Social media in recent times is been misused to post articles on subjects that are got from half-baked knowledge. Jnana (Knowledge) has no limits as the count of the subjects is numerous. In that sense we all lack the Paripoorna (Complete) knowledge. But one can access knowledge of a particular subject completely. There are two dimensions in obtaining knowledge of a subject; one is Pakva (Perfect) and Poorna (Thorough). When the knowledge obtained is not perfect it will be Apakva (Half-baked).
A group in Face book which has members who claim to be Hetu Shastris (Dialectics) have posted a write up on “Ashwamedha Yagna” without thinking logically as to what it mean. All most all members in the group belonged to Hindu religion. To give a chance for those from the other religion to counter the validity of Ahimsa (Non-injury) practiced in Hindu religion, the post on this Ashwamedha was uploaded. I am not a Sanskrit scholar but while reading from a few scriptures and a few literature my understanding about Ashwamedha Yagna is completely different to what is posted.
The author of the post says that a horse was sacrificed (killed) by King Dasharatha as a part of ritual to have progeny. As I understand Yagna is an auspicious ritual and there might not have been bloodshed by killing of a horse or any kind of animal. The word Ashwamedha has two words which are “Ashwa” meaning horse and “Medha” meaning sacrifice. These two words are from Sanskrit Dictionary and it seems to be pointing out to horse killing...isn’t it???
No, the word Ashwamedha can be found in scriptures dated to the Vedic period so if we look for the meaning in the Sanskrit Dictionary we are likely to be misled. Those words which are from the scriptures fromVedic period one has to refer to Nighantu and Nirukta complied by Yaskacharya in 7th century B.C, it is the oldest treatise on etymology, philology and semantics.
In the etymology of the word Ashwamedha, the Dhatupada (root word) is “ash” which means “to consume” and that which consumes is called “Ashwa”.
So, is Ashwa in Ashwamedha a horse???
No, in Sanskrit a word is understood in three different contexts namely Laukika (worldly sense), Yaugika (derivative sense) and Yogarudha (etymological sense). The Nighantu (Vocabulary) clarifies it. Here Ashwa is derived from Ash which is to consume and in Laukika (worldly sense) that animal is called horse. Yaskacharya gives the explanation by saying “Ashnati Adhvanam iti Ashwa” Ashnati is consume; Adhvan is path or road, so, that which consumes the path is Ashwa. This is the Yaugika (derivative) meaning of Ashwa.
After getting the Dhatupada from the Nighantu we have to consult the Nirukta (Interpreter) which equates our Pancha Indriyas (Five Senses) to Ashwa. Nayana (Eyes) consume the Drusti (Sight); Sravana (Ears) consume Sabdha (Sound); Jihva (Tongue) consumes Ruchi (Taste); Nasika (Nose) consumes Gandha (Smell) and Tvaca (Skin) consumes Sparsha (Touch). We can recall the analogy of the chariot in Kathopanishad where the horses are likened to our senses and the reins holding them is the mind, intellect is the charioteer and the Self is the traveler going on the road called life.