Hinduism and animals

There are some Hindu temples in India where you would find monkeys, dogs, rats, and/or other animals inside the temple. Cow is the highest revered animal for Hindus. Aside from cows, dogs, monkeys, elephants and other animals are integral part of Hindu mythology and are associated with different Hindu deities. Most of the animals are given protection in Hinduism except a few.

An important fact about Hinduism is that it has given high importance to the animals including domestic as well as wild. Bhagvadgita says that the same soul exists in the animals as well as human beings. We all are children of the same God. God never differentiates between an animal and a human being. We are equal for Him.

Animals form an integral part of Hindu customs. Lots of Hindu customs are designed in such a way that they would protect animals.

Zoolatry (Religious worship of animals):

Bail Pola (bullock festival) is widely celebrated in Maharashtra and other parts of India in which bullocks are worshipped and allowed to rest for the whole day.

On the eve of Nag Panchami, snakes are worshipped throughout the India. Snakes are not killed on this day. Snakes are closely associated with Lord Shiva. In a temple of Lord Shiva in Marleshwar in Maharashtra, there are hundreds of snakes lying on the road to the temple but there has been no incidence of snake bite for hundreds of years.

On the eve of Vasu Baras in Diwali, cows are worshipped. Cow is the most sacred animal for Hindus. Killing of a cow is considered as a great sin and Hindus are prohibited from eating beef.

If a Hindu kills a cat, he has to go to Kashi and donate a small cat made up of gold. Therefore, killing a cat is prohibited in Hinduism.

Animals as carriers of different deities:

Many wild and domestic animals are associated with different Hindu deities. Each deity has been assigned an animal as a carrier, which that deity uses for transportation from one place to another.

Deity Carrier

Indra                                        White elephant

Ganesha                                   Mouse

Shiva                                        Bullock

Dattatreya                                Cow

Vishnu                                      Eagle

Brahma                                    Swan

Kartikeya                                 Peacock

Durga                                       Tiger or Lion

Deities in animal form:

Lord Ganesha is one of the most popular Hindu deities. Lord Ganesha has head of an elephant and the body of a human being.

Lord Hanumana is also known as Monkey God. Lord Hanumana helped Lord Rama to fight against King Ravana.

Narsimha is considered as fourth incarnation of Lord Vishnu and has a head of a Lion and body of a man.

In Varah Avatar of Lord Vishnu, he has a head of a wild boar and torso of a man.

There are many deities who have been depicted in half animal and half human form and have been worshipped by Hindus. This automatically creates affection for that animal resulting in care of the animals.


Though animal sacrifice is a common practice in Hinduism, Hinduism strongly advocates vegetarianism. Non-vegetarian food is considered as Tamasi and is believed to affect our body and thought process. Hindus do not eat meat on some days like Monday, Thursday, and Saturday. Plus, other days like Ganesh Chaturthi, Ekadashi, and on the eve of the festivals eating non-vegetarian food is prohibited. Eating non-veg food is considered as a bad Karma.

Animal sacrifice in Hinduism:

Animal sacrifice to a deity is a common practice in Hinduism. It has been there before Indus Valley Civilization. The animals allowed for sacrifice are cocks, He-goats, bisons. Other animals are not generally used for sacrifice.

It is believed that in ancient times, cows were also used for sacrifice on special occasions but it is a controversial subject.

Demons in animal form:

In Hindu mythology, there are a handful of stories about the demons depicted as half-beast and half-human. The story of Mahishasur (half-bison and half-human) is very famous in this regard.


