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Sacred cow

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In the religion of Hinduism, the animal called a "cow" is thought to be sacred, or very holy. Most Hindus respect the cow for her gentle nature which represents the main teaching of Hinduism, non-injury (ahimsa). The cow also represents ghee and strength . It has become a common myth for ignorants to ridicule Hindus by saying they "worship cows". However, Hindus don't worship cows, but in fact they respect it like any other animal as they believe all life has a soul in which God resides. Thus killing it would be - in a way - a crime. The cow is very honored in society, and most Hindus do not eat beef (the meat that come from cows). By honoring this gentle animal (living thing that is not a plant) that gives more than it takes, Hindus honor all creatures. The cow was possibly revered because Hindus relied heavily on it for dairy products and for tilling the fields, and on cow dung as a source of fuel and fertilizer. Thus, the cow’s status as a 'caretaker' led to identifying it as an almost maternal figure (hence the term gau mata). In the olden days cattle being limited to select few fortunate folks, the cows enjoyed the status that gold or money enjoys today. In addition, it has been suggested by author and orator Terence McKenna that religious reverence for the cow is a result of early humankind's association of psilocybin mushroom with it, this association having developed as a result of the discovery of said mushrooms in the animal's excrement.[1]


In Hinduism, the cow is a symbol of wealth, strength, abundance, selfless giving and a full Earthly life.
It is evidently known that the cow was sacred and forbidden in the Hindu diet as was all slaughter and violence for food, from ancient Vedic times. Therefore, reverence for cows can be found in all the religion's major texts.

The cow gives milk and cream, yogurt and cheese, butter and ice cream, ghee and buttermilk. The milk of a cow is believed to refine a person. The ghee (clarified butter) from the milk is used in ceremonies and in preparing religious food. Cow dung is used as fertilizer, as a fuel and as a disinfectant in homes. Modern science states that the smoke from cow dung is a powerful disinfectant and is good against pollution. The cow's urine is also used for religious ceremonies as well as for medical reasons.

The Cow as a symbol

From the Hindus, the cow is the recipient of a special respect. Hindus believe that all living creatures are sacred including, mammals, fishes, birds, and insects. The cow is more, a symbol of the Earth. It always gives and feeds, representing life and the support of life. Honoring the cow inspires in people the virtues of gentleness and connectedness with nature. The cow takes nothing but water, grass, and grain, while it gives its milk, much as the liberated soul gives of his spiritual knowledge. [2]

In the Hindu tradition, the cow is honored, garlanded and given special feedings at festivals all over India, most importantly the annual Gopashtama festival. Its nature is represented in Kamadhenu, the divine, wish-fulfilling cow. In India, more than 3,000 institutions called "Gaushalas" care for old and infirm cows. The gift of a cow is applauded as the highest kind of gift. Equally also it is the National animal of Nepal.


“One can measure the greatness of a nation and its moral progress by the way it treats its animals. Cow protection to me is not mere protection of the cow. It means protection of all that lives and is helpless and weak in the world. The cow means the entire subhuman world.” Mahatma Gandhi.[3]

“The cows have come and have brought us good fortune. In our stalls, contented, may they stay! May they bring forth calves for us, many-colored, giving milk for Indra each day. You make, O cows, the thin man sleek; to the unlovely you bring beauty. Rejoice our homestead with pleasant lowing. In our assemblies we laud your vigor.” Rig Veda (4.28.1;6) In the Rig Veda, cows represent wealth and joyous Earthly life. Several hymns refer to ten thousand and more cattle.[4]


  1. McKenna, Terence (1992). Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge. Bantom Books. pp. 100–116. ISBN 978-0-553-37130-7 .
  2. Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, "Ten Questions people ask About Hinduism …and ten terrific answers!" (p. 6)
  4. Rig Veda e.g. RV 8.1.33; 8.2.41; 8.4.20; 8.5.37; 8.6.47; 8.21.18; 5.27.1; 1.126.3