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Cow and its religious importance

India has a very complex social structure, from diversity spread across the nation, to intolerance in digesting that opinionated diversity! We have it all. And so our diversity and specific practices have always been at war.

Yes, you are right. The major example of this is how cow as an animal has religious importance in Hinduism. Why it has been portrayed as such a strong symbol of religion? How did this start?

Welcome to the history lecture about the cow. *Ping*

The symbolism had started from the time Puranas were written, in the 4th AD. But this symbolism took the course of political and social movements just 150 years ago! These 150 years have conditioned the majority of the population in India to protect cows, but kill humans.

Interestingly, cow protection was never a concern for Hindus. The protection of cows was started by the Namdhari Sikhs, a community, who practiced vegetarianism, in around 1817. During this time the Britishers had allowed cow slaughterhouses to open, and this Act started the violence. Soon, the gap between these Namdhari Sikhs and Muslims started widening. Things grew aggressive quickly and in one such instance, 66 Namdhari’s were killed by a cannon. But, the Namdhari’s did not have an organizational structure to politicize this matter.

Then, in 1882, Dayanand Saraswati, the founder of Arya Samaj, established the first cow protection group called ‘Gau Rakshini Sabha’. The idea was to spread this movement and sensitize the society about the cow and its religious symbol. Hundreds of gaushalas were made! Media was used to change the outlook of the cow to the mass. Posters and pamphlets were distributed, a newspaper named ‘gausevak’ was also published!

Cow and its religious identity were made strong by the people and such religious groups and NOT necessarily by gods or holy texts.

Psychologically, everyone started viewing cows as their source of Bhakti. It was now symbolized with ‘mother’ in India. Thus, attaching such religious sentiments with cow increased the urge in people to protect it. Soon these groups made Zamindars responsible for the divine act of cow protection. In just a few decades the importance of cow protection was injected into our blood.

This makes me wonder if 20 years of sensitizing can create such a major impact, why are citizens or government still not sensitive about protecting women after centuries of protests and fights? Is cow protection more important than women’s protection?

But, the important topic is the cow and religious sentiments right now. *Haha* Jinnah once quoted in the cover story of the Time magazine “I want to eat the cow the Hindu worship, the Muslims have nothing in common with the Hindu except the slavery of British.”

Jinnah had used the political sentiment of cows to establish and strengthen the two-nation theory which resulted in the partition and the brutal violence which followed after.

Since then cow protection became a political matter. Article 48 was added to protect cows but it falls under the Directive Principles of State Policy which does not have any legal compulsion to be implemented.

The religious freedom that every individual has, gets reduced to the tolerance of accepting the diversity India has. (Read that again, and sink it in!) Honestly, if we do not accept the practices of others as they are, there will just be cows to protect and no humans left! Plus, I wonder if the cow whom we worship so much would actually even protect us.

Blind faith and running behind the herd has to be the stupidest cause of violence, and you and me are all involved in it. The real challenges right now are women protection, environmental issues, poverty etc. But we are still focused on cow protection. I don’t even find this irony funny!

The point of this long drawn history lecture was to tell you that people have been conditioned to feel sentimental about certain symbols. I love dogs but people in Nagaland consume dogs, I’ll let them consume it because it is their CHOICE, I will settle for my chicken maybe!

Religious tolerance and minding your own business can work wonders for a country like India. I still believe that the way people were sensitized to protect the cow, a wide and equally powerful movement should be started for women. But oops! What religious sentiment will we add to this to make it work?

Let us know your thoughts

Written by: Manasvi Shah

Source: Article by newslaundry, tap here to read the whole article.

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