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In India I met the Cow

Location: India  |  Year: 2011/2013  |   Length: 34 min

In the Western world the cow is a symbol of food - milk- and yogurt machines, hamburgers and beef steak. Even to vegetarians in the West the cow is first and foremost a symbol of food - food to be saved from being food.

In Hinduism, the cow is a symbol of wealth, strength, abundance and selfless giving. 
The cow is seen to provide for humans throughout its life. It offers five gifts - the pancagavya: milk, yogurt, ghee (clarified butter), urine and dung. 
Urine is used in some forms of ayurvedic medicine, whilst dung is used as a fertiliser, in the construction of huts, and is dried and used as fuel for cooking all over India. Imagine the number of trees saved. Cows also work - pulling carts, ploughing the fields. 
When a cow has died its hide provides leather to be fashioned into shoes and other goods.  
In the Hindu scriptures and in most Hindu households the cow is worshipped. Lord Shiva rides a holy bull worshipped as Nandi and in imagery all the Hindu Gods reside within the Mother cow, Guy Mata. Many religious practices include and honour the cow. If a family member has passed away a portion of all food that is cooked will be offered to a cow and the cow will eat before the rest of the family for a duration of several months.

Modern day India has alongside the arrival of capitalism, seen the arrival of a certain amount of deterioration of cow worship. Many older cows who can no longer provide milk nor work for man are cast aside to fend for themselves. In the streets these cows resort to eating rubbish including numerous undigestible forms of plastic waste, as do kept cows who are free to wander. There are shelters for such cows, but there are not enough and they are somewhat reliant upon people bringing their old cows there. If this entails transport which again entails cost, it is often forsaken and the cow is abandoned.
However, the meat of a cow is never eaten and the religious practices persist.

Cows are also considered sacred in Jainism, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism, in addition to the religions of Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. Sikhism also respects the cow and Sikhs refrain from eating beef.

This artistic photographic montage is set to music and made up of over 6800 still shots of cows from different parts of India - the animals are as diverse as their backdrops ranging from the desert cities of Rajasthan, the mountains of Himachal Pradesh, the beaches and southern climates of Goa, and the sacred city of Varanasi.
This offers a unique way to experience the scenery of diverse amazing India - cities, mountains, beaches, villages and rivers. People, places, lifestyles and practices are experienced, all through imagery of Indian cows.

The montage shows cows from another point of view than the typical Western view - the future food, the farm animal. It shows funny aspects of these animals, interesting facts, curious behaviour, intelligent thought and above everything else, it shows that the cow has personality.

In India the cow does not fear man - it has no reason to do so. It is almost as if Indian cows are a separate species from the Western cow, the livestock animal that grazes fields and consumes genetically modified corn with foreboding yellow tags piercing its ears, the animal that has every reason to fear man. 

This montage does not, however, aim to convert people into vegetarians. It simply aims to put forth the idea that until travelling to India one has not met 'the cow'.

 

An individual project by Julienne Rathore.