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In National on November 4, 2011 at 5:30 pm

                                                  Why Bovine Is Seen As Divine ,,,,,,,writes RANJENI A SINGH. 

The cow enjoys a special place in healing and purification rituals across cultures and faiths, 

Every day after lunch and dinner, my mom would sprinkle a solution of water and dried cow dung on the dining table and then clean the surface. I would wince and scoff at the “cleansing” ritual. One day, she sat me down and explained why she did it. “Cow dung contains disinfectants. Both cow dung and cow urine have been used in purifying rituals since the Vedic period,” she said. Kamadhenu or Surabhi, the cow of plenty that gives ceaselessly, rose up from the milky ocean during samudra manthan, when the devas and asuras churned the ocean in search of nectar. 

I was still dismissive of her belief until I met one Nived Mistry, a Parsi scientist at a pharma conference. During a discussion on the use of cow urine in medicines, he said that the ninth chapter of the Vendidad of the Avesta expounds the purificatory power of cow urine. It is declared to be a panacea for all bodily and moral evils. 

When reading up on other cultures, I found that in China, some Guan Yin worshippers do not eat beef. In ancient Egypt, animal sacrifice was a common practice but this did not include the cow. The cow was sacred due to its association with Goddess Hathor, who personified love, beauty, music, motherhood and joy. Hathor was often depicted as a cow goddess with horns on her head. The Bible describes Lebanon as the land of milk and honey. The beef taboo is fairly widespread in Burma, particularly within the Buddhist community.

Holy Cow!

And all this while, I was under the impression that only superstitious Hindus revered the cow! Further readings and discussions were instructive on the divine attributes of the bovine, a belief that is common to many religions and cultures. Jewish tradition says that a red heifer or cow heralds the Messianic era, an era of global peace and harmony. 

The cow is a walking, living, eating, ecosystem. The panchagavya or five products of the cow — milk, curd, ghee-butter, urine and dung — are used in pujas and rites of severe penance. 

“Milk nourishes children as they grow up, and gobar or cow dung, is a major source of energy in households across India. Cow dung is sometimes added to the materials used to make the tilak that is drawn on the forehead. For us it is an earthy and useful natural product,” says Ramanatha Shastrigal, a Delhi-based priest. 

The cow is, perhaps, the only animal whose fecal products enjoy religious sanctity. While Zoroastrians use nirang, or cow urine to cleanse impurities attached to things that have come into contact with the decomposing bodies of humans and animals, the people of Bali wrap the body along with a cow made of paper before cremation. With this, they believe that the soul of the dead would go to heaven. According to the Hebrew Bible, the ash of the red cow was used for the ritual purification of an ancient Israelite who had come into contact with a corpse.

Recent scientific research suggests that cow urine could help in treating cancer, diabetes and blood pressure. 

Indian scientists were awarded a US patent in 2002 for a desi drug formulation composed of cow urine distillate and an antibiotic. The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research’s former director-general R A Mashelkar says, “Ancient Indian texts have recorded the use of go-mutra (cow urine) for therapeutic purposes.” 

A Scientific American report says that among all species, cow’s milk is the closest match to human (mother’s) milk. This is because the DNA of the cow is compatible with that of human DNA. So, it does seem, we have close links with the bovine, sometimes extending to the divine.

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