The reason why Hindus worship cows is an enigma for most non-Hindus. They cannot understand why we would want to worship one of the most docile animals in the world. Lions, eagles and dragons they can understand, but a cow !?!
Hindus have worshiped cows since the earliest time in our civilisation. Our earliest prayers invoke the almighty to look after our cattle and make sure its never sick or stolen. Its propagation and preservation has been one of the main aims of our social duties since the time of the Vedas.
Like all societies of all times, we, the Hindus, have hoarded what we have considered to be wealth. Whether its measured in stones (jades, diamonds), metals (gold, silver, bronze), skins / furs, feathers (quetzal feathers in South America), shells, silks, weapons or animals (elephants, cows), wealth is wealth. Cows were a measure of wealth. They still are in many parts of the world.
Cows provide milk which helps sustain life, life of adults and children alike.
The by-products of the milk, yoghurt, buttermilk, butter etc were an integral part of their daily diet.
Their dung was a free, useful, year-round fuel supply.
Being tame, they were an excellent beast of burden. By pulling carts and ploughs, they were partners in technology that helped develop new frontiers in the Indian sub-continent.
Even after death, their skins were useful in various ways.
Their usefulness meant they were valued as highly as any treasure. Due to its multi-purpose usefulness, cows became a good luck charm. If a cow passed you, it was considered to be good luck. In scholarly books, this is referred to as auspicious, but it only means lucky ! If a black cat can be interpreted as "bad luck" in 21st century Europe, why cant a cow be considered "lucky" in modern India ?
How can you guarantee that this valuable resource is not abused, or mistreated by society at large ?
By giving it a very special place in our society, that of a pseudo mother, we made sure it was respected at all times. By giving it the same respectful status as a "parent", the ancients made sure the humble cow had the same legal and social protection as humans !
All this to protect their / our wealth !!
With time, other modes of wealth took greater precedence than the cow.
Milk and dung were still an essential to the rural masses, but, the cow stopped being THE object wealth.
Rituals still required milk and its by-products, especially when Hinduism became more vegetarian. As a result, the spiritual overtones cows divine status became even more ingrained in the social psyche.
Cows current status / condition in India
Sadly, over a thousand years of rule by foreign rulers and religions has meant the once sacred cows of India are now as destitute as much of its ancient Hindu culture. More often than not, India is associated with cows roaming the roads of India, sitting idly in the middle of a traffic jam, chewing cud of the nearest waste heap and a plastic bag tangled up in the horns. This is a truly sad state of affair. Not because the cow is sacred, nor because it has lost its place in the list of what we consider as precious, BUT, because this is not how we should treat any animal cow or not.
There is no scriptural reason why a cow should be allowed to roam the roads at will. There is nothing in our scriptures or our ancient histories that says cows are allowed to cause traffic jams. Those who think its OK for this to happen, because its part of our culture, have badly misinterpreted our history and our religion.
Originally, at no time whatsoever, would a cow be allowed to wander the streets unsupervised or without its owner. The only times cow(s) were seen in the streets, was when they left to go to the pastures in the morning and when they came back. At all other times, they were either in the pastures or in the cowshed. Why would you let your most precious possession roam around at will ? Would you leave your Mercedes with the keys in the ignition switch and windows rolled down ? To the ancients, our current attitude towards cows would be equally incomprehensible.
Cows and other animals should be taken care of in a responsible manners. Indias roads should be free of cows, pigs, dogs and monkeys. Animal owners should take proper care of their charges and those animals that are stray, should be taken care of properly neutered if necessary. India needs to improve its infrastructure if its to maintain its march towards a brighter future. This cannot be done if stray animals, sacred or otherwise, are clogging up its roads.
Let us return the cow to its rightful place, culturally, religiously and economically.
Let us not misunderstand the past for the present and let not the sacred become something we, as Hindus, as scared to talk about.
Why Shri Krishna killed a cow?
Why taunt Hindus about beef?
© Bhagwat Bhagwat_s@Yahoo.com
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