Thursday, January 10, 2008

Holy Cow!

Two women bring a calf door to door to get food for the calf or alms in the name of the cow. They are shouting "gou mata, gou mata". (See explanation of words below.)

Feeding the cow is considered a good thing to do. The cow has been considered sacred in India for a very long time. There are several reasons for this. In the olden days, and to some extent even today, people were dependent on the cow (like we depend on our mothers when we are young), especially in the rural areas. Cow milk is said to have medicinal properties, and so does the clarified butter (ghee) from cow milk, although vegans do not agree with it. Cow urine is also used/recommended in traiditional Indian medicine (Ayurveda). Cow dung has been used in the rural areas as fuel after drying it in the sun, or to produce biogas. Since it has insect repellant properties, it is used to line the floor and walls of rural dwellings, which usually have mud floor and mud walls. Since the cow provided all these things, it was considered sacred. I have heard that meat shops operated by Hindus do not carry beef, whereas those operated by Muslims do. Although many Indians are switching to a non-vegetarian diet in India, fast food shops such as McDonalds's do not carry beef in their menu. For that matter there are no pork products in McDonald's either because Muslims don't eat pork. Traditionally most Indians have been vegetarians, and some eat meat occasionally. But that is changing fast here and abroad. As many Indians go abroad, they eat meat there for the first time. They justify this to their family (if at all they tell them) that it is "necessary" to survive there. This, we all know is "bull" because many Indians, and an ever increasing number of Westerners do live on a vegetarian, even vegan diet. :) (Incidentally, it is the same explanation given for taking up drinking. That it is so cold abroad that it is necessary to drink alcohol. :)) I find it interesting to see that people can selectively eat whatever meat they eat and in their minds justify that, and at the same time look at others with horror/disgust/disbelief because they are eating some other kind of meat. What I mean here is that most Indians who eat meat here can't imagine eating beef (but think nothing of eating lamb or chicken, and now emu), and most Westerners who eat meat cannot imagine eating a dog or a horse. The same goes for eating or not eating certain parts of the animal. In this regard I think the Chinese and some South East Asian cultures are more practical and don't have a holier-than-thou attitude. The Chinese eat all parts of the cow and the bull including the ears, the tongue, the tail, the internal organs, the reproductive organs, and even the eyes.

Interestingly, now many experts believe that cows are causing global warming.

The Sanskrit word for "cow" is "gou". Do you notice the phonetic similarity? There are many words in English that have an Indo-European origin. In India, some people refer to the cow as "gou mata". The word "mata" (mah-tah) means "mother". The Sanskrit word is "matr", another word with phonetic similarity to the German word "mutter" and the English "mother/maternal/maternity" and the Spanish word "madre".

"Don't have a cow, man!" -Bart Simpson

"Who was the first guy who looked at a cow and said, 'I think that I'll drink whatever comes out of those things when I squeeze them' ?" -Calvin and Hobbes

"Do you know why they call it 'PMS'? Because 'Mad Cow Disease' was already taken." -Unknown

"Science is not a sacred cow. Science is a horse. Don't worship it. Feed it." -Aubrey Eben


zakscloset said...

i just wanna know how you know so much about all that stuff! wow. very interesting. i tried to be a vegetarian once, but i switched back immediately after smelling bacon...haha. i love cows. they're cute, and they really do help us a lot. they're causing global warming though? NOOOOO!!!!

Sandy said...

Very interesting read! I enjoyed stopping by today.

b.c. said...

Excellent post full of interesting details, especially the ones on language (the indo-european links between the same words in different languages) but what i really enjoyed were the quotes you included