5 thoughts on “Hinduism and animals

  1. ‘Beef’ is Poisonous and Animosity for Human Life
    By Dirgha Raj Prasai
    Currently, Nepal is sagging under the crisis. Foreigners are fueling the party leaders with the power of money against Nepals sovereign norms, identity and dignified tradition. Each and every sector of this nation is in a state of disorder. In the holy land such as Nepal cow is slaughtered openly. The cows are being slaughtered and its meat eaten to instill fear among the Hindus. Some months ago many cows were slaughtered in Nepalgunj and its meat sold in the market as Sukuti (a traditional meat dish). All Nepali patriots, Nepali Army and security organs need to be more alert in saving Nepal from attacks over Hindu and Buddhist dignity. A known Limbu brother Balkrishna Mabuhang, who comes from Eastern region, had invited me to an indigenous interaction program a few months ago. Among the orators a couple of them were Christian and Muslim. Many were Tamangs, Sherpas and other ethnic groups. The gathering consisted of those people who demanded the right to eat beef.
    I presented my opinion based on historic logic. It is a crime to kill cow and eat its meat, and in terms of health it is not considered to be healthy, I made my stance clear. Everyones attention was diverted towards me after I spoke. The programme ended after much debate and discussion. The attack on such a national and sensitive subject by a indigenous nationalist group has rendered me sad. I sent this article to Balkrishna Limbu. I did not find his response appropriate. In terms of religion and ethnicity some are Christians and some Muslims in Nepal. Some have converted into Christianity. It is my appeal to all who follow their respective religion not to break with the established norms and values of this common garden. Let us not carry on suicidal works by attacking Hindu and Buddhist aspirations.
    Cow is holy and venerable animal for Hindus and Buddhists. Hindu and Buddhist scriptures view cow in form of a mother in all over the world especially-Nepal and India. Since the Vedic period cow body has been resided by the spirits of various Gods and Goddess. There is mention in many Vedic books ‘Gao Biswasya Matera’ or Cow is the mother in the world for human being. It is a belief that people who look upon cow with devotion and worship attain blessings and enlightenment. Such conclusions were given precedence in Shrimadbhagawat Mahapurnana, and Gopalas started worshipping cow. In Krishnas characterization his affection towards cow has also been presented. Krishna has gained victory over King Indra Maharaj when they had confronted each other during the worship of Govardan Hill.
    In Ramayan King Dilip serves cow in order to bring happiness and peace in his country, and wishing encouragement and intellect for his children. There is a story relating to how the cow had wanted to test Dilips devotion. The cow is said to have turned into a lion and attacked another cow. Then the King intervened and pleaded with the lion- ‘Eat me not the cow.’ The cow seeing the Kings show of devotion is filled with joy, and decides to show him her real form of Goddess. Cow has been declared Nepals national animal for it has the supreme qualities of animals.
    I want to bring out the topic of Kamdhenu (mysterious God gifted) ‘Cow’. Parshuram Rishis father Jamdagni Rishi had the Kamdhenu cow. A King named Sahastraarjun had been hunting all day (time past) then in the evening time he went to the Rishis cottage as a guest, and he received sumptuous and enough food. He wondered at how such a poor Rishi could provide so much food. The King inquired and found out that it was due to Kamdhenu cow. The King forcibly took away the cow against the Rishis consent which was later reclaimed by Rishis son Parashuram, whom having broken off his meditative trance fought against the King for the cow. This is mentioned in many scriptures. It is mentioned in the scripture of Himwatkhanda Nepal that milk used to flow perpetually from the cow onto the Jyotir Lingya in Pashupatinath.
    Many cows are bred in Nepals Gaushala and Mrigasthali. Yogi Narharinath is a great devotee of cow. In 2002 the Yogi used to have a calf staying guard in his cottage. The calf never left his site when the Yogi fell ill. After the death of the Yogi the calf cried effusively. This incident is known to this author in capacity of an eye witness. Later the calf used to visit the spot where the Yogi took Samadhi (burial meditation) once a day and encircle it. This proves that the cow is conscious and has adequate power.
    Hindus worship cow as Goddess Laxmi. Every year cow is worshipped during the Hindu festival of Tihar. The day of worship is known as Gai Tihare Aunsi-almost 25/26 Oct. Cow is worshipped in every household. Cows urine and gung is needed during any auspicious occasion. It is Hindu tradition to slather the floor with cows dung to make it pure. The cows dung can also kill germs; so its use is good for health as well. The house that breeds a cow has a different dcor. The excreta of other animals as buffalo, horse, rhino produces germs while the cows excreta kills them. All animals do not have the same nature. Cows excreta can also be used as a replacement for wood. The cows milk, curd, ghee, urine, dung are the five elixir-like products which are known collectively as Panchaamrit
    A cows milk is highly nutritious that its advantages are hard to explain. Those who keep cows benefit economically in numerous ways by selling its milk and running a dairy. Milk cleanses our body and keeps it healthy as well as increases our intellectual power. There is no need to explain the advantages of the products of a cow. It is written in the Artha Veda that cows extinction from earth would result in Suns increase in temperature that would ultimately destroy the planet. This shows that the earth and cow have a significant relation. This Vedic expression can be understood in a simple meaning that the relation between the two is conditional and dependent. Those who drink and use cow’s milk, will be brainy and intellectual and being nutritive, the buffalo’s milk will be dull and blunt.
    The cows urine (Gauut) and dung can turn soil fertile and help crops to grow. The grasses that sprout from the soil, straw, stalk, and other grains can be used as fodder for cow which retains the traditional balance.
