GoPaalak, GoPoojak, GoBhakta, GoSamVardhak, GoSamRakshak, GoSewak, GoVinda, GoPratiPaalak and GoSwami

Most Hindus who respect cows and their own culture as well as most opponents of cow protection seem to lump all the above words above into ONE system. Not that they are totally wrong, but there are shades of nuanced differences amongst these six activisms, along with an overlap in purport. Without doubt, Shree Krushna Bhagawan was all of these and much more.

Let us see the differences:

1. GoPaalak / गोपालक Cow Keeper

These are the Hindus that keep and look after cows (and bulls), either as farmers or as goushala folks.

India is a country of farmers and villages, due to which agriculture is the backbone of India’s economy.

Farmers need both the bulls and the cows.

Farmers need both the bulls and the cows.

Cattle are the aatmaa of India’s agriculture, providing sources of fertility (dung, urine), food (milk and milk products) and labour for ploughing, transport, etc.

Basic livelihood for villagers and not profiteering but conservation is the motivating factor that makes many people keep cows. However, all cow-keeping is not yet commercialised. farmers in India still treat the cow as a member of their own family.

GoPaalan in Dharmic institutions

GoPaalan in Dharmic institutions

Cows today are also kept by ashrams and other Hindu Dharmic institutions. This is a continuation of our tradition

As modern economic and social policies have resulted in centralization instead of decentralization, there is a loss of rural ways of life in favour of urbanization, causing loss of sentience towards animal life and awareness about the value of cattle in India’s economy and ecology.

Cow and calf

While there are left-liberal Hindus today who support beef, ther are some exceptional Muslims who are involved in keeping and saving cattle as well as propagating saving the cattle breeds of India. There is a Muslim family – the Pathans, in Indapur, Pune, Maharashtra – that has been rearing and preserving cattle for three generations, even saving them from slaughter.

Majid Pathan

Majid Pathan

Here is the picture of the third generation of cow rearers from that family, featuring Majid Pathan. The work of this family is exemplary.

While the Aryanness or non-‘Aryan’ness of the Sindhu-Saraswati civilisation is debated by leftist Aryan Invasion Theorists, the Sindhu-Saraswati culture reared cattle, which were the humped Zebu cattle. It is interesting that the bull seal of Harappa / Mohenjo Daro showed a bull with huge horns and this got identified with Sindhi pride. Even today, the Indus Ind bank of the Hinduja group (Sindhi Hindus) uses that symbol, while an ancient cow breed of neighbouring Gujarat / Rajasthan, namely the Kankrej, has such large horns.

Bull seal Indus Ind Harappa

While keeping cows is not at all what the Hinduja group does today, this association does proves how cattle rearing was part of everyday life in the Harappa / Mohenjo Daro times, and the corporate house’s connect with their own heritage.

This is a counter-argument to those who insist the Aryans were invader pastoralists who had little in common with the Indus Valley people, as if Aryans were outsiders to India who immigrated into India, they couldn’t have done this without bringing in their flat-backed humpless Taurine  cows from their own belt; yet no such imprint is left onto Indian cattle. So, Indians have not only been cattle rearers, they have been rearers of humped cattle only.

2. GoPoojak / गोपूजक Cow Worshipper and the GoBhakta / गोभक्त Cow Devotee

These are Hindus who worship the cow as a ritual or as karmakaanda treating the cow as a deity or sacred version of the Mother Goddess. These people need not be involved in day-to-day rearing of cows at all, but do come forward to worship the cow as devotees and ritual worshippers, and that is part of their Dharma.

Eg. There are plenty of Hindus who go to worship the cow as mother on various occasions; there are gaushalas who protect cows and call themselves GoTeertha.×477.jpg

The desi cow’s calf too is worshipped on Vasu Baras day (Diwali).

Worship of Desi Cowdung as a symbol of Lakshmi, worship of the bull and worship of the habitat of cows, is part of the same milieu.

Worshipping the dung of the Desi Cowg as a symbol of Lakshmi in Diwali - Gond tribals of Pench National Park, border of MP and Maharashtra, 2016

Above is a picture of cowdung worshipped to be placed on a Rangoli, in tribal Diwali celebrations by Gond tribals of Pench, Nagpur, Maharashtra.

Bail Pola -

Worshipping the bull – Bail Pola festival, Maharashtra

3. GoPratiPaalak / गोप्रतिपालक Cow-Keeper’s Patroniser

This word is for the sovereign administration, ruler or system of governance that takes care of cows, their progeny and the associated religious, economic and agroecological system based on cows as political duty or RaajaDharma.

