Are there Vedic Mantras that promote the Hindu concept of sacred cow?

  • 2
    [Related not duplicate] What does the Atharva Veda say about cows?
    – The Destroyer
    Jul 20, 2017 at 6:29
  • 2
    The concept of the extreme sacredness of cows is a recent (by Hindu standards) development. Jul 20, 2017 at 9:24
  • @SwamiVishwananda, this status seems to have been accorded near the end of the Vedic period according to this amazing post from Mythology SE
    – Jedi
    Jul 20, 2017 at 15:41
  • @SwamiVishwananda not so. Please see my answer quoting the Rig Vedic hymn 6.28 of rishi Bharadvaja. The sixth mandala of Rig Veda is universally accepted as the most ancient part of the Rig Veda samhita.
    – RamAbloh
    Sep 19, 2020 at 15:19

3 Answers 3


Holy Cow is from Vedic literature?

Yes most certainly it is.

In Vedas Cows are equated to the nectar of immortality (Amrita) and also to the supreme Vedic deities like Indra etc. It's also stated that Cows become everything. This gives Cows the supreme stature.

VasAm Eva Amritam Ahuh, VasAm Mrityumupasate, Vasedam sarvamavad, DevA ManushyA AsurAh Pitara Rishayah.


Vasha (the barren cow) they call as immortality (amrita), vasha they worship (upAsate) as death, vasha became all this (sarvam abhavat), Gods, men, asuras, fathers and rishis.

Atharva Veda 10.10.26


GAvo Bhago, GAvo Indro, Ma IcchAd GAvah Somasya Prathamasya Bhakshah.


To me the Cows (gavah) are Bhaga, they are Indra, they are a portion of the first poured Soma.

Atharva Veda 4.21.5


VasAm devA upa jivanti vasAm manushyA uta (1) vasedam sarvambhavad (2) yAvat suryo vipasayati (3)


On this vasha (the barren Cow), the Gods subsist and men also (1), vasha became all this (2) so far as the Sun looks over (vipashyati).

Atharva Veda 10.10.34

So, the Cow here is compared with the supreme light on which even the Gods subsist.

Also, Cows are repeatedly mentioned in the Vedas as not to be killed. The word for killing is ghna And for Cows it's stated Goshu Aghnayam ( Cows should not be killed). The words Goshu aghnayam explicitly appear in the mantra Rig Veda 1.37.5

The word Goghna (killing a Cow ) however appears only once in the entire Rig Veda,viz- in Rig Veda 1.114.10, which is a prayer to Lord Rudra asking him not to harm our animals.

On the other hand, the word aghnayAh (not to be killed) or their variants appear in many other mantras like Rig Veda 4.1.6, Rig Veda 1.164.27, Rig Veda 1.164.40 and there they refer to the Cows.

So, Cow has been mentioned as the most sacred animal in the Vedas themselves.

Note that in the Vedas words like gau or gavah, vasah (the barren cow), pashu are used to denote a Cow.

  • @rickross--Your answer should be improved. Quoting Rigveda and numbers are not enough even a layman can do. Rig veda 1.114.10 mantra should be told and meaning should be given, Jul 20, 2017 at 6:44
  • I have already given two mantras in full which aptly describe the sacred and supreme nature of the Cows. Its not necessary that i mention all mantras in the answer in full. It will make the answer very long unnecessarily. @ParthasarathyRaghavan
    – Rickross
    Jul 20, 2017 at 6:49
  • @rickross--you have mentioned a line and explained. what rig veda quotes just you gave numerals not slokas. Jul 20, 2017 at 7:16
  • Good answer. But preformatted text is for code. If you want to emphasize a word, itlalics or bold are a better option. Jul 20, 2017 at 8:23

Yes ,The concept of “Holy Cow” is there in Vedas. There are many verses in Atharva Veda which describes the concept of Holy cow by admiring her , and describing her importance in human life as well as Many gods residing in her. Making her holy.

Atharva-Veda Kanda Kanda 4 Sukta 21 -:Go Samuha Sukta

यूयं गावो मेदयथा कृशं चिदश्रीरं चित् कृणुथा सुप्रतिकं |
भद्रं गृहं कृणुथ भद्रवाचो बृहद वो वय उच्चते सभासु ||6|| page 132

Yuyam Gavo MedYatha Krusham ChidShriram chid KrunuTha SuPratikam
Bhadram Ghruham KrunuTha Bhadrawacho Bruhad Vo Vaya Ucchate SuBhaSu

O cows let us make strong / powerful /potent | Make our diseased bodies healthy and beautiful . O cows make our homes pure by your good sound.

