What does it mean to kill the sacred cow

India and the holy cow in Hinduism

Holy cow

The term “holy cow” is a synonym for something inviolable in our language, and so the sacred cow is actually considered inviolable in Hinduism and it is under special protection. In the article I would like to provide some background information and explanations.

India and the holy cow of Hinduism

When you travel to India, road traffic is a very noticeable phenomenon compared to our regular system. Everything drives and runs back and forth without a recognizable system but also without major incidents. In the north Indian city of Deradhun I once observed an approx. 1 square meter large hole in the middle of a busy intersection, underneath the sewer system and a rusty iron rod peeked out. All cars and other vehicles simply drove around the obstacle without being bothered in any way. That would be absolutely impossible for us.

“A guru, a teacher, a father, a mother, a brahmin, a cow and a yogi should never be killed.” Manu Smriti 4.162

As a rough rule for the road, it is sufficient to roughly orientate yourself on the left side and always be so fast that you do not endanger other road users at any time. In addition to cars, pedestrians, vans, motorcycles and buses, there are plenty of other participants in traffic such as ox carts, handcarts, mobile market stalls, camels and apparently abandoned animals. It is particularly noticeable: Time and again, cows lie completely undeterred in the middle of the street and the traffic flows around them. The cows are under special protection in India, which is why I would like to clarify with this article.

"Amid all these differences we see a point of unity among all Hindus, and it is that no Hindu eats beef." Swami Vivekananda

Other animals are sacred too

Other animals are also considered sacred in Hinduism, but none are as special as the sacred cow. Many animals are associated with certain gods:

  • Elephant (Ganesha)
  • Monkey (hanuman)
  • Peacock (Krishna)
  • Eagle (vishnu)
  • Tiger (Durga)

Some animals are considered very dirty, especially dogs and pigs.

"If someone asked me what is the main outward manifestation of Hinduism, I would suggest that it is the idea of ​​cow protection." Mahatma Gandhi

Numbers and facts about the holy cow

India is home to an estimated 200 million cows and 100 million water buffalo. The export of beef from India now has a volume of over 4 billion dollars, India has now become the world's largest exporter of beef, and in 2015 even Brazil was overtaken with 2.4 million tons. This although the Hindu nationalists are currently in power, or because of their new economic policy. More than 60 billion dollars are sold in India with dairy products, and the trend is rising. India's cows produce around a fifth of the world's dairy products, and they are mainly consumed locally. Unfortunately, the number of illegal cow slaughter is steadily increasing in India, poor people in their desperation kidnap cows from the street to sell them to illegal networks. Incidentally, the per capita consumption of meat in India is the lowest in the world, it is 5.5 kg per person (2014), for comparison: in Germany in 2007 it was 87 kg.

“He who allows animals to be slaughtered, who slices it, who kills it, who buys or sells meat, who cooks it, who serves it and who eats it - they must all be regarded as butcher of animals.” Manu Smriti 5.51

Why is the holy cow so special in India?

“The cows have arrived and brought good luck.” 6.28.1. Rig Veda

At the time of the Vedic period in India's history, ritualism was at the forefront of social and spiritual life. At that time, oxen and bulls were also ritually sacrificed to the gods and some of the meat was then consumed.

"All gods promote the priest who sacrifices the bull in the ritual." Atharva Veda 9.4.18