"Cows are Sacred; Scriptures Extol them; Hindus Must Protect Them" Part-1
Since Vedic times, cow is considered sacred, treated as mother and hailed as harbinger of auspiciousness. She is a symbol of wealth, health, prosperity, blessing, peace of mind, purity, purification, and success in life. She is identified as a kamadhenu – wish fulfilling. She is revered, honored, respected as mother – an unselfish giver of bounty without expecting from her children just like a mother. All the scriptures such as Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas, Mahabharata, Manusmriti, and others extoll the virtues of the cow. All the Gods reside in her and killing her is considered the most heinous crime. It is often said “jivantu avadghnyah ta me vishasya dushanih” meaning that let cows live without slaughter for their whole life-they remove poison and toxins. Many sages, many Hindu Temples and numerous Ashrams maintained Goshalas (cow shelters) for centuries recognizing the numerous benefits that accrue from the cows.
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It is unfortunate that India is becoming the third largest country to export beef to other countries ignoring the sacredness of the cows, is allowing the people to conduct beef celebration on the university campuses without permission, is tolerating the slaughter houses for political purposes, is failing to take appropriate actions against the minorities and other religious people who are deliberately hurting the sentiments of Hindus, and intentionally failing to take action in implementing constitutional requirements found in the Article 48 of the Constitution: “The State shall endeavor to organize agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.” Knowing the constitutional mandate, and knowing the intentions of minorities and other religions to malign the Hindus, Indian government and Hindu politicians are undermining the rich cultural heritage of Hindus that existed for centuries and selling the country for their selfish and greedy purpose to accumulate wealth for the next few generations for their families.
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Hindus have their future cut out for them – either be bulldozed and allow the government, minorities and other religions to root out the very core of Sanatana dharma from the soil of Bharath, or get united and exercise their freedom to restore the glory, grandeur, greatness, and grandness of the richest civilization that has ever surfaced on the planet earth. It is in the hands of Hindus to restore their culture, reestablish the concept of vasudaika kutumbam, insist on the welfare of all humanity, root out the sectarian appeasement, wipe out all kinds of terrorist activities, and aspire for peaceful coexistence of the humanity to live in freedom and independence. Hindus have to speak and protect their culture, their values and their sentiments. It is in the best interest of the planet earth that Hindus take the lead to protect the mother Cow and stand for virtues of their religion.
All Gods Reside in Mother Cow
As the scriptures proclaim “Tvam mata sarva devanam” meaning that you are the mother of all gods. It also means that if we protect the cow, we are honoring all the gods that reside in her. Scriptures have elaborately described the location of gods in the cow. We will examine our scriptures such as Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas, Mahabharata and other scriptures to equip ourselves with enough knowledge to find out the significance, importance and virtues of cows so that we will not only reap the benefits of protecting them but also pass on the richness to our children and grandchildren.
All the scriptures agree that all four Vedas with their six vedangas (components) reside in the mouth of the cow. Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu live in her horns forever, Lord Brahma sits in her head, Karthikeya finds his home in her stomach, Sun and Moon live in her eyes, Garuda in her teeth, Ashwini Kumars in her ears, Goddess Saraswati in her tongue, Lord Indra in front of her horns, all pilgrimage centers in her posterior (back), Ganga in her urine, Yamaraj in her mouth, Gandharvas also reside inside her mouth, Goddess Lakshmi in the cow dung, Goddess Paravathi in the urine, Prajapati in the resonant voice, four Oceans in four teats (nipples) and milk, sky in the back portion and Varuna in the joints. In every pore of the body, all thirty-three crore Gods are positioned. In the stomach are the mountains ranges, with the forests, and the entire Earth.
Different kinds of Agni are positioned in different parts of cow. In the liver of the cow Grahpratya-agni, in her liver; dakshina-agni, in her heart; Ahvaniya-agni, in her neck; and Sabhya-agni, in her palette. In the bones of the cows are to be found the Mountains while Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, and Atharvana Veda in her marrow. Hence many rishis worshipped the cows and also raised them in their ashrams.
Having possessed all Gods in every part of her body, Cow blesses the people and country. Just looking at her enables one to have the fruits of offering salutations to all Gods, visiting all the pilgrimages and acquire health and wealth. Happiness and peace thrive in a house where there is a cow. By circumambulating (pradakshana) around the cow, one gets the punya (merit) of doing pradakshana to all gods. Padma Purana states. “The person who touches the cow after having bath daily, frees himself from all kinds of sins. The dust that arises from the cow’s hooves is so pure that the person who applies it on his head, is considered to have bathed in the sacred waters of different pilgrim places, and freed from all sins.”
Since all Gods reside and manifest in the cow, she is capable of bestowing her blessings on all creatures. All substances that come from the cow are pure, chaste, and wholesome: they have the potential to purify the entire world. Cow’s urine, cow dung, milk, curd, and ghee – by the intake of these five products, the body is absolved of all sin. That is why religious persons consume milk, ghee, and curd everyday. Since all gods reside in her, whatever cows consume, her products are the best and purest. Of all the foods we consume, the effect of ghee lasts longest for one month, compared to grains, which lasts for only five days. The effect of milk lasts for seven days and curds till twenty days. Since pre-Vedic period cow is said to bestow dharma, artha, kama, and moksha - the four purusharthas. Hence it is recommended to chant this mantra: ‘May cows forever remain in front of me, behind me, may all my limbs be blessed by the touch of the cow. May I reside amidst cows.’ This chanting will wash away all sins, and one is even worshipped in heaven for the merit of chanting.
