Why Hindus worship cows?

Why Hindus worship cows?

When I go out of India people ask me, “Why do you Indians worship the cow? It is food, we eat it.” I am at a loss to say anything under these circumstances. There are a whole lot of misgivings about the ‘holy cow’ as foreigners call it. I have never been able to give a convincing reply to them.

On the other hand, in the West, I have also come across people who call themselves ‘vegans’. They are not only vegetarians but also do not consume dairy products. Most of them have turned vegan, after witnessing the ill treatment of cows in modern dairy farms, where milking is done by automatic machines. Machines are attached to the udders of the cow and programmed to milk the cow for a certain period of time. At times the machine go on milking till the cow starts bleeding. The cow not only experiences torture but her blood is mixed with the milk. Many people are simply revolted at the thought of consuming such milk or its products.

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My daughter Priya while in school, at Krishnamurthy Study Centre at Brockwood Park, in UK, had become a staunch vegan, influenced by some of her English teachers. After she returned to India, it took a lot of persuasion for her to restart taking dairy products.

My experience has shown that there are people both in the East and West who believe in gentler treatment to the animal, who is so giving and so forgiving.

Recently, when I visited Om Shakthi Narayani Siddar Peetam at Ariyur near Vellore, I saw the goshala (cow protection shelter) belonging to the Peetam. It has more than thirty cows, many of them about to have calves. They were being given a very humane treatment. The milking is done manually by the inmates of the peetam. Each one has been given a lovely name like Kamakshi, Meenakshi, Almelu, Karpagham and so on. They provide milk for the peetam and for the children who study in the nursery school run by the peetam. The goshala figures as an important activity on the welfare agenda of the peetam.

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In the modern philosophy of philanthrophy, goshalas normally do not a find a place. However, I have seen goshalas in many traditional institutions. There is one in Kanchi Math, existing perhaps from the time of Adhi Shankara himself. In ancient India, the setting up of a goshala was perhaps considered an act of the highest charity but in modern day there are not many takers for the concept. Yet, off and on you come across people like the Narayani Amman, who consider it an important activity. During my visit I asked her about the importance of this activity. This is how she enlightened me:

“Apart from one’s own mother the only other creature to be known as Matha (mother) is Gomatha, (the mother cow). Apart from drinking the mother’s milk, a human being drinks only cow’s milk. The mother’s blood is converted into milk and so is the case with the cow’s milk. Even a mother feeds only her own child, that too for a maximum period of two years; whereas the mother cow feeds everyone without any distinction and forever.

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The milk of other animals cannot be consumed for two reasons namely:

  1. The nature of the cow is gentler than even the human nature so by consuming her milk the good nature of human beings is only enhanced. Whereas if the milk of an elephant or donkey is consumed, it would be harmful for the human nature.
  2. The second reason is that the cow is the only animal who has been made bountiful by God almighty. She has four udders and just the milk of one udder is enough to feed her own calf. She is still able to spare the milk in three other udders for the use of others.
  3. In scriptures there is a saying, that her first udder is for the calf, second for the owner, the third for Brahma the creator and the fourth one is for humanity.
  4. One of the important reason for the cow to have a very high status in the Hindu way of life is that she is the giver of the Ghee (the clarified Butter) the most important ingredient in the ritual of performing ‘Homa’ (making offerings to the gods in the fire). Homa is necessary to satisfy the Gods so that human beings can have both rain and sunshine.
  5. The Pancha komayam (five products given by the cow), namely milk, curd, clarified butter, urine and excreta are considered to be very sacred and potent. In ancient India, sages used to drink it to live long and healthy. They could live beyond 120 years.
  6. Mahalakshmi (Goddess of wealth) appears where Gopuja (worship of the cow) takes place. Her presence leads to prosperity. Gopuja makes the community happy and generates activity and resources.
  7. Gods live in different organs of the cow. Thirthas like, river Ganga and Jamuna live in her horns, Shiva lives in the neck, Varuna on her tongue, Yama (The God of Death) in her heart; in her legs live the the Himalayas, Vindhyas and Paravatamalaya, below her neck live the Nagas (snakes), Gods and Gandharvas (angels). Her dung is river Yamuna while her urine is river Ganga. Her blood is the Goddess earth, her teeth the Ocean God and in her lap lives the God of Nectar. The other Gods which are also with her are Parvati, Ganapati, Nagesha, Ashwinidevtam, Surya, Chandra, etc.”

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