Like Christianity, Hinduism is an extremely popular religion in the world, especially the eastern region. I find the Hindu religion to be beautiful and the stories highly educational. However, I want to focus on a specific aspect of the religion, the sacred cow. Most think that Hinduism simply forbids the consumption of beef. It is more than just a dietary prohibition. It is an element that can be seen throughout the entire religion.
The cow has been an economic necessity for over 5,000 years in the Middle East (PBS). The cow can produce milk, butter, curd, urine, dung, and labor for humans. A cow can provide all of these gifts so that a family may sustain off of them. That’s what they are considered, gifts. The cow is seen as a mother for the Hindu faith. It is a provider for it’s people and is kind and nurturing. It also produces milk for them to consume, similar to a human mother. It is also how they make a living. They are able to sell what it produces. They can use the manure and labor to cultivate land so that they may grow and harvest crops. It only makes sense for something so popular in their lives to appear in their religion.
The cow is a sacred animal in the Hindu faith. “The cow is also associated with various deities, notably Shiva (whose steed is Nandi, a bull), Indra (closely associated with Kamadhenu, the wish-granting cow), Krishna (a cowherd in his youth), and goddesses in general (because of the maternal attributes of many of them)” (“Sanctity”). The cow’s milk is even used in ritual practices. It is also extremely good luck to feed a cow a snack before one eats their breakfast.
The cow is also a symbol for the belief of not harming other living things. A cow naturally, is a very calm animal. When one is gentle with a cow, they can be extremely docile. “Subsequently, with the rise of the ideal of ahimsa (“noninjury”), the absence of the desire to harm living creatures, the cow came to symbolize a life of nonviolent generosity. In addition, because her products supplied nourishment, the cow was associated with motherhood and Mother Earth” (“Sanctity”). It is seen as a crime to kill a cow because they are defenseless and they do no harm to humans. It makes sense how something so precious and sacred in their religion would be given rights to not be harmed. It would be like someone destroyed one’s way of living. I understand now why it is not just being vegetarian for Hindus. It’s the idea of not harming another living creature. It’s their way of projecting the sacred cow’s characteristics on themselves. I find this so enlightening and spiritual. It also is mind numbing to think of the drastic differences of western beliefs of diet and animals compared to Hinduism. I feel it’s a complete opposite in some ways. For Christianity, it is believed that these animals were created for our use and consumption. In Hinduism, it is taught to live in harmony with these creatures. Whether it is one religion or another, it is so inspirational to see how much these beliefs play into what people eat or what they do not eat.
“Sanctity of the cow.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 2013. Web. 03 Oct. 2013. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/141206/sanctity-of-the-cow>.
“Hinduism’s Sacred Animal.” PBS. (2013): Web. 3 Oct. 2013. <http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/holycow/hinduism.html>.