As a Hindu living in America, one of the most irritating questions I have to deal with is, “Dude, why do your people worship cows?” To put this into perspective, it’s like asking a Christian why they worship the cross or asking a Jewish person why they worship the Star of David. It’s symbolic of something greater.
So to clear the air, Hindus do not worship the cow people! The cow is respected as a source of nourishment and as a symbol of life. It is viewed as a generous being that provides us with fuel and food; therefore, the slaughter of cows is prohibited.
There was a period in India when eating meat was accepted but as time progressed, for both practical and spiritual reasons, Hindus stopped eating beef. Practically, the cow was a very expensive animal to kill because it provided the people with fuel from dried dung, butter for oil lamps, and most importantly, milk for food. Spiritually, with ahimsa or non-injury becoming a popular concept, killing of any living creature was taboo.
So the next time you wonder why Hindus love cows so much, remember where you get your milk and cheese from. Hindus do not worship cows. We hold it in high reverence because it is a valuable resource for sustenance and it is a symbol of life.