Goshālā - The Storehouse of Auspiciousness
Cows have been accorded a place of respect and divinity in our Shāstra-s, equating them to loving and benevolent mothers. In this article, Laks̲h̲mī Arvind Rāo pāchī explains (with inputs from Dr. Gaurīsh Paḍukoṇe Mām) extensively why this is so while also sharing the remarkable work done by our Math, with Pūjya Swāmījī’s guidance and blessings, for the welfare of these amiable creatures.
“Go brāhmaṇebhyaḥ shubham bhavatu”- is an oft heard benediction at the end of most pūjā-s and I remember hearing in my childhood that these two categories - Cows and Brahmins - were the ones selected for this special blessing, because their whole existence is meant to serve others selflessly. They are sāttwik, nonviolent, compassionate beings and if the welfare of these two is taken care of, then the entire society’s welfare is assured. I have always been fascinated by this concept and as I grew older, I felt a strange pull towards the well-being and saṁrakshaṇa of cows. This affinity is only increasing as I am becoming more aware of the significance and importance they play in the welfare of our society. Our ancient sages held the cow in high esteem and it is said that the principal deities, namely, Brahmā, Vis̲h̲ṇu and Shiva have narrated the following shloka in praise of the cow:
त्वं माता सर्वदेवानां त्वं च यज्ञस्य कारणम् ।
त्वं तीर्थं सर्वतीर्थानां नमस्तेऽस्तु सदानघे ॥
The Ashṭamī of the Shukla paks̲h̲a in the month of Kārtika called Gopāshṭamī is dedicated to the pūjā of cows, and is celebrated with great reverence, particularly in Mathurā.
To sensitize our community to the humongous debt we owe to Go-Mātā for her selfless contribution to our welfare and also to bring about more awareness about the goshālā-s in our Math, I decided to find out about our Math goshālā-s in greater detail.
Significance of Goshālā-s:
After inaugurating the Kārlā goshālā, Parama Pūjya Sadyojāt Shaṅkarāshram Swāmījī explained the significance of Goshālā-s very lucidly ---
“A goshālā imparts divyatā, it creates atyanta maṅgalatā all around. This naturally makes peace permeate in the surroundings of a goshālā. Yes, doing your bit to maintain an ecological balance by offering care and support to cattle is positive, but what you gain from the Go-Mātā is both at the physical and at a far more subtle level. A goshālā, in this sense, is truly like a barometer for a Math as it can absorb the ill-effects of any form of negativity and thereby offer invaluable protection at a very significant, primary level. Animals are very sensitive and respond to the slightest sign of danger or impending trouble. The Sāhīwāl nīlgāi-s actually form a circle keeping the cowherds inside, if they are grazing in the jungle and sense that there is a panther on the prowl.
Setting up a goshālā at Kārlā was possible because adequate space was available and the pristine environs were ideal for this. Besides all the uses man can access – like fuel or natural pesticide – a goshālā also ensures that there is greenery around and a certain level of cleanliness and hygiene. Most importantly, unlike using a pump set or any other tool that can be changed or discarded at will, learning to care for a sick animal that serves you in so many ways stirs a powerful element of love and concern which adds to the maṅgalatā.”
