The cow holds a special place within Hindu society. For Hindus, beef is strictly off the menu and devout Hindus don’t use any products made from cow hide or cow leather.
But why? How has the cow come to have this place?
This was a question that Sanjeev tried to answer for us one day during an excursion to the villages around Jodhpur.
In religion, the Hindu believes that the gods live within the cow. But it’s not as straightforward as that.
The cow is revered in the same way that a person reveres their mother. You wouldn’t kill or harm your mother, thus the cow holds its special place in the society. In addition cow’s milk, (particularly that from the Indian cow with the hump behind its shoulders) is used as a source of food and nutrition for children and babies as a substitute for breast milk as it is a rich source of fat.
On the face of it cows seem to wander aimlessly about the towns and roads but each cow is owned by a family and is branded. The cow is fed at home in the morning, roams free scavenging more food all day, and then returns home when it’s called at night (although I saw plenty of cows sleeping in the streets at night). Traditionally the first chapati cooked by a family is for the cow (and the last for the dog). We actually saw a cow standing in front of a house one morning, there was a chapati outside and a dog. The dog had his paw on the chapati, and the cow was trying to take it. Eventually the dog gave up and the cow won!