Ashvamedha Yajna The Obscene Ritual



Written by Sulaiman Razvi
Ashvamedha Yajna is a ritual performed by Queens (particularly by chief queen) for fertility and also to gain power in the kingdom. The Ashvamedha Yajna includes slaughtering the horse, then follows the queen’s intercourse with the horse, then the horse is cut into pieces and cooked. However some Hindus due to  obscenity reject these facts and are reinterpreting the ritual based on their whim. They even deny the fact that Horse was slaughtered during the ritual, I request the readers to go through the article Meat Consumption in Hinduism.

Their main objection is that this ritual does not include intercourse and is only meant to bring prosperity in the kingdom and they fail to furnish any reference which may suggest that this ritual is pure and decent and only meant to bring prosperity. However Purana and Sutra clearly mentions about this vulgar ritual, The Harivamsa Purana says,

Harivamsa Purana, Bhavishya Parva 3.5.11-13 ”After the passage of some time, king Janamejaya, who offers plenty of tributes (in sacrifices) observed the horse sacrifice as ordained. Devi Vapushtama, the daughter of the king of Kashi, went and slept with the slain horse, according to the ritual as prescribed. Seeing the queen with beautiful limbs, Vsava (Indra) desired her. Entering the body of the dead horse, Indra had intercourse withsc the queen.” Tr. A. Purushothaman and A. Harindranath. [ ]
These verses are too vulgar to comment. My question is, if horse sacrifice (Ashvamedha Yajna) does not include copulation with the horse, then why did Indra entered the body of the horse when he could have done it with his own body? As copulation with dead horse is part of the ritual, Indra thought that no one will come to know if he enters the body of the dead horse and copulates with the queen. This verse clearly shows that Ashvamedha does include copulation with the dead horse this is why the Vedic god Indra who couldn’t resist his lust, entered the body of the horse and successfully copulated with the queen and no one stopped it as copulation is part of the ritual where the Queen sleeps naked with the horse, they both are covered up with a cloth and she places the penis in her private part, she then asks the dead horse to release semen in her which is symbolic as the dead horse can’t release semen but the insertion of penis of dead horse into the vagina of queen is literal. I shall only describe the obscene part of the Ashvamedha Yajna in this article. The Sutras also mentions Chief Queen’s copulation with the dead horse.

It is mentioned in Apastamba Srauta Sutra 20.17.12-18 that the Chief Queen recites some Mantras (mentioned in Yajurved) and then all the wives of the king circumambulates the horse, fan it, tie their hairs on the right side of their head. Ramayana tells us that queen Kaushalya the mother of Hindu god Ram had spent a night with the horse.

Valmiki Ramayan, Bala Kanda 1, Sarga 14, Verses 33-35 ”With great delight coming on her Queen Kausalya reverently made circumambulations to the horse, and symbolically killed the horse with three knives. Queen Kausalya desiring the results of ritual disconcertedly resided one night with that horse that flew away like a bird. Thus, the officiating priests of the ritual, namely hota, adhwaryu and udgaata have received in their hand the Crowned Queen, the neglected wife, and a concubine of the king, next as a symbolic donation in the ritual by the performer, the king.” Tr. Shri Desiraju Hanumanth Rao

 This ritual is mentioned in both Krishna and Shukla Yajur Veda, but this ritual mentioned in Krishna Yajur Veda is obscure because the translator has omitted those verses,

Krishna Yajur Veda 7.4.19 The wicked horse is sleeping. O fair one, clad in fair raiment in the world of heaven be ye two covered ….{…several verses omitted from original translation…}

I am reproducing the translation of Krishna Yajur Veda by a Indologist,

Krishna Yajur Veda 7.4.19 In the heavenly world be you two completely covered. [Queen says]- I will urge on the impregnator, you will urge on the impregnator; let the two of us stretch out our four legs. [Adhvaryu says]- Let the stallion, semen-producer, produce semen [insert semen]. Bring the penis into the two thighs, drive along the erect and unctuous one which is women’s living enjoyment, which is their hole-runner [cleaner], women’s dear secret (pleasure) which has hit the sardigrdi (clitoris?) in their black (haired) mark… This little bird which creeps around saying ‘ahalam’ knocks the penis into the slit; the vulva devours it.

