Hinduism and Tribal Religions

Living Edition
| Editors: Pankaj Jain, Rita Sherma, Madhu Khanna

Aśvamedha

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-024-1036-5_152-1

The Sanskrit term aśva means horse, while medha stands for sacrifice. With wings of an eagle and forelegs of an antelope, the Ṛg Veda (1.163.1–3) recounts the birth of the horse from the ocean or from a celestial source. According to some accounts, the horse is fashioned from the sun by the gods. Ancient Indians stressed the swiftness of the horse, an advantage in warfare. The sacrifice of a horse was a major rite and represented a very generous gift to the gods from a sacrifice because of its inherent value.

The ancient horse sacrifice was both a famous rite and an infrequent one because the horse was considered a very valuable animal that was owned primarily by the upper castes. Since the horse was a valuable animal, it was not sacrificed for an unimportant reason. The importance of the horse is evident in the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa(13.1.6.1) where it states that it is preeminent over all animals, it is associated with the creative and sacrificial deity Prajāpati (13.2.2.1–13), and has...

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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Religious StudiesAllegheny CollegeMeadvilleUSA