Khamadenu’s Expanding Bonanza

May 13, 2010 

“To one it is a mighty heavenly goddess, to the other an excellent cow that furnishes him with butter.” – Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller, German  poet and historian (1759-1805).
Who said that the cow is dumb? Apparently it resented the uneconomic prices paid for the milk supplied by its owner. It withheld the full flow of its milk until the prices were revised upwards and we have now migrated from the regime of shortage of milk to plentiful supplies in Karnataka. Milk is only one of the blessings of Kamadenu to mankind.
With the patenting in the U.S. of a desi drug formulation composed of cow urine distillate and an antibiotic, the blessings of holy cow have opened a new vista. The traditional blessings of Khamadenu, as the cow was charecterised in ancient Indian treatises, can partially counted as follows. Before the latest medicinal value was discovered and patented, gomutra, in its pristine state, was ascribed therapeutic value and one could see people drinking fresh gomutra using cupped palms as the cow discharged it. The distillate of gomutra is now sold across the counter under the brand name Khamadenu Ark.
The most important blessing of Khamadenu is milk and its downstream products-- butter, ghee, ice-creams, and a variety of sweatmeats from the popular peda to Bengai specialities like rasagollas. Besides, its urine whose blessings are noted above, cow dung has variety of uses--fertiliser for plants, fuel for the kitchen, coating and disinfectant in the rural mud houses for the floors and walls. Through the gobar gas route cow dung also transforms into gas for fuel and lighting. By grazing in the forest, the cow keeps the grass in trim. Its hide is used for making bags, wallets and footwear. Even in death, the cow leaves behind its blessings. Dainty combs and decorative artifacts are fashioned out of its horns. Its carcass is used as fertilser by burying it at the base of fruit-bearing trees. Most important, the cow spawns calves, male and female. The females continue the cow`s good work while the males pull carts and get yoked for farming. Some males are also used for racing.

Beyond these obvious and intergral blessings bestowed by the cow, one can trace further derivatives. It provides employment. Cows invade the roads in towns and cities and hamper the safe movement of vehicular traffic. So, in cities like Delhi there are a dozen cow catchers whose job is to herd them into cattle pounds -- where they are looked after by other civic employees. They are released on payment of fees and fines which go to the civic coffers. On highways such cows act as speed breakers and thus help in minimising accidents due to overspeeding.
There are mechanical cow catchers which are fixed to the front end of railway engines which just toss away the trespassing cows out of the track and life. A farmer collected such dead cow and went to the station master to demand compensation. The official opened a dusty railway manual and came with a counter demand for Rs.1000 for allowing the cow to trespass on railway property. It was during the British Raj when its servant`s decision was the law and final. To appeal against it was considered foolish as pissing in the sand-- there is nothing to show for it. That age did not know of writ petitions and public interest petitions as now.
Cows provide salve to troubled souls. In towns and cities cows are tethered to trees or lamp posts outside temples. Ladies bring bundles of grass and sell it by the handful to devotees visiting the temple. It provides employment to the ladies selling the grass and the rich and troubled in souls gain merit. And the owner of the cow has his cow fed free. Such cows need not have the backdrop of a  temple. In Mumbai, for instance, such cows are fed outside Parsee fire temples and even on busy footpaths of Colaba and Bhuleshwar.
Samuel Johnson noted that "A cow is a very good animal in the field; but we turn her out of the garden." The latter chore taught me to run fast helped by the cows intruding into our ancestral farm to feast on standing paddy and vegetables. As a youngster, I was assigned to chase them away within the shortest time and to the farthest distance. Such cows have given me enough confidence to outrun my wife if ever she chased me with a rolling pin.
Cows were also my teachers for swimming. I had no opportunity to learn this art in a swimming pool under a trainer. We had to make do with stringed dry coconuts or dry tree trunks providing the ballast. These inanimate props did not facilitate movement. That is where the cow came in handy. I used to take the cows for a wash and drink, after grazing, to a large pond or talao which had a water surface of half an acre when full. I would hold on to the cow's tail as it swam across the pond. Unlike the buffalos which remain underwater for a long time, perhaps to shake you off its back or tail, the cows have smaller lungs and lesser capacity to stay submerged. In the years gone by I had many opportunities to swim in the pools of star hotels; but my grateful thoughts were always on the obliging cows.
Can the gentle cow kill a tiger? Yes, if the cow is dead and laced with poison. That is what villagers do when their cows are killed by tigers. After the kill, the tiger cannot finish off the whole carcass at one go. So, it leaves the leftover carcass for its next meal. In the meanwhile, the owner finds the cow missing and mounts a search. With little help from crows and vultures hovering over the dead cow, the farmer zeroes down on the spot. Unable to come to terms with his loss, he swears revenge and laces the carcass generously with concentrated insecticides. The next meal of the tiger turns out to be its last supper!
Sometimes that is not the end of the story. For instance, Silam (Sylvester –Sila - uncle), who was man Friday in our ancestral house, found his cow killed by a tiger. To avenge his loss, he poisoned the half-eaten carcass. Next day, when we were returning from Sunday church service, we spied crows and vultures sweeping down on a small hillock. Going closer we discovered that it was a dead tiger  with a bloated stomach. Silam went into a frenzy and, extolling the virtues of his dead cow, kicked the tiger on its stomach with all the fury he could muster. Suddenly, there was a growling sound as the accumulated gases in the tiger's stomach got released at its both ends. Silam got frightened and, declaring that the tiger was not yet dead, ran for his dear life till he reached the safety of his home. People later started teasing him of being afraid of a dead tiger's fart.
That is Khamadenu for us! We should be saying with Robert Louis Stevenson, Scottish novelist (1850-1895):
Thank you pretty cow, that made
Pleasant milk to soak my bread.
{If cow is there, can bull be far behind? Decorated bulls, many with special characteristics like + or – limbs, are paraded through towns, providing opportunities for people to pay their respects to the bovines at their doorsteps. A couple of years ago we had a team of three bulls and their presenters from Andhra Pradesh making the rounds of Mangalore. They camped on Bondel Maidan. I struck a deal with them to exclusively collect their hind-side output for a fixed sum. The other dung collectors were shooed away by the bull-minders. The frustrated persons dubbed me bullshit man.}
John B. Monteiro, author and journalist, is Editor of his website (Interactive Cerebral Challenger).  

