menu
Patheos answers the question:
Why Are Cows Sacred to Hindus?
Shutterstock.com

The cow holds a special place in the Hindu tradition. While it is common for many Hindus to be vegetarian, even Hindus who do choose to eat meat, such a chicken or goat, will commonly refrain from eating beef, or any cow-derived meat. Especially in India, the cow is simply not considered an animal that one eats. The cow is considered a beloved animal, and for many Hindus, turning the cow into food to be consumed would be similar to a person turning their beloved pet, such as the family dog, into a meal to eat. Not eating beef is a strong taboo within Hindu practice for many Hindus.

The question is why are cows sacred to Hindus? The cow is sacred to Hindus for many reasons. One of the primary reasons that the cow is sacred to Hindus is that the cow provides milk all her life for the benefit of human beings. The cow therefore, as a result, has become a symbol of selfless giving. She is considered the symbol of selfless giving because she provides milk from her body for humans to use and consume. In India, many families rely on the milk that is provided from their cow. The milk from the cow is used for yoghurt, cheese, and butter, all of which are staples in many Hindu Indian meals. The cow is therefore a revered animal, for the ways in which she provides for humans. The cow is also sometimes cast in the role of mother, because of the way she provides milk for the benefit of people. The Vedas, one of the earliest of the Hindu scriptures, connects the symbol of the cow to Aditi, the mother of all gods.

In this way, the cow is honored as a mother who provides for her children, and it is another reason that her ability to provide milk makes the cow an important and sacred creature for many Hindus. That is one reason the cow is sacred to Hindus. Another reason that is given is that Krishna was a cow herder as a child, and so cows are sometimes considered to have some residual divine association that makes them particularly worthy of being cared for by human beings. The cow is seen as acting with divine love in this world, and that is another reason why the cow is sacred for Hindus. Historically, the importance of the cow in sacred tradition arose soon after Buddhism and Jainism developed in India, and when vegetarianism became more common and exalted behavior.  Cows, who were seen as important markers of wealth and status, became particularly associated with Brahmans, the most noble caste in Hinduism. Killing a Brahman is considered a very grave sin, and so killing a cow became, by extension, a very bad action.

The importance of the cow is mostly restricted to India, which is a country that is majority Hindu religion. Typically, cows who roam freely are not chased down or violently moved out of the way by local people, because the cow is considered sacred, and important. The public killing of a cow would be very controversial in India.


3/23/2021 6:32:41 PM