What do cows contribute to Indian life?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There are a couple of elements that Harris supports in his article.  There is a spiritual dimension to the cow that has a large contribution to the spiritual side of the Indian Hindu, making it sacred.  The Vedic scriptures outlined this worship and Brahmin priests as far back as 200 A.D. had extolled the virtues of worshipping the cow.  Harris implies, but does not directly state, that the bane of Hindu worship derives from the worship of the cow.  Lord Krishna was a herder of cows and the while Lord Rama's wife, Sita, was found in a field plowed by a cow. Many Hindus believe that the goddess Lakshmi, progenitor of wealth and prosperity, sits on the back of a cow.  To touch to the back of a cow is to receive blessings from this powerful goddess.  Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati are seated upon a bull, Nandi.  As Harris directly states:  The place of the cow in modern India is every place - on posters, in the movies, in brass figures, in stone and wood carvings, on the streets, in the fields. The cow is a symbol of health and abundance (Harris 2).  On a more practical side, Harris argues that Indian life practically depends on the cow.  He details the farming use of the cow and its importance in a land with over 50 million farms.  He also points to the fact that the byproducts of the cow, such as milk, clarified butter (ghee), and curd play a vital role in the Indian diet.  There is a very strong argument made as to how the dung produced by the cow plays a vital role in the hearth of the average Indian.  He also details that the reason why the cows roam so freely in both rural and urban areas are because the animals can scavenge in any setting, eating what has been left outside or of items disposed, making feeding and conservation a direct task.  In the end, Harris argues that there is both a spiritual and economic vitality the cow plays in the life of the Indian, making it so very sacred.


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