    A cows significance is huge. We need to open the discussion, which is highly necessary, if we should consume cows meat or not. During the Vedic period the Risihis had observed a ritual sacrifice of the cow which brought all curses of diseases as leprosy, Dusadhya, Rajyayachma and Ohjayachma different kinds of diseases that led the Rishis to their death. So the ritual was not observed. To consume the cows meat can be compared to consuming slow poison. The killing of cow and its sacrifice was banned. To eat cows meat is in reality like consuming poison. Those who are used to eating beef have low immunity resistance, and they easily fall prey to the diseases, which ultimately claim their lives; so all sectors ought to be alert to this danger. In Saudi Arab to take a picture of Lord Shiva is banned, it is prohibited. In similar manner if beef is allowed to enter the holy land of Nepal for the consumption by tourists the government ought to impose strict regulation against it. It is the subject of the sensitivity of this land.
    However, it is said that the cow from the Himwatkhanda region and that from western countries some differ considerably. There are logics that claim the consumption of cow meat in western nation is less dangerous than what it would be in this region. The environment and the geographical environment create such difference between the east and western regions. British grass cannot be used for religious rites of Hindus. If the grass sprouting in any other places than Himwatkhanda cannot be used for Hindu rituals then there must be some difference in terms of cow too–as some logics have pointed out. In western nation it is said that consuming cow meat does not bring diseases, but drinking urine brings great illness. But in Himwatkhanda it is the reverse. Drinking cow urine cures diseases whereas consuming its meat brings leprosy and death in decay.
    Once there were news that people in Britain went mad and became ill after consuming cow meat. They had even stopped consuming cow meat. In many places there were prohibitory orders against eating beef. So such facts should not be suppressed. If a person suffering from arthritis consumes sheeps meat, and if a person with pressure consumes the meat of a castrated goat then they suffer from unnecessary thoughts. If a person eats beef that person suffers from bad breath. There must have been an ulcer inside the stomach. To eat goat’s meat for the blood- pressure patients and to eat the sheep’s meat for the rheumatism patients will harmful. So, the beef is also becoming the causes of the obesity and increases cholesterol level which is very dangerous for heart. Sometimes it also spread diseases like e-coli and b-coli.
    In Himwatkhanda consumption of cows meat is taken as a curse. To eat cows meat is not advantageous for people in this region. There are evidences showing that people are unable to digest the meat and that it saps the immunity power of diseases in human body. One of the examples is that the Tamang people have been eating the meat of dead cow. An experience shows that majority of Tamang people who had consumed meat of a dead cow have suffered from leprosy. This is not written with any malicious intention directed against any particular group. Anyone can judge it within the periphery of investigation. No one should deny truth and fact. Some advocates of indigenous rights are threatening to launch rebellion because they were not allowed to eat cow meat. Many believe that this is not a rebellious voice for right, but a business. Under the direction of Christians, these people say that the cow was made the national animal of the nation in Brahmin peoples interest. But, it is not truth.
    The Buddhist and Hindu scriptures explicitly calls consumption of cow meat as a form of crime. Many cows are being killed, which is instilling terror among the Hindus at the direction of Christian missionaries. Those seeking the right to eat beef are also demanding the right to become ill. We have to understand the history since the Vedic period behind our tradition in worshipping cow. How has cows significance been increasing? A cows urine and dung can be used as precaution against diseases. But, the fertilizer of horses, elephants, buffalos create diseases. Then, why shouldnt we accept this empirical fact?
    In Britain there are reports of various diseases resulting with the consumption of the beef. May be they have carried out a study on the Hindu avoidance of cow meat. New experiments are drawing facts supporting the claim that cow meat does more harm than benefit to the health. Comparatively immunity power among people eating beef is found to be less than that of those who do not eat it. Westerners eat beef. Hindu and Buddhist people do not eat cow meat and consider eating it a sin. If the Westerners suffer from leprosy, small pox, measles they will not have the immunity to resist and eventually succumb to the disease. However, if the diseases are seen in Hindus and Buddhists a simple treatment with necessary tablet will cure them. This shows that those who do not consume beef have immunity power to resist. We must not forget that eating the cow (as a mother’s) meat is bad for health. The Hindu and Buddhist people worship cow as mother on basis of experiments and facts. They will continue to worship cow. In view of such importance of cow Nepal observes cow as its national animal. Thus, we must all acknowledge truths and facts, and serve the cow like a mother.
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    • I am very glad to read your article about cow. No doubt cow is the most sacred animal for Hindus and Hindus do have rights to protect cows from getting slaughtered. I wonder if cow had been termed sacred by Islam, would have they allowed to slaughter cow?

      Other religions should respect feelings of Hindus as we are respecting theirs.

  2. what i cant believe this animal sacrifice is allowed in hinduism irrespective of wether its small animal like goat or cock this is evil

    • Hi, Rithika animal sacrifice is not a superstition. It is a part of dark magic.

      Bhagvadgita and some other scriptures do not allow animal sacrifice. Actually, Hinduism is not only Gita or Vedas but it is a mixture of traditions which existed before them in India. At that time, people used to offer God what they thought was valuable. Animals were very valuable for them. Hence, they used to offer animals as a sacrifice. Actually, they themselves eat most of the part and offer only some part to God. Hence, it is like eating mutton on a weekend only.

  3. sacrifical worshiping is as old as man on earth, it is what man love and cherish as valves that is what pleases him more to offer to GOD.

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