In conversation with The Telegraph, Nrisingha Prasad Bhaduri, a leading Indologist and expert in Vedic scriptures, has discussed various references to beef in India's ancient and religious texts.
"The Vedas encapsulate the essence of Hindu dharma. They are replete with instances of sages and even gods consuming beef. In fact, a guest in a Hindu household used to be referred to - according to the Vedas -as ' goghna' or he who is served beef as part of the hospitality ritual," he said.
Beef has become a political issues since the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party government swept to power in 2014. Self appointed gau rakshaks have used religion to justify violence against Muslims and Dalits, the two communities which rely on cattle for their livelihood.
Academics like Bhaduri and D.N. Jha, the historian from Delhi University who authored The Myth of the Holy Cow, have argued that the Hindu right misrepresents India's ancient history to serve political ends.
Speaking to Frontline magazine in 2015, Jha said, "The cow was neither unslayable nor sacred in the Vedic period."
"The views of the Sangh Parivar on the cow issue are unprincipled and hypocritical. K.R. Malkani, its one-time ideologue, said as early as 1966 without equivocation that flesh of cows dying a natural death can be eaten. How does it go with the Parivar's foolish demand for a blanket national ban on cow slaughter?" he said.
While speaking to The Telegraph, Bhaduri said that it was customary for cows to be offered to priests in the Vedic age. In fact, he said, beef was a compulsory offering.
Indra, who Hindus believe is the god of rain and heaven, ate beef, according to the academic. The Rig Veda, he said, mentions that Indra asks to be served 15 to 20 cooked oxen.
Citing the Shatapath Brahman, a Vedic text, and Yajnavalkya, an ancient philosopher, Bhaduri, said, "'I eat it (beef) only if it is cooked till it is tender'."
Read the full interview with the The Telegraph.