Q: I was contemplating on some aspects of why Christians in India are allergic to Hinduism. One of the aspects I feel is the cow worship by Hindus, and the Christian idea of the golden calf misadventure at times of Moses.
To equate the Indian veneration of cows with what took place after the exodus from Egypt is ridiculous and ignorant. The Hebrews were reverting to the worship of the Egyptian god Apis who had the form of a bull. Obviously they and Aaron had done such worship when they were in Egypt.
The cow is quite rightly venerated in India as the representation of God’s motherly care for us. The cow gives milk to millions.
During the Second World War the British discovered that cow’s urine is a viable antiseptic. Buddha said that cow’s urine is a specific for all illnesses, and I have yogi friends who say the same from their own experience.
Without the dung of the cow that is used for cooking fuel throughout India, many could not eat.
Every day countless households put out the peelings and vegetable parts not used in cooking, as well as the leaf plates on which food has been served. The cows come and eat these things, otherwise they would sit and decay and attract pests such as rats that would endanger the health of many. Cows are the voluntary garbage collectors of India.
Furthermore, cows often display human emotions, even shedding tears when humans are suffering or in distress.
More reasons for cow worship
Cows also evince spiritual awareness. At Ramanashram during the lifetime of Sri Ramana Maharshi, Lakshmi the cow was said by him to understand human speech, and as she was dying he held her head and helped her to leave the body, after which she was interred in a formal samadhi tomb and is still honored there today.
When some friends and I were staying at Sivanandashram in Rishikesh we had daily kirtan. Every day a cow would come and stand at the door watching us and listening to the singing of God’s Name.
On the day of my taking sannyas, when I walked by a line of about twenty cows I looked back and saw them all standing still with their heads turned around watching me. As long as I was in their sight they did not move at all. They obviously sensed something on that sacred day.
In the holy city of Kankhal that is next to sacred Haridwara there lived for many years a great brown bull that everyone called Nandi. Often in the bazaar people would buy something to feed him. He knew his name and would come if anyone called him. I always fed him something, and the last time I saw him it was in the afternoon when everything was closed and people were resting. But I found something to give him, and since he was not in sight my friends and I stood and called “Nandi” over and over. After several minutes Nandi came and we fed him.
The cow is a great blessing. Wherever a cow walks that place is purified. Just to touch a cow is to be purified. The free wandering of cows is a source of tremendous blessing throughout India.
Therefore it is understandable that cows are sometimes honored with the waving of lights, the placing of tilak, etc. The same thing has been done there for thousands of years to human beings of great merit.
The worship of Gomata is the worship of God through the representative of his bountiful gift to us in the cow.