Gau Seva (गौ सेवा)

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The sanctity of the cow is perhaps the foremost sentiment of Hindus for whom this sacred animal has far deeper nuances in Indian culture and ethos than is generally understood. For instance, in Sanskrit, the vocabulary used to mention the cow is indeed staggering, revealing the extraordinary importance that was once attached to it. Indian scriptures tell us that the cow is a gift of the gods to the human race. It is a celestial being born of the churning of the cosmic ocean. Guias the cow is called in Hindi, is symbolic of Earth itself (similar to Gaia,the Greek goddess of earth). 

It follows that the cow represents the Divine Mother that sustains all human beings and brings them up as her very own offspring. Much as a mother shows the highest mark of affection for her young, the passion of the cow for her calf is just as legendary and often referred to in Indian literature.

In fact, the cow is even more than a mother in the sense that it fulfills all the needs of her children as well. It is in this conception that the cow is understood as Kamadhenu, the wish filling mythical cow, abode of the 330 million Indian gods and goddesses. But in Indian mythology and legend, it is with the cult of Krishna that the cow is closely connected. Among other deeds, Krishna is said to have lifted mount Govardhan to protect his group of cows, cowboys and milkmaids. In popular imagination it is Lord Krishna who symbolized the relationship man should have for the cow. Hence to take care of this innocent and self-sacrificing animal is a matter of virtue for Hindus who identify the act as dharma or moral duty.

Considerations of conscience aside, it was natural that in a predominantly agricultural and pastoral country like India, cows were and to some extent still are, considered to be the real wealth of the people.

After all it is the cow that gives birth to the bulls, bulls that are harnessed to plough the fields and to provide transportation. And then of course, there is the mild-milk that is cultured to become yoghurt–yoghurt which is churned to produce butter–butter which is converted into ghee or clarified butter that in India is used as cooking medium and also used in HAWAN-the holy process for god’s happiness in presence of fire. In addition to this, there is paneer or cottage cheese and butter-milk. Indians cannot forget khoya and mana- the other milk derivatives used in preparation of sweets. No wonder the cow is considered the backbone of rural society.