human sacrifice

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Conceptually the highest form of Vedic sacrifice (yajña), modelled on the primeval dismembering of the cosmic puruṣa in the Puruṣasūkta of the Ṛg Veda. In principle, all sacrifices require the immolation of the patron (yajamāna); in ritualized practice, however, the human victim is replaced by a substitute. It is not possible to judge the extent to which suggestions of the necessity of human sacrifice in, for instance, the agnicayana ritual, or in the construction of buildings and bridges, were at one time intended to be taken literally. From the accounts in some Purāṇas (e.g. the Kālikā), it is clear that some Tantric worship of the Goddess (Devī) was thought to require regular human sacrifice, and its practice in some temples is reported into the 19th century. Stories of individually motivated human sacrifice in remote areas of northern India still appear from time to time in the national press.

Subjects: Hinduism.

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