Since my last post, I’ve had a euphoric back-bending moment, have been entered into a Karnataka State yoga competition (errr… hello?!) and have drunk many more fresh coconuts. But enough about me – today’s post will focus on that very Indian of beasts – the common cow… 🙂
Cows are everywhere in India – at first this is very weird and excitingly novel (cue lots of tourist shots like the one below).
Look, a cow!
But, I think partly due to the cows’ calm acceptance of their own situation, it soon becomes completely normal to see cows roaming the streets and chewing the cud next to you on the pavement. But, even once you’ve normalised to the situation, there are still questions to be asked:
- Firstly, who do all the cows belong to? This is probably the question most often heard on green westerners’ lips and, as Chris pointed out, this probably reflects our western obsessions with ownership and material possessions. Anyway, we asked our go-to man, Harish (the chef at Mandira cafe) and he said that they belong to the ‘cow people’, and that, despite wandering the streets during the day, they are rounded up and taken to cow sheds for the night. I am not sure who the cow people are, but I imagine they are likely to be from lower caste, traditionally pastoral families. For many families, especially in rural areas, the cow is an important member of the family, providing milk, butter, ghee and dung for fuel.
- Where are all the bulls? So, there are hundreds of calves and cows on the streets but no bulls (phew) – something doesn’t add up. I learnt in pranayama yesterday that one of the five unforgivable sins in Hinduism is killing a cow (contrary to popular belief, this isn’t because they are particularly revered, but rather due to them providing so many useful products, especially milk – I wanted to ask ‘But what about the sheep and goats – don’t they provide useful milk too?’, but didn’t dare – BNS Iyengar doesn’t suffer questions too gladly…). Well, it turns out there’s a bit of a religious loop-hole (who’d have thought…) – yes, it’s a sin to kill a cow, but nowhere is it written down that it’s a sin to sell the male calves to Muslims/Christians etc who can then do the deed for you, guilt-free. So male calves are separated out and sent to the barbarians/infidels for slaughter, and a few prime studs are kept in the villages to maintain population levels. Cunning…
- What on earth do the cows eat? There are no Anchor-butter-esque lush pastures full of fat Frisians here. Nope, the cows are pretty scrawny, with hip-bones painfully protruding. They are most often seen rummaging through the communal bins (they’re not the only ones – see pic below) or grazing along thin strips of patchy scrub along central reservations. It seems cows are very opportunistic eaters, not the strict herbivores that we’re used to in the UK.
- Why are they mute (moote)? I don’t really have an answer for this but, seriously, there are so many cows here but not once have I heard the tiniest hint of a moo. It’s a bit weird. And it’s not just the cows – the mossies operate by stealth mission here too, with no irritating whine to inform you of their unwanted presence. Strange..