- In Hinduism, Lord Krishna is depicted frolicking with cows and is shown playing his flute amongst cows and Gopis, or milkmaids
- Ayurveda places importance on the sattvic properties of cow milk and other dairy products
- Milk, paneer (home-made cheese), ghee (home-made butter), urine and dung are the five things that cows provide that give it its reverence
For those who practice Hinduism, the divinity of the cow is unquestioned. So why are cows considered sacred in the first place in Hinduism? Well, the answer lies in the oldest Hindu scriptures, the Vedas.
It is interesting to note that in ancient times, cattle, and even oxen, were often offered as a sacrifice to the gods and the meat was widely eaten. Nevertheless, the milk produced by them was considered an irreplaceable food source and milk-producing cows were not used in the rituals even then.
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Soon after, one of the three main gods in Hinduism, Lord Krishna, started to be depicted frolicking with cows. He was shown as playing his flute amongst cows and Gopis, or milkmaids. The god himself is often referred to as Govinda and Gopala (friend and protector of cows) and is known to have grown up as a cow herder. Even his transport is Nandi, a sacred bull. The Vedas also associate the cow with Aditi, the mother of all gods. The imagery often consists of white cows with flower garlands to emphasize their esteem.
Contrary to popular belief, Hindus do not think that the animal itself is a god and do not worship it.
A cow is instead considered as a sacred symbol of life that is to be protected and admired. This is why it is considered sinful to kill a cow or eat beef. The answer may also lie partly with Ayurveda and the importance it places on the sattvic properties of cow milk and other dairy products. They are believed to be an important source of Ojas, which boosts immunity and provides strength. Additionally, milk and dairy products are all said to be highly nutritious and provide protein and calcium for our bodies.
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The unparalleled uses of the cow do not end there. Milk, paneer (home-made cheese), ghee (home-made butter), urine and dung are the five things that cows provide that give it its reverence. Cow dung is often used as a fuel in rural areas in India as it contains high levels of methane and generates heat and electricity. Many houses in villages also plaster the outside of the walls of their homes with a mud and cow dung mixture to provide insulation. It is also rich in minerals and is an excellent natural fertilizer for the soil.
All in all, the history and practical uses of the cow and the things it provides grant it the level of sanctity that it has today. This places the animal on par with the deities and makes sit just as sacred to the Hindus.
– by Varsha Gupta of NewsGram. Twitter: @VarshaGupta94