03 November 2015
Hindus revere the cow, most particularly a subgenus commonly found in India marked by its humped back. For many its primary association is with Krishna as cowherd, while as the “vehicle” (sacred animal) of Lord Shiva it is prominent in Hindu iconography. Exactly when the cow attained its revered status is not clear, with scholars pointing to evidence that the early Vedic civilisation conducted cow sacrifices.
However, during the period that Buddhism and Jainism arose (circa 5BCE) the concept of ahimsa, “non-harm”, became prominent and probably triggered a revolt against animal sacrifice which remains the norm across Hinduism. While the cow is sacred, most Hindu commentators assert that they do not worship it. Rather it is venerated because of its symbolic qualities along with other animals, including monkeys especially the langur associated with Hanuman.
… Paul Hedges is an associate professor in the Studies in Inter-Religious Relations in Plural Societies Programme, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
GPO / SRP / Online
Last updated on 13/11/2015