Kirpan - religious decapitating sword used for animal slaughter by Sikhs
Kirpan - religious decapitating sword used for animal slaughter by Sikhs

Jhatka, or Jhataka or chatka (jhàṭkā IPA: [tʃə̀ʈkɑ]), is the meat from an animal killed instantaneously, such as by a single strike of a sword or axe to sever the head within the Sikh religion. This type of slaughter is preferred by most Sikhs as well as meat-consuming Buddhists and some khatiks of the Punjab region and North India, also within this method of butchering the animal must not be scared or shaken before the slaughter.

Etymology

Jhatka (Punjabi: ਝਟਕਾ (Gurmukhi), جھٹکا (Shahmukhi)) is alleged to be derived from the Sanskrit word Jhatiti (झटिति) which means "instantly, quickly, at once".[1][2]

Importance in Sikhism

Although not all Sikhs maintain the practice of eating meat butchered in this style, it is well known by most Sikhs to have been mandated by the ten Sikh Gurus:

According to the Sikh tradition, only such meat as is obtained from an animal which is killed with one stroke of the weapon causing instantaneous death is fit for human consumption. Guru Gobind Singh took a rather serious view of this aspect of the whole matter. He, therefore, while permitting flesh to be taken as food repudiated the whole theory of this expiatory sacrifice. Accordingly, he made jhatka meat obligatory for those Sikhs who may be interested in taking meat as a part of their food.

— HS Singha, Sikhism, A Complete Introduction[3][4][5]

As stated in the official Khalsa Code of Conduct as well as the Sikh Rehat Maryada, Kutha meat is forbidden, and Sikhs are recommended to eat the jhatka form of meat.[6][7]

Jhatka karna or jhatkaund refers to the instantaneous severing of the head of an animal with a single stroke of any weapon, with the underlying intention of killing the animal whilst causing it minimal suffering.[2]

During the British Raj, the Sikhs began to assert their right to slaughter through Jhatka.[4] When jhatka meat was not allowed in jails, and Sikhs detained for their part in the Akali movement to resort to violence and agitations to secure this right. Among the terms in the settlement between the Akalis and the Muslim Unionist government in Punjab in 1942 was that jhatka meat be continued by Sikhs.

On religious Sikh festivals, including Hola Mohalla and Vaisakhi, at the Hazur Sahib Nanded, and many other Sikh Gurdwaras, jhatka meat is offered as "mahaprasad" to all visitors in a Gurdwara.[8] This practice is considered to be unacceptable by modern Sikh sects who believe only lacto-vegetarian langar is supposed to be served inside gurudwaras after the introduction of Colonial-era "Mahants" and "Udasis" into Sikh Gurdwaras.[8]

Some Sikh organizations, such as the Akhand Kirtani Jatha, have their own codes of conduct regarding meat consumption. These organizations define kutha meat as any type of slaughtered meat, and eating meat of any type is forbidden aside from that which is slaughtered on religious festivals and individual "Akhand paht" 3-day prayers.[9]

Comparison with Kosher and Halal methods

Both methods use sharp knives. In the kosher and halal methods, Shechita and dhabihah respectively, the animal is slaughtered by one swift, uninterrupted cut severing the trachea, esophagus, carotid arteries, jugular veins, and vagus nerves, followed by a period where the blood of the animal is drained out.[10][11] In the Jhatka method, a swift uninterrupted cut severs the head and the spine.[10][11] In both Shechita and Dhabihah, a prayer to God is required at the start of the slaughtering process. In Shechita one prayer is sufficient for the slaughter of multiple animals, so long as there is no interruption between them; in Dhabihah a separate prayer is required before each animal is slaughtered.[11]

Terminology for non-jhatka products

Slaughter by mean such as kosher and halal does not meet the requirements of jhatka and the products of it are referred to as kutha meat – abstention from which is one of the requirements for a Sikh to be an initiated Khalsa or sahajdhari according to the Rehat Maryada (Sikh code of conduct).[12][13][14][15]

In Sikhism, there are three objections to non-jhatka or kutha products: the first being the belief that sacrificing an animal in the name of God is ritualism and something to be avoided; the second being the belief that killing an animal with a slow bleeding method is inhumane; and the third being historic opposition of the right of ruling Muslims to impose its practices on non-Muslims.[16] However, kutha meat doesn't include just Halal or Kosher meat but any meat produced by slow bleeding or the perceived religious sacrifice of animals, including meat from animals slaughtered ritualistically in Hinduism, for instance.[17]

Dietary avoidance out of politeness

Sikhs also generally avoid eating beef out of consideration for the feelings of Hindus and also because the cow, the buffalo and the ox are an integral part of rural Sikh livelihoods.[18][19] Similarly, they avoid eating pork when they are in the company of Muslims. However, there is no religious prohibition about eating beef and pork.[18]

Availability

In Ajmer (Rajasthan, India), there are many jhatka shops, with various bylaws requiring shops to display clearly that they sell jhatka meat.[20]

By contrast there is no rule to affix board marking shops selling HALAL meat.

