3-199-6, 3-199-7, 3-199-8, Sanskrit Verse
Aranya Parva - Volume 3 (Volume of Forest)
Raagnoo mahaanase puurvaan
Rantidevasya vai dvija
dvee sahasree tu vadhyetee
pas`uunaam anvahan tadaa
samaansan dadaato hi annaan
atulaa kiirtir abhavan
vadhyanta iti nityasaha.
The sage Markandeya (pronunciation: Maarkand`eeya) clarifies doubts of Yudhisht`ira on various matters of duties, ethics and righteousness. The verse quoted here is from Vyaasa Mahabharata, Book 3 (BOOK OF FORESTS - Aran`ya Parva also called Vana Parva), Chapter 199 (in some books Sec. 207. This number may vary from version to version). Verse Nos. 6,7,8.
Markandeya narrated the story of Dharma Vyadha and Kausika. Kausika was a Brahmin proud of himself. His ascetic powers proved to be a naught before a dutiful housewife. He was remorseful. The housewife asked him to approach Dharmavyadha for learning the secrets of duties and ethics. Dharmavyadha was a butcher, selling meat. When Kausika approached him, he was in his stall selling venison (meat). After Dharmavyadha completed his day's work, Kausika got his doubts clarified.
In old days 2000 cattle used be killed in the court of Ranti Deva. Everyday he distributed the meat and food and earned fame. For the performance of the ritual of FOUR MONTHS (caaturmaasyam), everyday animals are killed. In the next verses Dharma Vyadha (butcher) expressed the view that no sin attaches to the King and Brahmins when the animals are killed in a sacrifice.
Emperor Ranti Deva was very famous for his generosity in Mahabhagavata. He even foregoes his own drinking water and food to save the life of a thirsty and hungry wayfarer who was of a very low caste. Here he lives an unkindly life.
The above verses mention that 2000 cattle were killed and not 2000 "cows". Though the term "cattle" may include cows, it does not specifically mention cows. However, the translation by Shri Kisari Mohan Ganguli's translation mentions 2000 cows (available at Sacred-texts.com).