The Holy Cow Debate

“Make the cow a national animal”, declared Maulana Syed Ashrad Madani, president of the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind. He said this not so much to buy peace as to bring sanity to the issue of beef eating. Both sides have misplaced priorities, and this is bad for our brains. Those who argue that minorities are being pampered should ask themselves, why then, in aggregate terms, are Muslims always poorer than Hindus?

At the same time, a fact check is advised for those who think banning beef is anti-secular. True, Hindus are forbidden to eat the cow but neither does Islam ordain that it be slaughtered. Muslims would certainly not lose their faith if they did not get a regular ration of beef. In fact, some of the best cuisines from Awadh, Hyderabad and Kashmir, are mutton based and, in all such instances, the connoisseur would be horrified to stir cow meat into the pot.

Nor is it that the veneration of an animal is strictly a Hindu peculiarity. The Egyptians believed the cat was sacred; the Zoroastrians, like the Hindus, revere the ox as their prophet was, in lore, saved by one; the Cherokee Native Americans give the eagle a special place and nobody is allowed to mess with it. The gentle turtle is also an object of worship among many peoples, ancient and modern.

In a number of cultures it is forbidden to kill the totemic symbol of the community, be it an animal, even a plant; why, sometimes also a creature nobody has ever seen. The Chinese have a near totemic relationship with the dragon, Czechs with a double-tailed lion, but none of these animals actually exist. Humans and nature interact in ways more complex than the dichotomy between “us” and “them”.

Beef is banned in 24 out of 29 Indian states;besides our Constitution also directs us to protect the cow. Other countries have outlawed other kinds of meat for reasons not always religious. However, when a law prohibits the consumption, or slaughter, of a certain animal, then it applies to every citizen, without exception. In Germany, Britain, Ireland, France, South Australia, among several other countries, dog meat is banned. In six states in America you cannot flip dog flesh on your hamburger grill.

As you can’t pet a dog and slaughter it too, eating its meat would mean farming the animal and keeping it under conditions in which chickens and turkeys are bred. This thought, by itself, is so revolting, that plating dogs for a meal is now a hideous crime in many parts of the world. Curiously, even where eating dog meat is allowed, there are restrictions on slaughtering it. Such is the case in Appenzel and St Gallen districts of Switzerland.

If you are hopelessly addicted to dog meat, you have to go somewhere else, and the space for that is shrinking. Now even Taiwan, post westernisation, has banned the sale of dog meat. The Chinese, for a long time, had no inhibitions against this kind of protein, but now some qualms are emerging.

It is often argued that this is an outcome of the one-child policy which allows for more time, room and emotional space for raising a pet.Under these conditions the dog, predictably, is the most popular choice in many homes. It is hard to imagine this for as recently as in 1983 in Beijing, it was illegal to keep a dog as a pet.

Eating a horse was not particularly encouraged in the US, but is known to have happened. When it did, it was usually under strained circumstances; when food and victuals were scarce and even the kitchen salt running low. Today, however, there is a specific law against horseflesh in the US and there is nothing religious behind this. It is true that over 600 years ago Pope Gregory II had instructed St Boniface to campaign against horse meat, but when the last horse slaughter house was closed in America in 2007, nobody remembered what a Pope had once said.

The horse, the dog, the cat, are treated as pets in many cultures, which is why eating them is not just bad manners, but illegal too. It does not matter where the sentiment to ban the eating of a certain animal comes from: it may be religion, or because of a certain affection towards a species. But whenever this prohibition is in place, the arm of the law is equally muscular and long. Under these circumstances, it is pointless to demand dog meat as a legal claim; it would be laughed out of court.

Doubtless, there will be random attempts to trick people into buying dog meat as goat meat, or horse meat as beef, or selling cat meat as rabbit meat. This practice must have been prevalent enough for there is, in fact, a Spanish saying: “To pass off a cat as a hare.” In India, sadly, gau rakshaks often set out to “pass off” buffalo meat (sometimes any meat) as beef, to create terror among Muslims. Well-meaning secularists, on the other hand, frequently end up falling on their swords. When gau rakshaks  turn murderous they should be single-mindedly tried for their crimes. Why blunt this thrust by simultaneously arguing that eating beef is a democratic right?

