Holy Cow! (Part-1)

“Oh Bharata, a person devoted to cows attains whatever he desires. Women too, who are devoted to cows get their wishes fulfilled. A person desiring a son gets a son, one desiring a daughter gets a daughter, one desiring wealth gets wealth, one desiring religion attains nirvana, a student gets education and one desiring happiness gets happiness. There is nothing unachievable, for a servant of the cow……

– Yajurveda 23.46


Indian women showing devotion to a cow. (courtesy:Himalayan Academy Publications)

Have you ever seen a couple of cows basking in the sun in the middle of a crowded thoroughfare in India, sending traffic careening around? They watch you bearing down on them in your car, they stare at you, aware you are closing in and yet they make no move to get out of the way. Instead, they just keep flapping their ears and swishing their tails this way and that, trying to swat the flies away.

They are in fact so benign and gentle, so slow and graceful that I suspect even their thought processes must be in slow motion. I imagine them trying to make sense of it all….

Foolkumari, the one thats sprawled out closer to the curb, probably says to Lojjaboti who’s right on the painted median,”Mooo, mooo,” In English, that would mean…”Lojja dahling…don’t youuuu…think…..youuuu shouuuud moooove outa the wayyyyyy?” Foolkumari’s voice is a deep baritone, if one goes by the depth of their moos.

You try to circle past Lojja but your fender clips her, lacerating her rump just a wee bit and yet there is no ‘Ouch! Watch it, richardhead!” Instead, all she does is flap her ears a little more vigorously. As you come abreast of her, those serene eyes give you a once over and she lets out a single mooo, which when translated into English probably means, “Thanks, I needed that.”

The term turning the other cheek might have originated from the Book of Matthew in the New Testament, but the Indian cow goes a few steps further than that – she turns herself inside out for us. Hindus, in turn, have elevated the cow to the level of a deity and literally worship her.

As if that is not enough devotion, today the Hindus of India have enforcers to make sure you treat cows like as if they are deities. Did you know that Hitler’s Sturmabteilung (Brown Shirts) finds strong representation in the India of today? Only, they are known here as Hindu Nationalists.

At this very moment, they are running amok across India threatening, beating up and even in some cases, burning alive members of the minority communities such as Muslims and Dalits (lower classes!*!). For some time now, the Hindu Nationalists have been ransacking and threatening to close down any retail outlets (such as Hallmarks greeting card vendors, pubs and bars) that they see as ‘immoral’. If they come upon a girl in jeans or smoking, she had better know how to sprint out of there in a jiffy.

Drop your hat and you’ll receive a lecture on how old their civilization really is, as if that is a badge that certifies the Hindus as the most civilized form of humans today. Hare Rama Hare Krishna is the Hindu version of ‘Allah-o-Akbar’ or ‘Bless the Almighty Lord’. Rama and Krishna, the chief deities of Hinduism, are famously known for their serene, beatific, love-filled smiles, though what they have to grin about, given the way India treats its minorities, truly mystifies me. Maybe those are smirks, not smiles.


The warrior, Rama, with his beatific smile. He seems to be telling us, “I am blessing you but see my open-carry status? If you get funny, your ass is grass.” On the right is Krishna, the cowherd, goofing off at work, playing on his flute when he should be herding his cows. Definitely not employee-of-the-month material.


But, Rama’s and Krishna’s angelic grins wouldn’t be weird (the Greeks had weirder Gods), had it not been for this cringe-worthy love that devout Hindus (especially the Hindu Nationalists) have, for arguably the dumbest animal in the entire Solar System – ones that I started this piece with – the cows of India.

Let’s take a break and play ‘what’s the good word’ – only, instead of gestures and yes/no answers, clues shall be given out. For instance what’s the good word for an arsehole who is minimally literate, infests large parts of the western Hindu right-wing states of India and is murderously bigoted?

There, you got it – ‘gorakshak’. ‘Go’ stands for cow and ‘rakshak’ – guard – one whose job is to ensure the safety and security of cows who are considered sacred. Yes, cows are sacred and not buffalos, even though they are in the same taxonomic ranking. The cow is worshipped while the buffalo is considered satanic.

According to legend, Rambha, the king of Asuras (the gods of the bad guys of Hinduism) was enticed by the beauty of a female buffalo, whom he eventually married. I am not kidding here. I mean I have heard of women who want to have sex with well hung male animals like stallions and bulls, but not of any man wanting to f–k a female buffalo. He would feel like a chopstick going through a truck tyre. How depraved can a man get?

Anyways, one thing led to another and Mahishasura went to bed with his bride and out of this bestiality, was born a child which was half buffalo and half human. They named him Mahishasura (Mahisha literally means buffalo).

Being an Asura at heart, the first thing that Mahishasura wanted to do was wage war against the Asuras’ arch-enemies, the Devas, who were the gods of the good guys. Those days you could buy immortality from this sort of retail outlet that held exclusive rights to doling out boons (much like Zeus had, in Greek mythology). The Hindus have their own Zeus – Brahma, the head of a triad of gods – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.

To make himself invincible, Mahishasura performed a tapasya, a sort of long drawn out meditation-prayer-penance, where a guy who is looking for favors, sits still for ages and makes his appeal. Mahishasura, in his tapasya, requested the boon of immortality. Brahma checked him out and found him on the no-fly list and refused.

But Brahma didn’t want to piss Mahishasura off, electing to appease him so he would get off his back. He gave Mahdidoo a boon – that henceforth no man would be able to touch him and he could be killed only at the hands of a woman.

Those days it used to be a man’s world, oh yeah. Mahishasura was thrilled, since he believed that it was impossible for a woman to slay him, a man and an fearsome Asura to boot.

He was wrong.

Smug in his belief that he was invincible, Mahishasura started a war with the Devas and the Devas (led by the Indra, a mythological equivalent to Field Marshall Erwin Rommel) were defeated. Despairing, on the verge of a rout, the Devas scampered over to the triumvirate of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and pled for support. In those days, the support of the triumvirate could be bought with, you guessed it – tapasya. They sat down to pray.

Seeing a God like Indra squirm, the three honchos relented and created a Goddess, a formidable Amazon of a woman with ten arms, each toting a weapon, who rode on a lion. That woman was named Durga and she eventually led a battle against Mahishasura and killed him.

Great – give a boon, make the shmuck feel invincible, get him off your back and then turn around and create a woman to whack him. Even in those days, apparently it paid to read the fine print while receiving a boon.

Mahisasur Vadhini Maa Durga HD-wallpaper-HD-1407214667

The Goddess, Durga, balancing herself on her pet lion who is munching on the arm of Mahishasura, who in turn had just emerged from the buffalo that he actually was. Confused? Join the club. 

That’s mythology for you. Corny as hell. Gods buying favors from higher Gods, with meditation and prayer, actual merit be damned.

And here’s the thing – ever wonder why the cow is worshipped and the buffalo is considered evil by the Hindus? This is an easy one for anyone in India, the land where fairness creams are the top-selling cosmetics.

The cow is white and the buffalo is black. White is good and black is bad. QED.

There is more to this harangue on India and its cows. Watch out for Part-2.