As I told people that I was moving to India, it seems that every other person wanted to know if cows really roamed the streets here. Many, many, many cows have the freedom to go wherever they want to go, whenever they want to go there. They have a “you’re not the boss of me” attitude. So, yes, cows are really very often in the middle of the road. And they happen to get the right of way – apparently even if they are really confused about where they want to go and are taking a.really.really.long.time.getting.there. 😉
I was confused by this – it is so different from what I was used to – where I come from, cows stay on their side of the pasture – but when everything else on God’s green brown earth is in the middle of the road, what is a little cow here and there?
I think that many people believe that feeding a cow will bring you good luck. So those cows roaming around certainly don’t starve. But perhaps there are better places to set the table than smack dab in the middle of the road.
But why the cow? There is a monkey god, a god with an elephant head – there are rat temples – and so many other animals in the limelight – but I have not heard tales of one single cow god or temple. Yet, it is clear that they are sacred. And not all cows – it’s my understanding that it’s just the milk-producing cows. That means those poor water buffaloes don’t get much respect.
Well, I have learned some of the reasons why the cow is so important to Hindus – beyond the fact that they are tremendously helpful in all aspects of farm life and work for grass – yeah, that’s a win-win.
Many people say that Lord Krishna was a cow herder – he is a big deal – so if he protects cows – it might just be a good idea to do the same.
It is also believed that many Hindus used to have cows as pets – so Hindus not eating beef would be like me not eating cat (makes more sense to me now 🙂 ).
Cow’s milk is also used in many religious ceremonies – cows give us the milk – ahhhh haaaa. Got it. A live cow can continue to give you milk – a dead cow – not so much. Unless you really like buttermilk.
Hindus believe in reincarnation, so killing a cow for food/leather would be like killing your grandmother for a new purse. Yeah, not gonna happen.
But the most magical tale I have heard as to why cows are sacred is the story of Kamadhenu. She was a divine cow and was believed to be the mother of all cows. She grants all wishes and desires. Is it making more sense now? You want her to be revered. She is said to have emerged from the ocean of milk when the gods were churning the ocean (after the recreation of the universe). So, if you pop out of the ocean when the universe is being recreated, you get a little AR – EE – ES – PEE – EE – SEE – TEE. (Respect – silly).
I heard one other beautiful story, too, of a cow who helped one of the gods during the destruction of the earth. This particular cow was asked to eat all the beautiful things in the world and protect them – and then once the earth was reborn (maybe connected to the story above), the cow gave back all that was good in the world. Does anyone have some details on that storyline? Not knowing any of the gods personally, I cannot seem to verify it.
So that’s it – McDonald’s does not serve beef – or pork (for their Muslim customers). And if some one tells you that you can get a “real” burger at the Hard Rock Cafe – good luck with that!
The bottom line here is that it’s not great to be a chicken in India. Chick-Fil-A – are you listening????