Holy Cow – Blessed Bovine-For the Love of the Cow
After reading “India’s Sacred Cow” by Marvin Harris (Henslin, James M. (2010). Life In Society: Readings to Accompany A-Down-To Earth-Approach, 4th Ed.), I was quite intrigued to learn more about the beliefs of the Hindu religious practices in India and the sacredness of the cow. As the article states, “The sacredness of the cow is not just an ignorant belief that stands in the way of progress. Like all concepts of the sacred and the profane, this one affects the physical world; it defines the relationships that are important for the maintenance of Indian society.” (p. 201). Some of the issues brought forth in the article are that of the interconnectedness of religion and culture, the functional/dysfunctional aspects of ‘cow worship’ in India, and the degrees and possibly reasons for poverty (by Western standards) depending on one’s viewpoint.
My interpretations of this article are varied as I first pondered the information brought forth with my ethnocentrism. I was ‘judging’ this other culture’s practices by my own standards and their unfamiliar practices. The cultural/religious practices of the Indian people might seem irrational to some, be are actually quite rational based on the sacredness of the cow of their culture, and how functional this value and belief system is for the Indian culture. For India, this creature represents everything from abundance, charity, wealth, gentleness, motherhood, and ultimately - life itself. The cow in essence provides the Indian culture with many essential products (milk, dung, economic uses, etc.) even though seen as irrational by others.
Based on my interpretation of Harris’s account of the Indian culture, he viewed the sacredness of the cow as that of a functionalist point of view. He discusses in great detail the importance of cow worship, and how it produces life for the society as a whole. By definition, functionalism is the belief that... [continues]
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