Theme: Culture

The Holy Cows of Kathmandu

Holy cow! The mayor of Kathmandu
Has done it.
Since ancient times a taboo
The free, nonchalant cows
Of Kathmandu were rounded up
In a rodeo by the Nepalese police.
Was it Nandi, Shiva's bull?
Or holy cows?
"They're cattle still", said the mayor.
"Straying cattle are not wanted".

Eighty-eight holy cows
Were auctioned
Not at Sotheby's
But in Kathmandu.
The auction yielded 64,460 rupees
Said the mayor of Kathmandu.

Cows that were a nuisance
To pedestrians and tourists at Thamel.
Cows that provided dung
And four other products:
Milk, yoghurt, butter and urine
For many a hearth.
Cows that gave urine
That the Hindus collected.
Cows that were sacred
And worshipped as the cow-mother.
Cows that were donated
And set free by Brahmins and Chettris
To set themselves free from sins.
Cows that marked the Gaijatra,
An eight-day homage to the dead.

It was a king, according to legend,
Who ordered cows to be set free
By families in mourning
In the streets of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur.
To share the bereaved pain of
The death of a beloved prince
And a sad mother and queen.

The children disguised themselves
As grotesque cows and motley figures
And danced to Nepalese music
To make the queen laugh,
And forget her tears.

Even today the bereaved
Families drive their cows
Through the streets of Kathmandu
On the day of Gaijatra:
The festival of the cows.
Despite the ecological control
On the cows of Kathmandu,
Lalitpur and Bhaktapur.

From ancient times
Kings, noblemen, pedestrians
Cyclists, pullcarts, cars,
Scooters and rickshaws,
The traffic snaked around the holy cows.

The umwelt-conscious mayor
Has made up his mind:
The cattle are obstructing the traffic
Long-haired Nepalese youth need a crew-cut
Horse-pulled carts and rickshaws must go.
They worsen sanitation
And environmental problems.
But the carpets and cars must stay.

Elephant-rides remain for the tourists
After all, we've developed
A yen for dollars, francs and marks.
Kathmandu is catching up
With the rest of the world.


More By  :  Satis Shroff

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