It is mentioned in Shukla Yajur Veda,

Yajur Veda 23.19-21 All wife of the host reciting three mantras go round the horse. While praying, they say: ‘O horse, you are, protector of the community on the basis of good qualities, you are, protector or treasure of happiness. O horse, you become my husband’. After the animal is purified by the priest, the principal wife sleeps near the horse and says: ‘O Horse, I extract the semen worth conception and you release the semen worth conception. The horse and principal wife spread two legs each. Then the Ardhvaryu(priest) orders to cover the oblation place, raise canopy etc. After this, the principal wife of the host pulls penis of the horse and puts it in her vagina and says: “This horse may release semen in me. Then the host, while praying to the horse says: “O horse, please throw semen on the upper part of the anus of my wife. Expand your penis and insert it in the vagina because after insertion, this penis makes women happy and lively.

This verse from Yajurved could have been rejected or interpreted in some other way if it wasn’t mentioned in the Brahmanas. The Brahmana and Srauta Sutras attests above obscene verses, following is the English translation of Baudhayana Srauta Sutra by a Hindu scholar named Chintaman Ganesh Kashikar,

Baudhayana Srauta Sutra chapter 15 verse 29 “The Adhvaryu escorts the senior queen fully decorated, making amends, being reproached (and addresses the three queens) “O Ambā, O Ambāli O Ambikā” (The senior queen says) “No person leads me. The poor horse is sleeping.” Having lain down by the side of the horse towards the north, she draws a piece of cloth over her head. The Adhvaryu covers both of them with the piece of linen with the formula, “O fair one, clad in a fair garment, do you two be covered together in the heaven.” The senior queen lays the horse’s penis on her lap with the formula, “I have clasped the impregnatory; do thou clasp me for impregnation. Let us together spread out our four legs.” The Adhvaryu follows her with the formulas, “Let the impregnator out of you deposit the seed. O horse, do thou press thy region of male organ upon the thighs (of the queen) and insert into the queen’s genitals thy penis which is the means of enjoyment of women, which dashes into their womb, and which, when entered into the genitals pleases them, and which attacks the central part of genitals within the black spot.” The senior queen censures the horse.” Tr. Dr. Chintaman Ganesh Kashikar

Sankhayana Srauta Sutra XVI.3.33-36 “When the horse has been quitened (slaughtered) they cause the first consort of the king to lie down near it. They cover them both (horse and consort) with an upper-garment. To these two the sacrificer addresses the obscene (verse). ‘Put the penis (?) into (the space between the) thighs, bring the sleek one down, which is the life and delight of women’.” Tr. W. Caland

prajananena prajananam samdhaya
Apastamba Srauta Sutra 20.18.4 Putting (its) generative organ together with (her) generative organ.

asvasisnam upasthe kurute
Katyayana Srauta Sutra 20.6.16 (The Mahisi) takes the penis of the horse in her lap.

Varaha Srauta Sutra When their two generative organs have been put together.

Satapatha Brahmana A cloth, an upper cloth, and gold is what they spread out for the horse, and on that they ‘quiet’ him. When the sacrificial animals have been ‘quieted’, the (king’s) wives come up with water for washing the feet — four wives, and a maiden as the fifth, and four hundred women attendants. When the water for washing the feet is ready, they make the chief queen (Mahishi) lie down next to the horse, and they cover the two of them up with the upper cloth as they say the verse, ‘Let the two of us cover ourselves in the world of heaven’, for the world of heaven is where they ‘quiet’ the sacrificial animal. Then they draw out the penis of the horse and place it in the vagina of the chief queen, while she says, ‘May the vigorous virile male, the layer of seed, lay the seed’; this she says for sexual intercourse. While they are lying there, the sacrificer insults the horse by saying, ‘Lift up her thighs and put it in her rectum.’ No one insults (the sacrificer) back, lest there should be someone to act as a rival against the sacrificer. The officiant (Adhvaryu) then insults the maiden: ‘Hey, maiden, hey, maiden, the little female bird …’ and she insults him back: ‘Hey, officiant, hey, officiant, that little bird….’ And then the overseer (Brahman) insults the chief queen: ‘Hey, chief queen, hey, chief queen, your mother and father climb to the top of a tree….’ She has as her attendants a hundred daughters of kings; they insult the overseer in return: ‘Hey, overseer, hey, overseer, your mother and your father play in the top of a tree….’ Then the cantor (Udgatri) insults the king’s favorite wife: ‘Hey, favorite, hey, favorite wife, raise her up erect….’ She has as her attendants a hundred royal women; they insult the cantor in return: ‘Hey, cantor, hey, cantor, raise him up erect….’ Then the invoker (Hotri) insults the rejected wife: ‘Hey, rejected wife, hey, rejected wife, when inside her tight crack….’ She has as her attendants a hundred daughters of bards and village headmen; they insult the invoker in return: ‘Hey, invoker, hey, invoker, when the gods see that miserable penis….’ Then the carver (Kshatri) insults the fourth wife: ‘Hey, fourth wife, hey, fourth wife, when the deer eats the barley, (the farmer) does not hope to nourish the animal….’ She has as her attendants a hundred daughters of carvers and charioteers; they insult the carver in return: ‘Hey, carver, hey, carver, when the deer eats the barley, (the farmer) does not hope to nourish the animal….’ These insulting speeches are for all kinds of attainment, for through the horse sacrifice all desires are achieved. Thinking, ‘With all kinds of speech we will achieve all kinds of desires’, they make the chief queen get up. Then the women walk back the way they came, and the others utter at the end a sweet-smelling verse, the verse that begins, ‘I praise Dadhikravan.’ For the life-span and the gods go out of those who speak impure speech in the sacrifice. Thus they purify their speech to keep the gods from going out of the sacrifice.”

