Street Photography
India & Sacred Cows

Street photography, India and sacred cows - three great elements that combine superbly because every street you go along in India there is colour - and cows!

You probably know that cows are revered in India but when you first visit the country it is surprising to see just how many there are wandering freely through the streets, going wherever they please.


Fortunately, cows are the gentlest of animals and not even curious about people. They just walk around munching on any morsels of food they can find on their way. You could argue that cows are actually neglected animals therefore as they are often living on street rubbish but that's only half the story.

Above: Street Scavengers, Hospet Village, India by Anne Darling

Most families in rural India have a dairy cow who is well looked after as she is the source of many gifts including milk, butter (or ghee), urine and dung.

All of these are used in worship ceremonies and in rites of penance but of course milk is nourishment, ghee is essential for cooking, cow dung is sometimes used to mark the forehead and is a source of fuel, and browned butter is used in lamps.

Above: Cow Wandering the Streets by Anne Darling

Today, the cow is not only revered but protected and Hindus do not eat beef. The slaughter of milk-producing cows is prohibted in Hindu scriptures and abstention from meat-eating is encouraged, although not forbidden, as it is supposed to bring great rewards.

They also have a holiday in honour of the cow every year, called Gopastami. On this day the cows are washed and decorated in the temple and offerings are made in the hope that the cow will continue to give her gifts

Above: Decorated Cart by Anne Darling

Street photography in India is not possible therefore without making pictures of cows, and I leave you with the final picture above of two cows drawing a cart with a very large load (another thing you see a lot of in India) and you can see in the picture that the cart and the cows' horns have been decorated beautifully, no doubt ready to take part in a holiday or religious festival.

Recommended Reading

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