Cow Is A Useful Animal, Not God, Said Original Hindu Hriday Samrat

In the days of Cow Nationalism, meet the Hindu icon who talked of using cow for economic progress!

4 min read

Did you know that Vinayak Damodar Savarkar coined the term ‘Hindutva’? Did you know the term ‘Hindu Hriday Samrat’ was first used for him? Did you know he was a Hindu nationalist, who didn’t agree with RSS on a number of issues? And did you know that he called cow “a useful animal” that can be eaten if needed?

If people in the 21st century find it difficult to digest, imagine how they would have reacted a hundred years ago! His followers were influenced by his political Hindutva thought, but most of them didn’t agree with his “scientific” and “progressive” thoughts about Hindu religion.

Today, when cow and its protection seems to be the most important issue before the nation, meet VD Savarkar, a Hindutva icon, who said cow should be used for economic progress. In ‘Vidnyan-nishtha Nibandha’ (Pro-Science Essays), Savarkar writes that cows should be protected simply because they are useful to humans and not because they are divine.

To have a feeling of gratitude towards an animal that is so useful to us is particularly consistent with the Hindu trait of compassion towards all living beings. Animals such as the cow and buffalo and trees such as banyan and peepal are useful to man, hence we are fond of them; to that extent we might even consider them worthy of worship... Attributing religious qualities to it gives it a godly status. Such a superstitious mindset destroys the nation’s intellect.

‘Extreme Cow Protection Be Rejected’

In the days of Cow Nationalism, meet the Hindu icon who talked of using cow for economic progress!
Dalit skinners were thrashed by cow vigilantes at Una in Gujarat. (Photo courtesy: Twitter/@VijaysinhpTOI)

Savarkar’s comment about “extreme cow protection” is important today when Dalits are being beaten up in the name of cow.

When humanitarian interests are not served and in fact harmed by the cow and when humanism is shamed, self-defeating extreme cow protection should be rejected.

Savarkar looked at cows as means for economic progress and not as a divine creature:

I criticised the false notions involved in cow worship with the aim of removing the chaff and preserving the essence so that cow protection may be better achieved. A worshipful attitude is necessary for protection. But it is improper to forget the duty of cow protection and indulging only in worship. The word ‘only’ used here is important. First protect the cow and then worship it if you so desire. Without spreading religious superstition, let the movement for cow protection be based and popularised on clear-cut and experimental economic and scientific principles. Then alone shall we achieve genuine cow protection like the Americans.

‘Cow No Symbol Of Hindu Nation’

Savarkar was a champion of Hindu nationalism, but he thought cow could never be the symbol of it.

The cow is but a milch symbol (dugdha-bindu) of the Hindu nation. By no means should it be considered the emblem (maan-bindu) of Hindu nation. The object of worship should be greater than its worshipper. But at least the Hindu nation of tomorrow should not have such a pitiable symbol. 
Likewise, a national emblem should evoke the nation’s exemplary valour, brilliance, aspirations and make its people superhumans! The cow exploited and eaten at will, is an appropriate symbol of our present-day (in 1936) weakness.
The symbol of Hindutva is not the cow but the Narasimha (man-lion, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu)... Whilst considering the cow to be divine and worshipping her, the entire Hindu nation became docile like the cow. It started eating grass. If we are to now found our nation on the basis of an animal, let that animal be the lion. Using its sharp claws in one leap, the lion fatally knocks and wounds the heads of wild mammoths. We need to worship such a Narasimha. That and not the cow’s hooves, is the mark of Hindutva.
In the days of Cow Nationalism, meet the Hindu icon who talked of using cow for economic progress!
A devotee worshipping a cow near river Ganga. (Photo courtesy:

Savarkar failed at convincing people?

Savarkar’s thoughts about cows did not find many followers in his time. Today, a handful of his followers carry his legacy.

His thoughts are scientific. Even Vedas don’t call cow a god. Today, Hindus have this tendency of calling anything useful or great as god. Savarkar tried to make Hindus progressive, but he wasn’t successful. It’s a slow process and cannot be completed in one person’s lifetime. He would say that his thoughts would be accepted in the future.
Milind Joshirao, Abhinav Bharat (an organisation inspired by Savarkar)

Senior journalist and former Rajya Sabha MP Bharatkumar Raut feels Savarkar didn’t pursue his own practical views about Hindu religion.

Savarkar was Hindutvawadi, but he was against any kind of religious rituals. But many leaders in Savarkar’s own Hindu Mahasabha gave the cold shoulder to his progressive thoughts, especially about cow. And frankly, Savarkar didn’t pursue his scientific thoughts about Hindu religion. 
Bharatkumar Raut, Senior Journalist

Cow: Emotions vs Utility

Savarkar shared uneasy ties with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which is also a Hindu nationalist organisation. RSS, through its various branches has been actively involved in cow-related schemes. Although many RSS and BJP leaders speak highly of Savarkar today, they generally avoid talking about his rational perspective of Hindu religion.

Savarkar had a right to have his opinion. He believed in rationality. He gave significance to utilitarianism over emotions. But at that time, even Gandhi had respected emotions of the people. 
MG Vaidya, Senior RSS Ideologue 
In the days of Cow Nationalism, meet the Hindu icon who talked of using cow for economic progress!
The Cellular Jail at Port Blair in Andaman islands, where Savarkar was imprisoned for 10 years. (Photo courtesy:

Today, Savarkar has a considerable following among Maharashtrian middle class families, which frequently go to the Cellular Jail in Port Blair to pay their respects to the revolutionary freedom fighter. They are fascinated by his patriotism, courage, poetry and Hindutva ideology. But most of them seem to be either unaware of or in disagreement with his views on religious as well as social reforms.

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