India is a large and exotic country, and the influence of religion is seen in all the processes of its life. About 80% of the population of the country professes Hinduism, which has a centuries-old history. According to this religion, there are five animals that are important to honor, and the most sacred of them is the cow. In India, these creatures are treated with special respect and are allowed to walk wherever they want. It is unlikely that anyone would dare to even drive away a cow lying in the middle of the roadway.
If you accidentally or intentionally kill this animal, then the punishment will be a large fine or imprisonment up to a life term. But even this outcome is mild compared to what it was before. In the Middle Ages, the deliberate killing of a cow was punishable by death.
And although most Indians live below the poverty line and often go hungry, Hinduism prohibits to use cow meat for food. It should be noted that bulls are also sacred animals in India that are important to honor. However, Hinduism allows to use them as mounts and for farming.
Why are Cows Sacred in India?
To find the answer to this question, let’s dive a little into the study of the Vedic religion. Unlike Christianity, it has not one, but many sacred books. The most significant of them are: Gautama Dharmasutra and Vasishtha, Baudhayana and Rigveda, Mahabharata and Manusmriti. Each of them prohibits the consumption of cow meat, and also encourages to honor these animals.
Hinduism draws parallels between cows and Mother Earth, as both are selfless in their sacrifice. In addition, the Rigveda directly states that cows are the embodiment of all human and divine virtues, they are pure and give everyone around them great cleansing power.
However, there is a more logical explanation as to why the cow is a sacred animal in India. Many experts believe that the population of the entire Indian subcontinent has long demonstrated a historical dependence on milk and dairy products, such as cheese, sour cream, butter, cottage cheese. Even cow dung was widely used by the Indians. Its smoke repelled insects, and its ash was an excellent fertilizer that significantly increased yields.
Now you know why the cow is so important for Indians. Therefore, when visiting this exotic country, be sure to respect its traditions, so as not to accidentally break the law and offend the locals.