Customs and Rituals

Does ritual sacrifice play a role in Hindu ritual?

In Vedic times animal sacrifice was a major component in many rituals. Animals as large as horses and water buffalo were offered, sometimes in great numbers, along with smaller animals such as goats. Nowadays those large Vedic sacrifices are very rare, but wealthy patrons still occasionally bankroll them. Blood sacrifice does, however, survive as a regular component of puja in some temples in India, especially those dedicated to Shiva’s terrifying consort Kali. Devotees regularly offer goats and chickens in places like the Kali temple called Kalighat, after which the city of Calcutta was named. The term yaja, meaning worship, homage, or sacrifice in a generic or symbolic sense, still describes many different kinds of ritual that involve offering or giving up symbolic or actual goods for the benefit of another. Offerings of oblations to the deities date from Vedic times, but many Hindus still perform personal deeds of sacrifice in which they connect spiritually with the ancient sages and ancestors, all the deities, and all of creation. Sacrifice for the benefit of living beings, human and animal, includes generosity with sustenance and charitable financial support.


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