Kamadhenu is a sacred cow known to fulfill all the wishes and desires. This divine cow, which lives in Swargaloka (heaven), emerged from the ocean of milk (ksheerasagar) during the time of Samudramanthan (the churning of the ocean) by the gods (suras) and demons (asuras). It was presented to the seven sages by the Gods, and in course of time came into the possession of Sage Vasishta.
Kamadhenu is also well known through its other five forms: Nandini, Sunanda, Surabhi, Susheela and Sumana. According to the legends Lord Brahma created the Brahmins (priests) and the cow at the same time; the Brahmins were to recite the religious scriptures while the cows were to provide ghee for offerings in religious sacrifices. Brahma also declared that Kamadhenu should be the mother of gods, she ought to be worshipped by every body. Anybody who killed a cow or allowed another to kill would rot in hell.
The cow symbolizes Dharma itself – fulfillment of righteous conduct. Cow represents the mother earth. In Satyayuga dharma stood firmly on four legs of earth (cow), in Tretayuga dharma stood on three legs, in Dwaparyuga dharma stood on two legs while in Kaliyuga it is standing on one leg. Hence dharma is slowly slipping away from the people and the age of deceit, decadence, deception and dishonesty has set in. It is due to the negligence of reverence toward the cows and prevention of abuse and killing them. Consequently whole world is facing untold misery, turmoil, terrorism, despair, debauchery, stress and natural disasters. A happy cow represents prosperity, peace of mind, blessings, wealth, health and purity. It is time to remember what Nandini cow said to King Dilip after he protected her from the Lion in a forest:
na kevalam payasa prasutim
ve hi man kam dugham prasannam
“Whenever I am pleased and happy I can fulfill all desires. Don't consider me to be just milk supplier.”
Cows are welcomed
In recognition of the virtues of a cow, a special place is accorded to her among Hindus. Cows are associated with prosperity and wealth. A newly purchased cow is welcomed into the home like a new bride. Whenever Pranaprathista to the deities is performed, cows are brought into the Temples and welcomed as the most revered guests. During certain festivals the cow’s legs are washed, horns are decorated with different colors, hump is smeared with colored powder, body is beautifully decorated with colorful cloth, forehead is anointed with tilak, and it is greeted with a kula or winnowing fan on which there is a dab of sindur or vermilion. A cow is welcomed into the house or temple with ingredients such as paddy, soft durva grass, sesame seeds, and a small brass pot containing a mango twig with leaves. It is like inviting all 33 crore gods into the house.
The Rishis (sages) discovered that the magnetism of a cow is due to the extraordinary virtues she possesses. No other animal equals in her qualities. Even if you give the same kind of food to a cow and a horse, the horse-dung emits an unhealthy stinking smell, while the cow-dung is odorless. In fact, it is an efficacious disinfectant. There can be little doubt that the urine and dung of the cow possess untold virtues. The gods residing in a cow make the difference making the fodder medicinal and sacred by the time it comes out of the cow.
Cow in Vedas
Cow is referred 723 times in Rig Veda, 87 times in Yajur Veda, 170 times in Sama Veda, 331 times in Atharvana Veda. A total of 1331 times are mentioned in these four Vedas. Similarly, Aghnya is referred 20 times in Rig Veda, 5 times in Yajur Veda, 2 times in Sama Veda and 33 times in Atharvana Veda. "Dhenu" is referred 76 times in Rig Veda, 22 times in Yajur Veda, 25 times in Sama Veda, 43 times in Atharvana Veda. The meaning of Dhenu is Trupti - meaning contentment and satisfaction.
The three words that are used to identify cow are defined below:
Aghnya the one that ought not to be killed
Ahi the one that must not be slaughtered.
Aditi the one that ought not to be cut into pieces.
These three names of cow signify that the animal ought not be killed or tortured. These words appear frequently throughout the Vedas in context of a cow.
The four Vedas considered cow as holy and sacred and commanded that cows be not killed. Severe punishments are recommended for slaughtering the cows. We borrow milk from cow just the way we borrow milk from our own mother. Hence we can argue that love and affection towards her should be similar to the one we show towards our own mother.
The word “Aghnya” is referred to the cow in many mantras of Vedas. The meaning of this word means, “not to be killed under any circumstances”. In one of the mantras cows were addressed as Aghnya who have been enjoined to keep themselves healthy by use of pure water and green grass so that we, who drink their milk, may be endowed with dharma, knowledge ad wealth.
Following are some of the verses you will find in Rig Veda
“She is like the mother of the cosmic Forces, the daughter of the cosmic Matter, the sister of cosmic Energy, the center of the ambrosia. I address to men of wisdom --kill not her, the sinless inviolate cow.
