Kamadhenu – कामधेनू (Sanskrit) [from kama desire, wish + dhenu milk cow]
Kamadhenu (Sanskrit: कामधेनु Kāmadhenu), also known as Surabhi (सुरभि Surabhī), is a divine bovine-goddess described in vedic scriptures as the mother of all cows. She is a miraculous “cow of plenty” who provides her owner whatever he desires and is often portrayed as the mother of other cattle as well as the eleven Rudras. In iconography, she is generally depicted as a white cow with a female head and breasts or as a white cow containing various deities within her body. All cows are venerated in Hinduism as the earthly embodiment of the Kamadhenu. As such, Kamadhenu is not worshipped independently as a goddess, and temples are not dedicated to her honor alone; rather, she is honored by the veneration of cows in general throughout the observant Indian population.
Kamadhenu, the sacred cow which grants all wishes and desires, is an integral part of the entire Indian culture. This divine cow, which lives in swargalok (heaven), emerged from the ocean of milk (kshira-sagar) at the time of samudra-manthan (the great churning of the ocean by the gods (suras) and demons (asuras). It was presented to the seven sages by the Gods, and in course of time came into the possession of Sage Vasishta.
In Vedic discription, Kamadhenu is a goddess manifesting as a divine cow who is considered to be the mother of all cows. Like her daughter Nandini, she could grant any wish for the true seeker. Kamadhenu provided Vasishta with his needs for the sacrifices. Kamadhenu (kama-dhenu, ‘wish-cow’), was a miraculous cow of plenty who could give her owner whatever he desired.
The celestial cow belonging to the sage Vasishtha, was produced by the gods at the churning of the cosmic ocean. She is supposed to grant all desires and hence is termed the cow of plenty.
Kamadhenu, the “cow of wishes or desires,” has a bovine body, a female head, polychromatic wings like a tropical bird, and a peacock’s tail. Her milk is streaming over a Shiva linga, only to be channelled by the yoni to become a sacrificial oblation in the sacred fire. Various brahmins in the foreground (center photo) pour ghee (clarified butter), another common offering, into the fire. The spiritual significance of the cow is readily apparent in the use of milk, butter, and ghee in vedic ritual ceremonies. Shiva and Pravati look on from above, surrounded by waves of light, making gestures of blessing, protection and assurance.
Note the swastikas in the foreground (center photo). The word “Svastika” in Sanskrit (su-astika) means “auspicious mark”. It is an old solar symbol (sun cross) and is found widely on temples in India and throughout Asia.
Kamadhenu’s complexion is like the white clouds. Every part of cow’s body has a religious significance. Its four legs symbolize the four Vedas, and its teats the four Purusharthas. Its horns symbolize the gods, its face symbolize the sun and the moon, its shoulders Agni (the god of fire), and its legs the Himalayas
‘Bhumi Devi’ or ‘Mother Earth’ is symbolised as a cow in the Vedic tradition, as just like the earth, the cow is an endless giver of resources and nourishment.
The cow is a mother to mankind whom we should love, respect and protect. Her milk sustains the life of many species, including humans. Her dung provides fuel and bricks for millions of rural families across the Asian countries. Her urine is medicine for the sick. When she dies her skin provides us warmth and protection through clothing.
Kamadhenu is also well-known through its other five forms: Nanda, Sunanda, Surabhi, Susheela and Sumana. Also Kamaduha, Surabhi.
The image here illustrates the vedic teaching that each part of the cow embodies a particular deity. For example, Brahma (the creator of the Universe in Hinduism) is her back, while Lord Vishnu is her throat. To the right, a man is seen as protecting the cow from being slaughthered.
All the gods are believed to reside in the body of Kamadhenu — the divine cow. Her four legs are the scriptural Vedas; her horns are the triune gods Brahma (tip), Vishnu (middle) and Shiva (base); her eyes are the sun and moon gods, her shoulders the fire-god Agni and the wind-god Vayu and her legs the Himalayas. Kamadhenu is often depicted in this form in poster art.
The cow symbolizes the dharma itself. It is said to have stood steadily upon the earth with its four feet during the Satyayuga (world’s first age of truth), upon three feet during the Tretayuga (the second stage of less than perfection), upon two feet during the Dwaparayuga (the third stage of dwindling and disappearing perfection) and only on one leg during Kaliyuga (the fourth and current age of decadence).
“There’s also the sacred cow Kamadhenu, who appeared from the ocean of milk when the demigods and demons churned it millennia ago,” says Rasikananda. “In the Shanti-Parva of the Mahabharata, she’s described as sometimes taking on an anthropomorphic form, with a human head, a cow’s body, a peacock’s tail, and the wings of a parrot.”
She’s described as sometimes taking on an anthropomorphic form, with a human head, a cow’s body, a peacock’s tail, and the wings of a parrot.”
Kamadhenu or Kamaduh is the sacred cow, who is regarded as the source of all prosperity in Hinduism. Kamadhenu is regarded as a form of Devi (the Hindu Divine Mother) and is closely related to the fertile Mother Earth (Prithvi), who is often described as a cow in Sanskrit. The sacred cow denotes “purity and non-erotic fertility, … sacrificing and motherly nature, [and] sustenance of human life”.
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