Sacred Cow Essay

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In Hinduism, the cow (Sanskrit: go) is revered as the source of food and symbol of life and may never be killed. Hindus do not worship the cow, however, and cows do not have especially charmed lives in India. It is more accurate to say the cow is taboo in Hinduism, rather than sacred. History of the "Sacred" Cow In ancient India, oxen and bulls were sacrificed to the gods and their meat was eaten. But even then the slaughter of milk-producing cows was prohibited. Verses of the Rigveda refer to the cow as Devi (goddess), identified with Aditi (mother of the gods) herself. Even when meat-eating was permitted, the ancient Vedic scriptures encouraged vegetarianism. One scripture says, "There is no sin in eating meat... but abstention brings great rewards." (The Laws of Manu, V/56) Later, in the spiritually fertile period that produced Jainism andBuddhism, Hindus stopped eating beef. This was mostly like for practical reasons as well as spiritual. It was expensive to slaughter an animal for religious rituals or for a guest, and the cow provided an abundance of important products, including milk, browned butter for lamps, and fuel from dried dung. Some scholars believe the tradition came to Hinduism through the influence of strictly vegetarian Jainism. But the cow continued to be especially revered and protected among the animals of India. By the early centuries AD, the cow was designated as the appropriate gift to the brahmans (high-caste priests) and it was soon said that to kill a cow is equal to killing a brahman. The importance of the pastoral element in the Krishna stories, particularly from the 10th century onward, further reinforced the sanctity of the cow. Cow-Related Practices The cow remains a protected animal in Hinduism today and Hindus do not eat beef. Most rural Indian families have at least one dairy cow, a gentle spirit who is often treated as a

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