As you all, no doubt, know, Hindus hold cows sacred. This means that there are cows wandering about everywhere. In fact, we were told today that there are more cows in India alone than in all the rest of the world combined. Of course, with so many cows there have to be a fair number of them that suffer from various ailments. This morning we found out what happens to some of the luckier sick cows.
Juts outside Nagaur there is a large cow hospital. It was founded in 2008 by a man, now a saint even though still very much alive, who heard god speak to him and direct that he do this work. He began the facility using his own money but it is now well supported by generous contribution of money and goods. A graphic representation of how differently we view cows is shown by a cow and calf statue at the entry to the hospital. Where we would have things like “tenderloin,” “rump,” or “sirloin” written on such a statue, in India the sculpture is inscribed to show where the various deities are located in or associated with the cow.
The hospital has 1,700 cows at present in a variety of different wards (huge covered areas): The amputee ward, the cow cancer ward, the intensive care ward to name just three. The facility has state of the art diagnostic equipment and many ambulances.
The cows arrive through many means. Some are brought to the hospital by farmers who own the sick cow. When that happens, the hospital takes the sick cow and gives the farmer a cow that has been restored to health. Some cows are injured in traffic accidents and the facility is called to pick up the animal in which case an ambulance is dispatched.
There are a number of veterinarians working at the hospital and many veterinary assistants. I watched one group of assistants change the bandage on a cow that was suffering from a cow horn cancer, it was sort of gruesome but the disease is very treatable.
There is a nursery where healthy calves who have lost their mothers are cared for. They even have cradles for them.
Our group was in luck because the saint, who often goes on pilgrimages or secluded himself in meditation was “in house” and accepting guests. Talk about a well oiled machine! After we took off our shoes, we were directed into the inner sanctum and formed into a line. Then, one by one, we went forward and kneeled before the saint who handed us a brochure and a little packet of seeds and nuts for an offering and, while we were kneeling, we turned to have our photo taken. The ultimate meet and greet or grip and grin.
We then sat down and were offered tea in tiny paper cups and were blessed and had flower petals showered over us because one never knows who one’s guests might be; there might be a god among them. Then we had a proper prayer and chant and then we all went outside for a group photo. Oh, and did I mention that we were each presented with a copy of the individual photos that were taken at the beginning? Well, we were and a copy of the group photo as well. Very slick.