Why are there so many cows in India?
The reason there are so many cows in India is because they are sacred animals in Hinduism and are 'protected'. Hinduism is the religion which is followed by 80% of the country, so it is clear to see how the number of cows continues to rise. If you have visited India you can't ignore the number of cows; you will find them walking down the street, taking a nap on the motorway or chilling out on the beach.
It is reported that there are more than 6 millions cows roaming the country.
Why is the cow sacred in India?
Bhumi (भूमि) is a Hindu goddess who represents the Earth and is commonly shown in the form of a cow. In Hinduism cows represent strength and are respected for their gentle nature. Cows are representative of natural beneficence and divine and so are sacred.
In India, even if cows stop producing milk the farmers are not permitted to slaughter them but often the farmers can't financially afford to continue to feed them, so they turn them loose. Then the hungry cows go on the hunt for food, destroying valuable crops or causing havoc in villages, towns or cities. The cows can block traffic, cause road traffic collision and cause hygiene issues but communities accept and respect their four legged friends.
There are shelters called 'gaushalas', which take in stray and usually malnourish cows, but they even struggle to care for the sheer amount of animals, which still results in a high volume of deaths. Many states have banned the slaughter of cows and so they just reproducing and reproducing. In addition to the shelters there are cow protection groups, one of which "Gau Rakshak Dal Haryana", referred to ancient texts and scholars, stating that the cow is like a mother and should not be slaughtered.
When we stayed with a local family in Kerala (which you can read about here), our host, Jose, had two cows who lived in his garden but also roamed the streets. He told us that they were his pets and the majority of people he knew owned cows. Jose explained how people would risk crashing their car to avoid hurting a cow and they are extremely important animals in their culture.
What happens if you kill a cow in India?
In many states in India it is illegal to kill a cow and in Gujarat they have passed a law which results in life imprisonment for slaughtering a cow. In addition to a prison sentence, there are hefty fines for committing the crime.
What happens if you accidentally kill a cow in India?
It depends on the circumstances but if you kill a cow by accident then you may have some trouble from the owner of the cow if they are at the scene. The owner may want compensation for the cow. If you intentionally slaughter a cow then you would end up in jail.
I found it really interesting learning about how cows are perceived in India. Luckily for me, I like cows so I enjoyed seeing them just roaming around the streets or just chilling on the beach.
I don't know if it is just me but I am quite jealous of that cow right now!
More articles in the India Series:
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