By Nisharg Chauhan
The four legs of this Mother Cow symbolize the four texts of the Vedas, while the teats are four Purusharthas, the goals of all human life: Righteousness, prosperity, love and liberation. Her horns are the triune gods Brahma (tip), Vishnu (middle) and Shiva (base); her eyes are the sun and moon gods and her legs the Himalayas. While the horns symbolize the Gods, the sun is exemplified by the face as is the moon. The shoulders are a symbol of Agni, the god of fire. Therefore, all that is sacred can be found in the cow.
As such, Kamadhenu is not worshipped independently as a goddess, and temples are not dedicated to her honor alone; rather, she is honored by the veneration of cows in general throughout the observant Hindu population.
Kamadhenu plays the important role of providing milk and milk products to be used in her sage-master’s oblations; she is also capable of producing fierce warriors to protect him. In addition to dwelling in the sage’s hermitage, she is also described as dwelling in Goloka – the realm of the cows – and Patal Lok, the netherworld. The Harivamsa, an appendix of the Mahabharata, calls Surabhi the mother of Amrita (ambrosia), Brahmins, cows and Rudras.
She is also known as Surabhi (सुरभि, Surabhī). Surabhi means fragrant, charming, pleasing, as well as cow and earth. It can specifically refer to the divine cow Kamadhenu, the mother of cattle who is also sometimes described as a Matrika (“mother”) goddess. Other proper names attributed to Kamadhenu are Sabala (“the spotted one”) and Kapila (“the red one”).
The epithets “Kamadhenu” (कामधेनु), “Kamaduh” (कामदुह्) and “Kamaduha” (कामदुहा) literally mean the cow “from whom all that is desired is drawn”—“the cow of plenty”.
Different texts provide diverse versions of the story of Kamadhenu’s birth. One of them says that this Divine Cow emerged from the Ocean of milk or Kshir Sagar during the churning of the oceans.
All sorts of elements appeared from that churning, not only the nectar, but also different goddesses, trees, magical objects, poisons and Kamadhenu, the cow. In the end, the gods kept the nectar from themselves. The devas or gods decided to give Kamadhenu to the Saptarishis, the seven great sages. For them, the sacred cow supplies milk and ghee for sacred Yagnas, rituals. In time, she came into the ownership of the sage Vashista. According to the Anushasana Parva, a book of the Sanskrit epic Mahabharat, Kamadhenu was the daughter of Daksha, the creator of the world, also called Prajapati.
She came to life from Daksha after he consumed Amrita, the nectar of immortality that was created from the churning of the oceans. The cow is therefore regarded as the mother of the world and the child of Lord Brahma, in some legends. Ramayana, a holy Hindu epic describes Surbahi or Kamadhenu as daughter of one of the seven sages, Kashyapa, and his wife Krodhavasa, born of Lord Brahma. According to the Vishnu and Bhagwat Purana, Surabhi is the daughter of Daksha and Sage Kashyapa’s consort.
As per the Matsya Purana, Surbahi was the consort of Brahma and mother of the cow Yogishwari, as well as of the eleven Rudras, goats, swans and other species. According to another version, she is also the mother of the Brahmins and all the cows. In the Devi Bhagvata Purana, Krishna and Radha felt thirsty and so the Lord created the cow Surabhi or Kamadhenu and then milked it. Drinking from the vessel, he let it fall; the milk became the Ocean of milk, from which thousands of cows emerged from Surabhi to serve the Gopis, that is, the shepherds. As you can see, there are many different stories about Kamadhenu and her birth, but some elements are repeated.
Lord Dattatreya, a monk and one of the lords of Yoga, is often shown holding Kamadhenu in one of his hands. In this version, she is related to Brahmanic scriptures and embodies the five elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether. The five elements are also called Pancha Bhoota.
The Sacred Cow is considered the protector of the Brahmin sages and symbolizes their spiritual and material wealth apart from being a religious figure. Kamadhenu also is said to have protected sage Vashishtha from the wrath of kings and produced hordes of warriors that destroyed armed forces heading to destroy her owner’s hermitage.
