Wealth and Sustainable Development-a Hindu Perspective

Wealth and Sustainable Development-a Hindu Perspective
  • Hinduism is not a body of dogmas but a way of life
  • This proud tradition of dairy farming has taken a nose dive for several reasons
  • The economic value of the cow is ignored totally in a gow-dan cermony and discourses by our pandits.
  • After calving a cow produces 10 litres of milk per day (T&T average) for the next 300 days.


Hinduism is not a body of dogmas but a way of life that is very much involved in survival and day to day living. It also addresses every aspect of life from music and architecture to food and medicine. There is hardly any aspect of life that our ancestors did not examine and document in detail.

The purusharthas or the four aims of life have guided Hindu societies for millenniums.  These are dharma (truth), arth (wealth), kaam (pleasure) and moksha (liberation of the soul). The scriptures enjoin that our lives must be built on the foundation of dharma so that we can enjoy arth and kaam while focusing on moksha.

No way in Hindu dharma it is said that wealth is evil and as such should be avoided. In fact, the householders are called upon to accumulate wealth for the welfare of their families and for fulfilment of spiritual and social obligations such as performing poojas and feeding the needy in the community.

Gow-dan or the offering of a cow to a Brahmin is a sacred act that all Hindus are called upon to perform according to the Srimad Bhagavatam. The scripture instructs that a gow-dan would help the soul on its southward journey. It is said that the soul travels for a period of 348 days after the 12/13th day shradh ceremony and must pass through 16 towns. On leaving the 8th town the soul has to travel across the Vaitarani River. By offering a cow the soul crosses the river very easily; if not it experiences difficulties.

While the spiritual concept of cow offering is acknowledged and practiced, our community appears to be losing the economic value of the cow. If this economic activity is lost altogether there would be no calf for gow-dan or gobar for preparation of the bedi for puja. The question that must be asked is: Are we presiding over dying traditions? And if so, what steps are we undertaking to rescue those traditions?

In India today there are goshalas (cow sheds) where a cow can be purchased online and donated to a needy family. The benefits of purchasing a cow and donating it to a needy family are equal to that of a gow-dan to a Brahmin. The project promises that such an act in your life time would help your soul to cross the Vaitarini River.

Not too long ago a gift that was given to a newly-wed couple was a cow. The community then recognised the economic value of cows. Today that value has been replaced with a gift-list. But most regretfully is the fact that our spiritual leaders and gurus do not highlight the economic value of the cow but only confine it  to a ritual offering to help the departed soul in the after-life.

At the turn of the 20th century dairy farming was a striving industry in Trinidad. Several families identified with the industry and proudly declared ahirs, a caste that engages in rearing cows. It was their sole profession from which they earned their livelihood.  Today that profession is almost dead and the many spin-off businesses such as making sweets, etc., are now prepared with imported (moote) milk.

This proud tradition of dairy farming has taken a nose dive for several reasons. One among them is the marginal subsidy given by successive governments to dairy farmers. Also successive governments have failed to increase tariffs on imported powdered milk. Also, most farmers discourage their children from getting involved in the dairy business because of its low financial returns. More fundamentally is the lack of will of farmers to turn around the industry.

While we have increased our consumption of imported milk, other countries have been expanding their dairy industry. Holland, the largest producer of milk and dairy products in Europe, has long ago abandoned its production of sheep for the more profitable dairy cattle. Why is this so? The Dutch has come to the realization that a cow is a sustainable unit of production.

Nine month after conception a cow produces a calf and milk is available for the next 10 months. More so, by the 12th month the cow is served and 9 months after another calf is born and the cycle begins the production of 10 litres of milk per day (T&T average) for the next 300 days.

As Indians we have to revisit the way of life handed down by our ancestors. Our ancestors knew that wealth was not generated by buying and selling or speculating but by sustainable production. The land produces crops year after year once it is well fertilised and irrigated; both trees and cows produce fruits and milk respectively.

Today gow-dan is an event to attract our attention and use our smart phones to take pictures and look on in wonderment like tourists. The economic value of the cow is ignored totally in a gow-dan rituals and discourses by our pandits.

As Hindus we need to make a conscious decision to ensure that this tradition of rearing cows and producing milks do not die. Strangely, while our consumption of milk increases our production levels continue to fall. It seems that we like the milk but not the cow, despite it being said that it is a surrogate mother. More so, while we don’t produce milk others imports and sells to us making millions of dollars.

 Pandit Parasram from Mac Bean continues to understand the economic value of the cow. He continues to recognise both the spiritual and economic value of cows. But he is among the few battling to keep alive another industry that out forefathers initiated and sustained for several years only for us to leave it to die. But why worry, when we have all the cash to import all the Moote’s milk we crave.