June 16, 2021

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Ramblings of a Cow-worshipping Hindu

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Uday Deb
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Okay, Bengalis are often considered too removed from India’s heartland culture for their own good. I mean, we do have a history of venerating the 19th century Renaissance stars of Bengal like Raja Rammohun Roy and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar who actually refuted some of the Hindu social practices of that age: child marriage, practice of suttee, even going so far as to fight for women’s education and against the social caste based discriminations for both men and women.

But in my defence, I can say that long after the age of Ram Mohun Roy et al, Bollywood, that mega cultural barometer of modern India continues to be inspired by Bengali tales romanticising child marriage and infantilising women who had long ceased to be children.( Balika Bodhu, Parineeta ).

So I think it is safe to say that though a Bengali, I am a devoted Hindu, who, while devoutly participating in the rituals of our main deity , the Mother Goddess Durga in her many forms, also observe Janmashtami , the birthday of Lord Krishna. That naturally makes me a worshipper of the gentle eyed cows that the Lord gambols with in his cowherd avatar in Gokul and Brindavan. And let’s not forget the bull, the male counterpart of ‘Gaumata’, who is Nandi, the door keeper to the altar of Lord Shiva, in whose ear you can whisper your requests to be transmitted to the Lord.

Since over the last three decades, middle class Hindu parents , as much as Muslim and Christian and Parsi and Sikh parents in urban India at least, have agreed on the necessity of at least a basic education for their girl children , I went to school and learnt to do sums and spell and write essays in Bengali, Hindi and English. And a common topic for short essays in primary classes was the Cow. We learnt that the cow was a domestic animal and the most useful in the world. While alive, the cow gave milk and from milk we made many milk products like ghee , curd and sweets. Cow dung was a source of cheap fuel especially in rural areas. It was also being harnessed by bio-gas plants to create alternative environment friendly energy. But the unique power of the cow to benefit mankind continued even after it death and every part of the cow-meat, skin, horns, hooves , were valued by societies around the world.

When you are young , life and death seem a matter of course, for both human beings and animals and plants. Today, however , when one is far better acquainted with both, one wonders, are animal activists justified in protesting against the killing of animals for human gains ?

Yes, some of the world’s most exotic dishes like foie gras for example are often touted as examples of the cruelty of human beings towards animals. But then any non vegetarian dish is the result of violence . I would go so far as to say even a vegetarian dish is so for it involves uprooting , slashing ,mincing , all ending a life to nurture another. But then is that not the order of nature , the way nature’s food chain has functioned for ages?

Coming back to the beloved cow of Krishna or the Kamdhenu( cow for wish fulfilment) celebrated in the ancient tales of Samudra Manthan ( Churning of Oceans) by the Gods and the Asuras , are we not confusing her with the plastic eating , old and decrepit beast wandering around crowded streets of our cities and towns, abandoned by farmers who can ill afford to keep them anymore or sell them for fear of going against the state’s anti cow slaughter laws? And while trying to avoid these pathetic creatures , I wonder, if a primary school child of today wrote an essay on the usefulness of the cow , while living and after death, will she be hauled up by her class teacher for spreading false information or worse, growing up without Indian cultural values ?

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Disclaimer

Views expressed above are the author’s own.

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Disclaimer

Views expressed above are the author’s own.

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