Why Gauseva??

In the Vedic tradition, a cow is looked upon as the Goddess of Wealth. Wealth includes spiritual well-being, physical well being, and economic well being. The Vedic view is that safeguarding and protecting a cow will confer all three types of well-being. But unfortunately, as a modern society, we have failed miserably to understand the equation and derailed from this prescription. In this essay, we examine various perspectives regarding the value and importance of cow protection as our dharma.

Religious Perspective

From insects to elephants, every being is sacred in the Vedic tradition. Some animals are accorded the status of being the vehicles of the Hindu deities (ex: Bull for Lord Shiva, Peacock for Lord Murugan, etc). Others, like the cow, are associated with divinity. The elephant-faced Lord Ganesha is an important deity looked upon as the remover of obstacles in any human endeavour.
In the Vedic tradition, the cow is the most venerated of all animals. According to the puranic literature, Kamadhenu (meaning the giver of all desires), the celestial cow, emerged from the churning of the ocean of milk (samudramathanam) by the gods and demons. Kamadhenu was presented to the seven sages and eventually came under the custody of Sage Vasiṣṭha, the teacher of Lord Rama.

Every body part of a cow symbolizes some venerable aspect as detailed below:
→Legs symbolise four Vedas (Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharvana),
→Teats symbolise four puruṣārthas (human pursuits), namely dharma, artha, kāma, mokṣa (righteousness, →material wealth, desire and freedom, respectively),
→Horns symbolize the gods,
→Face symbolizes the sun and moon,
→Shoulders symbolize agni devatā, the god of fire.

There are various assertions supporting the sacred status of cows in the Hindu religion. A few of them are listed below:
→Lord Brahma gave life to priests and cows at the same time so that the priests would recite from the religious scriptures while cows would provide ghee (clarified butter) for offering in rituals.
→Lord Krishna, one of the avatars in Hinduism, appeared as a cowherd and is often described as “Gopāla” (the one who protects the cows), or “Govinda” (one who is the lord of the cows).
→Many other Hindu scriptures identify the cow as the “mother” of all civilization, and its milk nurturing the population. In Mahābhārata, Bhisma states that the cow acts as a surrogate mother by providing milk to human beings for lifetime.
→Many Purāṇas state that the gift of cow(s) in rituals is the greatest of all gifts.

The Vedas point out all the practical help and benefits that cows give to humans and thereby instruct human beings to protect cows. With the help of cows, mankind is freed from much of the mundane farm life work (ploughing land, procuring dairy for daily intake, preparing fertilisers), and thereby afforded time for spiritual pursuits.
All the yajñas (ritualistic offerings) prescribed in the Vedic tradition are meant for the physical or material or spiritual well-being of self and society. None of the yajñas can be performed without ghee and dried cow dung. It becomes imperative that cows should be protected to carry out these rituals and, in turn, obtain the three-fold benefits.

Economic Perspective

Based on economic reasons, the sacredness and protection of cows are very pertinent. In the Vedic times, cattle represented wealth for the predominantly pastoral communities that were prevalent then. The five key “products” of the cow used in daily life are milk, curds, ghee, butter, urine and dung; Cows provide milk that serves as additional nutrition to adults and children. The by-products of milk such as yoghurt, buttermilk, butter and ghee are an integral part of people’s daily diet in India. Cow dung has been scientifically proven to have antiseptic value and is used to clean house floors and walls in rural areas. By having a cow in every household, the family’s needs for milk and the resulting byproducts can be easily met without reliance on external sources.
Biogas plants are an eco-friendly affordable technology that helps to safeguard local forest resources by reducing firewood consumption for fuel in rural areas. Biogas can also reduce the consumption of kerosene which is used as fuel in urban and rural areas. Biogas is a method of producing methane gas from organic matter via natural bacterial action. Cow dung serves as the best feed for biogas plants, and the resulting biogas can be used for cooking. The residues can be used as agricultural fertiliser, which also helps in minimizing the use of artificial chemical fertilisers.
In India, the total dung production is estimated at 659 tons annually. There are only 22 million family type biogas plants in India utilizing only 22 tons of cow dung annually. By installing more biogas plants and utilizing all the available cow dung, India can be self-sufficient in eco-friendly energy, and this creates economic advantages. To have a continuous supply of cow dung, the protection of cows is imperative.
More gaushalas (Cow Sanctuaries) should be built and money must be invested in proper running and maintenance of these sanctuaries. Appropriate economic models of the dairy projects should be developed with the aim to obtain revenue from the sale of milk and other products from these cow sanctuaries. The revenue obtained from the sales can be again used for the protection of cows. This will demonstrate the importance of cow protection not only for religious purposes but for economic prosperity as well.

Health Perspective

Using the five products namely milk, curd, ghee, cow urine and cow dung, a very effective body cleansing medicine known as Pañcagavyam is made. Regular consumption of Pañcagavyam helps in removal of toxins from the body and further strengthens the immune system.
Cow milk is the next best thing to breast milk for a newborn. Cow milk nourishes the body tissues and improves intelligence and strength. Curd from cow’s milk is an effective medicine for controlling diarrhoea and in reducing the irritability of the bladder. Cow ghee improves digestive fire, intelligence, memory, skin softness and eye strength. Cow urine provides an effective remedy for various skin diseases, digestion issues and urinary infection. Cow dung provides increased resistance to illnesses and also has antiseptic properties. The use of cow dung is very effective in respiratory ailments and strengthening muscles.

From all the above benefits, it is very clear that we also have a tangible benefit (physical well being) by protecting cows. All the health benefits of cow products discussed in this section should ideally be enjoyed provided that the cattle are being raised and treated in an ethical and humane way. If not, efforts should be made to derive the health benefits (that dairy products give) from non-dairy products. It is also encouraging to note that there are functioning gaushalas in India that follow a strict ethical and humane treatment of cattle. These gaushalas also ensure availability of various dairy products to ordinary citizens at a reasonable price.
The Hindu religion strongly values the ideals of compassion and non-violence. To a Hindu, the cow symbolizes all other creatures. The cow represents life, and the sustenance of life. Unfortunately, ~500 cows and calves are slaughtered every minute all around the world [increasing at an alarming rate]. At this rate of slaughter, it is limiting to just be content by being a vegetarian. Instead, we should take proactive steps to ensure that we work towards minimising or eliminating the slaughter of cows.