Monday, March 24, 2008

The Sacred Cow

Just outside the Taj Mahal

One day while browzing through a pile of chappals for just the right pair in the very colorful Bapu Baazar in Jaipur, I felt someone bump into me, which is not completely a surprise as those markets are quite crowded and lively. But I turned to look anyway because the bump lingered and then began to slide past my back. I nearly fell back when I saw this huge black bull with pointed horns and a large cow bell around his neck sliding past me. He leisurely walked on the sidewalk of the baazar as he probably thought the road would be too perilous with all the tuk-tuks and motorbikes whizzing by. He had a determined looked about him as if he owned that block.

A little while later, I was checking out some bangles and the same thing happened again. She was a smaller gray cow with big soft eyes. We exchanged glances as if literally bumping into each other at the bazaar was the most normal of daily occurances and then we went on our separate ways. Ok, I was getting used to this. She walked with purpose towards her destination as if she was late for an appointment; perhaps she was on her way to the popular chai stand around the corner. :)

In Samode Village, Rajasthan

I am struck by how cows are treated with respect and many roam the streets at liberty throughout India. In some cases, the village takes a collective ownership and responsibility for the cow's welfare. Some believe it is good luck to feed a cow a little snack, and I must say that I was tempted at times...

PBS wrote an interesting article discussing the cow population in Delhi. The 13 million+ residents share the streets with an estimated 40,000 cows. The government has hired "urban cowboys" to safely transport these cows to the suburbs as an alternative to putting reflectors or license plates on their tails. :)

On the road to Bharatpur, Rajasthan

In Hinduism, the cow is considered the human race's surrogate mother as after we are weaned from our own mother's milk, we are sustained by cows' milk for the remainder of our lives. This beautiful symbolic belief is one reason why milk is used in religious ceremonies.

Cows are considered sacred by many Hindus, and animal life in general is respected in India. In fact, cow slaughter is illegal in all of India except two provinces: West Bengal and Kerala. A large proportion of the population is vegetarian for humanitarian, religious and economic reasons. Perhaps this is why it is so easy to find so many delicious vegetarian options in India. America has some ways to go in this respect but seems to be heading in the right direction.

Hmmm, all this talk inspires me to make a nice Indian vegetarian meal tonight...


Mary Elizabeth Liberty said...

I love this post, it's beautiful photos and gentle philosophy.

Shireena said...

Thanks, Mary. I thought you and Ram might like this one. :) Welcome back! Hope your trip was lovely and relaxing.

shelley said...

Great post, thank you.

shelley said...

Shireena - My email address is: for that recipe! Thank you.

Braja said...

Yes, a beautiful post for sure....and it's not hard either, the cows are soft and beautiful creatures, very gentle...Mary is right, a gentle philosophy: that's what cows imbibe :)
Thank you for eating vegetarian that night :)