Different faces of motherhood

Chinmay Prasun Biswas

17 July, 2020 12:00 AM printer

Different faces of motherhood

Mother is probably the sweetest word in the world. It is said that after birth a child learns this word first. Etymologically, mother comes from old English mōdor, middle age English moder, German muoter, Latin mater and Greek mētēr. In Sanskrit it is mtry. As defined in medical science, mother is a female parent. Except some mythological and epic characters every human being is born from mother’s womb. Besides human beings, almost all other animals (except birds and reptiles) are born in the same biological way. Mother has no alternative, but  except biological mother there are other types of mothers viz. theological mother, practical mother etc.

The birthplace of a person is known as his/her motherland. In songs and poems of Rabindranath Tagor, Nazrul Islam and D L Roy, our country has been personified as mother. Inspired by them hundreds of youths sacrificed their lives to liberate their motherland (Indo-Bangla-Pak sub-continent) from the clutches of British rule. Theologically, Hindu goddesses are known as mother, viz. Durga, Kali, Laxmi and many others. Except Sita (Ramayan), Draupadi, her brother Dhristatunnya and 100 Kaurav brothers (Mahabharat) all other characters of Ramayan and Mahabharat are biologically born. Sita is called mother but not Draupadi.

Being mother is a biological process i.e. giving birth to a child but in some cases it differs. There are instances of women who are known as mother without being mother biologically, e. g. Mother Sarada, Mother Teresa. Though married to Ramkrishna, Sarada had no child, but orthodox devotees of Ramkrishna think her as their mother. As she had no visible motherly activities. there is no reason to address her as mother. On the other hand, Teresa was a lifelong spinster, but her works have raised her to the peak of motherhood. Established in 1950 at Kolkata, her Missionaries of Charity is a place of light and life for abandoned children. As a recognition to her service to humanity she was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1979. Though not biologically, she was a real mother in practical sense. 

In traditional Bengalee society, daughters and daughters-in-law are sometimes addressed as mother out of affection. The wife of guru (a spiritual master, normally a Brahmin) was called mother. During permanent settlement and prior to it there were many zamindars in this sub-continent who were commonly known as kings. Their wives were addressed as ranima (queen mother) by their subjects and subordinates.

These are all human shapes of mother but mother has animal shape also. It is nothing but our very familiar and most useful domestic animal –the cow. It plays an important role in practical life of all people and theological life of the Hindus in this sub-continent. In the agro-based economy, cows played an important role, but mechanisation has changed the situation. Bulls are getting rest and worship of cows as goddess Bhagabati is increasing. According to Hindu scriptures, bull is the carrier of Lord Shiv. Sri Krishna is normally depicted as leaned against a healthy white cow. The Vedas refer to cows as mother, because after a certain age breast milk is no more consumed but necessity of milk does not end and the cow is the best alternative. Milk of cow is treated as a source of total nutrition around the world. As mother gives milk to her children, cows also meet the demand of milk of human beings.

The Vedas inform that ancient Indians always worshipped gau mata, (holy cow) and sought her blessings before starting something new. Drinking cow milk made their mind sharper. Indian cow is the only living being on earth which yells maa after birth. The Hindus worship the cow ‍as mother, acknowledge the greatness and sanctity of Gojati (the cow species). In the Brihatprasara Smriti, it has been mentioned that touching the cow removes sin, serving the cow brings wealth, heaven is gained by tilting, Brahma stays on the head of the cow, Shiv on the shoulder, Narayan on the surface and the Vedas on the feet. Other gods reside in the hair of the cow. Hindus do not worship, but respect and adore the cow because this gentle animal gives more than she takes. During festivals the cow is decorated but not worshipped as Hindus worship other deities. On the contrary, rationalists say that cattle farming is a profitable business but other theological ideas are simply superstition and just ridiculous. Whatever be the scriptural explanation, it is simply worship. Europeans and Americans criticise that India is a strange country where cows are worshipped at home as mother whereas own mother is exiled to old home.

Godan (giving cows to Brahmins) was (and still is) a tradition among the Hindus. As only Brahmins had the authority to worship, they were rewarded with a cow. Gradually, the number of cows in a Brahmin’s house increased and necessity to build shed for the cows was felt. Probably in this way the idea of cattle farming developed and cows became a good source of earning. Modern dairy farms are carrying that legacy.

A cow is worshipped as mother, but probably there is no temple of mother cow in this sub-continent. Bull is fortunate enough in this respect. There are two bull temples in Bangalore and Mysore.

During corona pandemic, cows have been elevated to a different altitude. Some leaders of ruling BJP in India have claimed that drinking cow urine will cure corona. To prevent the spread of corona, Chakrapani Maharaj, president of .the Hindu Mahasabha, organised colourful Gomutra (cow urine) Party in Delhi. Similar parties were arranged in Kolkata and other places of India. Different reports inform that price of cow urine (Rs.400/- per litre) and dung (Rs. 500/-  per kg) is higher than that of milk in India.

Cattle farmers of Rajasthan say that cow urine and dung are more profitable than milk. Collecting cow urine is more difficult than milk. They have to wait throughout night, but they are enduring this hardship for the additional income coming from urine and dung. However, demand for urine of native species is quite high. Price of Jersey urine and dung is less because it is not purely an Indian brand. What a funny idea of nationalism of cows in the name of religion!

Some agriculturists say that along with rise in organic farming, demand for cow dung is increasing. If chemical fertiliser is used, no crop can called organic. For organic farming, cow dung is essential. This is purely a scientific explanation, but clever businessmen are capitalising it under the camouflage of religion.

Amazon India has confirmed a Rs. 100/- hand sanitiser (brand name – Cowpathy, aromatic scented and free from stink of cow urine) made from cow urine to prevent Covid-19 contamination which is being sold like hot cakes. Moreover, 6 - 8 packs of Cowpathy soap for Indian Rs. 210/- are also available. However, effectiveness of these products is questionable (The Dhaka Tribune). Physicians have said that the so-called medicinal quality of cow urine and dung is bogus and poisonous. When scientists all over the world are sweating to invent vaccine such claim is not only unscientific and dangerous also, but who cares? Now, cow is a money, not merely a mother.  


The writer is a former Commissioner of Taxes