The Cow As A Sacred Animal

While in India, I was fortunate enough to meet up with Daivisakti, a woman who is my age and who grew up in Cheltenham Township right outside of Philadelphia. Almost 40 years ago, she made the decision to travel to Vrindavan, India to become a member of the Hare Krishna community there. I was the total stranger and she welcomed me with open arms ( and a sari ). She was so very gracious and generous in sharing her time and allowing me to observe and film daily life there. Daivisakti first took me on a walk around the temple grounds. Here there were many people tending to the cows in a gentle way. In Hindu scripture, the cow is held as sacred. Slaughter is prohibited. At one point, she asked me for a few dollars to buy honey treats…being my first time there, I thought this was for us. She came back with a huge bucket filled with a dough in the shape of a balls. The bucket had definitely been through better times and in an instant I was having that age old conversation – do I eat this or how do I not without offending the other???? I was so relieved when she then told me to put it in the palm of my hand for the cows to come and eat!!!! As we walked, we saw women in beautiful silk saris carrying cow dung on their heads while other women were sitting forming patties. I came to learn that cow dung is used as a low cost, effective means of heat. It dries very hard and can be formed into bricks to build small homes. It is burned during religious rituals and used in skin care products and in Ayurvedic medicine. speaks about the many research projects being done focusing on the medicinal properties of both dung and urine. I was then taken into a building where many products made with cow urine were for sale. Eye drops, shampoo, lotions were just some of the offerings. Being given the glimpse into this community and culture which is far different from my own, was an honor and I found it fascinating. In India, the greeting is, “Namaste” which means the god in me greets the god in you. There are many different paths and many different beliefs to explore that is why travel is so broadening… but in the end, it simply seems to come down to being open to the other, of honoring, respecting and learning each other’s ways. A smile and a bow are known the world over.

Cow Dung: Sacred and Medicinal from Frances Schwabenland on Vimeo.

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