April 12: After an early hotel breakfast we boarded our bus
for a 7-hour drive to Jaipur. The road to Jaipur was very good, and our
bus driver and his assistant are very capable. He honks his horn whenever
he wants to pass - considered a warning or courtesy to the vehicle ahead.
Indeed, most vehicles post signs on the rear requesting "Blow Horn." The
driver's assistant gives him hand signals when he is in a tight space and
he provides a second set of eyes to detect dangerous situations in every
It was a breath of fresh air, literally, once we got outside of Delhi.
The countryside is very dry, and the fields are harvested. They are now
waiting for the monsoons before planting again. Everything from the crops
is used -- the straw for the cows which provide milk and power for transporting
goods. Stubble is tied in bundles, used for fuel. It was funny to
see trucks with bulging bags -- huge bags, literally bursting at the seams,
filled with chopped hay for cattle.
Cow manure is gathered to be used as fertalizer and is also made into
patties, and dried in the sun to be used for fuel during monsoon season
and the winter. As we drove along, there were also house-shaped blocks
of cow manure, marked with an identification symbol, drying in the sun.
This would not be our favourite household chore... without gloves, even...
LOL! Cow dung and cow urine are also thought to be a disinfectant and are
sometimes used to clean up homes and are even used in in cosmetics. In
some ways, cows for Indians are like the pets in the Western Culture. You
don't see dog meat, cat meat or even horse meat in most Western countries
as these are the animals people have in their homes and with which people
share a special bonding.
There are cows everywhere. The ones wandering the streets and roads
are ones that no longer provide milk. They are left to wander but people
bring fresh alfalfa to feed them every day. CEO explained the Hindu reverence
for cows: Hindus donít worship cows, rather they respect, honour and adore
the cow. By honouring this gentle animal, who gives more than she takes,
they honour all creatures. Hindus regard all living creatures as sacred
Ė mammals, fishes, birds, et al. They display this reverence for life in
their special affection for the cow. At festivals they decorate and honour
her, but they do not worship her in the sense that they worship the deities.
To the Hindu, the cow symbolizes all other creatures. The cow is a symbol
of the Earth, the nourisher, the ever-giving, undemanding provider. The
cow represents life and the sustenance of life. The cow is so generous,
taking nothing but water, grass and grain. The cow is so vital to life,
the virtual sustainer of life, for many humans. Veneration of the cow instils
in Hindus the virtues of gentleness, receptivity and connectedness with
nature. There are about 45,150,000 cows in India, the highest in
the world. So while some old and infirm cows given special care, the rest
are generally abandoned at public places such as railway stations and bazaars
where they can find food at garbage bins and dumpsters. In some regions,
especially Nepal and most states of India, the slaughter of cattle is prohibited
and their meat may be taboo. Because cow slaughtering is only legal in
two Indian states, cows must be transported around the country in rather
poor conditions, usually train or by foot.
The reverence for the cow played a role in the Indian Rebellion of 1857
against the British East India Company. Hindu and Muslim sepoys in the
army of the East India Company came to believe that their paper cartridges,
which held a measured amount of gunpowder, were greased with cow and pig
fat. The consumption of swine is forbidden in Islam. Because loading the
gun required biting off the end of the paper cartridge, they concluded
that the British were forcing them to break edicts of their religion. Historically,
many communal riots between Hindus and Muslims were attributable directly
to cow slaughter.