There are many people who believe that it was due to Buddhism that Vegeterianism was introduced into Hinduism. Again let me quote some paragraphs from the book I am reading now “Gem in the Lotus”:http://penguinbooksindia.com/Books/aspBookDetail.asp?ID=2951 by Abraham Eraly.
bq. Buddhist monks were not vegetarians, but they were forbidden to eat the meat of an animal specifically slaughtered to feed them, for that would indirectly make them the killers of the animal. Said Buddha: “Let no one, O monks, knowingly eat the meat[of an animal killed for that purpose…] I prescribe, O monks, that flesh (or fish) is pure to you in three cases: if you do not see, if you have not heard, if you do not suspect[that it has been caught or killed specially to prepare food for you].”
That was from the chapter titled “Gem in the Lotus”, which is what Eraly calls Buddha. He continues to mention that Buddha himself was a non-vegetarian. On his way to Kushinara, Buddha was resting at a place called Pava and one of his devotees, a metalsmith of the name Cunda invited Buddha for a meal.
bq. There sitting the Exalted One called to Cunda and said: “Cunda, as to that fat hog’s flesh which you have prepared, serve me with it, but serve the brethren with whatsoever food both soft and hard, you have prepared”
bq. Buddha, it seems had a weakness for pork—his favourite food, says Milinda-panha, was “tender boar’s flesh, and rice porridge boiled in milk”
But after eating this food prepared by Cunda, Buddha fell seriously ill, and with great difficulty he reached Kushinara and left his body.
“Srijith”:http://www.srijith.net/trinetre/ sent a link to an article “Paradox of the Indian Cow”:http://www.ercwilcom.net/~indowindow/sad/godown/history/dnjha.htm which traces the attitudes to beef eating in Ancient India, and you will find that beef eating was not much of a big deal.
So “Brahmins were non-vegetarians”:http://varnam.org/archives/000088.html. Buddha was a non-vegetarian. So from when did this Vegetarian thing get such prominence in Hinduism ?