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The Myth of the Holy Cow Paperback – February 17, 2004


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Editorial Reviews

Review

“A well-argued and soundly documented study ...”—Choice

“Not since Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses ... has a book caused such a violent reaction.”—Observer

“While cow veneration and vegetarianism may be the hallmarks of Hinduism today, Mr. Jha compiles copious evidence that this has hardly always been the case.”—New York Times

“A meticulously researched, strongly worded, persuasively articulated challenge to long-held religious beliefs, The Myth of the Holy Cow is a unique and iconoclastic contribution to the study of Hindu beliefs, practices, history and customs.”—Wisconsin Bookwatch

“Jha draws on an amazingly wide range of material ... an enlightening endeavour, demonstrating a critical understanding of a popular misconception.”—Journal of Asian Studies

“The pen might still be, if not mightier than the nuclear arsenal, at least a weapon worth scanning for, like knives at airports, a weapon capable of subversion.”—Times Literary Supplement

“This book may not please Hindu fundamentalists, but its research is impeccable.”—The Telegraph, Calcutta, India

About the Author

Dwijendra Narayan Jha is Professor of History at the University of Delhi. His books include Ancient India in Historical Outline and Feudal Social Formation in Early India.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 120 pages
  • Publisher: Verso (February 17, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1859844243
  • ISBN-13: 978-1859844243
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,722,302 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Brown on December 26, 2008
Format: Paperback
I got this book out of sheer curiosity given I had earlier read about how meat eating was not considered something sinful the way it is in modern mainstream Hinduism. The book explores this and supports it very strongly in a great scholarly fashion.

I am also not surprised to see some reviews from Indian Hindus who outright reject this as "communist" and buy into the white-washing of Hindu scriptures, which is rather sad given they are so full of rich cultural descriptives of ancient India and Hindu society.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Sarakani on May 10, 2007
Format: Paperback
A unique and important reference book - one of a kind, dealing with the commercially most valuable of man's domesticated animals. The story of the sacred cow is a stroy of humanity itself and here is a history of this animal from the Indian vantage. Controversially, it contends that the sacredness of cattle to Indians is probably a somewhat recent artefact of Indian culture perhaps bound with a shift in religious practices as well as in modern times, putting some blue water between Hindus and Muslims. Overall this is a work of short, comprehensive scholarship and fascintating to read. They've tried to get it banned in India which has to be seen as a predictable and primitive reaction. Really great for people interested in religion, cattle, Indian religions and historians.
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Format: Paperback
This book by D N Jha is an example of how good things sometimes come in small packages. With such a thorough understanding of Indian history and culture, the author also manages to weave a compelling story out of historical evidence. This is not just a story of beef eating in India, but also that of the changing nature of a culture. In fact, it also manages to give you an peek of ancient Hindu and Buddhist religious practices. At the same time this book also manages to incite your curiosity. Overall, I found the book a fascinating read. I will definitely recommend it to people who wish to know more about the evolution of Indian beliefs and practices.

Please don't let some people tell you that this book is just "Communist" or "Leftist" propaganda. Those people have no idea what the book is about nor do they know what those words stand for. In fact, in one of the top negative reviews you get to know that the reviewer hasn't even read the book. It is a sad reality that there are people who consider themselves liberal but are not willing to change their beliefs when presented with facts. And then, there are outright religious fundamentalists. This book is not meant either of those two kinds of people.
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8 of 19 people found the following review helpful By rattan on September 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Jha's book has only one drawback - it is short. It makes compelling and persuasive reading as it knits anthropological, common sense and traditions familiar to many Indians themselves to bring to light the transition to agriculture of a pastoral society. Beef has been a requirement and a central fixation in the Hindu system of thinking. Jha brings out the historical context in which a costly mistake was made in failing to develop beef and cattle in general as a commodity. Slowly, as India wakes up and stirs to exploit its heritage, beef is bound to come into fashion, or else the system would continue to be beset by instability.
Jha's presentation reminds one of the need to persuade the high castes at the turn of the ninteenth century of the benefit of studying medicine and dissecting cadavers instead of treating it as a defilement of the pure hindus. Now it is clear that it was a necessary and correct step without which many of the purists of today would have died in their infancy.
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16 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Curious Reader on September 15, 2004
Format: Paperback
As a beef eating Hindu I am very much interested in finding how cows became holy for Hindus and beef a forbidden thing to eat. I browsed through this book in a book store and found it to be very disappointing.

First, it appeared to be intended more for creating controversy than for informational purposes. It clearly had a bias which turned me off.

Second, I am generally up-to date on current issues and remembered that it did not generate all that controversy as mentioned on the cover of the book. There were some rumblings but nothing of the sort described on the covers ("the government of India demands be ritually burned").

Later I searched on google with the book title and words "ban", "government of India" and found no news reports relating any government of India attempts at banning this book. There were no reports on ban by Allahabad High Court either. All I found were book reviews on the book and other articles written mainly by political commentators known for their leftist opinions.

Third, I found some material on internet on how the author misinterpreted much of the scriptures to support his conclusions.

It basically left me disappointed and I am still searching for some reliable and accurate material on this matter.
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