This celestial cow is the mother of the entire universe [matrah sarva bhutanam / gavah sarv sukh prada], she can sustain the complete creation, she is dharma herself, in the form of milk she provides “liquid religiosity”, just by her service one attains dharma, artha, kama and moksha. She is so sacred that all the demigods, munis etc. have taken permanent place in her body, and whose even excreta is considered as gold. The panchagavyas (milk, curd, ghee, dung and urine) derived from her help destroy one’s sin:
yatvagasthi gatam papam dehe tishthti mamke
prasnat panchgavyasya dahasagnirivendhnam
[From skin to bones, whatever sins (diseases) are in my body, are destroyed by panchagavya just as fire destroys fuel.]
“Once Śrīmati Radharani and Śrī Kṛṣṇa in the company of many gopis, went to the forest of Vṛndāvana. They sat down in a solitary place. Kṛṣṇa suddenly developed adesire to drink milk. Immediately, out of His own sweet will, He manifested the Surabhi cow from His left side. Her milk bag was full with milk. The name of her calf was ‘Manoratha’. Sudama, who was present there, immediately took a new pot and began to milk her.
The milk was just like nectar and was capable of freeing one from the repeated cycles of birth and death. Kṛṣṇa, the Lord of the gopis, personally drank that milk. Suddenly, the milk pot fell out of His hands and broke. All the milk spread on the ground, and took the shape of a lake. This lake was one hundred yojans wide and one hundred yojans long.
This lake became famous in Goloka as Ksira-sarovara and became the principal spot for Śrīmati Radharani and the other gopis to enjoy their pastimes. All the four sides of this lake were plastered with various jewels. Then by the will of Kṛṣṇa, innumerable Kamadhenus appeared there immediately. The same number of gopis also appeared from the pores of these cows. These cows had countless calves. This is how, by the mercy of Surabhi, all the cows were created and came to fill the entire universe.
At that time, Lord Kṛṣṇa personally worshipped Surabhi cow. On the next day (Dipavali) the worship of Surabhi took place by the order of Kṛṣṇa. From that time onwards, worship of the cow has been continuing in this world.i
Almost every day I used to tell stories of pastimes of cows with the Lord and mother cow’s spiritual pursuits to my dear cow, aptly named Surabhi by my spiritual master, His Holiness Bhakti Raghava Swami. She used to listen to them with rapt attention, pricked ears and large deep black dilated eyes. Everything about her was majestic, her grave gait, her compassion filled eyes, her soft skin, her spectacularly clean lifestyle…just everything. As we got closer and closer to each other with each passing day, Surabhi made me wonder about gomata? I wondered about other cows, who looked and behaved very different from her. She fueled my anxiety and maharaj’s blessings facilitated me research more about cows – aboutgomata. The results were very startling for an ignorant person like me. I realized not all the ‘cows’ are cows. They may look like cows but are not gomata, who is glorified in the scriptures. It is possible whom you worship everyday is not gomata, whose milk you take everyday thinking that you are taking “liquid religiosity” and thus wallowing in material and spiritual prosperity is not mother cow. You may be totally mistaken in your perception. Ignorance is no excuse. Fire burns a child as well as a grown with equal severity.
The real cows, who once populated the entire face of earth are slowly on the verge of extinction, thanks to our ignorance and equally unqualified leadership. In a very systematic manner the cows are being slaughtered and made to disappear. The situation in India is no different. Though it has been lucky enough to have the largest figure of wide variety of original cows but the figure is fast changing. From more than 130 breeds it has come down to mere 28 surviving breeds. And out of those 28 also, the purity of breed is not maintained. There has been lot of cross-breeding, lot of contamination, both internally and externally- varnasankarapopulation. Our artificial life style imitating the west has brought degeneration not only in our species but to the complete network of life. Since cows were so inextricably linked to the Indian lifestyle, they were the ones who have been affected the most. The government introduced Jersey cows, HF, and many such imported cow breeds on the pretext of their higher milk yield and even framed laws resulting in forcible control on desi (indigenous cow breed) cow population. Their similar policies of introducing HYV seeds and mechanized irrigation have already imploded in states which had enthusiastically implemented the “green revolution” charter, now it is the turn of their “white revolution” policy of encouraging exotic cow breeds. The implosion is inevitable, but how are we placed? We are immune because we have blindly placed our trust in the hands of demoniac and religiously blind leadership. They show us Jersey or any other exotic cow breeds, saying they are better than our own desi cow breeds, we do not question them… we simply take their milk and even worship them! What kind of spiritual benefit can we expect? If there has been a rise in the cases of cancer, lacto-intolerance, and other such medical conditions, the reason lies in our non-discriminatory attitude towards cows and cow like creatures.
