• IA

The Cow On The Volcano

The day before yesterday, a big ceremony took place on the edge of the crater of Mount Agung. Of the smoking Mount Agung, by the way. There were 253 people participating in this event.

And one cow.

The balinese hinduism is probably one of the most misterious religions mankind came up with. Coming originally from India, the balineses hinduism is considerably different from the indian hinduism. The latter is said to have changed over the centuries whereas the hinduism in Bali is believed to be a much older form of this religion.

An important factor of the balinese hinduism are offerings. Every day many offerings are presented to the gods, mostly flowers in various colours, rice, sweets, fruit. But for bigger ceremonies animal sacrifices cannot be avoided, often chickens, ducks and pigs. These will nearly always be consumed after the ceremony so even animal friendly people with our cultural background couldn't object to this. After all, most of us eat meat as well.

But then, there are cows. In India all cows are sacred to the hindus and every single bovine animal is not to be touched. Whoever kills a cow there risks to be sacrificed himself. But in Bali it is different. It starts with every Balinese telling a different story concerning the cows: They are sacred, they are not sacred just different from other animals, balineses hindus don't eat cows, yes, they do eat cows, the meat doesn't agree with them, they get skin problems and headache after consuming cow meat... yes, it is very difficult to get a clear statement from a balinese without the next balineses stating the opposite.

So. we just accept the fact that cows have a somewhat special position in Bali. On one hand, they are some kind of holy animals, whose meat the balinese (but not all of them) would rather not or do not at all eat. On the other hand, they are working animals which are used to plough the fields and which can be sold, although everybody knows that afterwards they will be slaughtered. So far, so good.

But now, there was this story with the cow on the volcano. Komang, our balinese "cultural attachee" has troubles explaining. He doesn't know exactly why the cow was sacrificed. Well, you know, that's the deal with the cows: The balinese don't eat the meat of the cow, and the cows, in case of an emergency or a looming catastrophe, are happy to be sacrificed tp protect the humans from harm.

After some reflection, this doesn't sound like a bad deal for the cows. Well, not for this cow, obviously, but for the balinese cows in general. Several million people who do not eat cow meat make a huge difference. However, some of them do eat cow meat, after all. Did I already mention that the balinese hinduism is one of the most misterious religions mankind came up with?

Well, let's at least hope that the cow did not die in vain, meaning that the volcano is soothed by this sacrifice and sinks back into a deep slumber.