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Monday, June 1, 2009

Meat Eating Hindus ?

Balinese Hindus (or other Indonesian Hindus) mainly are not vegetarian as the majority of other Hindus should. They are similar with the Thais or Cambodians who also have a long history of Vedic civilization but mainly not vegetarian. Even the other Indonesian tribes who still lead traditional customs and life highly influenced by earlier Vedic civilization are mainly not forbidding meat in their diet. The only strict vegetarians I ever know were a certain esoteric communities, such as the Dayak Bumi Segandu of Indramayu in West Java, or some hermit-like traditional Javanese spiritualist, and certain peoples in mountainous range. These peoples of course are still following the Dharmic thoughts and some Hindu-Vedic religious practices in very special and unique way, superficially differs from common Hindus today. They tried to avoid Islamic domination by fled to remote areas with any little Vedic wisdom and practices left by their ancestors in the past. As prime targets of missionary works and dakwah activities, these communities are always struggling very hard to keep going with their inherited Vedic-influenced traditional customs.

Balinese traditional food. Some were made from meat. Previously only available at ceremonial feast.
Though meat wasn’t forbidden, but unlike Westerner’s meat eating habit, the Balinese Hindus as the only “clearly” existing Hindu community of Indonesia for example, don’t take meat as their daily food. Today, of course we can find meat of all sort everywhere because modernization of cattle-breeding, etc. But in older days the only domestic animals such as chickens, ducks and pigs, commonly take care by the Balinese Hindu families at house backyard. Cows and bulls are precious animal for agrarian peoples like Balinese. They have important role as co-worker for farmer to cultivate the land for rice fields. Beef is forbidden and strictly avoid by the upper class societies and nobilities. So practically the Balinese only eat chicken and pork, or fish for they who live near the sea. By such fertility of land there were no scarcity of rice, grains, fruits, and vegetables. In the past these natural products were daily consumed by the Balinese, without any dependency upon meat based cooking.

Food offerings to the higher celestial beings (Bhataras) mainly consist of vegetarian or already cooked foods and cakes
Meat only consumed in religious festival as remnants of sacrificial offerings. Cooked meat only offered to the Bhataras, ancestral spirits, or very specially honored guest such as the visiting aristocratic nobilities. Such kind of foods is only available on special religious occasions and feasts (weddings, tooth filling, or funeral rites). So they eat meat rarely and that also from animals ritually killed. In older days every Balinese before kill an animal will pray both mentally and by utter some words. “As we know every life is sacred and precious, now I beg you to let me kill you to attain your flesh. This is for sacrificial rites and offering to the honorable ones. I thank you for your sacrifice. May you in the next life attain a precious human form. If you’ll be male, may you become Undagi (an expert in construction work). If you’ll be female, may you become an expert offering maker.” Unoffered meat, gotten without any religious purpose or not according to traditional customs, especially the raw one, considered only fit to consume by the Bhutas and other ghostly lower beings. Meat eating habits in Bali, even among Hindus, grows because easy availability of feast fashioned, previously complicated cooked meat dishes. We can get any kind of meat, raw or already cooked in the markets and restaurants. Everywhere, with no more proper ritual or complicated cooking process.

Raw meat offered to the Bhutas only and never to the celestial beings. This is one kind of Bhutabali offering called caru. Balinese Hindus today, after more globalized contact with other Hindus all over the world, and also by influence of the Satvata and Bhagavata Sampradayas' teachings begin to looking for more non-violance caru by avoiding meat usage and substitute them. This kind of Bhutabali also authorized by the Sastras and such revolution has been initiated by Srimad Madhvacharya in India centuries ago. Even now, many Balinese cuisines, previously made from meat also have their vegetarian substitutions. This is favorable for Balinese or other Indonesian who still "loves" the taste of their original food but also trying to take the path of Bhagavatas or Vaishnavism.

1 comment:

  1. What a fascinating blog! I'm so glad to have discovered you and learn more about the Hindu traditions in Indonesia.

    I'm now a follower!



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