In India, cows are respected, decorated and allowed to wander wherever they please – but why?
While Hindus don’t consider cows to be gods, they do believe they are sacred and should be protected. Cows are seen as a representation of all life on Earth, as well as symbols of grace and generosity. They are respected for their gentle natures and the fact that they give nourishing milk while taking only water, grass and grain.
In the oldest Hindu scriptures, the Vedas, the cow is associated with Aditi, the mother of gods and all living things. The goddess is often depicted in the form of a cow to symbolise her maternal and giving nature.
One of the most important virtues in Indian religions is Ahimsa – having compassion and avoiding causing injury to other living things. It means that Hindus refuse to eat not only beef but also all other forms of meat. The cow’s docility is seen as exemplifying this virtue, and cows are often decorated and honoured during religious festivals.