Following is the Hindi translation of first two verses by a Hindu scholar named Pandit Ganga Prasad Upadhyaya,

As you can see, Satapatha Brahman verses are in coordination with Yajur Veda verses so there is nothing to doubt about its authenticity. Griffith has omitted the obscene verses of Yajur Veda due to the obscene necrophilia involved , He wrote in the commentary,

”This and the following nine stanzas are not reproducible even in the semi obscurity of a learned European language…- Ralph T.H Griffith on Yajur Veda 23.20, p.213. 1899 Edition.
Ralph Griffith’s translation is based on commentaries of renowned Hindu scholars and all the classical scholars gave the same interpretation so instead of translating such vulgar lines, Griffith preferred to skip those verses. If you notice the Brahmana translated by Julius Eggeling (available at, he has partially translated these verses. He has added ellipsis. The reason for this omission is because the translator found these verses to be too vulgar. But still there are some Hindus who try to explain these verses in their own way. Below I am quoting so called explanations from two apologists and I will try to refute it.


Here is the Sanskrit verse and its translation for Yajur Veda 23/20
tau ubhau chaturah padah samprasarayava swarga
lokam prasuvava vrshavaaji raghu rathau dadati
Yajur Veda 23/20
tau = we two ; ubhau = both ; chaturah = intelligent ; padah = subject ; samprasarayava = reach out ; swarga lokam = heavenly planet ; prasuvava = command ; vrshavaaji = horse ; raghu = Lord ; rathau = chariots ; dadati = provides

Translation: We both command the intelligent horse as our subject to reach out for heaven (where) the Lord provides (us) the chariots.

The real meaning here is that by performing Ashwamedha yajna, one can get the blessings (written as chariots) of the heavenly King, Indra.

And then he goes on to write how the British distorted the meaning and concocted the currently widespread meaning

Let me explain how the verse in Yajurveda 23.20 is distorted to satisfy the whims and fancies of the fabricators. The word rathao (chariots) is replaced by retau, which means ‘semen’. Next, dadati (gives) is replaced by dadhatu, which means ‘insert’. Finally, raghu (King) is strangely replaced by retaudha, which means ‘conception’. Even in the fabricated verse, it should be retaudheya and not retaudha for the sentence to be grammatically correct. This is how charlatans get caught when they distort the meaning of the verses.


Yajurveda 23.20: O ruler and the subject! You should expand bliss for everyone by putting efforts for benevolent actions, developing resources, achieving desires of soul and hence obtaining salvation. May the subject support and strengthen the ruler so that he can control the criminals.

The mantra can be interpreted for Ishwar. Ishwar is the ruler and we are the subject. We should cooperate with Ishwar in his mission to bring bliss to all of us. Only in this manner is purpose of creation justified.