The place Kamadhenu lives in is also the subject of many legends in ancient Hindu treatises. In Mahabharat she is said to have ruled Goloka – the Cow heaven – beyond the three worlds(Swarg Lok, Prithvi Lok, Patal Lok). the daughter of Daksha, Surabhi went to Mount Kailash and worshipped Brahma for 10,000 years. The pleased god conferred goddess-hood on the cow and decreed that all people would worship her and her children – cows. He also gave her a world called Goloka, while her daughters would reside on earth among humans. The Ramayan describes her as living in the land of the Lord of Oceans situated in Patal Lok, the underworld with her four daughters, the Dikpalis or guardians of cows. It also states that her milk has six different flavors and has the essence of all the best things of the earth. The Udyoga Parva specifies that Surabhi inhabits the lowest realm of Patal Lok, known as Rasatal, and has four daughters – the Dikpalis – the guardian cow goddesses of the heavenly quarters: Saurabhi in the east, Harhsika in the south, Subhadra in the west and Dhenu in the north.
The Devi Bhagavat Puran narrates that Krishna and his lover Radha were enjoying dalliance, when they thirsted for milk. So, Krishna created a cow called Surabhi and a calf called Manorath from the left side of his body, and milked the cow. When drinking the milk, the milk pot fell on the ground and broke, spilling the milk, which became the Kshir Sagar, the cosmic milk ocean. Numerous cows then emerged from the pores of Surabhi’s skin and were presented to the cowherd-companions (Gopas) of Krishna by him. Then Krishna worshipped Surabhi and decreed that she – a cow, the giver of milk and prosperity—be worshipped at Diwali on Bali Pratipada day. Her flowing sweet milk is said to form Kshiroda or the Kshir Sagar the cosmic milk ocean, the place where Bhagwan Vishnu resides.
Kamadhenu’s progeny, the cows, are considered holy since ancient times; people in India still look after cows and feed them outside temples. Hindus protect and respect the cow for her milk and nurturing qualities, as well as her holy symbolism. The legend of Kamadhenu lives on in India to this date.
The Rig Veda (4.28.1; 6) reads. “The cows have come and have brought us good fortune. In our stalls, contented, may they stay! May they bring forth calves for us, many-colored, giving milk for Indra each day. You make, O cows, the thin man sleek; to the unlovely you bring beauty. Rejoice our homestead with pleasant lowing. In our assemblies we laud your vigour.” This speaks of the necessity of cow and milk in the ancient society.
The importance of milk and dairy products in our daily lives is what puts cows on such a high pedestal. The cow is a symbol of the Earth, the nourisher, the ever-giving soul. The cow is so generous, taking nothing but water, grass and grain. It gives and gives and gives of its milk, it does not feed its calf well but it feeds mankind right from little children to old people. One can even call the cow a surrogate mother for all of us. Cow’s milk is also highly nutritious and energy rich.
All our ancestors were a typical pastoral community and that could have been the reason why we hold cattle with such high regard. But it is our duty to protect all animals not just cows. Cow slaughter has been banned in a few stated as of now. It was our ancestors’ vision that all cows should be protected and taken care of in Gau-shalas. He considered cow protection the greatest virtue to come out of Hinduism. Cows are the most docile un-animalistic animals on earth. They are sensitive, generous, gentle creatures nothing short of what a human can be but they are more useful than most human beings are to the society.
In Tantra Shastra, the Kamadhenu, the wish-fulfilling cow, is considered as a form of Saraswati Devi. This deity rules knowledge, speech, words, eloquence, music and the Arts. She is also represented as one of the Shaktis and is the Divine Consort of Brahma.
The Kamadhenu Tantra in itself is a question-answer session between Parvati (Shakti) and Shiva. Parvati queries Shiva about the true significance of the 50 letters of the Sanskrit alphabet – about their relationship with the tattvas.
