Friday, January 27th, 2023 10:06:15

Why Cow is Sacred The Untold Story

Updated: June 29, 2017 3:32 pm

Babar in his will Tuzuk-e- Babari tells his son that, “Humayun should respect the sentiments of the Hindus and hence should not allow the cow to be sacrificed or killed anywhere in the Mughal Empire. The day any Mughal emperor ignores this will, the people of India will reject him”.

Many other Mughal Emperors like Akbar, Jahangir, had banned cow slaughter in their kingdom. Hyder Ali and Tippu Sultan who ruled the Mysore State in the present day Karnataka had made cow slaughter and beef eating a punishable offence and the crime would be punished by cutting off the hands of the person who committed the crime!

Today in India we have over 36000 slaughterhouses!  How did this massive turn around take place? To understand that first we need to get back to the importance of cow in the ancient Hindu civilization of India. Cows are the most sacred animals to the Hindus and this is not without any reason. In fact the very word cow in English is derived from the Sanskrit word Gau for cow. So why are the cows so sacred to the Hindu civilization?

Cattle–The backbone of Indian Agriculture

One of the most important reasons is that cows have been the backbones of Indian families and the Indian agricultural system ever since the dawn of this ancient Hindu civilization. Apart from the extensively used cow’s milk which the ancient Indians used to collect only after the calf has had its share, the most important use of cows was in Agriculture. Without cow the Indian agriculture in those days was as good as gone, and this was one of the prime reasons why Hindus being nature worshipers also worshiped cow. Cow’s urine was a natural pesticide, cow manure was a natural fertilizer. Cattle in ancient India had ensured that Indian civilization did not need any artificial pesticides or artificial fertilizers, both of which are extremely harmful for the farm soil and degrade soil quality over time.

Cows had their own shelters called gaushalas (large places where the cows lived) which were many a times larger than the homes where people lived. There used to be people exclusively to look after the well being of the cows here and many a times they used to be the cow owners themselves who used to clean the gaushalas every day, feed the cows, take care of their health and so on. Every single festival of harvest had cow worship, house warming ceremonies had the ritual of taking the cow inside the house first and then pray to it to make the house prosper and flood with food grains, milk and butter.

Note that those were the days when food was grown in a healthy natural process. There was no industrial revolution, no artificial fertilizers, no chemical pesticides and insecticides. The entire Indian agriculture was based on the nature’s best fertilizer – cow dung, and one of the nature’s best pesticide – cow’s urine (along with the neem based solutions) were used extensively in the agriculture. Buttermilk again which is a derivative of cow’s milk was used as an effective fungicide and weedicide.

And not without any reason, the Indian agriculture in those days was extremely productive thanks to the cow products. Farmers were happy, crops came on time, yield was high, prices were low for food crops, kingdoms even used to export their agricultural output, granaries were always filled, milk was abundantly available and so were its derivatives like Butter, Ghee etc which formed an important part of the Indian diet. Every religious institution, big farms, farmers, diary owners all had thousands of cows – the cows which had made India a Sone Ki Chidiya.

Cow slaughter and slaughterhouses are banned even today in Nepal. In India, very few are aware of the fact that Article 48 of the Indian Constitution (Directive Principles of State Policy) says clearly that the government must protect the cow, its progeny and other cattle used in agriculture, not just because the cows are sacred to Hindus but because cows have been the backbone of Agriculture and milk production in this country ever since the dawn of civilization. To millions of poor families in India, even today cow’s milk is the only source of nutrient to their kids and babies.

In India states like Jammu & Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka etc have already banned Cow slaughter (Karnataka being a very recent addition). Cuba banned cow slaughter after its people virtually ate up all the cattle leading to a scarcity of dairy products. Even Iran has banned cow slaughter and note that it was at the request of a non-Muslim – Seth Merwanji Framji Pandey that Iran – a muslim dominated nation had banned cow slaughter. Now compare this with India today where in the name of secularism we are killing our agriculture and degrading the farm soil.

British Rule and Slaughterhouses

Both Mahathma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru had declared before Independence that they would ban cow slaughter in India after Independence. But later Gandhi remarked “I do not doubt that Hindus are forbidden the slaughter of cows. I have been long pledged to serve the cow but how can my religion also be the religion of the rest of the Indians? It will mean coercion against those Indians who are not Hindus. We have been shouting from the house-tops that there will be no coercion in the matter of religion. …if anyone were to force me (religiously) I would not like it. How can I force anyone not to slaughter cows unless he is himself so disposed?” Obviously they didnt impose it. Why? Thanks to Robert Clive who had converted the Indian Muslims into believing that beef eating was their religious right. Cow slaughter had become a vote bank issue.

Robert Clive – the so called Founder of the British Empire in India who was twice the Governor of Bengal too – on entering India was astonished and amazed to see the success of the agricultural system here. He went on researching the reasons for the success of the Indian agriculture and discovered the root – The Holy Indian Cow. The entire Hindu life style revolved around this animal, not just religiously, but socially. Cow was an integral part of a Hindu family as was any other human member in the family. He even found that in many places the total number of cattle was more than the number of humans living there.

