by Rati Hegde
A devotee of the Holy Cow…
According to Thomas de Quincey : ” Cows are the gentlest of breathing creatures; none show more passionate tenderness to their young one when deprived of them; and in short I am not ashamed to profess a deep love for these quiet creatures.”
(The look on this bull’s face says it all for me. Even grievously wounded by picadors, he did not attack this man).
Torrero Munera is quoted as saying of this moment: “And suddenly, I looked at the bull. He had this innocence that all animals have in their eyes, and he looked at me with this pleading. It was like a cry for justice, deep down inside of me. I describe it as being like a prayer – because if one confesses, it is hoped, that one is forgiven. I felt like the worst shit on earth.”
In India, the cow is treated as Gou-Mata, Kamadhenu – the wish fulfiller. She is supposed to have in her all the Gods and Goddesses that Hindus believe in. The quality that makes her so divine is the fact that she is that creation of God who inspires us to be Charitable. The Cow gives and gives when she is alive. This is what separates cows from the other animals. The cow is useful to us humans in many ways. Its milk is closest to human milk and a good source of calcium, vitamins and proteins. Its dung is used as a fuel and as a fertilizer. Its urine has medicinal qualities and can be used to treat many diseases. It would not be wrong to say that the Cow is the most useful of all animals. But more than anything else, the fact that the cow allows us to share her milk, which should have been only for the calf, is the quality which endears most to us. She is charity personified.
It must have been this quality which endeared to the Gods too when Kamadhenu appeared in front of them during Sagar Manthan (the churning of the oceans). It is believed that all Gods made a bee-line for residing in the cow. By the time Goddess Laxmi and Ganga Mata came the only place that remained unoccupied were the urine and the dung. Ganga Maiyya decided to reside in the urine. Because of this, the cow’s urine is supposed to have medicinal qualities. It is also used as a purifier for ‘Aatma Shudhi’ ie. for cleansing of our body and mind before any Puja. Laxmi Mata decided to reside in the cow-dung. As a result, the cow-dung is used as a fertilizer to increase production of crops (Dhaanya), as a purifier of the homes. People still clean the area of a ‘Yagna’ or ‘Homa’ or Puja-sthal and also floors of homes or the ‘aangan’ (courtyard) with a bit of cow-dung mixed with water; the dung is also considered to have anti-bacterial properties. It is also a well-researched fact that the cow dung has properties which protect against radiation. Probably our ancients knew about its good qualities and therefore only cow-dung is used as a fuel for ‘Homa’ or sacrificial fires in the event of the correct wood not being available (wood from all trees are not used for sacrificial fires).
The bull also has its role to play. Not just is it an animal which carries load, it also helps in watering the fields and ploughing the fields. It has a unique quality of fertilizing the fields while plouging – it urinates in patches, not continuously, but copiously. This leads to the ground becoming more soft and fertile. Among all the charities that a Hindu is supposed to make, Bhoo Daan (giving away land), Kanya Daan (giving a daughter in marriage) and Gou Daan (giving away a Cow in charity) are considered to be the holiest. If one will look at them carefully, one will know that all these ‘Daans’ are those which help one lead a good life. Without a plot of land, a wife & family and a cow & a bull, agrarian India would never be able to survive well. Probably all these were encouraged to help all sections of society lead a stable life. Live and let live.
When we visualize Krishna, we visualize Him as with a cow in the background. Talk of Bal Gopal and we can see Him eating butter and drinking buttermilk. Lord Krishna is known as Gopal – the cowherd. How could He have chosen this for His identity if He did not see the Divine in the Cow? The churning of buttermilk to get butter is symbolic of the churning of our lives, our emotions, to get our Pure Soul above the clutter – just like butter rises and floats on the surface. Let us all join in praying to the Divine Cow and the Divine Cowherd to lead us to enlightenment, to charity, to love for all. Jai Jai Mata, Jai Gou-Mata! Jai Shree Krishna, Radhe Krishna!