Religion in India is characterised by a diversity of religious beliefs and practices. India is a secular state with no state religion but, in the 1911 census, 98 % of the population listed themselves as having a religion (Hindu 79.8%, Islam 14.2% Christianity 2.3% and Sikhism 1.7%). Throughout India’s history, religion has been an important part of the country’s culture. Religious diversity and tolerance are both established in the country the Indian Constitution has declared the right to freedom of religion is a fundamental right
Worship in a Sikh Temple in Delhi
Contrast this with Australia where in 2016 the most common choice was no religion at 26% and all Christian groups tallied 51%. In New Zealand less that half the population now recognise themselves as Christian.
Tell us about those cows please Arvind! It was three days into our tour before our guide spent some time explaining about cows in India. There are a billion cows in India but you can’t get a beef hamburger at McDonalds!
Arvind explained that Hindus do not worship cows as they do Gods. Hindus regard all living creatures as sacred – mammals, fishes, birds and more, acknowledging this reverence for life in their special affection for the cow. At festivals they decorate and honour her, but do not worship her in the sense that they worship the Deity. Many, but not all Hindus are vegetarian.
To the Hindu, the cow symbolises 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. It gives and gives and gives of its milk. 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. The generous cow gives milk and cream, yogurt and cheese, butter and ice cream, ghee and buttermilk. The only cow-question for Hindus is, “Why don’t more people respect and protect this remarkable creature?” Mahatma Gandhi once said, “One can measure the greatness of a nation and its moral progress by the way it treats its animals. Cow protection to me is not mere protection of the cow. It means protection of all that lives and is helpless and weak in the world. The cow means the entire subhuman world.”
Arvind directed our driver to take the bus to visit one of the more than 3,000 institutions called Gaushalas, maintained by charitable trusts, to care for old and infirm cows and encouraged any of us who wished to join him in feeding the cattle. Arvind, our driver and other locals certainly gave the impression that this feeding of the cows was an act of devotion.
Why the wandering old cows – according to Arvind BLAME THE BRITS!
I haven’t checked this and Arvind is a passionate Hindu Indian nationalist but it kind of makes sense to me . Feedback Welcome!
Until the British East India Company arrived India was made up of more than 200 kingdoms, ruled by Rajas and Maharajas under the loose dominion of the Mughdal Emperor. While the Emperors were Muslim, most of the local Rajahs were Hindu. One of their royal duties was to appropriately bury dead cows and look after the sick and dying ones. Even the Muslim Rajas carried this out in deference to the views of their populations. The European invaders from England used kingdom against kingdom to gradually dominate the entire subcontinent. They amalgamated many of the small kingdoms under powerful Maharajahs, whom they had entered into a treaty with, leaving them on the throne, while ever they continued loyal to the British.
These cattle certainly didn’t look old or infirm
To ensure this loyalty they persuaded them to send their sons to England for a British education. Not only were these young men hostages but they came home Anglicised as well.
One of these Princes was so impressed by the milk production of European herds that, when he inherited his throne, he imported thousands of cattle to “improve”the local cattle.
Unfortunately, in the hot Indian climate the hybrid stock proved less fertile – after 4 calves they were usually sterile, producing neither calf or milk with a decade still to live.
Unable to afford to feed such animals or send them for slaughter because of their protected status, farmers just put them out on the road to fend for themselves – or not.
In the meantime the massive increase in free cows and the decrease in the number of local rulers (and their wealth) meant abandonment of the “duty” to the cows. So India has many starving, protected cows.
Our Driver (a Sikh) helps deliver the fodder.
These Gaushalas, do divert lots of private charitable money
away from other causes to support cows.
Sitting on the Mosque steps were two musicians, an accordionist and drummer and two singers
who loudly sang praises to Allah.
Muslim preacher within the Mosque.
The tomb of a Sufi Saint from several hundred years ago surrounded by chanting devotees with lots of incense.