There is considerable debate about the theological basis of the cow’s sacred status in Hinduism. Some scholar’s claim that mentions of the cow’s sacred status is present in the scrolls of Muni Vashishth (an ancient sage). Other scholars argue that Hindu’s don’t actually worship cows but adore and honour them as they do most other living creatures. These scholars also say that no definite proof exists of the cow’s specialty as a sacred creature in the grand trinity of Hindu religious texts; i.e. the Upanishads, Puranas and Geeta.
Sociological Perspective on the Sacred Cow
A study of sociological and philosophical treatises reveals that the importance of cow as a religious and spiritual symbol, along with its divine status as “Gau Mata”, has a lot of more practical reasons.
Hindus actually regard the cow as a beneficial extension of Mother Nature. The cow represents the Mother Earth who is always bountiful, who never demands but always provides for her children. Life and the nourishment of life find expression in the gentle, docile and nurturing nature of the cow. Because of the cows’ simple diet (it consumes only grain, water and grass), it places very less demand on resources and yet supplies milk of the highest quality that has the capacity of nurturing even infants. Many philosophers have compared the purity and sanctity of cow’s milk to the purity of the spiritual knowledge of a sage. The cow was thought to be a symbol of abundance and grace. The elders preach the values of gentleness, oneness with nature and goodness by instructing the young to observe the nature of the cow.
Rituals connected with the Cow
According to traditional Hindu rituals the cow is garlanded, worshipped and honoured at most Hindu festivals. A very good example is the Gopastama Festival which is entirely centered on cows. As a sign of how lovable and important the cow is to Hindu religion, jewelry and waistbands decorated with images of the cow is sold at many fairs. The art of decorating the cow with flowers, paint and jewelry is specifically taught to young children.
Kamdhenu or the Holy wish fulfilling cow has special mention in the scriptures. As a sign of respect to the cow, the Hindu charitable institutions have maintained about 3000 Gaushalas. Though most Hindus are not vegetarian, they follow the practice of not consuming beef. In fact consuming beef is supposed to be a cardinal sin in Hinduism. Recently the BJP led Indian government has also prohibited the selling and consumption of Beef in many parts of India.