Cows are sacred in Hinduism. By exploring Hinduism from a historical perspective, we can get a better understanding of why Hindus adore, respect, and honor cows.
Mythological explanations of Cow Worship in Hinduism
Cows have been an integral part of Hindu scriptures that mention of a Cow Goddess by the name of Kamadhenu having had emerged from the churning of the cosmic ocean. She was also known as the Cow of Plentiful who bestowed on her owner all that he desired. Hindu holy scriptures like the Bhagwad Gita and the Mahabharata make several references to Kamadhenu. Other Vedic scriptures mention of Kamadhenu as Homadhenu meaning an entity from which commodities like clarified butter and milk etc. required for Vedic fire sacrifices are derived. Although, it is rare to find a temple dedicated to Kamadhenu, Hindus revere Cows as her mortal incarnation.
Hinduism is not the only pagan faith that believes in animal worship but cultures and religions across the world have been worshiping various birds and animals for thousands of years. Just the way Kamadhenu is portrayed as half human and half Cow, Horus the Greek God has a head resembling that of a Falcon. The Chinese worship the Tiger and even Pigs are considered sacred. Elephants are revered by the Buddhists and Wolves are worshipped in certain parts Eurasia.
The Greek goddess Hathor with her headdress made of Cow Horns was known as the Goddess of the sky, love, beauty, joy, motherhood, and fertility and that is exactly the reasons why Hindus worship cows.
Geographic and Demographic influences
Hinduism originated on the Banks of Indus (Sindhu) river and the Aryans who migrated from Eurasia were nomadic people whose occupation was cattle rearing. In ancient India, the ownership of a large herd of cattle and particularly that of cows was considered as a sign of affluence. The Hindus are known to worship wealth – be it money, movable/immovable assets and books of learning etc. As cows were forms of wealth, the ritual of worshipping cows on auspicious occasions started taking root. There are a few terminologies to boost this belief – the number of cows owned by an individual was considered as his Go-dhan (Cow-wealth). The murals of Cows and Bulls form a major portion of articles discovered from the ruins of Harappa and Mohonjodaro and this endorses the importance of cows in the day to day lives of ancient Hindu society.
Hindu deities and their association with cows
Lord Krishna who discoursed one of the most holy scriptures of Hinduism, the Bhagawad Geeta was born in an “affluent family” that owned several cows. He was born in Gokul and was also called as Govinda (finder of cows) and Gopala (protector of cows). He is often depicted as playing flute and surrounded by Gow (Cows), Gops (men from shepherd community) and Gopis (ladies from shepherd community). So everything about Lord Krishna is synonymous with Gow (cow). Besides Krishna, Cows can be found accompanying deities like Dattatreya are depicted with a Cow besides them.
Efficacy of Cow products in day to day lives
Cow milk is considered the nearest alternative to human milk for human newborns. The Ayurveda, which is amongst the most proven life sciences of all times mentions of an effective concoction Panchagavya. This is an effective plant growth stimulator that is prepared by mixing five products obtained from the cow i.e. Cow milk, Curd, Ghee (clarified butter), Cow urine and Cow Dung.
The very mention of Cow urine and Cow Dung having medicinal properties often attracts criticism and pun. However, Sushruta Samhita an important Ayurvedic manuscript written over 5000 years ago, mentions in its section 45, Sutra (verse) no 217, 220 and 221 that cow urine is easily digestible, it the functioning of brain, cures cough and colic problems, eczema, leucoderma and numerous other diseases.
The objective of hybridparenting.org is to help parents raise children in a multicultural environment and this blog post aims at educating our future generations to accept cultural differences with open minds.