Cows in Hinduism
Usually, people donate money, food, clothes, and other necessities to the needy because they are altruistic or they want to acquire good karma. But in India, since ancient times, people have donated cows to Brahmins and priests. Cow donation is unique to Indian religion and tradition. It derives its rationale from the Scriptures, which speak of cow donation or Gau Daan as the most meritorious deed a Hindu can perform in one’s lifetime.
A cow is not just an animal for Hindus. People who practice other faiths find it hard to understand why the cow is such an emotive issue in India. It is only an animal, they reason. But for Hindus, the cow is more than a mere animal. It is a mother as well as a goddess. Goddess Kamadhenu, who emerged from the Milky Ocean when the Devas and Asuras churned it for Amrit, was a cow. The cow gives us many things like milk, butter, ghee, curd, and buttermilk which nourish us. Her dung is used as fuel by villagers in India, and her urine is used to make traditional medicines that can heal many diseases. So the cow has a special place in the hearts of Hindus who venerate it like a divinity. One can see cows wandering about on the roads in India, throwing traffic into chaos as vehicles try to dodge it. But no one would curse it or throw sticks and stones at it like they might do if it were a dog. One can also see people feeding stray cows greens and other vegetables.
According to the Scriptures, 33 crore divinities, including gods and goddesses, reside within the body of the cow. Its four heels represent the four Vedas. Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, the three gods who comprise the Holy Trinity in Hinduism, dwell in its horns. So causing injury to a cow is akin to hurting the gods themselves.
In ancient times, kings and other influential people used to donate cows to temple priests and Brahmins. This is a deed of great merit. Donating at least one cow during one’s lifetime was something devout Hindus aspired to, such were the merits and benefits associated with it. A calf also had to be donated with the cow, and the cow should be a milch cow, too.
Significance of Cow Donation/Gau Daan
As in other cultures, Hindus too believe that it is their sacred duty to pay homage to departed souls – their ancestors and forefathers – so that they will attain Moksha or liberation from the birth-death cycle. There are certain rituals like Asthi Visarjan and Pind Daan which are performed for this purpose. Likewise, feeding cows and Gau Daan is also necessary for them to reach heaven.
Hindus perform Cow Donation for 5 main reasons.
For relief from debts: This is Runa Gau Daan. Runa means ‘debt’. Those who have incurred debts which they are unable to repay do this Daan.
For painless death: This is Utkranti Gau Daan. Utkranti means the ‘yoga of dying’. This type of Cow Donation is done to have a painless death or ‘sukha maranam’.
For a smooth after-death journey: This is Antardhenu Gau Daan. When a person dies, their soul may have to undergo a long and arduous journey before reaching its destination. This Daan is believed to remove obstacles and make the journey a smooth one.
To cross the Baitarani/Vaitarani river: The Baitarani river is like the river Styx in Greek mythology. It lies between the earth and the netherworld. The souls of dead sinners will be purified if they can cross it. It is believed that donating a cow during Pind Daan or ancestor appeasement rituals can help dead ancestors cross the river by hanging on the tail of the cow. If they cannot cross the river, they will become ghosts.
For Moksha: This is called Moksha Dhenu Gau Daan, and it is believed to grant freedom from the cycle of birth and death.
Benefits of Cow Donation
Cow donation has great importance among all donations in Hindu culture. It is a remedy to eliminate all bad karmas, whether one committed bad deeds intentionally or accidentally. Gau Daan’s benefits extend to the donor’s future generations too. It bestows on us the blessings of our ancestors as well as the gods. Take a look at the myriad benefits of this meritorious act:
*Protection from the adverse effects of malefic planets
*Eliminates past and present bad karmas
*Bestows blessings of Goddess Lakshmi
*Bestows progeny blessings
*Removes obstacles in business, career, and profession
*Good health, both physical and mental
Perform Cow Donation online without any hassles and reap the benefits.