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Manu-smṛti 5.123:

पक्षिजग्धं गवा घ्रातमवधूतमवक्षुतम् ।
दूषितं केशकीटैश्च मृत्प्रक्षेपेण शुध्यति ॥ १२३ ॥

pakṣijagdhaṃ gavā ghrātamavadhūtamavakṣutam |
dūṣitaṃ keśakīṭaiśca mṛtprakṣepeṇa śudhyati || 123 ||

What has been eaten by a bird, what has been smelt by a cow, blown upon, or sneezed at, or defiled by hair and insects, becomes pure by scattering earth.—(123).

The same is repeated in other smṛtis:

Viṣṇu (23.38) — ‘Food nibbled at by a bird, smelt at by a cow, sneezed on, or defiled by hair, or by insects or worms, is purified by earth scattered over it.’

Yājñavalkya (1.189) — ‘Food smelt by the cow, or defiled by hair, flies or insects, should have water and ashes or earth sprinkled over it, for purifying it.’

So, why is food smelt by a cow considered impure? Is there a logical explanation for this because it is rather counterintuitive given that cow dung and cow urine is prescribed as a purification method for other minor offenses. E.g., Manu 11.212 says:

gomūtraṃ gomayaṃ kṣīraṃ dadhi sarpiḥ kuśodakam |
ekarātropavāsaśca kṛcchraṃ sāntapanaṃ smṛtam || 212 ||

Taking cow’s urine, cow-dung, milk, curds, clarified butter, kuśa-water, and fasting for one day,—has been declared to be ‘Sāntapana Kṛcchra’— (212)

Also, Yājñavalkya Smṛti 1.194 says:

CXCIV. — The mouth of a goat and of a horse is pure but not of a cow nor impure excretions of man. The roads are purified by the rays of the moon and sun and by the wind. — 194

Why is horse's and goat's mouth pure but not the cow's?


P.S. I'm aware of a Puranic legend that Surabhi, the mother of all cows was once cursed (for uttering a lie) that whatever it touches with its mouth becomes impure. But I'm not interested in that sort of explanation.

  • 1
    Why do u think that it should not be so? Where's the contradiction? – Rickross Jan 30 '18 at 15:53
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    You might not be "interested" in explanations involving a curse incurred by Surabhi, but that might well be the correct explanation. – Keshav Srinivasan Jan 30 '18 at 19:29
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    It's not me who wrote these confusing rules so I think it's the smṛti writers/commentators who have to explain them.--- But they are not obliged to do so all the time.. They are making the rules .. and it is not necessary for them to explain each time the "Why ?"..Sometimes they do (like in the case-- why the Panchagavya-s are holy) but most times they don't.. @sv. – Rickross Jan 31 '18 at 5:46
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    @sv. BTW, again, i am not the downvoter (countering it by upvoting). But i think he thinks that if you are not willing to accept that Puranic story as the answer, then your Q might go unanswered.. – Rickross Jan 31 '18 at 7:39
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    According to Atharva Veda the breath of the cow is Swadha (स्वधा) , means a thing presented or offered to God or a god , ancestors etc.(oblation). So maybe this could be the reason , the food smelt by her might be considered as oblation. this is my guess although.- sacred-texts.com/hin/av/av10010.htm - Look at mantra 6. :-) – SwiftPushkar Jun 20 '18 at 17:18

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