Many devout Hindus do not eat meat in general and beef in particular because of the teaching of the principle of sanctity of life and nonviolence toward animals that is central to the faith. However, most Hindus are stricter in terms of not eating beef because they consider cow as a holy manifestation of the divinity. Most Hindus would not consume meat of animals closely related to the cow, such as buffalos.
Killing cows is forbidden in Hinduism and has even historically sparked riots in India. However, some Hindu cultures in Nepal do sacrifice buffalos and consume their meat. Most Hindu people in India would even strongly reject the idea of the consumption of the meat of the buffalo. The practice of eating or not eating beef among Hindus may have more to do with the established culture of the region.
Many Hindus consider all life sacred and follow the principles of nonviolence towards animals, which is why some of them refrain from eating the flesh of animals. However, animal sacrifice is practiced in Hinduism. Contrary to the popular belief, not all Hindu sects practice vegetarianism, which has become more of a popular stereotype for Hindu population around the world. But vegetarianism is widely practiced nevertheless, especially among the Vaishanavas and Shivaite sects. Yet, the modern Indian society cannot be termed predominantly vegetarian in their dietary habits. A number of Brahmins, especially those in Bengal, are permitted to consume meat.
Still there is religious basis to the vegetarianism of many Hindu sects. Several Hindu scriptures forbid the eating of flesh, such as the Rig Veda. However, not everyone agrees the poetic language of the Vedas to be an outright condemnation of the consumption of meat. A condemnation is also found in the Atharva Veda, while in Yajurveda scripture, curiously enough, there is a mention of preparation of beef.
The Hindu dietary laws are laid out in detail in the Ancient Sanskrit scripture known as the Dharmasastras or the Knowledge of the Faith. The scripture lays emphasis on food etiquette and taboos attached to food and many Hindus follow these rules.