ANNEX V-II (2)
OUR SCRIPTURES ON COW MILK
A paper on Nutritive Value of cow milk as understood by ancient Indians and as propounded by Vedas and other scriptures – presented at the Seminar on Cow’s milk is Amritam, organised by the Love 4 Cow Trust, at New Delhi on 7th July 2002.
By: Ish Kumar Narang
Assistant Commissioner(Dairy Development)
Government of India
1. Milk has been a part of diet of Indian society since times immemorial. Our scriptures are full of references on importance and value of milk for human life. And the only milk, apart from mother’s milk, known to Indians was Cow Milk only which has been equated with Amrita.
2. Man has been in search of an Elixir or Nectar or “AMRITA”, a sip or two of which could make him free from all sufferings and make him immortal. It is not known yet, whether such an elixir ever existed but India’s ancient scriptures have described cow ‘Milk’ as ‘AMRITA’.
“Amritam Vai gvam khriramityah tridshadhip ,
tasmad dadatim yo dhenumamatrim sa Praychhti”.
This Shloka of Mahabharatha means:
“Cow’s milk is Amrita .This has been stated by Indra, the king of gods. Therefore if one donates a cow, he donates Amrita”.
Rig Veda (1-71-9) also states
“Goshu Priyamamritam rakshmana”
‘Cow milk is Amrita..It protects us (from disease). Hence Protect the cows.
3. “Raj Nighantu”, an authoritative treatise on “Ayurveda” also describes milk as Amrita or Piyush. There are similar descriptions in a number of other scriptures, which have clearly pronounced that if at all there really is some thing called ‘Amrit’ in the world, it definitely & decidedly is cow milk alone.
4. What is for consideration here is whether Cow milk has been compared with or described as ‘Amrita’ only on sentimental or religious grounds or whether there is any description of certain qualities or properties of milk and milk products which help cure certain ailments or enhance the longevity or vitality of life to the extent of making the regular user of milk an ‘immortal’ or a healthy person with a long life. Let us therefore, attempt to have a look at various scriptures and other relevant books to find out the truth, to find out why milk has been compared with ‘Amrita’.
5. There are various references in our scriptures which describe cow milk as a drink which provides vitality, the inner strength to fight diseases, a complete balanced diet, which gives ‘Subudhi’ or the right thinking power or wisdom.
PROPERTIES OF MIK AS DESCRIBED IN “CHARAK SHASTRA”
6. ‘Charak Shastra’ is one of the most ancient books in the history of medical science. ‘Rishi Charak’ was an eminent Indian Physician and his book ‘CHARAK SHASTRA’ is followed even today by practitioners of Indian system of Medicine – The Ayurveda. CHARAK has described milk as:
“Swadu, shitam, mridu, snigdham, shalakshanpichhlam;
Guru, mand, prasanna cha gavyam dashaguna paya”
(Charak sutradhan 27-214)
This means Cow’s milk is tasteful, sweet, has a fine flavour, is dense, contains fat, but light, easily digestible, and not easily spoiled. It gives us tranquility and cheerfulness. In the very next shloka, it says that because of the above properties, cow’s milk helps us build up vitality (OJA).
‘Khyeeryojaskara punsam’ –
Milk increases vitality or Oja in man.
7. DHANVANTRI, another ancient Indian Physician has stated that cow’s milk is a desirable and preferred diet in all types of ailments. Not only that, its regular use protects the human body from Vata, Pitta and heart diseases. Similarly even modern science tells us that cow milk helps in curing uric acid problems and acidity conditions in stomach .
IMPORTANCE OF COW AND COW MILK AS DESCRIBED IN VEDAS:-
8. There are a number of Mantras in all the four Vedas which describe the importance of cow and cow milk not only as a complete food but also as a curative drink. Of course, the feed and fodder given to cows was also required to be of a very high quality and having various herbs as its essential ingredients. Rig Veda in its ninth Mantra of the 73rd Sukta in 10th Chapter (10-73-9) says that cow provides in its milk the curative and prophylactic effects of the medicinal herbs it eats. Cow’s milk was thus used not only to cure but also as a preventive in certain diseases. Again Rigveda in another Mantra (5-19-4) describes cow milk as the most desirable and likeable drink.
9. Similar properties of milk as provider of vitality and strength are stated in the following Mantra (4-21-6) of the Atharva veda.
“Yuyam gavo medyatham krishm chiskhyreeram, chit krinutha supratikam, Bhadra Griham Krinuth, bhadravapo beihad vo vya uchachate, sabhasu.”
Meaning - The Cow, through its milk, transforms a weak and sick person into an energetic person, provides vitality to those without it and by doing so, makes the family prosperous and respectable in the “civilised society”.
10. Obviously, a family of sick and weak members can neither be prosperous not respectable in the civilised society. This Mantra incidentally points out a subtle norm that good health in a family was taken as an indicator of prosperity and respect in the Vedic society. Material wealth alone was not the parameter of respectability in the society as is the case today. In other words, availability of plenty of cow milk in a household was taken as an indicator of prosperity and status. The learned Sadhus, guests (Atithies) were also offered milk or were rather greeted with milk and milk products and a type of ‘Bhat’ made with milk, rice & ghee. This was probably some version of “kheer” made with rice and milk these days in most parts of India. This tradition is described in Atharva Veda’s Mantra 18-4-16 and 18-4-19. It is because of these nutritive and vitalising properties of cow milk that there is a blessing in Atharva Veda (18-4-34) saying
“ Dhenvah dhanaah oorjam asme vishvaha duhanaa tantu”-
Meaning: May the milch cows for ever continue to provide you with their nutritious and energy-giving secretions (milk).
