Why is the cow sacred in Hindu culture?

Why is the cow sacred in Hindu culture?

Hindus worship and revere cows. This religion raises the status of the cow to Mother or Goddess. Hence, the cow is considered sacred among the Hindu culture. The cow is regarded as a maternal figure because it provides us more than it consumes. It is a holy symbol of the Earth's divine bounty. 


Lord Krishna, a popular Hindu deity, is depicted often as playing his favorite flute amongst dancing Gopis and cows. According to the Vedas, he was raised as a cow-herder. Krishna is also famous as Gopala and Govinda that mean "protector and friend of cows." A pure Hindu devotee always believes in protecting cows and feeding them even before having his breakfast.

Vedic Scriptures Reflect The Significance of Cows.

There are numerous verses mention in the Vedic scriptures that emphasize on cows being scared and protected. In Hinduism, killing a cow and eating beef are considered a sin. There are several states across India where slaughtering of cows is not allowed. Therefore, you can even find cows roaming freely along the busy Indian streets.

Contribution of Cows in Ayurveda

Ayurveda is a huge proponent of the sattvic qualities of dairy products and milk. Hence, most of the Hindus are vegetarian and not vegan. Organic, fresh buttermilk, paneer, and ghee are highly nutritious and form an essential part of our regular diet. These dairy products not only nourish us with the vital calcium and proteins for our tissues but also create significant sources of Ojas that impart immunity and strength to our body.

Cows – Benefits in Practical Purposes

Apart from milk, cows are considered as a boon and a real blessing for our rural community. Bulls help in plowing the field and serves as a major means of goods transportation in villages. Again, Mahadev, Lord of the Lords, and a popular Hindu deity considered Nandi, the sacred bull as his trusted vehicle.

However, cow dung is used and saved for fuel owing to its high methane consistency, which helps in generating electricity and heat. Thousands of village homes are plastered with cow dung and mud mixture that help in insulating the floors and walls from extreme cold and hot temperatures. This product is rich in minerals and makes a perfect fertilizer. 

Cows and Yajnas

In a spiritual land like India, you can find multiple religious ceremonies throughout the year where spiritual 'yajnas' or fire ceremonies are performed to receive the blessings of Gods and show our gratitude towards the Almighty for giving us whatever we have. Cows play a major role in the Agnihotras or fire yajnas. According to scientific research, the traditional ritual of burning ghee and cow dung in these sacred fires aids in purifying the air. The anti-radiation and anti-pollutant qualities also purify the environment surrounding us.

How Puranas Are Associated with Cows?

In the Puranas, this animal is associated with Lord Vishnu. Again, in Vaishnava mythology, the cow is seen as the embodiment of Goddess Lakshmi. In the Bhagavata Purana, our Mother Earth changed itself into a cow and requested Vishnu to provide her with protection. Hence, Lord Vishnu, her guardian, is termed as Go-pala, the protector of Earth-cow. It is visualized that all living creatures are milking the Earth and when her resources were plundered by the greedy kings, also defined as cow tormentors or cow killers, Lord Vishnu descended in the form of Parashurama, Krishna, and Ram to assassinate the greedy kings and allowed Mother Earth to drink their blood.

Lord Indra is said to have the Kamdhenu or the wish-fulfilling cow, which rose from the milk ocean. Kaushika tried to steal a similar cow possessed by Rishi Vashishtha. But the cow protected herself by producing a battalion. Furthermore, Rishi Jamadagni also had a wish-fulfilling cow, and when Kartaviryarjuna tried to get his hands on it, the Rishi's son Parashurama killed him.

What is The Religious Significance of Cows?

The religious significance of cow holds its importance since time immemorial. Rig Veda, the oldest Veda associates cow with joyous and wealthy life. There are endless verses in Vedas which signify the importance of this loving animal. Starting from the ancient Vedas to our regular worship – respecting cow is a vital part of Hinduism. Statues of cows are often visible in images on temple walls which emphasize the religious significance of cows.

Cows Reflect ‘Ahimsa’

Moreover, the docile nature of this animal exemplified the virtue of Hindus, ahimsa. Cows symbolize Hinduism itself because each part of this animal is backed by religious significance. For instance, the four legs of this creature symbolize the four Vedas and their length is connected with the ageless Himalayan Mountains. Similarly, the four teats udder corresponds to the life objectives of Hinduism or the four Purusharthas.

The eyes depict the moon and sun deities, the horns symbolize Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma. However, in a few traditions, the aforementioned names are considered as the triumvirate of Hindus, which reflects the existence cycle. Lord Brahma creates new life, Lord Vishnu supports it - Lord of Lords, Shiva demolishes the entire world to give it a new beginning. Not all Hindus place their faith in the limited roles of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. According to them, either Vishnu or Shiva is the Supreme Being responsible for creating the world. And, later on, the supreme power will demolish the world to create a new one from the remaining or ashes. Finally, the shoulder of a cow is associated with our ancient Gods of Vedas - one of the shoulders represents Agni, the God of Fire, while the other one stands for Vayu, the God of Wind.

Conclusion - Wrapping Up

We often come across posters depicting the picture of gods and goddesses inside a cow. Therefore, worshiping a cow symbolizes worshiping all Hindu deities. Thus, it illustrates that Hindus consider cow as the most sacred animal. The images of gods present inside human beings or trees fail to garner a similar amount of attention. However, all these images depict that God is present inside all creatures - divinity pervades everything. The concept of God being present inside a cow is further amplified, so much so that consuming beef is similar to attacking Hindu Gods. This well-known and influential code is presently used by politicians to garner the Hindu votes.

Also Read: Why The Population Control Bill Is Necessary For India?

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