Myth of Prof. D. N. Jha

Posted by Himanshu Parcha
July 14, 2017


“Prof. D.N. Jha needs no introduction” it is the claim made by various speakers presented at the public meeting on “Agrarian Crisis, Cow Politics and Lynching” called by Bhumi Adhikar Andolan held at Constitution Club of India on July 7, 2017. Prof. Jha was a speaker there, and he speaks on Cow, which he is famous for. As he said, he summarized his famous and controversial (to some people) book “The Myth of the Holy Cow” in that talk. He tracked down the history of scholars – Indian and Western who speaks about eating of beef and particularly cows by the Hindus (formerly Vedic people). According to Prof. Jha, Prof H.S. Wilson of Oxford was the first Western scholar who claimed that the Hindus were beef-eaters. In 1883, Rajan Lal Mitra, a scholar closed to Rabindranath Tagore made the same claim and in the year 1940 Prof. P.V. Kane, a famous sanskritist, in his history of Dharamshastras mentioned about the beef-eating habits of the Hindus and in 1963, H. D. Sankalia, an archeologist, in his works argued about archeological evidence that proves Prof. Jha’s claim that “the Hindus or specifically Brahmins were beef-eaters”. In this way, Prof. Jha provides us a chronologically consistent and historically enriched survey to debunk the myth of the ‘Holy Cow’.
D N Jha Speaking in a public meeting on Agrarian Crisis, Cow Politics and Lynching at Constitution Club of India.
But in his discourse, he uttered a myth himself and claimed a legitimacy for that and the myth was that “the Buddha died of meat-eating”. It is very treacherous that a renowned historian who is famous for debunking myths is himself entrapped in a myth. Prof. Jha says that “Buddha died of pork-eating” and “phrase for that (in Pali) is sūkar-maddava” and he believed and claimed that sūkar-maddava is nothing but pork. Whatever Prof. Jha says about Buddha and cause of his death is nothing more than a Wikipedia-centric knowledge. This is not a very simple and unconscious claim of Prof. Jha because, if we accept his claim, that the Buddha died of meat-eating than it will create a serious ontological threat to the Buddhism’s core teaching i.e., ahimsa (non-violence). Sūkara-maddava has been variously translated by scholars. Herbert Franke, a German sinologist in his studies on China translated sūkar-maddava as “soft (tender) boar’s flesh”, Oldenberg and Fleet follow the suit. Ivan Morris’s account of Arthur Waley gives various interpretations of sūkara-maddava viz. a pig’s soft food (food for pig), pig’s delight, food crushed by a pig. 
So, in opposition to Prof. Jha’s claim, a large number of Buddhist scholars suggested that sūkar-maddava is not pork. In fact, the word in Pali, which is used for pork is sūkarmamsa and not sūkar-maddava. The most cited and acclaimed of the Buddhist scholars T.W. Rhys Davis translated sūkar-maddava as ‘quantity of truffles’, while some Buddhist scholars argued that there are compounds in Pali which start with the prefix sūkar, but means radically different than that of pork, e.g. sūkar-sali means wild rice. So, it can be said that Prof. Jha has a serious myth regarding Buddha’s death, which needs to be debunked.
(In-text link is given for references)

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