Right Word | Why we need to take care of our cows for a cultural and spiritual renaissance

Gujarat Governor Acharya Devvrat recently observed that Hindus worship cows but neglect them when they grow old

Arun Anand September 13, 2022 18:43:17 IST
Right Word | Why we need to take care of our cows for a cultural and spiritual renaissance

Cows are important part of Hindu civilization. News18

Gujarat Governor Acharya Devvrat recently lamented in a public function that Hindus often neglect cows which they worship. This remark is an important pointer that as Bharatiya society seems to be moving towards a cultural renaissance, it is important to understand that cows have been a symbol of Bharatiya culture and Hindu civilisation since time immemorial and hence their well-being should be our top priority.

In September 2021, the Allahabad High Court said, “The cow is an inseparable part of Indian culture and it should be declared a national animal, and a bill should be brought out on this matter.” The court also emphasised that the cow was the “symbol of Bharatiya culture”.

The National Commission on Cattle has talked in detail about the significance of cows in the context of Bharatiya culture, in its two-volume report submitted in 2002.

‘Dr Vishrant Vasist, in his famous thesis, ‘A saga leading to the prosperity of mankind’ traces the history of the famous cow Kamdhenu to the Indian or the Vedic version of the history of mankind. During the churning of oceans (sagarmanthan), which took place as a result of the struggle between Gods (devas) and the devils (rakshasas), the first outcome or ratna was the halalhal, the poison that was drunk by Lord Shankara. The second outcome from this churning was a Cow. She was named as Kamdhenu and she was able to fulfil all the needs, ambitions and requirements of all. Gods, saints and sages welcomed Kamdhenu, and since she was young and tender, she was given for nursing to Maharishi Vasishta.

Kamdhenu gave birth to Nandini. The sage Dhanwantari had great respect for Kamdhenu, whom he worshipped and with her blessings, he made a great medicine called Panchgavya, consisting of cow milk, cow ghee, cow curd, cow urine and cow dung.

Ancient Indian scriptures say that Dhanwantri was taken by Narada to Lord Vishnu, who predicted that he would himself do gosewa (serve the cows), in an exemplary manner, in one of his incarnations, as Shri Rama, and thereafter, the cow would also be identified, with the name of Shri Krishna.

Later, the entire economy was counted in terms of the number of cows owned by individuals in tens, hundreds, thousands, lakhs and crores. Maharaj Virad, in the Mahabharata era, had a big herd of cows which was known as his main property.

In fact, the richness of individuals in Hindu civilisation was known to be gauged by the number of cows an individual had. That is why in Sanskrit literature, one finds terms such as Sahsrgauh (owner of 1,000 cows), Gosati (owner of 100 cows) and Dasaugh (owner of 10 cows).

The great King Dalip, an ancestor of Lord Rama, challenged a lion, which wanted to satiate its hunger by eating the cow Nandini, by offering himself instead of the Cow.

Ancient Bharatiya scriptures are full of descriptions of other cow worshippers like Pandu’s son Sahdev and Raja Virad and in later times, saints like Sant Namdev were known for their dedication to the Cow. Chhatrapati Shivaji as a young boy, during the barbaric regime of Aurangzeb, challenged a butcher, who was forcibly taking a cow for slaughter and not only rescued her but killed the butcher. This incident took place in Bijapur.

Sir Monier Williams, who taught Sanskrit at Oxford University, in his famous, Sanskrit-English dictionary has given 72 equivalents and meanings of the word ‘cow’. Some of them are:

1.Gau 2. Shringne 3. Tamcha 4. Maha 5. Porari 6. Surabhi 7. Usara 8. Arjuni 9. Agra 10. Rohini 11. Dhenu Dhenuka 12. Godhenu 13. Strigavi 14. Dogdhi 15. Pinoghani 16. Pivarrupani 17. Dhenushah

  1. Govrindarava 19. Gomutallika 20. Goprakanda

Cow has been treated as auspicious and also a symbol of compassion and piousness. Cow is treated as the highest and the most pious animal and is given the utmost importance of being at the apex in the animal world. The belief is that one can attain moksha by worshipping the cow and serving her and both Lord Krishna and Balram, who spearheaded the cow worship and preservation culture.

The first Jain Tirthankar, Adinath, was also named as ‘Vrashbh’, meaning ‘Oxen Sorub’. Of all beings, the cow is treated, in India, as the most sacred and sanctified. This sense of the unique sacredness of the cow is expressed in the works of ancient Indian sages, Vedas, Smritis, Shrutis and Puranas as well as in later literature and folklore.

In Atharva Veda and the Rig Veda as well as in the Mahabharata, we find mention of cows as a ‘Mother’. The Padma Purana says that a radiance first came out of the Creator’s face and later it was split into four parts: The Vedas, the Fire, the Cow and the Brahmin.

Cows are at the centre of the Bharatiya spiritual realm also. In the Brahma Vaivarta Purana, there has been an elaborate description about ‘Goloka (region of cows) which is the permanent abode of the Supreme God Shri Krishna.  

According to the Brahma Vaivarta Purana, “The soul, the sky, time, the quarter, the region of cows(Goloka) as well as the herd of cows (Gokula), all these are permanent, lasting forever. In the Atharva Veda, the cow has been equated with the whole universe: “Eitadrai vishwaroopam Sarvaroopam goroopam”.

In another verse of the Atharva Veda, cows are mentioned to be “un-killable”.

Roopam Adhanye te namah adhne te rupai namah”

(Oh! Un-Killable Cow, I/We bow to you)

Epitomes can be written about the importance and impact of cow in the civilisational journey of Bharatiyas. One thing is however, clear, a cultural renaissance inspired by our rich and glorious past wouldn’t be possible unless we take care of this gentlest creature. And we have to do this as a society instead of waiting for any government to make any move because a society isn’t ushered into an era of renaissance by any government but it is the other way round!

The writer, an author and columnist, has written several books. Views expressed are personal.

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