Welcoming New Year in a different style

New Year is a celebration time for most people across the world.  Some prefer to usher in the new year with a glass or a bottle in hand in a pub, club, bar or a resort while many by visiting religious places.

Laxmi, the cow, at a shelter in Hyderabad. JBS UmanadhBut in Hyderabad, the city of pearls, one place draws hundreds of people on the New Year’s  day. It is not a pub or a religious place. But the visitors come here with a pious mind and something in hand—with the just one purpose to offer. They believe and trust that the offer will help the “receiver” and also bring them good luck.

It’s a three-storey building on the lower Tank Bund area in Hyderabad that attracts huge crowds every new year. Many Hyderabadis have made it a habit to spend their money on feeding abandoned/rescued cows out of affection and be with cows on  New Year Day instead of spending the same for a night in many of the New Year gala entertainment programmes that leave a big hole in their pockets.

“ Initially people used to visit gaushala to offer grass and vegetables as a part of their religious obligation and to appease stars. But over the years , the cow feeding on the New Year day has become a novelty even among youth,” said Devender Dubey, a native of Varanasi and in charge at the Bhagyanagar Gau Seva Sadan.

The Bhagyanagar Gau Seva Sadan runs three major shelters at Lower Tank Bund, Ziaguda and Imliban for the cows rescued from slaughter houses and abandoned by their owners in Hyderabad. A few dozen shops selling carrots, grass, cabbage, sautéed chick peas, jaggery, bananas and a few pulses that have religious significance have come up around the shelter house. Manpreet Singh, a resident of Secunderabad, told Deccan Herald that he spends around Rs 1,000 every New Year Day on feeding the cows as it not only gives satisfaction but also helps him keep away from consuming liquor. “Not only on New Year day, I come here whenever I have the urge to consume alcohol. I am happy that I have successfully quit drinking,” he added feeding a calf with juicy carrots.

Around 400 cows are now kept on the ground floor of the Lower Tank Bund shelter in different sections where one could easily walk through without any restriction and feed the animals. “Soon the work on ramp linking the top two floors will be ready and we have plans to increase the number to 1,000,” said Dubey.

Laxmi the star

Come New Year, Laxmi, the milky white cow, will be busy blessing at least 1,000 visitors who believe that it will bring them year-long prosperity and peace. Ramamurthy Shastry from Bangalore, and his friends, who feed  cows in shelters in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka daily, said: “I seek Laxmi's blessings whenever I am in Hyderabad. It is a perfect mother,” Shastry said. A special handler is allocated  so that the cow is not frightened or fatigued due to long hours of standing.

Rakesh Gupta and his wife, who feed the cows as a thanks-giving after their wedding, said that they would visit the shelter every week here afterwards. “We are very pleased to know that the Gaushala never milks a cow for the sake of selling it and allows the calves to enjoy their mother's milk. It’s very touching,” the couple added.

Students from different schools also feed the cows with fresh grass. Children are told that in many instances they had found cows stomach were filled with plastic materials strewn by the people. In one case, the cow had 40 kg plastic material in its stomach.

“Compassion for the animals is what we have learnt. We will never stone or disturb dogs, sheep, cows, monkeys and other animals as well as birds. We will never litter vegetable or fruit or food waste in plastic covers. We will give them water in summer and will inspire our neighbours and friends also to do the same," said Sana Wajahad of Nasr School.

Looking at the response from all sections of society, the Andhra Pradesh Goshala Federation is conducting free one-day certificate courses on “How to maintain an animal shelter” for registered goshalas and animal welfare organisations in the State.

They are given tips on aspects pertaining to construction of shelters, identification of diseases, making use of cow dung and urine in preparing mosquito coils, preparation of organic manure, said Andhra Pradesh Goshala Federation president Mahesh Agarwal. The course is generally held once in a year on the federation premises at Kubtiguda.

The federation is also sponsoring 10 goshala and animal welfare organisations to attend the three-week certificate course to be conducted by Goshala Federation in Hardwar, he said.
Cows rescued from slaughter houses in the city not only get a fresh lease of life, but also a royal treatment at city’s Satyam Shivam Sundaram Gau Nivaas which is claimed to be South India’s biggest and India’s best maintained gow shala. One man  Dharam Raj Ranka makes the difference to these mute animals which are rescued  from the jaws of their death. Thanks to his efforts today, more than 2,500 such animals are  alive in the shelter and the number is increasing by the day.

The beginning

The family of  63-year-old jeweller Dharam Raj Ranka from Shahlibanda migrated some two centruries ago to the city from Rajasthan. After handing over his business  responsibilities to his two sons, he jumped into the crusade and was instrumental in setting up ‘Bhagyanagar Gau Seva Sadan’ at Lower Tank bund in 1991-92 with about 300 cows. And he remained as its President for several years.

In 1997-98, he started ‘Shiv Mandir Go Shala’ at Shamsherganj with about 700 cows. Now the number has increased to 1,200 animals. In 2001-2002, it expanded its operations to Gagan Pahad, where he set up yet another Gau Nivaas “Satyam Shivam Sundaram Gau Nivaas”, giving a new meaning to the concept of cow protection. Here, rescued cows  are given regular fodder and treatment.

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