Jhatka, or Chatka (jhàṭkā IPA: [tʃə̀ʈkɑ]), is meat from an animal killed instantaneously, such as by a single strike of a sword or axe to sever the head. This method of meat production is opposed to slow bleed, ritualistic slaughter (kutha) methods such as the kosher (shechita) and halal (dhabihah).
Jhatka meat is mandated for Sikhs by the tenth Guru:
According to the ancient Aryan Hindu 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. However, with the coming of Islam into India and the Muslim political hegemony, it became a state policy not to permit slaughter of animals for food, in any other manner, except as laid down in the Quran - the halal meat prepared by severing the main blood artery of the throat of the animal. 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 and the right of ruling Muslims to impose it on the non-Muslims. Accordingly, he made jhatka meat obligatory for those Sikhs who may be interested in taking meat as a part of their food.
For Sikhs, 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. The Sikh Rahit Maryada forbids hair-cutting, adultery, the use of intoxicants, and the consumption of kutha meat (halal meat).
During the British Raj, jhatka meat was not allowed in jails, and Sikh detainees during the Akali movement and beyond had 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 as a Sikh Martial Heritage.
On religious Sikh festivals, including Hola Mohalla and Vaisakhi, at the Hazur Sahib Nanded, Fatehgarh Sahib, and many other Sikh Gurdwaras, jhatka meat is offered as "mahaprasad" to all visitors in a Gurdwara.
Some Sikh Organizations, such as the Damdami Taksal and Akhand Kirtani Jatha, have their own codes of conduct. These organizations define kutha meat as any type of slaughtered meat, and eating meat of any type is forbidden.
In the diversity of Hinduism, many Hindus are vegetarians from their belief in Ahimsa (non-injury, non-violence), and to minimize suffering to all life forms, but there is no binding religious dietary law in Hinduism, and the choice is left to the Hindu. Many Shaivite and Shakta Hindus, for example, offer meat and liquor as part of certain ritual worship, and then consume the meat. Hindus who eat meat seek jhatka meat.
Comparison of Jhatka, Shechita, and Halal methods
All three methods use sharp knives. In the Shechita and Halal method, 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. In the Jhatka method, a swift uninterrupted cut severs the head and the spine.. In the Halal method, a prayer to God (Allah/Ad-nai) is required at the start or if there is any interruption during Shchita meat production, but before every slaughter in Halal meat production.
Availability of jhatka 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, although jhatka has become more widely available in the United Kingdom.
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Halal is the method preferred by Muslims and jhatka by the Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, etc.
- Pashaura Singh (2013). Karen Pechilis and Selva Raj, ed. 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".
- Jamie S. Scott (2012). The Religions of Canadians. University of Toronto Press. p. 320. ISBN 978-1-4426-0516-9.
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- jhaTiti Sanskrit English Dictionary, Koeln University, Germany; same definition is in Monier Williams Sanskrit English Dictionary and Apte Etymology and Dictionary
- 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."
- HS Singha (2009),Sikhism: A Complete Introduction, Hemkunt Press, ISBN 978-8170102458, pages 81-82
- 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."
- 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 not Halal meat that is jagged in the Muslim fashion."
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- Order No. Tax/F.15(25)DLB/63 Published in the Govt. Gazette on 13-02-1965 (Part 6)
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