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By John B. Monteiro
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Comment on this article

  • Jimmy Noronha, Belloor/Lucknow

    Sun, May 16 2010

    Zipped through the whole article in one go and felt great, for a change, that those unforgiving minutes that went by were well contenting. What’s next please?

  • adshenoy, mangloor

    Fri, May 14 2010

    "Holy Cow" is a term often used in Westernworld who consume beef and dairy products for anything that is expressed in disbelief/shock, etc, etc. Sometmes if for sheer fun in conversations.
    Whether this is just an expression or making fun for the Indian Hindu belief who consider that Cow is holy and is worshipped.

    Whatever be the motive, it is a given fact and Hindu belief is the right belief and indeed the Cow is nothing but holy.
    It is like a mother to a infant who lost his/her mother because that child can survive on cows milk. Cow is an animal who only gives and does not take anything back in return.
    Milk and dairy for survival and nourishment, cow dung for fertiliser and fuel and certainly urine as medicine- great for immune system if one drinks everyday morning( like it is believed Morarji Desai, Indias prime minister before Indira Gandhi did in his life time).
    Today from choclates to sweetmeats and anything you name it has cows ingredients including bones used in gello(jelly).
    Ayurveda, the Indian medical system practiced from thousands of years uses cow ingredients. What can one not ask for?
    Can anybody deny Cow is unHoly? and trust me it is holy indeed. And we must protect this devine animal or perhaps a Goddess to the entire world- holy in the right sense.

  • Sagar, Kankanady

    Fri, May 14 2010

    Well written article by Mr.John.
    Gomutra (Cow Urine) :
    Total 8 type of urine are explained for medicinal purpose, among those Cow urine is best.

    Anti-cancer, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal property is found in it.

    It is also having anti-oxidant and immuno modulator property, which is very much useful for auto immune disease which are increasing now a day.

    In classics there are so many references available where cow urine is mentioned as a drug of choice. Internally as well as externally too.

    In it also having germicidal property and it might be the chief reason why Gau mutra were used as a holi content on each and every occasion.

    The ancient science has accepted existence of different Gods for different kind of energy same classics tell that all 33 crore Devatas reside in cow!!! and so Gaumata has been told as Kamadhenu which fulfills all our desires! Here, acceptance of existence of 33 crore Devatas in the cow, it is symbolic, and if we try to evaluate to find out the reason for it can be understood very well that the word Kamadhenu used for cow is not a myth but cow is the only existing creature of almighty God which is having broad umbrella of blessing, under which the whole universe can not only survive but can grow and develop very well.

    Just guess whatever we eat today..from where did fertilizers are come from!!!

  • Ravi Lobo, Kinnigoli/ Wisconsin

    Thu, May 13 2010

    Mr. Monteiro, you have a written a very nice article with great style and subtle humor. It invoked many memories. I felt like reading R. K. Narayan’s stories. Please write often.


    Wed, May 12 2010

    Johnam what an end. Really humorous. Thanks a lot and please keep sharing these humours.

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