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In India, all animals are sacred.  But the cow, referred to as Gau Mata or Mother Cow, holds a special place in the pantheon of creatures.  India was originally an agriculture-based civilization, and before money came to the countryside, cows were a symbol of wealth.  Cows became legal tender, exchanged for goods and services and even presented as dowry at weddings.  It was thought that gifting a cow to a priest could bring salvation.  The cow also provided milk, the main source of nourishment for much of the country.  The cow dung is used as buel even today.  Dung mixed with hay and dried warms the home and keeps the kitchen fire burning.  It is also mixed with clay and used as building material.  But since most Indians are vegetarian, once the cow stops producing milk, it is often abandoned.  That’s one reason why there are so many cows wandering the streets.  Cows find that the exhaust from the cars helps keep the flies away, so they’re more comfortable.  It’s easy for these cows to find food.  Bread is often left out for the cows the eat, as this is said to be good karma.  On holidays, wandering cows are offered sweets and grass.

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