Examples of human sacrifice in Hindu scripture


The Mahābhārata narrates the story of King Somaka and his only son Jantu who was sacrificed so each of Somaka's 100 wives would be blessed with a son.

Here's a short account of the story from The Purāṇic Encyclopedia:

Jantu born again.

Somaka had hundred wives. But only one of them gave birth to a child. That child was Jantu. He was a pet of all the hundred wives. Once Jantu was bitten by an ant. All the hundred queens began crying and shouting and all ran to him. Hearing the tumult in the women’s apartment of the palace, the King and the minister ran to that place. When the tumult was over the King began to think. "It is better to have no sons at all, than to have only one son. There are hundred queens. But none of them bears a child. Is there a solution for this?"

At last the King summoned his family-priests and consulted them. The decision of the priests was that if the King should sacrifice his only son, then all his wives would become pregnant and all would give birth to children, and that among the sons thus born, Jantu also would be reborn. The mother of Jantu did not look at this project with favour. "How can we be sure that Jantu also will be there among the sons to be born, after his death?" She was worried by this thought. The priests consoled her and said that there will be a golden mole on the left flank of Jantu. Finally the mother agreed to their plan. Sacrificial dais was arranged. Sacrificial fire for holy offerings was prepared. The priests tore the child into pieces and offered them as oblation in the fire. When the sacrifice was finished, all the hundred queens became pregnant. Each of them gave birth to a child. As the priests had predicted, there was a golden mole on the left flank of the child delivered by the mother of Jantu. (Mahābhārata Vana Parva, Chapters 127 and 128).

The moral of the story is probably that human sacrifices shouldn't be performed anymore because it ends with the chief priest who performed the sacrifice going to hell and the king convincing Yama Dharmaraja to share the punishment:

'Why art thou, O Brahmana! being grilled in this hell?" Then the family priest exceedingly scorched with fire, spake to him saying,

This is the outcome of my having officiated in that sacrifice of thine.

Hearing this, the saintly king thus spake to the god who meteth out punishments to departed souls,

I shall enter here. Set free my officiating priest; this revered man is being grilled by hell-fire on my account only.

[Yama] Dharmaraja thereat answered thus,

One cannot enjoy or suffer for another person's acts. O best of speakers! these are the fruits of thy acts; see it here.

Somaka said,

Without this Brahmana here, I desire not go to the blessed regions. My desire is to dwell in company with this very man, either in the abode of the gods, or in hell, for, O Dharmaraja! my deed is identical with what hath been done by him and the fruit of our virtuous or evil deed must be the same for both of us.

[Yama] Dharmaraja said,

O king! If this is thy wish, then taste with him the fruit of that act, for the same period that he must do. After that thou shall go to the blessed regions.

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