Since Bharat Varsha as an ancient vast country from Afghanistan to Arakan and from Ladakh to Sri Lanka is agroecologically, climatically and geologically diverse, there are many breeds of the Zebu, and more breeds have been continuously formed, even in the last 200 years, including in what is now the leftover India. Producing a breed involved crossing with only desi breeds, and characteristics desired were eventually achieved – yield of milk / fat percentage, disease resistance, robustness of bulls for work in both fields and for pulling carts, etc. Each breed had its own tract where the breed flourished. Just as the cow was found desirable in some tracts, so were the bulls.

Eg. None other than Shree Krushna Himself was GoPratiPalak, as he lifted up the GoVardhan Parvat in a symbolic sense as well as a literal sense; He laid down the rules. This is commemorated by Vaishnavite Hindus worldwide. Krishna brought 5000 cows to Vidarbha to his consort Devi Rukmini’s maiden kingdom from VrajBhoomi, and these bred into the local population of Vidarbha’s cattle to form what we today call the endangered Goulav breed of Maharashtra’s Vidarbha; even today, farmers celebrate Diwali by making the Goulav cow walk over the drawing of the buffalo as a mark of superiority of the cow over the buffalo.

Vaidik, Budhdist , tribal and Jain kings have punished those kill the cow as endorsement of their Kshatriyataa. Examples abound from the pre-Mahabharata times to the example of Maharana Pratap and Shivaji Maharaj. Shivaji Maharaj was called a Go-Braahmana-PratiPaalak. Every traditional Hindu king was a cow enthusiast; he used to donate cows to Brahmans and farmers; and protect cows and farmers in case of Islamic invasions.

Raja Ranjit Singh ji imposed a ban on beef and cow slaughter when he assumed power of the Sikh empire, in and well beyond Punjab.

The latest example is how the princely State of Sangli (Maharashtra), the Patwardhans, created the breed of cow called the Krishna valley breed from other deshi breeds (Andhrraa’s Ongole, Maaharashtra’s local cattle – notably Khillar; and Gujarat’s Gir and Kankrej); the name “Krishna” in “Krishna Valley” is derived from the river Krishna which very much nourishes Satara, Sangli and Kolhapur districts, but the same river passes through Karnataka and joins the sea at Andhra Pradesh where there is a Krishna district by name; and populations of Krishna Valley cattle are found in both Sangli and Andhra, though endangered. Ever since the patronizing influence of a Princely State was lost, the cattle are susceptible to crossbreeding.

4. GoRakshak / गो-रक्षक Cow Protector

These are the people who protect cows not just against neglect and disease but also from slaughter, even sacrificing themselves for that.

Eg. There is a whole caste called Gorkha in Nepal, a jaati of cow protector Hindus; they use the kookri as their weapon. Gorakshanath was one of the Nine Naaths, and his dhaam is Gorakhpur in UP (the constituency of Yogi ji, CM of UP).

Sardar Ram Singh Kooka and his followers and associates, in 19th century British-colonised Punjab, were fierce cow protectors who resisted both Muslims and the British to protect the cow.

Uprisings have been triggered by witnessing Islamic or British insults to cow or by imposition of beef.

Today this duty is carried on by dedicated Hindu youth who are branded as cow vigilantes by the leftist mainstream media and when these youth are killed by Communist or Abrahamic goons, there is a dire need of a trust that compensates the bereaved family of the slaughtered GoRakshaks.

Cow protection is the next weapon of galvanizing Hindus after the Ram Janma Bhoomi movement.

So zealous have Hindus been in protecting the cow that when the Rajputs stepped out to face Islamic invaders, the Islamic armies would push cows between themselves and the Rajput vanguard; and the Rajputs allowed themselves to be killed, their army to be defeated and their kingdom to be lost to protect the handful of cows that were brought in between the Islamic and Hindu armies; so much so, that Veer Savarkar complained about the importance of the very concept of Hindu independence being paramount over cow protection alone, and that cow protection in battle was but one subset of overall Hindu protection.

5. GoSamVardhak गोसंवर्धक Cow Conservationist

This person is the one who takes care of the breeds of cows, and protects them from dangers of all nature, including their going endangered by crossbreeding and slaughter.

Eg. Specific gaushalas have dedicated themselves to the protection of breeds. Three of many notable examples are the Kaneri Mutt (almost 26 distinct breeds) in Kolhapur, a small but dedicated Varanasi goushala dedicated to preserving the Gangatiri breed of desi cows or UP, and, and the Kamdhenu Goushala of Nurmahal, Ludhiana, Punjab. Pathmeda (Jalor, Rajasthan) is the largest goushala in the world.

(a) Nurmahal in Ludhiana  (Punjab) has the famous Kamadhenu Gaushala where the Gaushala employs two men per bull as Nandi Sewaks to look after each bull, so important is the germplasm of the male.

