Vasilkov Ya. V. Holy cow of India: history and the present time

Yaroslav V. VASSILKOV — Doctor of Philology, Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera) of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Russia, St. Petersburg)


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УДК 2-13(540)
DOI 10.31250/2618-8600-2019-4(6)-42-59


ABSTRACT. In the 21st century, when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with its Hindutva (“Hinduness”) ideology, came to power, the governments of most Indian states have realized the principle of “cow protection”, long ago advocated by Ma- hatma Gandhi, in the simplest way possible: by imposing a ban on cow slaughter. It has led to serious economic and catastrophic social consequences. Beef is a staple in the diet of the huge Muslim community, Christians, low-caste Hindus, Dalites (outcastes) and tribal people. The activities of the Hindu cow vigilantes who illegally at- tack and often kill those who are suspected of slaughtering cows, having beef in their homes or consuming it are a cause for concern. The Hindu fundamentalist scholars lay a “theoretical foundation” for the ban on cow slaughter trying to prove, ignoring factual knowledge, that beef consumption was introduced in India by the Muslim invaders and that before the Islamic Conquest the cow had been always inviolable as a sacred animal. The article provides data from the ancient texts on cow sacrifice and beef consumption as practiced long before the Muslim invasions. The origins of the “sacred cow” cult, the “cow protection” movement in modern times and Mahat- ma Gandhi’s real views of “cow protection” are analyzed. For Gandhi “cow protec- tion” did not imply imposing a ban on cow slaughter for the non-Hindu communities. A way around the present situation is possible only through education, compromise and mutual acculturation.


KEYWORDS: Holy cow, cow sacrifice, “cow protection”, Hindu vigilantism, ahimsa, Mahatma Gandhi, acculturation



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