a sacred black cow
sunbathing in Durbar Square,
adored by pigeons
A sacred cow, black with a white nose, soaks up the midday sun in the middle of Durbar Square, surrounded by a congregation of pigeons who coo and bow before the revered bovine. In addition to being holy, cows are the national animal of Nepal and so they roam freely. Even the wildest taxi driver in Kathmandu is careful to avoid hitting one, an offense that would land the driver in jail. Mahatma Gandhi once said, "If someone were to ask me what the most important outward manifestation of Hinduism was, I would suggest that it was the idea of cow protection."
Yuba, our guide, explains that the tradition of protecting cows goes back at least 5,000 years ago, when Lord Krishna appeared as a cowherd. One of his names, Govinda, means "one who brings satisfaction to cows." Also, the cow is considered the "mother" of civilization because of her nourishing milk, and milk is used in many Hindu rituals. Triguna, a renowned ayurvedic vaidya, was once asked what to do if you could not afford expensive medical treatments. He said, "Pat a cow every day."
When I venture into the square to pat the black cow, a cloud of indignant pigeons burst into the air.