The Kamdhenu Gaushala has an integrated plan and has done fine work in conserving our breeds.

(b) The Kaneri Mutt has almost 26 distinct breeds of conserved cattle in its Gaushala and campus at Kolhapur.
Kaneri math Math

(c) There is a Goushala in Varanasi that looks after the endangered Gangatiri breed.

Varanasi Gaushala for Gangatiri breed of Desi Cows

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It is interesting to note that, as the Green Revolution brought in foreign and hybrid seeds and we now have only 1800 varieties of indigenous rice instead of the original 150000 indigenous varieties before the Green Revolution, the White Revolution brought in imported cows and semen of bulls whereby we now have reduced our desi cow varieties from 1200 to just 40, while reducing absolute numbers of our cows per breed also. The Green Revolution was launched in Punjab, the White Revolution in Gujarat, the states with the prototype crop farming and cattle rearing cultures of Indian village life.

6. GoSewak / गोसेवक Cow Servant

This person devotes his / her energy not just in milking her, but also in looking after the cow: cleaning her / her calf, cleaning her stable, removing dung and urine run-off, feeding her, protecting her from pests and attacks, checking her emotional and medical well-being, helping in her nursing / treatment and taking her for walks and baths. All Hindus are enjoined to do this sewa once in their lifetime for a week. So symbolically, all Hindus are gosewaks or servants of cattle, to whom we owe our identity and existence.

Eg. The not-so-educated and non-descript men and women who take care of the needs of India’s cows are the most important instrument which tends to injured cows, abandoned cows, etc.

Nandi Sewa

Nandi Sevaks also contribute to improving the germ plasm of the country’s desi breeds, by taking care of bulls. What use is sloganeering and lobbying for cow protection and cow sanctuaries if we don’t have an army of dedicated cow servants? It is these servants of the cow, who collect the precious dung and urine. The whole program of cow protection would derail if there are no gosewaks.

7. GoVind / गोविंद Cow Co-dweller / Cow-Herd

Shree Krishna is always depicted with cows and amongst cows; being with cows has the most calming effect on the human mind, besides agroecological and medicinal benefits. The playing of the flute is a sign that being with cows is not just a good passage of time but one of the enjoined activities for a person as per the shastras; this lifestyle is denied to urbanite Hindus.

A ‘GoVind’ person likes to spend his time sitting amongst seated cows, moving around with foraging cows and being in their saannidhyaa in general. By default, many in ancient or pre-colonial India were GoVind. That automatically associated the farmer and cow rearer with Shree Krishna or Shiva. Reciprocally, worshipping Shiva with Nandi or worshipping Krishna reinforced respect for the cow and rearing of cows. Interestingly, Balaraam, brother of Krishna, holds a plough and is hence called HalaDhar or Plough-bearer, reinforcing farming as an activity endorsed by Divinity.

Even today, cattle are housed inside a house, as members of the family. The family is then a GoVind family!

8. GoSwami/ GoSain / GoSaavi गोस्वामी / गोसैन / गोसावी

This person was a Dharmic head of a sect or jaati or community amongst Hindus who did many of the above, but who also institutionalized Cow Conservation along with a math (mutt) / Mandir as one sacred activity of his followership. Not all Goswamis are Brahmans, though many are or were; not all were Brahmacharis (celibate by oath) though many were.

The title GoSwami has been used by saints (Eg. Goswami Tulsidas, who was married) and also by celibate Brahmacharis (Eg. Ramdas Swami, the Guru of Shivaji  Maharaj, has also been called Ramdas Gosaavi). It is also used by contemporary Hindus as a last name of surname, often indicating a clan or jaati (the last name is found in Assam, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, Punjab, etc. across castes).

All this usage indicates that cow conservation was an institutionalised activity, a part of our pan-Hindu village milieu and one mechanism of popular agroecological resilience: we always had a critical stock of cows, bulls and claves, when faced with calamities both political and natural.

Cow conservation was one of the elements disturbed by Islamic attacks, disrupted by British colonisation and further hurt by modern post-independence policies like encouragement of globalization, the giving up of traditional values and culture and by failed policies like the Green Revolution and White Revolution. We lost institutionalized cow conservation and our cow populations became victims of crossbreeding.


About Nandi, Shiva and cows:

In the course of cow protection, it is rather strange that Hindus disregard bulls. But this is unnatural; let us see some clear examples of equal importance given to both sexes in the context of Dharma and cattle.

Shiva and Parvati in their eternal powerful version ‘ArdhaNaareeNataEeshwara’ show the reciprocal and complementary blending of the female and the male; their parivaar is incomplete without the Bull, Nandi.

