Monday, July 6, 2020

Why Hindus do not eat a cow?

Different people have different food habit. Some society prefers particular food while it is prohibited in other society. Hindus do not eat cow while many non-Hindu prefer it as their delicious food. Why Hindu do not eat a cow? In this article, I am going to examine insightful reason based on cultural materialism.
A cow
It is said that Hindu used to eat cow during Vedic times. But, this article will not intend to justify it. Rather, its focus to find out the reason from the etic perspective generally people do not aware why Hindus do not eat a cow.

We have predominant thought that the reason is religious. But according to American anthropologist Marvin Harris, it is not true. There is more economic factor responsible for it rather than religious. We just know the reason as; because it is against God; because their religion prohibits it. Such a simplistic statement needs further explanation. Why other religions prefer to eat? The answer lies in the material conditions of the production and its utilization.

Harris who developed the approach 'cultural materialism' argues, "The etic behavioural modes of production and reproduction probabilistically determine the etic behavioural, domestic and political economy which in turn probably determine the behavioural and mental emic perspective." Harris's approach is based on the premise that human social life is a response to the practical problems of human existence.

From the above, we can assume that eating cow should create the practical problems of contemporary Indian Hindu society. The society was based on agriculture. This implies that prohibition on eating cow should optimize the resources available to society. It should make the use of resources without loss. It should make agricultural progress. 

Cultural materialism identifies three universal components in all societies which are :
1. Infrastructure: Mode of production, mode of reproduction
2. Structure: domestic economy, political economy
3. Superstructure: art, dance, ritual, science, sports, religion, literature etc.

Infrastructure determines the structure, and structure determines the superstructure. Cow act as a powerful and effective animal for Indian agriculture. A cow can be used for ox ploughing purposes. It can also be used for meat production. Which is best to choose? Or both can be used simultaneously? 

To find the correct answer, it is better to have a deeper look at the contemporary Indian ecosystem and ever-increasing density of population. We can assume that both choices couldn't function at a time. It implies either the choice should be ploughing or meat production. 

Indeed, the system demands more for ploughing. Because it reduces agricultural crises. Apart from this, the cow can be utilized for milk, cheese, butter(or ghee), urine and dung. So, it is essential to use cattle for ploughing purposes rather than for meat production. What is the result? It makes them not to slaughter the cattle. To make this system last for a long, the sacredness of cow became an important factor. So, the Hindu symbolises cow as a sacred one. 


The cultural materialism concludes that religion is moulded by socio-ecological constraints. Religion cannot be isolated things, it should be analyzed through socio-ecological variables. A cow can be used for multipurpose. Apart from ox ploughing, it can be used for milk, butter, curd, urine etc. So, the prime reason the Hindu for not eating cow is not religious. It was for the maintenance of contemporary Indian society. 


Delivered by FeedBurner