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Cow Pooja by Annapurna

It started early. At 7:30 AM a priest was chanting outside my window. I was staying a few days in a guest room at an ashram in India where Astroved services are performed. Popping out of bed, I quickly washed my face and dressed and walked outside.

A young priest in his 20’s was directing a cow pooja ceremony in the front courtyard. Wealth, fertility, material abundance, nourishment – these were the topics for this particular ritual.

A mother cow named Lakshmi and a male calf named Muruga were the vehicles or representatives of divine energies. In an agricultural country, a cow is wealth. She gives milk to nourish us. Her offspring help plow the land.

Our cow was happy. She likes attention. Both animals had been washed before the ceremony began. We offered them elements of the divine. Both animals were garlanded with flowers and draped with cloths. They were dotted with sandal paste and red kum-kum powder. These bring in purifying energies as well as the goddess energies.

The priest gave us some water to wash our hands and also some water to drink (which we put on our heads) for purification. The priest gave us colorful flowers to offer at various moments. He read aloud the names and birth stars of the people sponsoring the cow pooja, and they were included in the prayers. He also gave us rice grains mixed with yellow turmeric to sprinkle on the cows at other moments. He had us repeat some of the chanting after him. We circumambulated the cows three times and also offered flowers to various parts of the cow, including different parts of the head, near the eyes, the 4 hooves, the udders, her hips – all these areas have different divine energies associated with them and the priest chanted the relevant divine names as we offered flowers to the various areas. We showed incense and ghee lamp and did prostration.

We fed the cows some tasty snacks. Although Lakshmi loved the banana, the fresh long grass was her favorite. She reached out her long tongue to snatch it from my hand. When I was slow to refresh her with more grass, she nudged me to hand it over.

Her satisfaction was expressed in two omens: in her moo’s and in a long stream of fresh urine. These signs are considered quite auspicious in India. The cow gave her blessing, and we were grateful.

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