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(22.214.171.124) where it states that it is preeminent over all animals, it is associated with the creative and sacrificial deity Prajāpati (126.96.36.199–13), and has...
- 1.Dumont PE (1927) L’aśvamedha: Description du sacrifice solennel du cheval dans le culte vedique. Paul Geuthner, ParisGoogle Scholar
- 2.Dumont PE (1948) The horse-sacrifice in the Taittirīya-Brāhmaṇa. Proc Amer Philos Soc 92(6):447–503Google Scholar
- 3.Gonda J (1960) Die Religionen Indiens I: Veda und älterer Hinduismus. W. Kohlhammer, StuttgartGoogle Scholar
- 4.Gonda J (1969) Ancient Indian kingship from the religious point of view. E. J. Brill, LeidenGoogle Scholar
- 5.Heesterman JC (1957) The ancient Indian Royal consecration: the Rājasūya described according to the Yajus texts and annotated. Mouton, The HagueGoogle Scholar
- 6.Jamison SW (1996) Sacrificed wife/Sacrificer’s wife: women, ritual, and hospitality in ancient India. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- 7.Kirfel W (1951) Der Aśvamedha und der Puruṣamedha. In: Beiträge zue indischen Philogie und Altertumskunde, Walter Schubring zum 70 Geburtstag dargebracht von der deutschen Indologie. Hamburg, Cram, pp 39–50Google Scholar
- 8.Pulvel J (1970) Aspects of equine functionality. In: Pulvel J (ed) Myth and law among the indo-Europeans. University of California Press, Berkeley, pp 159–172Google Scholar