It’s old news that cows get a pretty good deal in India. The term “sacred cow” is a living reality there but seeing the reality is truly believing. To mix metaphors cows are top dog in India. They casually stroll across two-lane national tollways, move in with their owners in family compounds, are garlanded and bejewelled, pick the best spots in the middle of the road for their afternoon nap (there are fewer flies in the middle of the road), and even have charities at their beck and call across the country. Talk about bovine bliss!
The cow’s revered place in Indian culture reflects its centrality to traditional life. It is a source of labour; transportation; provides milk for drinking and for making cream, cheese, butter, yoghurt and ghee; dung for fertiliser, fuel, building material, insect repellant and disinfectant; and in the Ayuvedic medicinal system cow urine has many applications. The cow’s gentle nature is said to create a maternal image inspiring affection. Soulful eyes are a definite plus. The combination has given the cow special standing in the Hindu religion leading to its protected status. Best of all for cows Hindus don’t eat beef and the slaughter of the beasts is prohibited in 24 out of 29 states. Not that that provides complete protection. Beef ends up on many dinner plates and India is a significant exporter of beef. Maybe the male of the species is the one feeling the heat?
Cow pats lined up and drying in the sun.
This won’t go to waste!
Early morning at the cow charity.
Earning cow charity brownie points.
So bovines enjoy a charmed existence until they grow old, infirm and beyond use when some crafty owners set them loose around markets or other public places. Even then society comes to the rescue through cow charities, or gaushalas, where they’re fed and cared for. The devout can score good points through donating to the charities or playing their part in caring for the animals. Or by giving safe passage to the many itinerant beasts which meander blissfully across the roads and highways. Sadly, a rise in militant Hinduism is resulting in the murder of those accused of eating beef or killing cattle. Surely time to remember Mother Cow’s reputation for gentleness.
No flies on these cows.
Move over cars!
Decorative bird feeder – and cows.