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Use Of Animal Skin In Hinduism

The term use to refer to the use of animal skin in Hinduism is known as Ajina. The word literally means ‘skin of goat’ (aga is goat or skin in general). Ajina has come to be associated primarily with deer skin, especially that of the antelope.

Since skin of various animals was also used to make the bellows for the ironsmiths, ajina is also the term for the bellows in Sanskrit. In fact, ajina in general means small leather pouches. Those who deal with the skin trade were called ajina gandha.

Mrigaya (a deer hunt) was one of the vayasa (stock vices or hobbies) of the royalty in India. While venison was part of the royal food, deer skin was used as apparel by the aged vanaprasthins (forest dwellers) of the royal caste.

Later on, all castes used it to sit on while meditating or worshipping. Use of skin in this way by Hindus can be traced back to the Vedic times.

Manu Smriti (II.41) states that the Dwija Brahmacharin (Vedic students of the twice born castes) were required to wear, as an upper garment, the skin of a black antelope, spotted deer or male goat.

Shiva is associated with skin garments, particularly of the tiger and elephant. Therefore, he is called Kritivasas (Kritti = skin, vasa = garment). At a royal coronation, the king elect is to sit on a bhadrasana (auspicious seat) made of tiger skin, below which are place the skins of four animals – the cat, lion, cheetah and bull.

Source – notes taken from Encyclopedia of Hinduism Volume I page 127 – IHRF