The Holy Cow

In Hinduism, the cow is seen as holy because it lives such a virtuous and giving life. The Ghruta that's then produced from its milk, is its potent product bottled and given longevity for us humans to enjoy. I mean, can you think of a creature that gives more to human beings than cows!? The milk, the meat, the yoghurt, butter, leather boots and bags. They provide and provide and provide.

As Mahatma Gandhi once said:

“Why don’t more people respect and protect this remarkable creature?… 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.”

The example cows sets could be seen as a code for conducting oneself in the world: grace, gentleness, receptivity, generosity, patience and a profound connection to nature. And this is why the cow is venerated as holy in India and Hinduism.

The Nectar of Nectars

The milk of mammals has for a long time been seen as sacred. When we look at religious lore, particularly around eating restrictions, the directions are practical rather than just didactic. Kosher eating habits, for instance, from an Ayurvedic perspective, are very sensible. They know not to mix dairy and fish, and pork and shellfish are the some of the least-hygienic creatures to ingest.

So the fact that the milk was seen as divine was also because of its health-giving properties. It has the capacity to imbue a body with so many minerals, proteins and fuel. The butter that then comes from this milk is sometimes labelled a 'divine mystery'. Butter is hidden in milk and temperamental to produce. Ghruta, the clarified lipid that is produced from the butter or milk after a deep and arduous process, is a nectar for humans.

People assume it is just ghee, but in fact Ghruta has a whole other level of refinement that takes it to another level. That Ghruta nectar is hidden in the milk, epitomises the Hindu belief that divinity is hidden in all creation; spiritual work and its rewards are symbolised by the arduous task of churning the milk to get the Ghruta.

The Gir Cow

So we have cows and then we have Gir cows, the finest examples of A2 milk producing mammals out there. And what makes this breed so special? They are an ancient breed that Krishna would have kept on his go-shala or cow farm. The breed's name comes from the Gir Forest which where they are originally from.

They have a convex forehead which acts as a cooling radiator for their brain and pituitary gland, and a large hump which contains a special vein. This vein is called surya ketu nadi (surya means sun in Sanskrit), and when the sun hits the hump (which is elevated towards the sun from the cow’s back), the solar rays interact with the cow’s body and produce gold salts in its blood. This and other minerals are then present in the cow’s milk and Ghruta. This is why the milk is naturally golden in colour.

Treatment of the Cow

They are treated as sacred and holy, so they are prayed for each morning as the sun rises, before being chanted to. They are free to roam the Gujarati plains and forests and feed themselves with the Ayurvedic medicines and organic grass that they are surrounded by. Once the cow’s are past their milking-prime, they are allowed to leave and wander, or stay amongst their flock. They are respected throughout their life and their milk is received with gratitude rather than expectation. They are only milked once their calves have been fully fed; their life is revered.

This is Ayurveda

Ayurveda is about systems and how they work together; understanding that everything affects everything. The life and treatment of the Gir Cow is a prime example of this: knowing that the Ghruta will eventually be consumed medicinally by a human. Everything the cow has been through and eaten is imbued cellularly in its product. From the way the soil is fed, to the plants and grass that grow from it and become the cow's food, to the mental and soul state of the creature. If a cow lives in fear and captivity, then it produces a milk with that imprint. These cows are treated with complete respect and love, and that is the impression left upon their milk and Ghruta, how lucky we are to get to absorb some of this in such a potent medicinal form!

By Selina Van Orden

Selina Van Orden is an Ayurvedic physician living and working in the UK, for more information @_atyourbest

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