Who is this miracle cow? Do all the cows have these wonderful qualities? Are all the cows whom we see around us are the same who have been immortalised by participating significantly in the Supreme Lord’s pastimes in Vṛndāvana? Are these the cows whom the Lord eternally serves in Goloka? Who are the cows who belong to the lineage of Surabhi who had done penance for thousands of years? Are all the cows moving around us, whether desi (indigenous breed) or videsi (exotic breed), belong to the same line of divine Surabhi and are thus worshippable? Is there no difference between the indigenous cows and exotic breed of cows?
dhrati kshama damah asteyam
dhi vidya satyamakrodho
dashakam dharma lakshanam
According to Manu Smriti one of the ten symptoms of dharma is “dhi” or wisdom. It is indicative of the power to discriminate between right and wrong. Following the path of dharma shown by the ācāryas, the individual accepts everything that is favorable to devotional service, while rejecting that which is unfavorable.
Similarly in the context of cows, it is very important that we give the right place to the ‘cows’ and also discriminate between cows and other cow-like creations.
In Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (10.19.2), we can see that Kṛṣṇa’s father, Nanda maharaj reared cows, buffaloes, goats etc. Kṛṣṇa was indiscriminate when it comes to extending His compassion. He swallowed the forest fire to protect them:
ajā gāvo mahishyaś ca
nirviśantyo vanād vanam
[Passing from one part of the great forest to another, the goats, cows and buffaloes eventually entered an area overgrown with sharp canes. The heat of a nearby forest fire made them thirsty, and they cried out in distress.]
The Lord protected all of them, treating them with equal compassion. However, at the same time, one can also see discriminating reverence accorded to the cows. For example, when Kṛṣṇa killed Putana, mother Yaśodā and mother Rohini in their anxiety to ward off all evils and offer protection to their dear Kṛṣṇa waved the cow switch (not the goat switch or buffalo switch) over Kṛṣṇa:
samam bālasya sarvatah
rakshām vidadhire samyag
go-puccha-bhramanādibhih [ SB 10.6.19]
[Thereafter, mother Yaśodā and Rohinī, along with the other elderly gopīs, waved about the switch of a cow to give full protection to the child Śrī Kṛṣṇa.]
They also discriminated even within the cows. Nanda maharaj had 9 lakh cows but Padmagandha cows were special cows. “Very special fragrant grasses were reserved for their grazing and their bodies emitted the wonderful lotus fragrance. There were 100 such cows and the milk produced from these cows was very special and Mother Yaśodā kept some of this milk especially for Kṛṣṇa.”ii This is why when this specially kept milk was about to get boiled and spilt, Yaśodā ma kept the Lord down setting the stage for the famous Damodar lila.
It is significant therefore to note that the Vedic cows who appear in the pages of our sacred scriptures are non-different from India’s desi cows. Therefore, all the desi-cows are Vedic cows, but not all the exotic cows are Vedic cows. Only those cows whose features match with India’s desi or indigenous cows can be considered as the Vedic cows.
The protection of cows and her progeny, and the purity of her breeds is our duty. Śrīla Prabhupāda also says, “The killing of cows by human society is one of the grossest suicidal policies, and those who are anxious to cultivate the human spirit must turn their attention first toward the question of cow protection. If we really want to cultivate the human spirit in society we must have first-class intelligent men to guide the society, and to develop the finer tissues of our brains we must assimilate vitamin values from milk. ….For such important brain tissues we require a sufficient quantity of milk and milk preparations. Ultimately, we need to protect the cow to derive the highest benefit from this important animal. The protection of cows, therefore, is not merely a religious sentiment but a means to secure the highest benefit for human society.” But the milk that we are taking, thinking it to be pure cow milk, is it really cow milk? What are the features of a cow?