The preventive and creative qualities of cow milk.
11. The preventive and curative qualities of milk are also described in Atharva Veda. The following Mantra tells us about the curative value of cow milk in heart diseases and leucoderma (Hriday Rog and Pandu Rog)
“Anu suryamudyataam hridyoto harima cha te
go rohitasya varnen ten twa paridadmasi”.
It says milk from a red colour cow helps cure the above ailments.
As may be seen from the transparency, (not included here), there is a proper time prescribed for taking milk for curing these ailments.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CURD (Made from cow milk) IN VEDAS
12. Like milk, the curd (Dahi) made out of cows milk has been described as a likeable food not only for the humans but of gods as well. The following Mantra of Rigveda (10-179-3) aptly describes “Dahi” (curd);
Shratam manya oodh nishrat magnow sushraatam manye tadyate naviyah.
Madhyen dinasaya sevanasya dadhana pivender vajrinpuru krijjushanah.
Meaning “Milk has first been “cooked” or processed in the udder of cow and thereafter, it has been cooked or processed on fire and therefore “Dahi”(curd) made out of this milk is really healthy, fresh and nutritious. A person doing hard work should consume this Dahi during mid-day when the sun is shining”.
13. This Mantra indicates at least four important things. It says the milk has been “cooked” in the udder of the cow and, therefore, the curd is healthy & fresh .
(i) “Cooked in the Udder” is an indicator of a bio-chemic aspect of milk. We know fresh milk drawn form the udder of a healthy cow does not get spoiled for first 2-3 hours due to presence of a natural enzyme called –‘lactoperoxidase’ in milk. Modern research has now developed a technique to regenerate this naturally occurring enzyme to enhance the life of raw milk by another 2-3 hours without further processing or cooling.
(ii) The second aspect is that the “cooking” of milk in udder refers to production or secretion of milk from a healthy udder, free from diseases . We now know that milk from a sick cow /udder produced under unhygienic conditions would be having a large number of undesirable bacteria and cannot give good curd.
(iii) The Mantra further tells as that milk was heated or cooked on fire before making curd even in those days. The microbiology and chemistry of milk and curd was thus not unknown to the Vedic society/civilization.
(iv) This Mantra refers to the best time of consumption of curd to be during mid-day, when the sun shines our on head.
Similarly the 10th Mantra of 187th Sukta of the 1st chapter of Rigveda (1-187-10-Rigveda) also describes “Karambh” – a combination of Dahi, ghee and sattu (malt) – as having medicinal, prophylactic and nutritional qualities.
THE IMPORTANCE OF COW MILK GHEE
14. The Vedas describe “ghee” (melted-dehydrated butter or butter oil) not only as an ingredient essential for performing “Yagna or Havan” but also as the first and the most essential among all foods. There are, therefore, prayers in Rigveda(10-18-2) and Atharva Veda (3-12-1 and 3-12-4) seeking that God may provide us with so much of ghee that our houses are always full of this most nutritious food.
The 8th Mantra of 12th kand of the 3rd chapter of Atharvaveda (3-12-8 Atharva Veda) emphasises the importance and value of ghee by referring to the “stream of ghee- full of elixir – “ghritasya dharamariten sambhritam”. (slide 10) Similarly At several other places in the Vedas, ghee has been described as a (flawless) Nirdosh food, which increases body vigor and vitality (Rigveda – 10-19-7). The use of ghee strengthens the body and helps enhance the life span (Atharva Veda (2-13-1).
“COW AS THE PROVIDER OF AMRITA”
15. Cow has been described as “Sabardudha” (Slide 11) in Rigveda at 1-2-3 and 3-55-16. Grifithis, Skandaswami and Venkatmadhava have all interpreted the word “Sabardudha” to mean the “provider of Amrita” Others have interpreted this as provider of all “wealth”. Both the interpretation aptly describe the importance of cow in vedic society.
THE SACRED COW:
16. There are innumerable such references in all ancient Indian scriptures from Vedas to Mahabharatha and Charak or Sushenta which state that cow milk and milk products have been in use in ancient India not only as a source of nutrition but also as a curative and prophylactic food/medicine. It is because of these qualities of cow’s milk that cow has been treated as “Cow Mother”, a provider of Amrita, provider of health, wealth, prosperity, fame and respect. This also made the cow an object of worship and reverence. While praying for freedom and prosperity for nation, the Aryans, prayed for high yielding milk cows as well (Dagdhri Dhenu) (Dudharu cows) in Yajurveda Mantra 22-22) for the country.
17. This also reminds us of the coin bearing the figure of “Kakudman Bull”(slide 13) found from the remains of Mohanjodaro, which now forms the insignia of National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) our institution of modern day dairying, an institution of national importance. This Bull Symbolizes the cow and its’ progeny and desire and expectations of the millions of our dairy farmers to take India into its glorious past having thousands of “Dugdha Dharas” – streams of milk, to transform the country again to a land of “Kamdhenus”- providing AMRITA, the elixir of life, to bring health, wealth and prosperity to our country.
Well, in the end we may perhaps , say again
Amritam Vai gvam khriram. Cow Milk alone is Amrit.
With that, I would like to conclude. Thanks.