Romila Thapar in her book, Ancient India, for class VI writes about cow eating. She says on page 40-41, ?In fact, for special guest beef was served as a mark of honour (although in later centuries Brahmanas were forbidden to eat beef). A man'slife was valued as equal to that of a hundred cows. If a man killed another man, he had to give a hundred cows to the family of the dead man as a punishment.?
Commenting on it the expert committee while quoting Man and Environment, 1994 Volume XIX, Nos. 1-2) says, ?That, beef eating was widely practiced in early India is widely accepted and has been mentioned by various historians, not just non-Indian historians. Among the most respected historians who wrote on this theme are Rajendra Lala Mitra, whose The Indo Aryans (1891) has a chapter on the prevalence of this practice, and P.V. Kane, whose Definitive History of Dharmasastra also cited passages concerning beef eating and cow slaughter. Additionally, the literary and archaeologist evidence for beef eating was discussed by the most wellknown archaeologist of post-Independence India, H.D. Sankalia (Seminar, 93, 1967). Since then, two other Indian archaeologists, P.K. Thomas and P.P. Joglekar, have summarized the data on cattle bones that are found at archaeological sites in India and have drawn attention to the substantial contribution of cattle in the form of meat, apart from their uses as draught animals and in agricultural operations.?
Archaeology, like the Vedas themselves, is the primary source to reconstruct the history of the past communities. Unfortunately, all archaeological reports on bones found in archaeology use the term ?cattle bones? and not ?cow bones?. ?Cattle?, according to Oxford and all other dictionaries include ?cow? and ?bulls?. Paleontologists cannot distinguish one from the other. Romila Thapar makes mention of cows. So also other NCERT authors. In archaeology even buffalos? bones are often included in cattle bones. But buffalo has not been as sacred to Hindus as the cows. The article by Thomas in Man and Environment (Vol. XIX, 1994) is also not at all specific when it comes to cow.
It may also be mentioned here that Dr R. L. Mitra'swork was published and conceived much before the discovery of the famous Indus valley civilization site called Harappa. Besides Dr. Mitra'sresearch is entirely based on literary references and sources. P. V. Kane'swork was also written on the basis of literary sources. He has not used a single archaeological source to substantiate the arguments that the ancient Indians were cow eaters.
It may also be categorically mentioned that there is a specific reference with regard to the bone analysis of the cows specially from the Indus valley sites or Harappan sites showing the cut marks on the bones recovered from the excavated stratum which generally is the key to distinguish the natural death and deliberate killing of cows for the purpose of beef eating. It is merely a conjecture to assert that the cattle bones found from the Harappan sites justify that the ancient Indians were cow eater. Beside there has been no cut bones studies which is an exclusive study conducted by the palaeo-pathological analysis of the bones from the excavated sites of Harappa, Mohen-jo-daro and other sites.
Interpretations of the original texts by historians have been cloned to a variety of reasons?colonial bias, Marxist bias, caste bias, etc. We have to be hundred per cent sure about ?cow? which is considered mother by Hindus. Taking shelter under the terms ?beef? and ?cattle? will hardly do. Bull or ox do belong to the cow family but it is not cow.
No one needs defending any secondary source, the writing of scholar, to the original. As pointed out earlier, secondary sources, which have interpreted the term gau as ?cow? in English, is not correct. ?Beef? also includes meat of cows as well as of ox or Bull. It is a clear case of the burden of two languages.
(The author is a noted archaeologist.)