SACRED COWS AND PROFANE DOGS – Food for Thought

Taking a dip in Mother Ganges is the dream of all devout Indians

Taking a dip in Mother Ganges is the dream of all devout Hindus. Thick fog envelopes parts of India during December and January — not the best time to visit , although it adds to the mystique.

Testing the waters of the Ganges. it was actually quite warm compared to the chilly air temperature in January.

Testing the waters of the Ganges. it was actually quite warm compared to the chilly air temperature in January.

Indians believe they have four mothers: Mother India, Mother Ganges, a biological mother and Mother cow. Mother cow is the giver of milk and therefore life. Cows wander freely through traffic, nap on medians and nibble on vendors’ veggie stands (sometimes getting a bad-karma bop on the nose, which some of my travel companions witnessed with surprise and amusement). Indians believe it’s good luck – or more accurately – good karma to feed the cows. Some people buy hay to feed the wandering cows.

Proud mother

Proud mother

The first thing an Indian woman does after baking bread each morning is give some bread to the cows.

Village cow looking for breakfast

Village cow waiting for breakfast

Next she gives some bread to the street dogs. Lastly she gives bread to her family.

The ubiquitous meandering cows that still give milk all belong to someone. Cows no longer lactating are basic welfare cases that the people look after, receiving good karma to do so. Bulls wander around, too, and are as docile as the cows.  Hindus do not eat beef.  Many Indians also have water buffaloes, whose milk is consumed and used in cooking. Although water buffaloes are not considered sacred, and don’t have the status and free rein that cows enjoy, they are still considered beef and off limits for consumption.

Indian street dogs don’t look half as miserable as dogs in other third-world countries.

Street dogs dozing contentedly

Street dogs dozing contentedly

It was reassuring to know that the Indians were looking after them somewhat and treating them more kindly. The Indian dogs were restrained and humble – never barking at people, who they know might feed them. Being a cat lover, I was dreading seeing feral cats, but saw only a handful. Our guide Ranvir said people don’t tend to keep cats as pets, but do have pet dogs. Feral cat numbers are low due to all the feral dogs – a dog-eat-cat world, unfortunately.

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One thought on “SACRED COWS AND PROFANE DOGS – Food for Thought

  1. I guess it takes a village to care for cows and dogs. Glad that compassion is practiced. I suppose that dogs are souls waiting to be reincarnated as people–so perhaps the Hindus remember their past lives as street dogs and care for them. Thanks for the insight!

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