pralhad Chaudhari

        Ur name explains it all

        • aai

          He is a Hindutva Hindu coward using a Fake name Mr. Moron.