Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Mattu Pongal and Myths of the Cow

One day during the Harvest Festival is set aside for the worship of the cow. The Festival is called “Mattu Pongal,” from the custom of cooking Pongal for the cows to feed on. 

There is an interesting myth relating to the origin of the cow. As soon as men came into existence, they realised the waste of tissues in their body and felt the need of doing something about it They naturally approached Brahma for help. He thought that the celestial nectar would be too strong for men to digest, and consequently took a quantity of it himself, specialized it in his body and reduced it to a form in when men could safely take it. 

He then took the form of a cow and made the nectar flow from her udders to feed his children – human beings. Hence the cow is considered both father and mother and consequently one becomes a patricide, a matricide, and the slayer of Brahma if he kills a cow. Every part of the cow is said to be divine in its origin and it is enjoyed in the Hindu sacred scriptures that it should be treated with reverence. 

There is also a story attached in explanation of the sacredness of the foam emanating from the mouth of the cow, and the mythical reason for the same is as follows: 

As soon as Brahma swallowed a small quantity of nectar and assumed the form of the cow, a large quantity of foam was formed in his mouth and it began to fall on a Siva Lingam. As the form was nothing else but nectar Siva was highly pleased. From that time onward it was ordained that the foam in the mouth of a cow should be considered as sacred as nectar itself. The sin of pollution attaches itself to the foam in the mouth of any other animal, but in the mouth of a cow it is to be considered holy, and consequently it as free from pollution as fire, wind and gold are said to be. 

There is yet another myth emphasizing the importance of the cow. A Brahmin in the city of Mathura had once owned a cow. It was grazing on the banks of the river Yamuna, on the fourteenth day of the bright fortnight of Bhadrapada, that is in, the months of September-October. Suddenly a tiger appeared there and desired to eat the cow. 

The cow had a calf whom she loved very much. It therefore, begged the tiger to permit it to go home, feed the calf and then come back, to be devoured by it. The tiger consented and the cow went home. While the cow was away, the tiger departed its life from an accident that had happened to it. The spirit that was in the tiger’s body was in reality a mahatma that had accumulated great merit in past lives and consequently on being liberated from the tiger’s body, was able to understand the ‘why’ of things. When the cow returned to the place to become prey to the tiger, it bade the cow to go back to her calf safe and should. At the same time, it vouchsafed increased in cattle to one who gifted a cow to another on that particular day in Bhadrapada. 

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