Ashvamedha Yaga is a Vedic ritual, translating to “sacrificing horse”. General understanding of this is that, a horse is left to roam around freely and king wins the lands wherever it roams. That’s it. That’s all most of our popular poems explain, be it Ramayana or Mahabharata. They don’t explain the fate of the horse in most of the versions told to us. Naturally, they are customised for 12 year olds, where if you include all these nasty stuff, will we continue to celebrate the greatest epics of India?
This ritual dates back to around four millenniums from now. Many kings have registered to have done this, both in our history and mythology. If it helps understanding, this is equivalent to a Nobel Prize for a king then. His name would be written in the history with golden letters. He would be called with “the great” throughout the history, so much for killing a horse. Something similar to Alexander or Genghis Khan achieved.
Let me paste some of the findings registered in Wikipedia before I place my arguments. It’s not only Wikipedia; I have read it in few other books as well. Apparently they are not welcome in mainstream(TV serials for eg.), because they are unpleasant.
The Ashvamedha could only be conducted by a king ( rājā ). Its object was the acquisition of power and glory, the sovereignty over neighbouring provinces, and general prosperity of the kingdom.
… The horse is sprinkled with water, and the Adhvaryu and the sacrificer whisper mantras into its ear. Anyone who should stop the horse is ritually cursed, and a dog is killed symbolic of the punishment for the sinners. The horse is then set loose towards the North-East, to roam around wherever it chooses, for the period of one year (or half a year, according to some commentators). …. If the horse wanders into neighbouring provinces hostile to the sacrificer, they must be subjugated. The wandering horse is attended by a hundred young men, sons of princes or high court officials, charged with guarding the horse from all dangers and inconvenience.
… the horse, a hornless he- goat , a wild ox ( go-mrga , Bos gavaeus ) are bound to sacrificial stakes near the fire, and seventeen other animals are attached to the horse. A great number of animals, both tame and wild, are tied to other stakes, …
…Then the horse is slaughtered …
Steed, from thy body, of thyself, sacrifice and accept thyself. Thy greatness can be gained by none but thee. The chief queen ritually calls on the king’s fellow wives for pity. The queens walk around the dead horse reciting mantras. The chief queen then has to mimic copulation with the dead horse, while the other queens ritually utter obscenities.
On the next morning, the priests raise the queen from the place where she has spent the night with the horse.
… The horse is dissected, and its flesh roasted. Various parts are offered to a host of deities and personified concepts with utterances of svaha “all-hail…
…It repeatedly states that “the Asvamedha is everything”…
Well, this is the procedure. If a king conducts this, he would become an emperor, which would be promotion from Raja to Chakravarthy. Similar to present day, do something nasty for quick promotion.
I have bit more to talk about, on culture and history and Vedic contribution to it.
We announce whole world that Vegetarianism is another contribution of India to the mankind and it dates back to Indian civilisation itself. Well, it is a contribution, but not as old as it is described. Vedic nomadic tribes used to eat sacrificed roast animals (dipped in ghee), and we held it for long long time. It’s not a complaint, just suggesting that we need correct the dates. So everyone were meat eaters including Brahmins, who now are taking great credit for spread of vegetarianism in India. Even Ahimsa is certainly not Vedic
On Yaga (Yajnya) itself, Yajnya is designed by some higher class priests for their king, just to give him a reason to invade his neighbours. It’s merely “Dude! My horse just stopped by you and now I am gonna kick your ass, take your kingdom and add your women to my collection!” Anyone who stops the horse is a sinner – what does this mean anyway?
The queen’s part in is ritual is really embarrassing. She has to spend an entire night with the dead headless horse with symbolic copulation. Symbolic generally are enactment of something which was originally there. For example smashing pumpkin in temples with red (kumkum) is symbolic of animal sacrifice. They no longer sacrifice animals in most of the temples, instead a pumpkin is cut, with kumkum symbolising blood. With this and various examples, can we not guess what ritual actually could have been? If it turns out to be true, we had some disgusting practices in Vedic tribes.
Rest all left to you to dispute.[tweetmeme]