Most āshrama-s and Math-s usually have a goshālā attached to them because of the atmosphere of Divyatā and Maṅgalatā they create, and our very own Chitrāpur Math is no exception. At Shirālī and Kārlā Math-s, we are fortunate to have spacious, comfortable and scientifically built goshālā-s. The biggest blessing for the goshālā-s is, undoubtedly, the Presence and Love of Pūjya Swāmījī. Cows are sensitive beings and must surely be responding to Swāmījī’s immense love for them. Quite often, Pūjya Swāmījī visits the goshālā soon after Jalābhis̲h̲eka. It is a very elevating experience to hear the cows mooing in a happy, welcoming chorus as they hear the sound of Pūjya Swāmījī’s Khaḍāva-s, though Swāmījī in His characteristic humility, attributes their mooing to the excitement of seeing bananas brought into the goshālā shortly before His arrival. Fortunate are those who have witnessed the love and affection with which Pūjya Swāmījī caresses the cows and feeds them bananas. I feel happy to share that I was one of the blessed few who not only witnessed this in Shirālī in 2006, but also saw a calf being born during the few minutes Pūjya Swāmījī was there. This, I was told later, was nothing short of a miracle as it happened soon after the goshālā was shifted to its new premises in the Math. Also, because this was the first time in living memory that a cow had calved in the presence of the Mathādhipati of Chitrāpur Math! Even after so many years I can still vividly recall this very auspicious incident and I continue to feel blessed for having been a witness to it.
Goshālā-s under SCM:
There are presently four goshālā-s under the administration of SCM. The first one is at Shrī Chitrāpur Math, Shirālī, which has been there since long and the second (old goshālā at Kembre, also of unknown vintage) which houses the ageing cattle who continue to be served with great love and devotion. The third one is at the Shrī Durgā Parameshwarī Temple, Kārlā which was inaugurated by Pūjya Swāmījī on 15 June 2012, the auspicious Janma Divasa of Parama Pūjya Parijn͂ānāshram Swāmījī III. The latest one, the New Kembre Goshālā, is at Kembre, Shirālī, and was inaugurated on 29 September 2017, on the occasion of Dusserā, which also happened to be the 50th year of Paṭṭābhisheka of Parama Pūjya Parijn͂ānāshram Swāmījī III
Originally, when the new goshālā at SCM was started, many indigenous breeds like the magnificent Red Sindhī along with a number of local breed cattle including the Paṇd͟harpurī breed of buffaloes were housed there. Gradually, over a period of time, cross-bred animals were introduced into the goshala. In the year 2000, Gujarāt faced a serious drought due to which cattle and buffaloes faced starvation and thirst. Pūjya Swāmījī received requests from institutions in Gujarāt to adopt and give refuge to these animals. Our ever Karuṇāmayī Swāmījī graciously agreed and SCM received its first batch of two Kāṅkrej cows, one Kāṅkrej bull and 11 Gīr cows in June 2000. For the next few years till 2010, a variety of breeds were housed at the SCM goshālā.
Sometime in December 2010 when H.H. Swāmī Īshwarānand Giriji Mahārāj (Pūjya Baḍe Swāmījī) visited our SCM, He expressed His wish that our Goshālā should start maintaining only indigenous breeds of cattle. Respecting this direction (ādesh) Pūjya Swāmījī instructed the Math Goshālā administration to gradually reduce the number of cross bred animals and promote the breeding and maintenance of indigenous cattle. The indigenous breed that we now have at SCM goshālā-s are Gīr, Kāṅkrej, Malnāḍ giḍḍā, Amṛit Mahal, Sāhiwāl and Sindhī. Since 2014, the breeding of cross-bred animals has been discontinued)
There is an increasing recognition of the importance and health implications of the milk from the Indian breed cow (Bos Indicus or Zebu Breed) which for a layperson would simply mean a cow with a hump.
Benefits of the A2 milk
All Indian native cattle breeds -- the desi cows- have A2 protein in their milk while the cows with European ancestry like the Jersey, Holstein and their cross breeds have mostly A1 protein. Doctors have linked stomach discomfort and symptoms similar to those experienced by people with lactose intolerance to the A1 protein. On a personal note, ever since I have switched to A2 milk-some 6 years back—my tolerance for milk has improved and I can now indulge in my favorite Filter coffee without fear!
A1 and A2 milk proteins have been shown to behave differently during the digestive process due to an amino acid variation. Farmers all across the world are therefore being given incentives to switch to the A2 variety, to meet the growing demand in what is considered to be a healthier alternative to the A1 milk.
