Valued for their milk, ploughing and pulling capabilities, the cow continues to be considered sacred in India.
Many Hindu gods and goddesses incarnate in the form of a cow, plus in Hindu mythology Shiva rides an ox called Nandhi and a sacred cow called Kamadhenu is said to have given its milk to Lord Vishnu. Cows are an intrinsic part of Indian culture, and as Intrepid’s Michelle Van den Hove discovered, chat with the cows and you’ll meet the real India…
“Whilst staying in the small medieval town of Chanderi, we were sitting down to a lovely breakfast in the garden of our hotel. A cow walked in and came over to the tables. The hotel staff shooed it away, but she stayed in the garden opposite. After breakfast I gathered the uneaten fruit and banana peels and wandered over to the cow. I showed her what I had and she came over to quickly devour the scraps. I told her to come back the next day and I would give her some more. The staff looked suitably impressed – they love to see foreigners feeding their sacred cows, and my Intrepid group were amazed.
The following day sure enough, the cow and her young calf came back for their breakfast treat. By the end of our two-week trip everyone in our group was feeding cows whenever they saw them. On the street, from buses and at railway stations.
Locals always look at me approvingly when they see me feed cows. Some of the cows however are very greedy. Once, on a Classic Rajasthan trip, I was given a floral garland. The following day we were at a railway station and I still had the garland and there happened to be a cow on the platform. Finally I got her attention, “Look what I have for you”. Well, her eyes lit up as I started pulling the flowers off the string around my neck one by one. The cow obviously wanted me to hurry up with the feeding, as by now she had the taste for marigolds and she wanted them all. So in her haste and my slowness in responding to her desires, she wrapped her tongue around my neck and I got a big wet cow kiss, which I must admit is better than being sneezed on by an elephant (yes, that happened to me too!). It amused everyone at the station; the locals were in fits of laughter and my Intrepid travellers couldn’t contain their giggles. The moral of the story… if you feed a cow a garland, take it off first!”
* photo by Tony Stanton