Here cows are praised because of her milk is vital source of nourishment for healthy as well as sick persons , Ghee can be used to treat various deformities that has arose due to various diseases.

Atharva-Veda Kanda Kanda 9 Sukta 12 Gou Sukta : Page 384

Here in Atharva Veda we find the Hindu concept of many gods residing in cow.

प्रजापतिच्श्र परमेष्ठि च श्रुङ्गे इन्द्र: शिरो अग्निर्ललाटम् यम कृकाटम् ||1||

prajaPatiSchra Paramesthi Ch Shurunge Indra Shiro Agnir Lalatam Yama KuKatam

Prajapati and Parameshthi are the two horns of cow , Indra is head , Agni is forehead and Yama is bell in her neck.

सोमो राजा मस्तिष्को द्यौरत्तरह्नु: पृथिव्यधरहनु ||2||

Somo Raja Mastishko DyaouRttarHrnu PrithiVyaDharHanu

King Soma is her Brain , Duloka is her upper jaw and earth is her lower jaw.

विद्युज्जिव्हा मारुतो दन्ता रेवतिर्ग्रिवा: कृत्तिका स्कन्धा घर्मो वह: ||3||

VidyuJivaa Maruto Danta RevatirGriva Kruttika Skandha Gharmo vaha

Electricity (Vidyuta) is her tongue , Marut gana are her teeth ,Krittika is her arms and surya (sun) is her horns.

विश्वं वायु: स्वर्गो लोक: कृष्णद्रं विधरणि निवेष्य ||4||

Vishwam Vayu Swargo Loka KrushDram VidharNi Niveshya

All this universal wind (vayu) (prana) , Swarga , Krushnad and Vidharani are her back portion

देवानां पत्नी: पृष्ठय उपसद: पर्शव ||6||

DevaNaam Patni Prushta Upasad Parshav

Energies of god are her back and Upasad , isthiyan are her bones and Ribs.

एतद वै विश्वरूपं सर्वरूपं गोरूपं ||25||

Etad Vai VishwaRupam SarvaRuupam GoRupam

These are the forms of immense Supreme God , all these are present everywhere in the universe and also the forms of Cow

Here its said this(cow) itself is a another form of Supreme God .

Such are the 26 verses in that sukta describing the gods and godly powers residing in cow.

Atharva-Veda Kanda Kanda 4 Sukta 21 -:

न ता नशन्ति न दभिति तस्करो नासामामित्रो व्यथिरा दधर्षति |
देवांच्श्र याभिर्यजते ददाति च ज्योगित ताभि: सचते गोपति: सह ||3|| Page No 131

Cows are not get harmed by the thieves , the enemy weapons can’t harm them. Let the keeper of the cows remain prosper those who Praise / Revere / perform Yajan with the cows .

Here the importance of Ghee is described. It is said that those who perform Yajna with cows ghee ..May remain prosperous. .

So from above verses we get a picture of holy cow Hinduism and come to know that why she is holy for Hinduism.


Yes, most definitely. The most explicit and expressive hymn in praise of the Holy Cow is the hymn RV 6.28 of rishi Bharadvāja Bārhaspatya.

The full hymn with detailed notes and Sāyaṇācārya's commentary is here:


The hymn itself is below:

RV 6.28.1

आ गावो अग्मन्नुत भद्रमक्रन्त्सीदन्तु गोष्ठे रणयन्त्वस्मे ।
प्रजावतीः पुरुरूपा इह स्युरिन्द्राय पूर्वीरुषसो दुहानाः ॥ १

ā gāvo agmannuta bhadramakrantsīdantu goṣṭhe raṇayantvasme ।
prajāvatīḥ pururūpā iha syurindrāya pūrvīruṣaso duhānāḥ ॥

"May the Cows come to us, may they bring welfare, may they sit in our home, may they be satisfied with us. May they be plentiful in calves, in different forms, and in large numbers, may they be available for milking at Dawn for Indra."

Here the rishi is hoping that the cows will be satisfied and happy with him and his family. The cows are treated as exalted deities whose pleasure is an important goal for the rishi.

RV 6.28.2:

इन्द्रो यज्वने पृणते च शिक्षत्युपेद्ददाति न स्वं मुषायति ।
भूयोभूयो रयिमिदस्य वर्धयन्नभिन्ने खिल्ये नि दधाति देवयुम् ॥ २

indro yajvane pṛṇate ca śikṣatyupeddadāti na svaṃ muṣāyati ।
bhūyobhūyo rayimidasya vardhayannabhinne khilye ni dadhāti devayum ॥

"Indra generously gives to the worshiper who pleases him with beautiful hymns. He never takes away wealth from him. Again and again, Indra makes his wealth grow, and places the worshiper who desires Indra in a secure place safe from enemies."