To insist on beef in India, in the name of secularism, is just as ridiculous as demanding a dog or horse in a New York restaurant. All that is forbidden need not be holy!

1. Those averse to the Shastras and ignorant of its infallibility, feign profound sympathy for secular ideals. In a secular society, divorced from the regulations of religion, the convictions of the multitude are not so much true convictions as mental and emotional habits, conditioned by a climate of the sands of time. They are the beliefs of non-
believers and opinion which has no foundation beyond the thoughts of non-thinkers, the parrot cries of a generation malformed by secular education and mis-moulded by and entirely profane human environment.

2. When the world’s religions are advanced in age and far from the historic source of their respective revelations, when Christianity slumbers on its world –transforming truths and the hurricane force of Islam is long exhausted and the silent sanctifying power of Hinduism is being daily out legislated, no religion is likely to stand firm against the claims of the Secular State and its pagan ideals.. on the transcendent dimension which would make nonsense of all their claims, and for this reason if for no other, the secular idealists are bound to hate religion.

3. The well informed writer has raised a question and sought an answer- “Why then, in aggregate terms, Muslims are always poorer than Hindus?”

The reason for richness or poverty lies in the dictum –


If you share your riches with the improper person, you get poorer. Sharing riches with proper (chaste, needy) person invites richness. Muslims in several countries are quite rich but in India and several other countries they are extremely poor because of their own habits and waylaid temptations. The loot of temple properties and riches for hundreds of years by their forefathers is a sickening tale of tempestuous torture unleashed on Hindus who had a far richer and sober humane culture. The Bhagavadgita says– Those who cook only for themselves and feast upon, actually partake in sin. Food should always be shared with others. This is fundamental for all Hindus. Love for not only pets but for all human beings, animals and even insects is an integral part of Sanatan Dharma. Religions later evolved like Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism etc. have not digressed from these dictums. Even thousands of Muslims in India, after close  association with Hindus also follow and perform similar rituals and achar and are benefited. However, they are prone to experience pariah treatment in other Islamic state for being an Indian Muslim.

While Christianity stands for Universal fraternity of the mankind (to sanction consumption of any animal meat without prejudice), and Islam preaches brotherhood amongst Muslims only, Hindu dharma upholds the Truth that God pervades the entire universe – animate and inanimate, and Devyajna, Rishiyajna, Pitriyajna, nriyajna, and Bhutyajna should be performed for the benefit of the entire creation–

The space, earth, Air, water, rivers, stars all should be held in reverence and protected for the safety of creation.

Since the Manav dharma or Sanatan dharma extolled by Manu is intended for the welfare of the entire mankind (and not to benefit a particular creed or sect) every injunction has an in-depth lesson, a holistic experience and oracular interpretation that go far beyond any shallow perception.

4. Nobel laureate Sri Rabindranath Tagore writes (in his Shantiniketan 9,17- Ravindra rachanavali) that– “Lest the infinite mystery of fire, water, earth and food grain get soiled by our habits and behaviour, there are procedures and rituals to remind us on their purity. One, who can consciously realise that he comes into communion with eternity through these, has achieved great success. The teaching and practice of revering water meant for bathing, or the food for our  sustenance, does not amount to worship of matter because belittling or ignoring usual products associated with our daily use, is mundane, but perceiving all-round consciousness is possible only through a real inner awakening. It is needless to state that one who is a swollen headed and has material constraint in accepting truth distorts every sadhana (pious endeavour) and puts every objective at the wrong site”.

Cow and bulls are adorned with Bhagawan Sri Krishna (Go Brahman hitaya) and Lord Shiva respectively, but sceptics still question on the piety of these creatures ordained by the All- merciful Creator. Cows, bulls etc. deserve care, respect and proper upkeep for the welfare of the world. Shastras are replete with instances extolling their attributes and divinity but one stung by the scorpion of lying and deception, perverted prejudice and reasoning will, heed them not.

Poet Rabindranath further writes that- “Crores of people– an entire nation, have given up fish , meat entirely in their meal – there is no comparison to this in the whole world. We don’t find a second nation who desist from taking non- vegetarian diet….India has taken to the sadhana of communion with the entire universe at the level of realisation , at the level of soul (Atma) i.e. a complete communion….” .

The Shankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peeth – Swami Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Swamigal– the Perival who was once considered by crores in the South as Lord Shiva in flesh and blood, stated that “Slaughtering of cows should not be even dreamt of.”

5. The Vedas have repeatedly forbidden slaughter of cows. The words ‘Go Aghnya’ is repeated more than 100 times to emphasise that under no circumstance a cow should be killed. Wherever there is a reference of welcoming the guests with cows– it reflects- —(payah payasam va) i.e. entertain them with superb milk products. A Sanskrit word has several meanings and lack of knowledge and want of education under a Sanskrit scholar in a refined environment has been the cause behind the generation of enormous errors in texts. Stupidity blended with shrewd, prejudiced interpretation has taken its toll to mislead and misinterpret the Shastras and turn the so called English educated, translation dependent scholars into enemies of their own faith and brand ambassadors of aberrant distorted version of the Vedas. When three to four guests arrive at the door of a household, a senior suggests to cook rice and feed them with few Uksha or Rishavas. (Uksha) (means somalata- Mahoksha) or KÅF⁄F (rishava) are a sort of a medicinal plant cool and nutritious which resemble the horns of an ox– big in size and may cater to the need of feeding after cooking. Rishav has another meaning– the second note of music (octave) that resembles the voice of an ox. But the beef-
eaters jump into drawing a fanciful conclusion that this indicates towards taking bull or bullock meat. They would seldom realise that even four monsters cannot eat up a few bulls. Mis-interpretation is the soul of these infatuated so called secular moderns, who have not been rectified even 60 years after India achieved political independence. However, the present swing for cultural independence may further fructify through introduction of Gurukul system of Sanskrit education, already in great demand among international Sanskrit learners, eager to learn Sanskrit with proper vyakarana (grammar) and Indian ethos and the Vedas through appropriate Niruktas.

6. Swami Chinmayananda stated that “Cow has been worshipped in every Hindu household since millennia as is still evidenced on special auspicious days of Radhashtami, Goshthaashtami, and the day after Dwipanwita (Giriraj puja and Annakoot) in villages.

The Shastras state that the meaning of the Vedas should be understood through the instances of Puranas-The Varaha Puran mentions that Devatas reside in the body of a cow.The Maruts reside in the teeth, Saraswati in the tongue, the Gandharvas in the hoof, the Kulasarpas in the front of hooves, The sadhva Rishis in the joints, sun and moon in the two eyes, the Nakshatras in the hump, Dharmaraj in the tail, all the teerthas in the wind it passes, Ganga and the four oceans with seven islands in the urine, Rishis in the stoma all over the body, Laksmi in the cow dung, all the Vidyas in the body hairs, Uttarayan and Dakshinayan in the skin and hairs. When a cow moves, it is surrounded by Dhairya, Dhriti (forbearance), Kshama, Pusti, Buddhi, Smriti, Medha, Lajja, Vapu, keerti, vidya, shanty , Mati and Parama- santati (etc.) Matrikas follow her.

There is no doubt about this. Where cows live, the entire world lives there, and all the Devas move in its front. Where cow lives, that is the abode of Lakshmiji and Sanatan Dharma Sankhya and other shastras remain present. There is no second opinion that cows are (pervade everything). Cows are the image of piousness, mangaldayika and worshipped by the Devas. Those who nurture and take due care of the cows are relieved from all sins.

Chanakya states that –

The mother giving birth, the consort of Guru, wife of a Brahmin, the Consort of the King, Cow (Gau), the nurturing nurse one’s infancy and the earth are the seven in the status of a mother i.e. fit to be worshipped as the mother who bears the womb.

7. The beef industry’s methane emissions can trap 100% more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide (green house gas produced from agriculture). It also consumes 11 times more water than either pork or chicken. Rightly has the vegan Saudi Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed said that, “Animal welfare, factory farming, the environment – usually they’re solvable if we look at things in an economic way, a humane way, and a practical way rather than a greedy way”. The divine Shastric way is the most holistic for universal welfare.

Source: “Truth” Dated 02-06-2017 Vol:85 Issue:7 published by Shastra Dharma Prachar Sabha, 91, Chowringhee Road,Kolkata -700020

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