The divine cow, who is skilled in eloquence and gives speech to others, and who helps us for our worship of the divine forces, is abandoned by fools only.
May cows come and bring us good fortune; let them stay in our cowsheds and be content in our company. May many colored cows bring here prolific milk for offerings to the resplendent Lord at many dawns.
Let not the cows run away from us, let no thief carry them away; let no hostile weapon fall upon them. May the master of the cattle be long possessed of them, with the milk products of which he makes offerings and with which he serves the godly men.
Let not the cows fall a victim to the arrogant, dust spurning war-horse. Let them not fall into the hands of a butcher or his shop. Let the cattle of the man, the householder, move about freely and graze without fear.
May the cows be our affluence; may the resplendent Lord grant us cattle; may the cows yield food (milk and butter) of the first libation. These cows, O men, are sacred as the Lord resplendent Himself --the Lord whose blessings we crave for, with head and heart.
O cows, you strengthen even the worn-out and fatigued and make the unlovely beautiful to look on. Your lowing is auspicious, and makes my dwelling prosperous. Great is the abundance that is attributed to you in our religious ceremony.
May you, O cows, have many calves grazing upon good pastures and drinking pure water at accessible ponds. May no thief be your master. May no beast of prey assail you and may the dart of vital Lord never fall on you.
O resplendent Lord, a showerer of virility as you are, may we have by your blessings the sturdy bulls for insemination and let us have plenty of nourishment for the cows.
(Source: Rig Veda viii , 102, 15-16; vi , 28, 1-8 Translation by Swami Satya Prakash Saraswati and Satyakam Vidyalanka)
In the Atharvana Veda it is said: “The cow is the mother of Rudras; she is a daughter of the Vasus; she is the sister of Surya. She is a storehouse of ghee that is like the celestial nectar.” It further states that cow’s milk helps overcome debility and regain lost physical and mental health. It promotes intelligence and improves health. It even goes to the extent that if someone destroys our cows, horses or people, kill him with a bullet of lead.(Atharvana Veda 1.16.4)
The entire Hymn X in Atharvana Veda is dedicated to the glorification of the COW. Selected verses are listed below:
1 Worship to thee springing to life, and worship unto thee when born!
Worship, O Cow, to thy tail-hair, and to thy hooves, and to thy form!
2 The man who knows the Seven Floods, who knows the seven distances,
Who knows the head of sacrifice, he may receive the holy Cow.
5 Upon her back there are a hundred keepers, a hundred metal bowls, and a hundred milkers.
The Deities who breathe in her all separately know the Cow.
6 Her foot is sacrifice, her milk libation, Svadhā her breath, Mahï-lukā the mighty:
To the God goes with prayer the Cow who hath Parjanya for her lord.
18 The Kshatriya's mother is the Cow, thy mother, Svadhā! is the Cow.
Sacrifice is the weapon of the Cow: the thought arose from, her.
19 From Brahma's summit there went forth a drop that mounted up on high:
From that wast thou produced, O Cow, from that the Hotar sprang to life.
25 The Cow hath welcomed sacrifice: the Cow hath held the Sun in place.
Together with the prayer the mess of rice hath passed into the Cow.
26 They call the Cow immortal life, pay homage to the Cow as Death.
She hath become this universe, Fathers, and Rishis, hath become the Gods, and men, and Asuras.
27 The man who hath this knowledge may receive the Cow with welcoming. p. 39
33 He who hath given a Cow unto the Brahmans wined all the worlds.
For Right is firmly set in her devotion, and religious zeal.
34 Both Gods and mortal men depend for life and being on the Cow.
She hath become this universe: all that the Sun survey is she
Ghrtam duhaanaamaditim janaayaagne maa himsiheeh (Yajurveda 13.49)Do not kill cows and bulls who always deserve to be protected.
Antakaaya goghaatam Yajurveda 30.18 Destroy those who kill cows.
The Aghnya cows and bulls bring you prosperity. (12.73)
A verse in Yajur Veda abjures all violence: “Protect and rear the animals: do not hit the cow; do not hit the goats; nor the sheep; nor any other creature; nor two-legged animals; nor the one-legged; one should not injure any living being.”
Most of the hymns in Sama Veda are taken from Rig Veda. Hence effort is not made to identify any verses dealing with cow to avoid the duplication.
Based on the above selected citations from the Vedas, we can establish the fact that Cow is a highly revered animal for many, many centuries and thus Hindus are duty bound to protect it. It is our hope that these verses will provide enough knowledge to consider cow as sacred mother that needs to be respected, honored, revered and sheltered. Knowledge is the harbinger of proper action. With this knowledge let us take necessary actions against cruelty to Cows in India and around the world. We should also support all the organizations that are sheltering the cows, support the agencies that are working to prevent the export of beef, advocate the strict passage of anti-slaughter Bill across Bharath. Let us honor our Vedic injunction to stop the animal slaughter and work toward the preservation of scared cows
(NOTE: We discussed the significance and importance of Cow found in our sacred books until Vedic Period. Part 2 of this article will concentrate on literature found in Upanishads, Puranas and Mahabharata. Part will be sent soon)
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V. V. Prakasa Rao PhD