Animals have played a major role in the Hindu mythology since many years. The Hindu scriptures have depicted the animals having souls from the animals including down to the insects and even tiniest of organisms. Animals have been frequently mentioned in the Hindu myths and play a significant role in the form of various gods and goddesses.
Treatment of Animals in Hinduism
The ancestral Hindu people treated animals of all forms with respect by considering them as objects of worship. They categorized the animals based on the type of their origin:
• Those born from trees and sprouts
• Those born from eggs
• Those born from womb
There have been several instances of the earlier Hindu people treating the animals with much compassion and love. When the British came to India, they inflicted the notion of hunting as a great sport which virtually wiped off the healthy wildlife population of the country.
Hinduism recognizes all animals with souls and thus, strives to protect and nourish them. Earlier, killing animals except for rituals was considered a taboo. The Hindus were typically vegetarians. The Hindus consider doing animal welfare as the most sacred ritual and deed to please the God. They consider showing compassion for animals (bhuta daya) as one of the highest virtues and a mark of divine quality.
Animals as Divine Creatures
Hindus have been known to worship animals in the form of Gods and Goddesses. Lord Vishnu incarnated in various forms as fish, a tortoise and then a boar. Hanuman is the monkey god and Ganesha is the elephant god. Adisesha is the thousand-hooded serpent; while Jatayuvu is a mystical bird.
Various animals have also been regarded as the vehicles of Hindu gods and goddesses. These animal vehicles symbolize the animal energies or skills which need to be strengthened with the help of their associated divinities.
Cows play an important role in Hinduism as they are considered the most sacred animal of Hindu mythology. For the Hindus, killing or eating cow flesh is considered a great taboo. The people worship them and take great care of their welfare until they die naturally. The cows have been considered sacred since the early Rigveda period. Even the by-products of cows like their dung, milk, and ghee are used for the holy celebrations in India. According to Hindu mythology, the cows were created along with the Lord Brahma, the creator of the Universe.
The dogs too play a significant role in the Hindu mythology as they have been associated with the Lords Indra, Shiva, and Yama. Lord Shiva is known as “Svapathi” as the Lord of the dogs. Lord Dattatreya, a personification of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva; is always accompanied by four dogs who symbolize the four Vedas.
Image Source : www.hinduhumanrights.info