I will reply to the first rebuttal. Below is the Sanskrit version of verses 19 and 20,

Readers can download the Sanskrit version of Yajur Veda from the Maharishi University of Management Vedic Literature Collection, see page 198

He translated the word reto as rathau ” rathau = chariots” this is utterly wrong, Since the word does not have (Tha), the word in verse 20 is रेतो(Reto), Reto, Reta or Retas means semen, Rath (Chariot) looks like this in Sanskrit or Hindi language रथ. One can use Google translator to check it,

He did the same thing again with the word Retodha रेतोधा, He is deliberately changing the Sanskrit words only because it is too difficult for him to explain these verses. Raghu in Sanskrit looks like this रघु, Let me again quote the Sanskrit version of verse 23.20 for the readers along with famous lexicon of V.S Apte,


[The Student’s English-Sanskrit Dictionary, page 384, by V.S. Apte, Published in 1893]
As you can see the apologist has deliberately distorted the Sanskrit words. Despite this he was still able to get tons of compliments, no Hindu cared to check such simple mistake. As far as the second rebuttal is concerned. I request the writer to explain which Sanskrit words here (in verse 20) are translated into Criminals, Ishwar, cooperate, developing resources? Have you noticed why translations of two apologists differs? It’s because they have given their own interpretation to these verses, they have not translated in accordance with Brahmanas, Puranas, and early/medieval commentaries. The difference in translations itself proves that they are trying to hide the facts. Mahidhar the renowned commentator on Vedas explained it correctly thus modern Hindus are embarrassed to even mention Mahidhara’s commentary. He wrote,

”…Since the horse is dead, the chief queen herself takes the penis [Shishan] of the dead horse and places it into her Vagina [Yoni]. She asks the horse to release semen in her [by saying] ‘May the vigorous male [horse], layer of semen, release semen in me’…” Commentary by Mahidhara on Yajur Veda 23.20

Unlike those two rebuttals, the classical scholar Mahidhara did not give his personal interpretation. He interpreted these Ashvamedha verses in accordance with Yajur Veda and Brahmana. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar also wrote,

“Another instance of obscenity which disfigured the religion of the Ancient Aryans is connected with the Ashvamedha Yajna or the horse sacrifice. A necessary part of the Ashvamedha was the introduction of the Sepas (penis) of the Medha (dead horse) into the Yoni (vagina) of the chief wife of the Yajamana (the sacrificer) accompanied by the recital of long series of Mantras by the Brahmin priests. A Mantra in the Vajasaneya Samhita (xxiii. 18) shows that there used to be a competition among the queens as to who was to receive this high honour of being served by the horse. Those who want to know more about it will find it in the commentary of Mahidhara on the Yejur-Veda where he gives full description of the details of this obscene rite which had formed a part of the Aryan religion.” Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Riddle no 23, p.295, Vol 4, Riddles in Hinduism


Swami Parmeshwarananda mentions about Ashvamedha in the Khila version of Rig Veda,

“Mahanagni says, ‘Well is the membrum virile entered; of the ‘tree having such fruit’ may we gainbasket after basket’ (AV XX.136. 9 = RV V.22. 5, with the difference that in RV at ab we have ‘the organ of the horse has entered’)…
In the form aspect there must be a human; in the latter a ritual-beast, and it is here that the horse comes in the Horse-sacrifice; for some of the mantras that precede were actually sung at the Horse-sacrifice; for some of the mantras that percede were actually sung at the Horse-sacrifice; and, under this later influence can be explained the reading in RV-Khila ‘the organ of the horse has entered’ (asvasvavesitam pasah), which we do not have at the AV.”
Encycolpaedic Dictionary of Vedic Terms by Swami Parmeshwaranand, Vol 2, p.356-8, Published by Sarup & Sons, 2006 Reprint

Swami Vivekananda also mentions about Ashvamedha Yagna but he doesn’t mention it clearly because of the obscenity, he wrote, 

“And in the Vedic Ashvamedha sacrifice worse things would be done…. All the Brahmanas mention them, and all the commentators admit them to be true. How can you deny them?
What I mean by mentioning all this is that there were many good things in the ancient times, but there were bad things too.” The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume 6/Epistles – Second Series/LXXI Rakhal [ ]

What is the worse thing that Swami Vivekananda talking about? We have read what Brahmanas and commentator says about Ashvamedha Yajna, and that’s what Swami Vivekananda is hinting here. Swami Vivekananda is surely not talking about horse slaughter, for had he meant slaughter here he would’ve clearly mentioned about it like he mentioned animal slaughter in other lectures and works of his. For more details on vulgarity in Vedas read articles Obscenity in Vedas and Hinduism and Lust.


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