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The belief of Cow sanctity and worship in Hinduism

Ashtottaram 21


                    OṀ (AUM) –GO-POO-JAA-BHOO-MYAI— NA-MA-HA

                      गोपूजाभूम्यै नमः

                     (Gopūja: ‘Cow worship’)

There is an Indian proverb that says that the joys of the world do not exist for one without wealth, and cattle formed the wealth of the primitive inhabitants of the globe. Hence the sages of old have in their profound wisdom laid it down that the worship of the bulls and cows at least once a year at least is necessary to be free from want, disease, and sin.

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Belief in the sanctity of the cow has been a basic tenet of Hinduism since the ancient days. Though sacrifice of a cow or a bull and eating its flesh were present in the remote past, by the time of the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa, its sacredness had been recognized and eating its flesh prohibited. The Ṛigveda calls the cow Aghnya (not fit to be killed) and praises it highly. The bull and the cow were at the very center of the agricultural society of the Vedic Seers. Milk and milk products were used in sacrificial rites, and this must have been largely responsible for the prohibition on harming the cow. 

The epics and the purāṇās have showered high encomiums on the cow and on gifting it (godāna). Cows on earth have been described as the daughters of the celestial cow Surabhi or Kāmadhenu. All the gods are said to reside in its various limbs. The cow is considered so pure that for certain religious rites, the performer has to live and sleep in the cow-pen for a specified period. Panchagavya (a mixture of the five products of a cow,-milk, curds, ghee, dung, and urine) is considered holy and is consumed during certain religious rites, especially of an expiatory nature.

Ashtottaram 21
The Ṛigveda calls the cow Aghnya (not fit to be killed) and praises it highly. The bull and the cow were at the very center of the agricultural society of the Vedic Seers. Flickr

The earth has often been compared to a cow. In mythological works, whenever any serious trouble arises on earth, she is said to assume the form of a cow and approach her savior, either God or the great king Pruthu, an incarnation of Vishnu. Pruthu is said to have milked the cow of this earth and obtained from it, corn, vegetables, and other items of food. (Hence the earth was given the name Prithvi-the daughter of Pruthu). The association of Lord Krishna with cows is also well-known to all students of Hindu religious literature. This has further enhanced their sanctity, especially in the minds of the masses. The Brahmavaivartapurāṇa describes in great detail Goloka (cow-heaven), the abode of Lord Krishna, far above Brahmaloka (the abode of Brahma).

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As part of some funeral rites, a cow is gifted or let loose. This is called anustaraṇī (that which helps in crossing). It is believed that the cow helps the dead person cross the fetid river Vaitaraṇi, flowing between the human world and that of Yama, the god of death.

Also Read: 9 Traditional Indian Folk Theatre Forms that You Need to Know

Hindus worship Lord Krishna as ‘Gopāla’, and ‘Govinda’ and we also call the cow ‘Gomāta’ (mother-cow). It shows the respect and honor we give to the cow and our land is- ‘Gopūja Bhūmi.’ 

(Disclaimer: The article is sponsored, and hence promotes some commercial links.)



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