Maintenance of Goshālā-s:
At all goshālā-s maintained under SCM, the prime focus is on the welfare of the animals. The animals are not exploited since milk and milk production are not the primary consideration. All the animals are looked after well with a balanced ration of cattle feed and a natural breeding program is followed so as not to exploit the animals’ reproductive performance. They are looked after lovingly by their care givers and a qualified vet - Dr Gaurīsh Paḍukoṇe Mām- ensures that they remain healthy and happy. But most importantly, they remain under the loving care and blessings of Pūjya Swāmījī. In fact, till recently Pūjya Swāmījī used to give the newborns lovely names. Since the last few years however, the care givers have been asked to take over this very pleasant task.
On a daily basis, the milk produced at the goshālā-s is sufficient for use in the Bhojanashālā and viniyoga-s performed at the temples and samādhi-s; however, during special occasions and festivities at SCM, extra milk is procured from the market. On regular days, any extra milk produced is converted into ghee using the traditional ‘bilonā’ method, and is utilized at the Math and associated temples
Goshālā-s as Self-sustaining Units:
SCM is trying to make all the goshālā-s under it into self-sustaining units, and has been successful to a large extent by implementing the following :
- Gobar gas is produced from cow dung at all the goshālā-s and utilized as an alternative fuel at the Bhojanshālā. There are 4 gobar gas units in all - 2 at Shrī Chitrāpur Math- Shirālī, 1 attached to the old goshālā at Kembre and one at Kārlā. Although the entire gobar gas generated is utilized as alternative fuel, it is not sufficient to meet the requirements of SCM; hence, other forms of fuel are also required.
Cow urine is distilled to produce Go-arka which is available at the Math counter. Go-arka is believed to be a great detox agent that helps build immunity. I can vouch for the fact that it gives instant energy—like a shot of glucose - I have tried it myself and at one time was using it
regularly and so were many of my Chitrāpur Sāraswat and other friends in Delhī. (Please, however, consult an ayurvedic doctor before you try it.)
Cow dung is also converted into vermi-compost as well as Farm Yard Manure (FYM) which is used in kitchen gardens and farms maintained by SCM.
Uses of By-products generated in Goshālā-s:
Our ancestors have from time immemorial used cow dung and Go-arka as disinfectants. It has been seen that mud huts plastered with gobar tend to be cooler than brick houses. It also keeps insects and reptiles away. My friends and I use Phenyl made from Go-mūtra to mop our houses. I believe this will remove not only the germs but also the negative energies from our houses.
Thus, every output of the cow, even their dung and urine, is put to very good use – for personal, agricultural and environmental benefit. In addition, factor in the spiritual effects of a goshālā’s presence near you, as elucidated by Pūjya Swāmījī, and we will begin to understand why the Cow is revered as our Mother and deserves our gratitude and protection.
Fortunately for us, even if most of us have been insensitive on this score, our Math Vaidika-s do a ceremonious Go-pūjā annually on Gopāshṭamī to offer gratitude on behalf of our Samāja for the invaluable gifts we receive from them.
As per the Veda-s, the cow is considered a symbol of the Universe and it is believed that 33 crore Deities reside inside the cow. In the ancient Gurukula-s, Go-sevā was compulsory along with Guru-sevā. Let us also try and do both Guru-sevā and Go-sevā together as enjoined in our Shāstra-s. For all the different ways the cows nourish us and our environment, let us resolve that, in gratitude, we shall try and ensure their welfare and that they are treated with the dignity they deserve especially when they are past their productive age. Perhaps, a small beginning could be made by visiting the goshālā-s at Shirālī and Kārlā during our visits, with prior permission. This will not only help one to absorb their divine energies but to also extend our love and gratitude to these sensitive creatures. We could also ensure their welfare and receive their blessings by contributing to the upkeep and expansion of the goshālā-s, thereby enhancing the Maṅgalatā of our beloved Math.