Humans develop motherly emotional connect with cow like mothers milk. Cow have 9 months of gestation too. Mammal Cow our companion in evolutionary & anthropological journey helping us ride, plough, manure, economy & capital. Cognitively, Emotional & Gregariously very advanced too.
We can see very special relationship between our Devi-Devtas and animals. Nandi (also Nandin) is the sacred bull calf, gatekeeper, and vehicle (vaahan) of the Bhagwan Shiv. Lion and Tiger both are depicted as the vehicle of Maa Parvati/Durga. Lord Kartikey’s vehicle is Peacock. Lord Ganesh’s vaahan – Mooshak – is the large Indian bandicoot rat.
In Purans and Itihas, the relation between Krishna and Cows has always been put into an inseparable divine entity. His early life starts form in the divine world of Gokula, where Lord Krishna is a cowherd boy in the agricultural community where He loves and keeps huge numbers of cows and calves.
In the praise and salutation to Gita it is said: सर्वोपनिषदो गावो दोग्धा गोपालनन्दनः पार्थ वत्स सुधीर्भोक्ता दुग्धं गीतामृतं महत (Sarvoponishada Gavo Dogdha Gopalanandana Partha Vatsa Sudhirbhokta Dugdham Gitamritam Mahat). The Upanishads are cows, Lord Gopal-nandan is the cow milkers, Partha-Arjuna is the calf, the wise scholars are the drinkers of that milk and Gita is that milk, the nectar of life.
The Surabhi cow descended from the spiritual worlds and manifested herself in the heavenly spheres from the aroma of celestial nectar for the benefit of all created beings.
The direct descendants of the Surabhi cows are the sacred cows from the continent India which are uniquely distinguished the same as the Surabhi by the beautiful hump on their backs and the wonderfully soft folds of skin under their necks.
Since all cows in existence in the world today are factual descendants of the sacred cows of India they are all holy as well and should always be lovingly cared for and protected with the highest esteem and greatest respect. One should never cause harm to cows in any way even in a dream and one should never ever even think of eating the flesh of cows as there is no action more sinful in all of creation than cow killing.
In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna mentions cow protection as one of the prime duties of any civilized society. The Bible also tells us that cow-killing is as punishable as killing a human being. The there is no mandatory Qurbani of Cows in Quran. Rather Islamic scriptures say, Milk is good for heath and cow fleshes are causes of diseases.
Lord Krishna was called Gopala when he was a baby. Gopala literally means “protector of cows”. There are many esoteric meaning to this word, but even the obvious meaning is beautiful. Gopal was such a lovable little baby that all the cows in the vicinity loved him more than they loved their own calves.
Such a union of cows with individual and society too as manifested in the life of Lord Krishna, actually made cow progeny holier than anything to us. In reality, the cow progeny was always treated as the main resource and backbone of Indian agriculture, health, medicine and prosperity in Indian life handed over glorious Indian civilization after civilization. Cow protection is synonymous to protection of the Nature and spreading love and good emotions all around.
To strengthen the Rishi-Krishi tradition of Bharata, Krishna established the best socio- economic system, varnashrama-dharma, for the spiritual and material progress of all living beings as per their ability (guna) and aspiration (karma).
Protected cows are a major component of this system; bulls and oxen plough the fields, and cows give milk. Here, Cows are considered one of the mothers of humankind because cow’s milk, a perfectly suited food to maintaining human life and the best milk after the mother’s breast milk.
Cow is also the vehicle of the Civilisation too. It binds the family, nourishes & nurtures & helps in agricultural economy. Cow is the only animal humans drank milk after mother and hence motherly connect.
When foreign invaders & colonisers attacked Bharat, the Cow was attacked only because it was revered & venerate by Children of Civilisation & it did build our connect even stronger that Cow was also inflicted wounds like us for same reasons like us & we couldn’t save us like many of 100millions Genocide of Children of Civilisation.
The Bharat Civilisation concept of divinity wasn’t restricted to only male or even humans. The whole nature is divinity to is including Cow, mountains, planets etc.
Cow is intrinsically part of Bharat and not just an animal for us. Jai Gau Mata! 🙏👑🚩