In the past, there has been little availability of jhatka meat in the United Kingdom, so people have found themselves eating other types of meat,[21] although jhatka has become more widely available.[22]

See also

References

  1. ^ jhaTiti Sanskrit English Dictionary, Koeln University, Germany; same definition is in Monier Williams Sanskrit English Dictionary and Apte Etymology and Dictionary
  2. ^ a b Paul Fieldhouse (2017). Food, Feasts, and Faith: An Encyclopedia of Food Culture in World Religions. ABC-CLIO. pp. 30–31. ISBN 978-1-61069-412-4., Quote: "Jhatka, which comes from the Sanskrit word jhatiti meaning "at once", is a method of slaughter in which a single rapid jerk or blow to the head is believed to produce the least amount of suffering for the animal. (...) Unlike in Islam, there is no religious ritual that accompanies the killing."
  3. ^ HS Singha (2009), Sikhism: A Complete Introduction, Hemkunt Press, ISBN 978-8170102458, pages 81-82
  4. ^ a b Skoda, Uwe; Lettmann, Birgit (October 30, 2017). India and Its Visual Cultures: Community, Class and Gender in a Symbolic Landscape. SAGE Publishing India. ISBN 9789386446695 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ Chandar, Y. Udaya (2020-02-25). The Strange Compatriots for Over a Thousand Years. Notion Press. ISBN 978-1-64760-859-0.
  6. ^ Singh, I. J., Sikhs and Sikhism ISBN 81-7304-058-3 "And one Semitic practice clearly rejected in the Sikh code of conduct is eating flesh of an animal cooked in ritualistic manner; this would mean kosher and halal meat. The reason again does not lie in religious tenet but in the view that killing an animal with a prayer is not going to ennoble the flesh. No ritual, whoever conducts it, is going to do any good either to the animal or to the diner. Let man do what he must to assuage his hunger. If what he gets, he puts to good use and shares with the needy, then it is well used and well spent, otherwise not."
  7. ^ Mini Encyclopaedia of Sikhism by H.S. Singha, Hemkunt Press, Delhi. ISBN 81-7010-200-6 "The practice of the Gurus is uncertain. Guru Nanak seems to have eaten venison or goat, depending upon different Janamsakhi versions of a meal which he cooked at Kurukshetra which evoked the criticism of Brahmins. Guru Amardas ate only rice and lentils but this abstention cannot be regarded as evidence of vegetarianism, only of simple living. Guru Gobind Singh also permitted the eating of meat but he prescribed that it should be jhatka meat and never Halal meat that is in the Muslim fashion."
  8. ^ a b "The most special occasion of the Chhauni is the festival of Diwali which is celebrated for ten days. This is the only Sikh shrine at Amritsar where Maha Prasad (meat) is served on special occasions in Langar", The Sikh review, Volume 35, Issue 409 - Volume 36, Issue 420, Sikh Cultural Centre, 1988
  9. ^ Spirit, Khalsa. "Khalsa Rehat". KhalsaSpirit.com. KhalsaSpirit.com. Retrieved 13 March 2016.
  10. ^ a b Neville Gregory and Temple Grandin (2007), Animal Welfare and Meat Production, CABI, ISBN 978-1845932152, pages 207-208
  11. ^ a b c Amy J Fitzgerald (2015), Animals as Food, Michigan State University Press, ISBN 978-1611861747
  12. ^ Opinderjit Kaur Takhar (2016). Sikh Identity: An Exploration of Groups Among Sikhs. Taylor & Francis. pp. 38–39. ISBN 978-1-351-90010-2.
  13. ^ Karen Pechilis; Selva J. Raj (2013). South Asian Religions: Tradition and Today. Routledge. p. 242. ISBN 978-0-415-44851-2. The Sikh Rahit Maryada forbids hair cutting, adultery, the use of intoxicants, and the eating of kutha meat, or meat of an animal or fowl slaughtered slowly.
  14. ^ Pashaura Singh (2013). Karen Pechilis; Selva Raj (eds.). South Asian Religions: Tradition and Today. Routledge. p. 242. ISBN 978-0-415-44851-2., Quote: "The Sikh Rahit Maryada forbids hair cutting, adultery, the use of intoxicants, and the eating of Kutha meat, that is Muslim halal meat, obtained through the slow bleeding or religious sacrifice of animals".
  15. ^ Jamie S. Scott (2012). The Religions of Canadians. University of Toronto Press. p. 320. ISBN 978-1-4426-0516-9.
  16. ^ Singha, Dr. H.S. (30 May 2009). "7 Sikh Traditions and Customs". Sikhism: A Complete Introduction. Sikh Studies. Vol. Book 7 (Paperback ed.). New Delhi: Hemkunt Press. p. 81. ISBN 978-81-7010-245-8. Retrieved 25 November 2010.
  17. ^ Aditya Menon (14 May 2020). "Why Hindutva Outfits Are Calling for a Boycott of Halal Products". The Quint. Retrieved 23 October 2021.
  18. ^ a b Rait, S.K. (2005). Sikh Women in England: Their Religious and Cultural Beliefs and Social Practices. Trentham Books. p. 62. ISBN 9781858563534.
  19. ^ Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair (2013). Sikhism: A Guide for the Perplexed. Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 171–172. ISBN 978-1-4411-0231-7.
  20. ^ Order No. Tax/F.15(25)DLB/63 Published in the Govt. Gazette on 13-02-1965 (Part 6)
  21. ^ Sikh women in England: their religious and cultural beliefs and social practices By S. K. Rait, p. 63 Trentham Books, 2005 ISBN 1-85856-353-4
  22. ^ Food safety and quality assurance: foods of animal origin By William T. Hubbert, Page 254 Wiley-Blackwell, 1996 ISBN 0-8138-0714-X