Who is this miracle cow? Do all the cows have these wonderful qualities? Are all the cows whom we see around us are the same who have been immortalised by participating significantly in the Supreme Lord’s pastimes in Vṛndāvana? Are these the cows whom the Lord eternally serves in Goloka? Who are the cows who belong to the lineage of Surabhi, who had done penance for thousands of years? Are all the cows moving around us, whether desi (indigenous breed) or videsi (exotic breed), belong to the same line of divine Surabhi or Nandini and are thus worshippable? Is there no difference between the indigenous cows and exotic breed of cows?
The book Indigenous Cows and Exotic Cows tries to give an answer to those questions by lucidly explaining the difference between the desi (indigenous) cows and videsi (exotic) cows.
Further, it should help the policy makers to appreciate the unique beauty of mother cow in her natural form, in the indigenous breeds and extending support to make the indigenous cow wealth prosper further.
His Holiness Bhakti Raghava Swami says, “This book, Indigenous Cows & Exotic Cows should be an eye opener to both the lovers of cows and those who may be neutral on the subject matter. To those who are callous about cow protection, the topic will likely be of little or no interest but will serve to underline their great misfortune in remaining indifferent to what should be seen as the most important concern for all leaders and responsible citizens. As aptly stated by Śrīla Prabhupāda, the Founder-Ācārya of ISKCON, who spoke strongly on the subject matter:
“The killing of cows by the human society is one of the grossest policies, and all those who are anxious to cultivate the human spirit must first turn their attention toward the question of cow protection.” [Light of the Bhagavata 27].
In one of the numerous speeches delivered by Sri Raghaveshwara Bharati Maharaja, he made a bold analogy that I could immediately connect with Śrīla Prabhupāda’s own prediction. He explained how the First World War occurred not in 1914, as we have learned in modern history books, but during Satya Yuga when Lord Ramacandra killed the wicked King Ravana due to his failure to uphold the principles of dharma by kidnapping the Lord’s consort, Sita Devi. Thus, the First World War was fought to protect mother Sita. The Second World War was fought in connection with the chaste mother Draupadi who had been publically abused by unscrupulous kings. Bharati Maharaja went on to explain that the Third World War is soon to come. This Third World War will be fought based on the protection of our mother cow who has been piteously neglected, battered and mistreated over these last few centuries.”iii
In one of his Purports explaining the unique position of Lord Kṛṣṇa [SB 2.6.35] Śrīla Prabhupāda writes: “Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, therefore, is the absolute medium by which to understand the Absolute Truth”. We should likewise understand that mother cow is the absolute medium by which to understand the absolute culture ofsanatana dharma and varṇāśrama dharma, the absolute medium to become civilized.
Gavo bandhurmanushyanam, manushya bandhuva gavam
Gouch yasmin grhe nasty tat bandhurahitam grham
[Brahma to Narada Muni in Padma Puran, Srishti Khand. 57.151-56]
[Cows are friends of men and men are cows’ friends. The home which has no cows, that home is without friends.]
In order to know our friends and understand the medium (mother cow) who will help us understand the sanatana dharma and varṇāśrama dharma, let us know how to identify her and not get confused by other creations similar to her. All the creations deserve compassion but it should not make us blind and non-discriminatory. Human beings have special place amongst all the species, tulasi amongst all the plants, saligram sila in all the stones; and cows amongst all the animals. We may hear several pastimes of gomata but unless we protect her, what use is that knowledge and reverence? It stands to our material as well as our spiritual benefit that we know and protect gomata. But how do we protect her unless we know who she is and how she looks like? Interestingly there are 28 distinguishing features!
The Indigenous Cows and Exotic Cows gives all that and much more. For instance, it also gives the difference between the cow milk and buffalo milk besides information about the different existing indigenous breeds of India. The most interesting part is that the richly informative book offers all the information from the scientific and also shastric point of view.