ItalyIndia design
ItalyIndia design
ItalyIndia design
ItalyIndia design
ItalyIndia design
ItalyIndia design
ItalyIndia design

31. The Holy Cow

on red background the upper portion of a indian cow head: in the forehead the Vishnu tikka and two bue color horns

The holy cow is an important sacred symbol in India. It is obvious that the cow, in India, has a special role in everyone’s life. Everywhere you turn you’ll see roaming cows (except for the great metropolis) chewing on everything they find – plastic bags as well. And so they rest in the middle of a road, generating massive traffic jams.

If we look further into this cow worshipping, we discover many things about Indians:


The cow represents the Mother that feeds – Gaumata. For the vast majority of the Hindus, eating their own Mother – err, excuse me, eating cows is completely forbidden. In the Mahabharata there’s a myth explaining why it is taboo:

A king named Vena was so evil that the wise men of the reign had to kill him. Since he was heirless, they squeezed his right wrist and so Prithu came to life. Many years later there was a huge famine. King Prithu took his arrows and his bow and forced the earth to feed the population. The earth took the shape of a cow, and begged the King to spare her life. In exchange, she would gave him her milk to feed everyone. Since that day you don’t kill a cow. You milk her.


Kamadhenu, the cow that makes every wish come true (today’s cow ancestor) leaped out of the ocean of milk when demons and gods churm it to obtain an eternal life elixir. Her earthly manifestations gift mankind with five special and holy products: milk, yogurt, ghee, urine and manure.


Indian constitution protects cows, but each state has his own laws on that particular matter. In some places you might get fined or imprisoned for butchering and selling cow meat. In some other places you shall not touch cows, but you are eligible to kill buffaloes and bulls (with restrictions). Sometimes you can kill cows as well, but only as an act of mercy when they get too ill or too old. There’s only a minority of places where you can freely kill a cow, and if you want to eat cow’s meat during your stay in India – please take a look at the picture above.


Cow was not always so holy in India: there are passages in the Veda that speaks about cow sacrifice to propitiate the gods. Only when Buddhism became prominent the idea of non-violence became part of the hindu culture.


Mataji Gaushala, one of the many cow shelters, accommodates 20.000 cows – many of them are old and cannot produce milk any longer.


The cow went through a deep and intensive politicization: for example the Moghul emperors (Muslims) regulated the cows slaughter market to please the Hindu and the Jainists and maintain peace throughout the contry.


The Great Mutiny of 1857 was caused by voices that cow fat was used to grease the riffles of the Indian Army.


Cow became a means of mass mobilization against the cow-eating Muslims. The first time happened in 1870, and then again in 2002, a leader of Bajrang Dal – an Hindu conservative faction – threatened to raise an army of 300.000 volunteers against everyone who dared to kill a cow during the Bakrid, a Muslim festivity.


In 2012 the dalit students’ community asked for the introduction of cow meat in the universities canteens. This raised protest and violence among the Hindus.


Cow sells. India has the highest number of cows in the world (cow population in India is five times the human population in Italy, and amounts to the 28.29% of the entire world population) and exports three times more than China.


The cow is holy, profitable and abused. With the increasing cow meat demand, for domestic purpose or export, violence on cow is slowly increasing. Little owners abandon inefficient cows; calves are left starving (especially when they are male) and old/ill animals are sold to smugglers that transport them to Kerala, where they can be killed. There’s also an increasing problem with cow theft, lately.


Give way to Women!

She-Taxi is a service for women who need to move safely at any time and an opportunity for other women who are ready to start a business.

A challenge called India

Sometime being bold in India it's the best way to get what you want, in some contexts softness is equal to weakness and creates problems...

Wisdom for sale

How much for a piece of wisdom? In this story from Gujarat, wisdom is worth its weight in gold. But what is the weight of wisdom, then?

The battle of Durga

Goddess Durga defeated the buffalo demon and saved the world from darkness, a panel in Cave Temple in Mamallapuram tells her story…

Do you speak Internet?

Internet success in India is bound to the knowledge of the local languages.

Thali, a taste of India

Thali is the Indian dish par excellence – Seeing someone eat it, you’ll better understand the customs of this country.

Torna Su