Millions of Hindus revere and worship cows. Hinduism is a religion that raises the status of Mother to the level of Goddess. Therefore, the cow is considered a sacred animal, as it provides us life sustaining milk. The cow is seen as a maternal figure, a care taker of her people. The cow is a symbol of the divine bounty of earth.
Lord Krishna, one of the most well-known of the Hindu deities is often depicted playing his flute amongst cows and dancing Gopis. He grew up as a cow herder. Krishna also goes by the names Govinda and Gopala, which literally mean “friend and protector of cows.” It is considered highly auspicious for a true devotee to feed a cow, even before eating breakfast oneself.
Ayurveda is a big proponent of the sattvic qualities of milk and dairy products. That is why most Hindus are vegetarian, but not vegan. Fresh, organic milk, yogurt, buttermilk, paneer (homemade cheese) and ghee, are all considered highly nutritious, and an important part of the diet. Not only do these dairy products provide important protein and calcium for our tissues, but are sources of Ojas, which gives our body strength and immunity.
Besides their milk, cows also provide many practical purposes, and are considered a real blessing to the rural community. On the farm, bulls are used to plough the fields and as a means of transportation of goods. Even Lord Shiva’s trusted vehicle is Nandi– the sacred bull.
In such a spiritual land as India, one can find religious ceremonies taking place at any time and any place. Spiritual “yagnas” are fire ceremonies that performed to thank the Gods and receive their blessings. Cows even play a central role in these fire yagnas or Agnihotras. Scientific research has found that the ritual of burning cow dung and ghee as fuel for these sacred fires, actually purifies the air, and has anti-pollutant and anti-radiation qualities in the environment.