RV 6.28.3:

न ता नशन्ति न दभाति तस्करो नासामामित्रो व्यथिरा दधर्षति ।
देवाँश्च याभिर्यजते ददाति च ज्योगित्ताभिः सचते गोपतिः सह ॥ ३

na tā naśanti na dabhāti taskaro nāsāmāmitro vyathirā dadharṣati ।
devām̐śca yābhiryajate dadāti ca jyogittābhiḥ sacate gopatiḥ saha ॥

"Our Cows are never lost, they are never harmed by thieves. The weapons of enemies never violate or injure them. These Cows, by means of whom their owner worships the Devas and gives, he enjoys their company for a long time."

Here, the indication is that the cows are not only sacred but also domestic pets with whom their owner enjoys an intimate friendship and bond, and hopes to have their companionship for a long time.

RV 6.28.4:

न ता अर्वा रेणुककाटो अश्नुते न संस्कृतत्रमुप यन्ति ता अभि ।
उरुगायमभयं तस्य ता अनु गावो मर्तस्य वि चरन्ति यज्वनः ॥ ४

na tā arvā reṇukakāṭo aśnute na saṃskṛtatramupa yanti tā abhi ।
urugāyamabhayaṃ tasya tā anu gāvo martasya vi caranti yajvanaḥ ॥

"The war-horse never catches them, they never go to the place of slaughter or sacrifice. The Cows always roam without fear on the wide-spreading land of the mortal worshiper."

This verse is very important for its direct and unambiguous statement that cows are never slaughtered in any way (i.e. either for food or for ritual sacrifice). The word "saṃskṛtatram" is the generic word for a setup used for cutting up the body of an animal.

RV 6.28.5:

गावो भगो गाव इन्द्रो मे अच्छान् गावः सोमस्य प्रथमस्य भक्षः ।
इमा या गावः स जनास इन्द्र इच्छामीद्धृदा मनसा चिदिन्द्रम् ॥ ५

gāvo bhago gāva indro me acchān gāvaḥ somasya prathamasya bhakṣaḥ ।
imā yā gāvaḥ sa janāsa indra icchāmīddhṛdā manasā cidindram ॥
"Cows are my prosperity, may Indra grant me cows. They provide the offering (in the form of clarified butter) for the freshly squeezed Soma. O people! these Cows are verily Indra. I desire Indra with deep and sincere meditation."

So this verse makes it unambiguously clear that cows were truly and sincerely considered Indra himself. Thus the sanctity and sacredness of the cow in Vedic religion and culture is firmly established.

RV 6.28.6:

यूयं गावो मेदयथा कृशं चिदश्रीरं चित्कृणुथा सुप्रतीकम् ।
भद्रं गृहं कृणुथ भद्रवाचो बृहद्वो वय उच्यते सभासु ॥ ६

yūyaṃ gāvo medayathā kṛśaṃ cidaśrīraṃ citkṛṇuthā supratīkam ।
bhadraṃ gṛhaṃ kṛṇutha bhadravāco bṛhadvo vaya ucyate sabhāsu ॥

"O Cows! you make an emaciated person fat, you make an ugly person beautiful. O Cows, you with auspicious voices, you make our homes auspicious. Your mighty power and strength is praised in the sacred assemblies."

RV 6.28.7:

प्रजावतीः सूयवसं रिशन्तीः शुद्धा अपः सुप्रपाणे पिबन्तीः ।
मा वः स्तेन ईशत माघशंसः परि वो हेती रुद्रस्य वृज्याः ॥ ७

prajāvatīḥ sūyavasaṃ riśantīḥ śuddhā apaḥ suprapāṇe pibantīḥ ।
mā vaḥ stena īśata māghaśaṃsaḥ pari vo hetī rudrasya vṛjyāḥ ॥

"May you have many offspring, may you graze on delicious grass, may you drink pure water from safe and easily accessible water places. May neither thieves nor predatory animals get control over you. May you be spared from Rudra's weapons."

RV 6.28.8:

उपेदमुपपर्चनमासु गोषूप पृच्यताम् । उप ऋषभस्य रेतस्युपेन्द्र तव वीर्ये ॥ ८

upedamupaparcanamāsu goṣūpa pṛcyatām । upa ṛṣabhasya retasyupendra tava vīrye ॥

"Let this mixture (or blend) be imbibed into the Cows, into the Bull's seed, and into your might, O Indra!"

The above link has more detailed contextual notes and commentary.

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