The Holy Cow, Vegetarism and the cycle of rebirths: Animals in Indian religions in a historical perspective

Conférence du 5 avril 2017

Questions - Réponses


Ingo Strauch, UNIL

Cette conférence sera donnée en anglais.

Thinking of India one image suddenly appears: a cow standing in the middle of a street, not caring for the traffic around her and sometimes even venerated by the people passing by. The veneration of cows has a long tradition in Indian culture and does even affect political discussions today. As a concept, it is closely related to the principle of non-violence that is firmly rooted not only in Hindu traditions, but also in Jainism and Buddhism. All these religious movements also share the common view of a cycle of rebirths that governs the human existence and determines the quality of present and future life.

I will try to give an overview about the historical development of these ideas and their interrelationship. A special focus will be given to the position of animals in the various concepts and its significance for the emergence and prevalence of vegetarism in various religious communities.


  • Ludwig Alsdorf. Beiträge zur Geschichte von Vegetarismus und Rinderverehrung in Indien. Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur; in Kommission bei F. Steiner Wiesbaden, 1962.
  • K.T.S. Sarao. Origin and Nature of Ancient Indian Buddhism. Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, 2010.
  • Frank J. Korom. Holy cow! The apotheosis of Zebu, or why the cow is sacred in Hinduism. Asian Folklore Studies, 2000, pp. 181-203.
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