Vishnu – the eternal GoPaalak – and Shiva, the Nandi-paalak, form the conjoint HariHar roopa of Vishnu and Shiva. While Vishnu became the female Mohini and the spouse of Shiva to produce DharmaShaasta (whose incarnation is Ayyappa), Shiva too took up the female form of a Gopi to participate in Krishna’s MahaaRaas; this indicates gender balance. The symbolism is clear: the male is as important as the female.

There are gender sensitization lessons to be learnt for cow worshippers here. It is unnatural to have protection of only one gender, namely, only the cows, in cattle protection; bulls need to be protected for their own sake as a generation is a afunction of traits from both parents. How active have cow worshippers and Hindus in general been in protecting the bull?

The downgrading of our agriculture speeded up when the semen of imported bulls was used indiscriminately in the name of crossbreeding. The male is half our germ plasm, the future of rejuvenation of half of our endangered cow breeds and the seed of the cow’s race. The bull is the indicator of progeny excellence and the conduit for traits we need to carry forward genetically.

Along with gaushalas, we need nandishalas. Notable as an example, the Nurmahal (village name) Kamdhenu Goushala in Ludhiana, Punjab, employs two sewaks (nandisewaks rather than gosewaks) per bull.

it is heartening to know that the state government of Madhya Pradesh has set up a bull and semen bank centre at Jabalpur under its livestock department, providing the semen of graded bulls of Gir, Malvi, Tharparkar, Haryana and Sahiwal breeds.

Nandishala Yojana

Of these breeds, the Malvi is endemic to Madhya Pradesh. Natural service to the breedable cows is provided where A.I. (artificial insemination) facility is not available.

Difference between the farmer, goushala and the dairy:

The place where cows are housed and bred, and also received if abandoned or injured / sick, protected and kept happy and healthy even without a taker or owner / farmer, is the gaushala.

The place a cow spends her life, giving birth to calves, providing milk and calves, the place she is otherwise kept for ever till her natural death (excepting circumstances like abandonment) is the farmer’s place. But the farmer’s family is supposed to look after the cow as a family member and that has been the case in India till western economics, based on profitability alone, took over. This version of economics does not spare the male animal either, who is abandoned for slaughter when he cannot work.

Padmashree Subhash palekar has worked a lot to save the cows of India and to save them from crossbreeding.

Padmashree Subhash Palekar ji

Padmashree Subhash Palekar has quoted the gaushala as the maiden home (माहेर / मायका) of a cow and the farmer’s house as her matrimonial home (सासर / ससुराल).

A dairy is where the cow is kept for production of milk, where the male calves are abandoned in the forest or cities in a starved state or even slaughtered for calf-meat (veal) or leather, where the profitability factor is so intense that there is no question of a family feeling. All because human population is getting more and more concentrated into cities, the supply of milk, vegetables and other food, including meat items, is reaching a factory scale and is an industrious activity that generates economics disconnected from ecology, and where the consumer is disconnected from reality and nature. This activity of dairy farming (which humans practise along with all variants of versions of commercial animal agriculture) is insentient and unnatural – against the order of nature – to the core.


The buffalo factor:

Buffaloes too belong to our culture and are of value to soil fertility as is any herbivorous animal. But their milk is not of medicinal value, neither is their dung or urine. Yet, buffaloes require the same space as a cow, the same fodder, the same housing and ironically, the same slaughter layout. India can stop cow slaughter effectively only when we stop buffalo slaughter too. Hindus have to understand that they need to wean themselves off buffalo-intense animal keeping in favour of the cow, but without slaughtering the buffalo but by phasing out the buffalo in favour of the cow. Indians can follow the same policy towards the Jersey and HF cows.


Cow Protectionism: The next big galvaniser of hindus

Like the Ram Janma Bhoomi movement that galvanized Hindus against secularism and Islam, the cow protectionism movement bears great potential. The merits of the Ram Mandir movement were politically transformative, social and Dhaarmik, but the merits of the cow protection movement are all of that but also agroecological, economically transformative, and with such long term positive implications, that the lobbies that threaten to stop cow protectionism in its resurgent budding state will use every trick to nip this delicate bud from blooming.

We can see the benefits of cow protectionism in a subsequent blog.

Image courtesies and further reading:

Nandi Shala

One comment to GoPaalak, GoPoojak, GoBhakta, GoSamVardhak, GoSamRakshak, GoSewak, GoVinda, GoPratiPaalak and GoSwami

  • Bryan Westra  says:

    What a great cause indeed. This article warms my heart and makes me appreciate those on board with supporting cow protectionism. This is something we must all wake up to and fight for.

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