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Why do Hindus worship the cow?

Why do Hindus worship the cow?


Hindus don’t worship cows. We respect, honour and adore the cow. By honouring this gentle animal, who gives more than she takes, we honour all creatures.

Hindus regard all living creatures as sacred – mammals, fishes, birds and more. We acknowledge this reverence for life in our special affection for the cow. At festivals we decorate and honour her, but we do not worship her in the sense that we worship the Deity.

To the Hindu, the cow symbolizes all other creatures. The cow is a symbol of the Earth, the nourisher, the ever-giving, undemanding provider. The cow represents life and the sustenance of life. The cow is so generous, taking nothing but water, grass and grain. It gives and gives and gives of its milk, as does the liberated soul give of his spiritual knowledge. The cow is so vital to life, the virtual sustainer of life, for many humans. The cow is a symbol of grace and abundance. Veneration of the cow instils in Hindus the virtues of gentleness, receptivity and connectedness with nature.

Elaboration: Who is the greatest giver on planet Earth today? Who do we see on every table in every country of the world –breakfast, lunch and dinner? It is the cow. McDonald’s cow-vending golden arches and their rivals have made fortunes on the humble cow. The generous cow gives milk and cream, yogurt and cheese, butter and ice cream, ghee and buttermilk. It gives entirely of itself through sirloin, ribs, rump, porterhouse and beef stew. Its bones are the base for soup broths and glues. It gives the world leather belts, leather seats, leather coats and shoes, beef jerky, cowboy hats – you name it. The only cow-question for Hindus is, “Why don’t more people respect and protect this remarkable creature?” Mahatma Gandhi once said, “One can measure the greatness of a nation and its moral progress by the way it treats its animals. Cow protection to me is not mere protection of the cow. It means protection of all that lives and is helpless and weak in the world. The cow means the entire subhuman world.”

In the Hindu tradition, the cow is honoured, garlanded and given special feedings at festivals all over India, most importantly the annual Gopashtama festival. Demonstrating how dearly Hindus love their cows, colourful cow jewellery and clothing is sold at fairs all over the Indian countryside. From a young age, Hindu children are taught to decorate the cow with garlands, paint and ornaments. Her nature is epitomized in Kamadhenu, the divine, wish-fulfilling cow. The cow and her sacred gifts –milk and ghee in particular –are essential elements in Hindu worship, penance and rites of passage. In India, more than 3,000 institutions called Gaushalas, maintained by charitable trusts, care for old and infirm cows. And while many Hindus are not vegetarians, most respect the still widely held code of abstaining from eating beef.

By her docile, tolerant nature, the cow exemplifies the cardinal virtue of Hinduism, noninjury, known as ahimsa. The cow also symbolizes dignity, strength, endurance, maternity and selfless service.

In the Vedas, cows represent wealth and joyous Earthly life. From the Rig Veda (4.28.1;6) we read. “The cows have come and have brought us good fortune. In our stalls, contented, may they stay! May they bring forth calves for us, many-coloured, giving milk for Indra each day. You make, O cows, the thin man sleek; to the unlovely you bring beauty. Rejoice our homestead with pleasant lowing. In our assemblies we laud your vigour.”

Source: Hinduism Todayย (April-June 2004 edition)


  1. Good explanation … the core for Hindus respecting cows.

    The other analogy which I have always advocated … When a mum cannot breast feed her baby, it is the cow milk that comes to the help…without which the child will not get the required nutrients at the early stage of life.

    So to the question by many critics who ask, “Why Hindus can drink cow milk but cannot eat cow meat?”, you have to just replace ‘the cow with your mother’ and ask the same question.

    We human are the greediest animal as we rob, what rightfully belongs to the CALF from its MOTHER! And i guess due to this guilt and as a humble human who has erred, the Hindus repay to the cow in what ever manner possible.

    As correctly mentioned in this article, I for one as a Hindu, RESPECT, HONOUR, ADORE and AM GREATFUL to THE COWS who has given me and my family what another human cannot provide! I guess with so much of food available on this earth, if I cannot spare eating beef, I am one of the most ungrateful being!

    • jegathees

      very good explanation man. I really appreciate u for writing a explanation like this.

  2. Honey

    Very well written and very beautifully brought out the reason behind considering cow a sacred animal for mankind.

  3. Really great explanation, I really liked it.

  4. King

    Just Think, what will happen to you and/or your Elders and/or your Kids, without milk, just for a week???

    Only then you will you understand, why cow is worshiped like God in India (and laughed at by the people of so-called, Major world religions for this)!

    No milk means –> No butter, No cheese, No clarified-butter (ghee), No powdered-milk, No yogurt, No curd, No buttermilk, No cream, No paneer (tofu), No… ๐Ÿ™ ๐Ÿ™ ๐Ÿ™

  5. Bhagatsingh

    Hey guys,
    There are many explanations as mentioned before, but its also for especially Indians and human kind in general that we survived or had a better life due to cows;

    Cows, use to make the land fertile with their cowdung, cows used to help humand kind in landwork. cause used to give families heat in cold times.

    besides that Hinduism also symbolizes the cow as a being of the ecosystem.
    The cow eats grass, delivers cowdung, urine, fertilizes the land, which vaporates, rain comes to earth, nourishes the land etc.

    so there are many many reasons for the position of the cow.

  6. jose pazhukaran

    Wow! what a surprising descriptions it is! As a christian i didn’t mind the Hindu’s adoration of cows,so far. But by the reading of the philosophical approach to the cows, I too wanted to bent my head before the tetrapod. Around the cow,I know, the world has its own sustaining power, no doubt.A silent mother of earth, she don’t have any complaints for her breeder,giving the vital power of life to the humans. A symbol of patience,truth, brotherhood,love,maternity,kindness, righteousness,serves,calmness….so…on.
    Thanks to the sensible knowledge of the creature
    Jose pazhukaran

  7. Liz

    What a wonderful explanation. Thank you so much for sharing it!

  8. Gwen

    Beautiful, wonderful cows! The Great God that formed all things made the cow for us! How He cares for us! I love God.

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