The role of cows in Diwali; cow worship in India

Cow in temple in India where they are cared for and protected

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Diwali, the festival of lights, is an Indian celebration that also pays tribute to the sacred status of bovines, an example of cow worship in India.

Keep reading to learn more about the celebrations, like Diwali, that recognise animals in Indian culture and tradition.

Cows in Diwali

Festivals like Diwali highlight the significant role animals play in the spiritual and everyday life of the Indian people.

The cow’s revered status is deeply rooted in Hindu mythology, seen as symbols of life and nourishment.

During Diwali, cows are often adorned with garlands and painted with vibrant colours, symbolising their sacred status.

It’s a time where myths and stories featuring cows are shared amongst families and communities.

These narratives often focus on the cow’s role as a divine creature, blessed by the gods and integral to the festival’s spiritual practices.

Celebrating cows in Diwali is more than just a ritual; it’s a testament to the enduring bond between humans and animals in Indian culture.

Woman feeding cow in India for Cows in Diwali and animal worship in India
Cows, considered symbols of wealth, strength, and abundance, find a special place in the heart of Diwali celebrations.

Other examples of animal and cow worship in India

The celebration and recognition of cows in Diwali festivities is not the only cultural festival involving animal worship in India.

Here’s some other celebrations:

Gau Puja

In many parts of India, Diwali is marked by Gau Puja, a ritual dedicated to worshipping cows. This ceremony involves adorning cows with flowers and vibrant colours, followed by prayers and offerings. The belief is that by honouring cows, families will be blessed with prosperity and good health.

Ganesha Chaturthi: Honouring the elephant-headed God

Ganesha Chaturthi is a festival celebrating Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed god of wisdom and prosperity.

The festival involves the creation, and worship of, Ganesha idols.

This worship lasts several days before placing them in water, symbolising a ritual see-off of the Lord in his journey towards his home.

They believe he is taking away with him the misfortunes of his devotees.

Nag Panchami: The serpent worship

Nag Panchami is a day for worshipping snakes.

On this day, locals celebrate and revere snakes while also offering them mil, sweets, and flowers.

Festivalgoers believe that snake worship can bring good fortune and counteract the possibility of snake bites during the monsoon season.

Makar Sankranti: The festival of kites and cattle

Makar Sankranti, known for its kite-flying events, is also a festival that honours cattle.

In rural areas, farmers decorate and worship cows and bulls to symbolise the vital role in agriculture.

The festival marks the transition of the sun into the zodiac sign of Makara (Capricorn), heralding the arrival of spring.

Pongal: Thanksgiving to farm animals

Pongal, a harvest festival in South India, includes a day known as Mattu Pongal dedicated to cattle.

Farmers express their gratitude to their cattle for helping with the harvest.

Worshippers bath, adorn, and decorate the cows with colourful beads, bells and flowers before parading them through the streets.

Camel festival in Bikaner

The Camel Festival in Bikaner, Rajasthan, is a spectacular event showcasing the importance of camels in the desert regions of India.

The festival includes camel races, camel dances, and a parade of beautifully decorated camels.

Elephant festival in Jaipur

The Elephant Festival in Jaipur is an annual event that pays homage to the Indian elephant.

The festival features a parade of elephants decked in vibrant colours and jewellery, elephant polo matches, and tug-of-war between elephants and men.

Mother cow and calf in streets for animal worship in India

Modern celebrations involving animal and cow worship in India

In contemporary India, the respect for cows during celebrations takes on new forms.

As the country becomes more modern, the treatment of cows during Diwali has also evolved.

Many communities now focus on ethical treatment and welfare of cows, ensuring their proper care during the festivities.

This shift reflects a growing awareness of animal rights and a move towards more compassionate and sustainable cultural practices.

There’s also more organisations than ever established in India to help enhance the welfare of cows in India and other animals.

As you can see, throughout India, there’s a number of cultural celebrations that include animals.

If we’ve missed any that you know of, please get in touch so we can update our article!