Amongst Hindus, the cow is specially revered and equated with a mother and the gods. It is believed that all the gods reside within the body of a cow. It is therefore the responsibility of every person to accord it respect and do one’s duty by it. For most religious ceremonies the cow is essential.
The cow has been important since ancient times. Maharishi Vashisth once played with his own life for Kamadhenu, the celestial cow. Maharishi Chyavan preferred a cow to a kingdom. Such was the importance of the cow. Like a mother, the cow is known for the good it does mankind. It helps promote good health and long life. Religious texts say:
The cow is a universal mother
The Agnipuran says that the cow is a pure, auspicious animal. Looking after a cow, bathing it and making it eat and drink are commendable acts. Cow dung and urine are said to have medicinal qualities. The milk, curd, butter and ghee are all used in religious ceremonies. Whoever offers a morsel of food to the cow before eating attains salvation. Whoever gives a cow in charity benefits the whole family. Wherever a cow lives the place becomes pure. The touch and care of cows absolves one of sins.
In the Atharva-Veda it is said: The cow is the mother of Rudas; she is a daughter of the Vasus; she is the sister of Surya. She is a storehouse of ghee that is like the celestial nectar.
In the Markandeypuran, it is said that the welfare of the world depends upon the cow. The back of the cow is symbolic of the Rig-Veda, the body of Yajur-Veda, the mouth of the Sama-Veda, the neck of the household deity and the good deeds and the soft body hair are like the mantras. Cow dung and urine give peace and good health. Wherever a cow lives the virtues are never wasted. A cow always promotes contentment.
In the Vishnusmriti, it is said that the land on which cows live is pure. Cows are pure and auspicious. They promote the welfare of mankind. They help make a yagya successful. By serving cows one get rid of sins. Their dwelling is like a pilgrimage. One becomes virtuous through reverence of cows. In the Skandpuran, it is said that cow dung purifies the courtyard and temple.
In the Atharva-Veda, it it said that cow’s milk helps overcome debility and regain lost physical and mental health. It promotes intelligence.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna said, “Amongst cows, I am Kamadhenu”.
In the Mahabharata, it is said that a cow given in charity becomes like Kamadhenu through its virtue and returns to the donor in the next birth. Through her virtues the cow protects the donor from the darknes of hell just as air protects and guides a boat from sinking and helps it steer through the vast ocean of life. Just as a mantra acts like a medicine to destroy disease, in the same way a cow given in charity to a good person protects one from all sins.
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