Cows, Cows Everywhere!India has 30 per cent of the world's cattle. There are 26 distinctive breeds of cow in India. The hump, long ears and bushy tail distinguish the Indian cow.
Here cows are everywhere! Because the cow is respected as a sacred animal, it's allowed to roam unharmed, and they are pretty used to the traffic and the rhythm of the city. So, you can see them roaming the streets in towns and cities, grazing unmindfully on the roadside grass verges and munching away vegetables thrown out by street sellers. Stray and homeless cows are also supported by temples, especially in southern India.
Conserve the CowAs opposed to the West, where the cow is widely considered as nothing better than walking hamburgers, in India, the cow is believed to be a symbol of the earth - because it gives so much yet asks nothing in return.
Because of its great economic importance, it makes good sense to protect the cow. It is said Mahatma Gandhibecame a vegetarian because he felt cows were ill-treated. Such is the respect for the cow, notes scholar Jeaneane Fowler in her book on Hinduism, that Indians had offered to take in millions of cows waiting for slaughter in Britain as a result of the crisis in beef production in 1996.
Religious Significance of the CowThough the cow is held sacred to the Hindus, it is not exactly worshipped as a deity by all. On the 12th day of the 12th month of the Hindu calendar, a cow ritual is performed in Jodhpur palace, in the western Indian state of Rajasthan.
Bull TemplesNandi Bull, a vehicle of the gods, is considered the symbol of respect for all male cattle. The Nandi Bull holy site at Madurai and the Shiva temple at Mahabalipuram are the most venerated bovine shrines. Even non-Hindus are allowed to enter the the 16th century Bull Temple in Bangalore. The Vishwanath Temple of Jhansi, believed to have been built in 1002, also has a large statue of the Nandi Bull.
History of the Holy CowThe cow was venerated as the mother goddess in the early Mediterranean civilizations. The cow became important in India, first in the Vedic period (1500 - 900 BCE), but only as a symbol of wealth. For the Vedic man cows were 'the "real life" substratum of the goods of life', writes JC Heesterman in The Encyclopedia Of Religion, vol. 5.
Cows as Symbol of SacrificeCows form the core of religious sacrifices, for without ghee or clarified liquid butter, which is produced from cow's milk, no sacrifice can be performed.
In the Mahabharata, we have Bhishma saying: "Cows represent sacrifice. Without them, there can be no sacrifice…Cows are guileless in their behaviour and from them flow sacrifices…and milk and curds and butter. Hence cows are sacred..."
Bhishma also observes that the cow acts as a surrogate mother by providing milk to human beings for the whole life. So the cow is truly the mother of the world.