So Robert Clive decided to break the backbone of agriculture in India – the holy cows have to be targeted. And thus was opened the first slaughterhouse of cows in India in 1760 by Robert Clive at Kolkata. It had a capacity to kill 30,000 cows per day. And anyone can guess within a year’s time how many cows would have been killed. And within a century India had very little cattle left to sustain its agricultural needs. And Britain as an alternative started offering artificial manure, and in this manner urea, phosphate etc started getting imported from England. Indian agriculture had started becoming dependent on west invented artificial products and was forced to give up home grown natural practices.

Guess what, till 1760 most of India had banned not only cow slaughter, but also prostitution and drinking wine. Robert Clive made all three legal and removed the ban.

Now the British had hit two birds with a single stone by this move. The first was to break the backbone of the Indian agriculture i.e. making cattle not available for agriculture. And the second? The British were well known for their divide and rule policies which they practiced throughout their colonial kingdoms then. So what did they do? Well, they hired Muslims as butchers and this was done in almost every slaughterhouse they opened. And this slowly pushed the Muslims into believing that beef eating was their religious right.

Rioting History

According to Metcalf, a British historian, with the advent of British rule in India, eating beef along with drinking whiskey, in English-language colleges in Bengal, became a method of fitting in into the British culture. Some Hindus, in the 1830s, consumed beef to show how they “derided irrational Hindu customs.

The reverence for the cow played a role in the uprising of 1857 against the British East India Company. Hindu and Muslim sepoys in the army of the East India Company believed that their cartridgeswere greased with cow and pig fat. The consumption of swine is forbidden in Islam. Since loading the gun required biting off the end of the paper cartridge, they concluded that the British were forcing them to break edicts of their religion.

Historians argue that the symbol of the cow was used as a means of mobilizing Hindus. In 1870, the Namdhari Sikhs started the Kukua Revolution, revolting against the British, and seeking to protect the cows from slaughter. A few years later, Swami Dayanand Saraswati called for the stoppage of cow slaughter by the British and suggested the formation of Go-samvardhani Sabhas.  In the 1870s, cow protection movements spread rapidly in Punjab, the North-West Frontier Province, Oudh (now Awadh) and Rohilkhand. The Arya Samaj had a tremendous role in skillfully converting this sentiment into a national movement.

Cow protection sentiment reached its peak in 1893. Large public meetings were held in Nagpur, Haridwar and Benares to denounce beef-eaters. Plays were conducted to display the plight of cows, and pamphlets were distributed, to create awareness among those who sacrificed and ate them. Riots broke out between Hindus and Muslims in Mau and Azamgarh district; it took 3 days for the government to regain control. The rioting was precipitated by contradictory interpretations of a British local magistrate’s order. He had apparently asked all the Muslims interested in cow slaughter to register, which undertaking was in fact performed to identify problem-prone areas. However, Muslims had interpreted this as a promise of protection for those who wanted to perform sacrifices.

The series of violent incidences also resulted in a riot in Bombay involving the working classes, and unrest occurred in places as far away as Rangoon, Burma (now Yangon, Myanmar). An estimated thirty-one to forty-five communal riots broke out over six months and a total of 107 people were killed.

Queen Victoria mentioned the cow protection movement in a letter, dated 8 December 1893, to then Viceroy Lansdowne, writing, “The Queen greatly admired the Viceroy’s speech on the Cow-killing agitation. While she quite agrees in the necessity of perfect fairness, she thinks the Muhammadans do require more protection than Hindus, and they are decidedly by far the more loyal. Though the Muhammadan’s cow-killing is made the pretext for the agitation, it is, in fact, directed against us, who kill far more cows for our army than the Muhammadans.”

In 1944, the British placed restrictions on cattle slaughter in India, on the grounds that the shortage of cattle was causing anxiety to the Government. The shortage itself was attributed to the increased demand for cattle for cultivation, transport, milk and other purposed. It was decided that, in respect of slaughter by the army authorities, working cattle, as well as, cattle fit for bearing offspring, should not be slaughtered. Accordingly, the slaughter of all cattle below 3 years of age, male cattle between 3 and 10 years, female cattle between 3 and 10 years of age, which are capable of producing milk, as well as all cows which are pregnant or in milk, was prohibited.

There was a large increase in the number of cattle slaughtered in the years preceding Independence, according to statistics given by Pandit Thakur Dass, during the debate in the Constituent Assembly on 24 November 1948. The number of oxen killed in 1944 was 6,091,828, while in 1945, sixty five lakhs were slaughtered, an increase of more than 4 lakhs. He further stated that the population of oxen in the country decreased by 37 lakhs in 5 years from 1940 to 1945. However, the figures are much lower according to the Dater Singh Committee Report which states that 2,791,828 and 3,167,496 oxen were slaughtered in 1944 and 1945 respectively.

What the Mughal empire had banned had been turned into a practice by the British empire. What Babur and Akbar termed as a crime was converted into a norm by Robert Clive. And today the soil of India is filled with artificial fertilizers and pesticides while the holy Cow cries in the slaughterhouses. While there were over 70 breeds of cows in the country at the time of independence, today we have only 33 and even among them many breeds are facing extinction.


by Nilabh Krishna



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