Why Are Cows Sacred In Hinduism

Understanding Sacred Cows in Hinduism

Hinduism is a faith that is steeped in culture, tradition and symbols that represent many important aspects of the religion. One of the symbols of Hinduism is the sacred cow, known as ‘Gau Mata’. The reverence of cows has been a pivotal part of Hindu culture for centuries, with practices and customs rooted deeply within faith. However, many people outside of the Hinduism tradition are unaware of the importance of cows, and why they are deemed sacred.

To begin with, cows have an internal relationship with the deity, Krishna. Many Hindus in India and around the world celebrate the life of Hindu deity, Krishna. Krishna is known as Govinda, meaning protector of cows. He is often depicted playing melodiously upon his flute while great herds of cows idly followed him. This legendary relationship illustrates how much the Hindu faith celebrates the relationship between Krishna and the cows.

In addition to their symbolic relationship with Krishna, cows are seen as gentle and loving animals, treated with special reverence and care. Hindu scriptures identify seven key traits that make cows sacred: nourishing, prosperous, pure, fertile, Motherly, gentle and supporting. The cows embody qualities that Hindus value, such as respect for all things, family loyalty and peace of mind. This religious significance is accepted among Hindus and through the traditional long-standing relationship with the cows, Hindus inextricably connect their faith to the sacred animal.

Regulation of Sacred Cows

Various regulations have been established by governments across India to protect cows and limit their slaughter for humane reasons and to support the Hindu faith. Many states in India have completely abolished cow slaughter in their respective laws.

These protection laws also spread to the protection of bullocks, which are used as work animals and are essential to agricultural labor. Controls on the number of bullocks that can be put to work and the conditions in which they are employed protects their well-being. This provides an additional layer of protection, and showcases the commitment of the Hindu people to care for the cow and bullocks.

The Animal Welfare Board of India, an agency established by the Indian government and the organizations of goshalas (shelters for cows) have also been established to protect cows. Goshala has always been a fundamental part of Hindu culture, and it is mandatory for any village or city that contains cows to have a goshala. They are considered charitable establishments and devotees perform pujas every morning and evening in the goshalas.

These protections have helped increase the population of cows in India who, in the past may have been slaughtered for meat or leather. The reverence now granted to cows is a direct result of the Indian government’s effort to regulate their protection. This has allowed Hindus to further connect with their faith and the values of their sacred animals.

Symbolic Importance of Cows

Cows are acknowledged as a symbol of divinity by Hindus. They are seen as a repository of porous and permeable knowledge, with immense practical wisdom that can be derived and advanced by human understanding. Thus, cows are closely associated with spiritual advancement.

The cow not only has a spiritual and symbolic importance, but it also grabs the attention of Hindus because of the numerous earthly benefits they bring. In Hinduism, a cow is the symbol of wealth, rejuvenation and nourishment and many households in Hinduism revere cows as a significant source of health, wealth and fortune. Cows are said to have a curative effect on all ailments, as the Hindus use cow’s by-products such as cow dung and cow urine for medication and healing, as per Ayurvedic medicine traditions.

Further, cows provide sustenance for their owners through their milk, which is not only used in Hindu homes and temples, but is also commercially sold. Their manure is also highly valued, helping hone the production of organic fertilizers, while also providing a natural source of fuel. While cows are considered a holy animal and a symbol of unconditional love in Hinduism, they also provide humans with immense earthly benefits.

How Hindus Worship Cows

The worship of sacred cows is an integral part of Hinduism. Hindus venerate cows, treating them as deities in their homes and temples. One of the most important rituals in the commitment of a Hindu to his faith is the tradition of Akshaya Patra. Akshaya Patra is a plate full of food offerings to cows, which is given each morning by devotees. Akshaya Patra is believed to bring luck and prosperity to the family or village where it is offered.

Hindu customs also revolve around the treatment and care of cows. In particular, when a cow dies, a funeral procession is held through the village and its body is carried on a pyre and cremated. After the death of a cow, many memorial services are held throughout the villages and towns to honor its spirit. This showcases the rock-solid belief that Hindus have in the divinity of cows, and how their presence played an important role in their faith.

Interpretations of Sacred Cows

Interpreting the symbolic meaning of cows is a complex task, and an important one in understanding Hinduism better. The traditional idea of a cow being both a goddess and a form of sustenance brings up the query of whether cows should be protected or harvested as a resource in order to help alleviate food poverty. Yet, regardless of this disagreement among Hindus, cows are still considered to be respected and sacred.

In some cases cows are used for symbolic purposes in Hinduism and it becomes difficult to discern the lines between a literal, practical sense and a more symbolic role. Nevertheless, it is important to remember the reverence that Hindus have for cows and the ways in which they are essential to the growth and deepening of connection with the Hindu faith.

Interconnectivity Between Cows and Nature

One of the primary reasons why cows are sacred to Hindus is their deep connection to nature. Hindus live in harmony with nature and the cow’s environment is an integral part of the larger cosmic order. Cows offer food, milk, fertilizer, and help the earth be sustainable, thus Hindus have a reverence for their presence upon the earth. Additionally, in Hinduism, there is a strong sense of interconnectedness between all living entities, which means cows are seen as divine, eternal, and ever connected organisms.

The reverence offered to cows by Hindus, showcases the unparalleled importance of these animals within the faith. As with any religion, when a belief system has been in practice for so long, and is as integral to a culture as Hinduism, then worshipping cows is understood as a significant part. Few religions grant an animal such importance as Hinduism does to cows.

Economic Impact of Cows

The Hindu beliefs surrounding cows has a knock on effect on society. With cows being sacred, cow slaughter, or even the talk of it is enough to ignite a political storm in the country. This is clear with the most recent uproar in India over the laws concerning cow protection, which resulted in numerous riots and clashes between Hindu’s and Muslim’s. This showcases that cows are not only sacred to Hindus, but they are also a major part of their culture.

Further, the economic impact of cows in India is remarkable. As previously noted, their dung is a major source of organic fertilizer and their milk is a significant source of nourishment for communities. Additionally, the hides of cows are sometimes used to make leather for clothing, further growing their economic importance. Contrary to this, slaughter for cow meat is outlawed in most of India and this ensures that once a cow is born, it provides financial and existential stability for its owners. Without the religious protection, it is likely that cows would have become extinct in India centuries ago.

Relationship between Hindus and Cows

Ultimately, cow worship is an integral part of Hindu culture and faith. Hindu’s practice ahsrama, the idea that one should look out for the welfare of all living beings, thus valuing the sanctity of a cow goes deeper than a spiritual connection. For Hindus, they view cows as a form of motherhood and protection, thus understanding why cows are sacred grants an insight into the Hindu faith.

In Hinduism, a cow is a symbol of gifts, goodness and sacredness and the relationship between cows and Hindus is an important part of understanding how the faith works. As with any religion, when the belief system is embraced for centuries, it is important to understand the elements that make up the faith to further deepen our connection with it. Thus, understanding why cows are sacred in Hinduism is part of that journey.

Jennifer Johnson is an experienced author with a deep passion for exploring the spiritual traditions of different cultures and religions. She has been writing about religion and spirituality for the past ten years in both print and digital platforms, engaging readers in meaningful dialogue about the soul's journey through this life. With degrees in Comparative Religion and English Literature, she brings an insightful perspective to her work that bridges the gap between traditional knowledge and modern theories. A lifelong traveler, Jenn has lived in multiple countries exploring various paths to understanding faith, and her dedication to learning new things is palpable in every piece she creates.

Leave a Comment