Cow a highly useful animal, its worship makes no sense: Sarvakar

June 09, 2017 10:18 AM
Vinayak Damodar Savarkar or `Veer' Savarkar (File pic)

Vaibhav Purandare

In the mid-1930s, the editor of famous Marathi journal Bhaala posed a question to all Hindus and answered it himself.“Who is a real Hindu? One who regards the cow as his mother!“ Vinayak Damodar Savarkar or `Veer' Savarkar, as the fiery Indian revolutionary from Nashik had come to be then known after his attempted escape from British captivity in Marseilles and more than a decade in the Andamans' Cellular Jail, responded to this assertion. He wrote: “If the cow's a mother to anybody at all, it's the bullock. Not the Hindus.Hindutva, if it has to sustain itself on a cow's legs, will come crashing down at the slightest sign of a crisis.“

The cow was, for Sarvarkar, a highly useful animal. But its worship, he argued, made no sense because humans needed to worship soothing super-human.

Savarkar is known today as the author of the 1923 work Hindutva, the seminal text for Hindu nationalists, but what he is little known for is his staunch opposition to cow worship. The cow was, for him, a highly useful animal. But its worship, he argued, made no sense because humans needed to worship something or someone who was superhuman or endowed with super-human qualities, not an “out-and-out“ animal inferior to humankind.

He called for the abandonment of the “naïve practice“ because it was “buddhi hatya“ or “murder of the intellect“. He was not against the nurturing of cows and in fact assiduously promoted the principle of nurture as a “national duty“, so long as it was predicated on broader economic and scientific principles ¬ as it was, he stressed, in America ¬ that helped maximise bovine usefulness.

Cow urine bottles

But his standout line on the subject was that “we need cow care, not worship“. He particularly abhorred the then widely prevalent habit of consuming cow urine and, in some cases, even cow dung, and believed the practice may have actually started out in ancient India as a form of punishment so that a person could “expiate his sins“.

indian Cows

And to those orthodox Hindus who thought his views were blasphemous, Savarkar had only one sardonic thing to say: your blasphemy's far, far bigger, just see how you've crammed 33 crore deities into a cow's belly.

Forget India's Left, even its centrists had been loath to touch Savarkar with a barge pole for decades. Some of them have now discovered him all of a sudden and taken to quoting his aforementioned views. Sharad Pawar said at a recent function that Savarkar regarded the cow as a useful animal, nothing more.

That of course is correct, and his views are particularly instructive in the wake of what's happening all around us. But the avowed “secularists“ and self-confirmed “liberals“ among us may perhaps want to read his writings on the subject a little more closely before they throw the book at the Hindutva-wadis, because Savarkar's stand on the cow, however utilitarian his approach may appear to be, cannot be divorced from his theory of Hindutva.

Savarkar did not believe India had been subjugated only during the British Raj. Unlike Nehru who put forward the idea of a `composite culture', he saw the many hundred years of Islamic rule as an era of shackles, submission, suppression and slavery. And one of his major issues with cow worship, apart from its deadening of the mind as he saw it, was that it had “ensured“ many a Hindu defeat in the past. To use a bad pun which he didn't, it had engendered cow-ardice.

He alleged that Muslim armies had often used cows as a shield during key battles against the Hindus. When Hindu forces marched on Multan, he said, the Muslims had threatened to destroy the famous Sun temple there as a warning, and when Malharrao Holkar, a Maratha chieftain, had sought to “liberate“ Kashi, the Muslims had again threatened to defile all things holy to the Hindus, Savarkar said and castigated India's majority community for backtracking at such moments for fear of being responsible for the razing of temples, the humiliation of Brahmins and cow slaughter.

He said if the Hindu Rashtra, as he saw it, was ever to be hemmed in by non-Hindu forces and there was no way out of the siege to get food, cow slaughter had to be exercised as an option. The Hindus had done considerable damage to their cause, he said, by saving a few cows used as shields by the rivals, because their survival had ultimately resulted in a far greater destruction of Hindu shrines and the setting up of abattoirs all over the country.

Cow Dung

And he had a “final word“ of indictment for those non-Hindus who saw cow slaughter as a religious duty: he said Hindus were naïve in their worship, but they weren't cruel. Those who cut down the animal as part of their dharma were not only naïve but brutal in their religious zealotry, he said, and added that they had no right to ridicule Hindus for their beliefs. In such slaughter Savarkar saw excessive barbarism, ingratitude and an asuric (demonic) instinct. He urged such non-Hindus to give up their “cow hate“ and take up “cow care.“

Even if firmly situated within the Hindutva framework and calling openly for a Hindu Rashtra, this is a surprisingly complex and often apparently contradictory opinion on a subject highly sensitive in today's India. But Savarkar's view is also perhaps unique in that both the gau rakshaks and the Youth Congress's public slaughterers of a calf in Kerala might wonder what exactly to make of him. (From Times Of India)

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