Holy Cows in India – Weekly Photo Challenge: Culture

If a cow and a temple together doesn’t embody Indian culture, then I’m not sure what does. This week’s WordPress photo challenge asked for a striking cultural image that urges the viewer to dig deeper…

Cow in Varanasi, India

Are you curious? Good.

I grew up on a cattle ranch, so you can imagine I had my share of steak for dinner. In fact, our nightly meal was a constant rotation of beef – hamburger, jerky, meatballs…but this is a concept that most Indian’s find hard to swallow.

More than 85% of India’s population are of Hindu faith, which means, to them, that cows are holy and certainly not to be eaten.ย “The cow is like God,” according to many of my Indian hosts. They believe the cow is second in rank only to their birth mother, for when a child is weened from the teat, the cow’s milk will replace hers.

“But not all cows produce milk,” I would say, in defense of my cowboy father. In India, I learned I can survive quite happily on a varied vegetarian diet, but eating beef is such a part of my family culture that I couldn’t help but defend it.

My response, however, was that non-dairy cows are still good for something – their poop. The cow patties are dried (you see them everywhere, lined along streets and fences drying under the afternoon sun) and used for cooking fires. But I have a feeling that even if they weren’t useful at all, cows would still be holy. And they know it.

They sleep under boardwalks and store awnings and wander freely through the streets, crossing the road at a leisurely pace, fully aware that an Indian-operated car will voluntarily veer off the road or into another object before it will injure the cow.

Their life might not sound like that of a highly revered animal – they feed on trash piles that incessantly line the streetsย  – but they do seem to know their place in the hierarchy of praise in India, and they take it to their full advantage, lounging anywhere they see fit. I imagine, if I were an edible animal that knew I might never meet the butcher, I would do exactly the same.

Wouldn’t you?

India holy cow

Eating trash in Haridwar, India.

Cows in India

Rishikesh, India

Cows in India

Rishikesh, India

Cows in India

Bundi, India

Cows in India

Chandigarh, India


Holy Cows in India – Weekly Photo Challenge: Culture
Written by:Jessica J. Hill


  1. Nitin says:

    Such a nicely articulated post. Even I would not be able to write anything like this the way you have described the significance of holy cow!!!

  2. Rajesh says:

    Very nice to read ur article..
    A disease by the name fever of brain..
    Eat well cooked green vegetables..
    Bye .
    Take care

  3. Good shots for the theme, Jessica!

  4. thirdeyemom says:

    I love this post! I have to share now…. And yes I found the cow situation in India quite unusual! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. I sure would! ๐Ÿ™‚ Love it!

  6. Tina Schell says:

    Excellent post and wonderful photos. Great choice for the challenge!

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