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Cattle have been sacred to many cultures around the world, from Indonesia to Celtic Ireland, but nowhere is this relationship more evident or visible than India.

Cows are revered as they provide so many of the things essential to daily life as well as having a gentle, giving nature. Their milk is used to make dairy products, their dung for fuel and their strength for tilling the fields. They’ve also been a symbol of wealth since ancient times.

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This Hindu tradition is so deeply ingrained today that in most states cow slaughter is illegal and their meat taboo. This has caused tension between other religious groups in India and is a hot topic of debate.

As holy animals they can pretty much do as they like, even if this means hanging out in the middle of the road, walking into people’s houses or galavanting on the beach. Killing a cow carries the same penalty as killing a human in many places, so drivers will swerve around them at all costs. Despite this, many of the street cows you see in India are gravely ill, usually from having to survive on rubbish and ingesting things they shouldn’t.

They remain an iconic sight in India and their serene manner amid the mayhem is always a reassuring sight.

 Flickr: Chris Brown

Flickr: Chris Brown

Cow and Sadhu on street

Flickr: M M

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