Hindi Language Blog

Holy Cow Posted by on Dec 16, 2016 in Hindi Language

Quite literally. Sitting at street corners नुक्कड़ (nukkad), sauntering  on sidewalks फुटपाथ (footpath), moving in herds झुंड (jhoond) alongside vehicular traffic गाड़ियाँ (gaadiyaan)  … . I never fail to get amused by visitors’ accounts of the omnipresent cow गाय (gaay) in the most unexpected locations जगह (jug-uh) in India. However, to those who have grown up in India, these are daily sights दैनिक दृश्य (dye-nik drishya) .

The cow is considered a holy पावन (paa-vun) creature by India’s mostly Hindu population.  As such, to feed this divine creature is considered a noble task that brings goodwill पुण्य (poonya) and good fortune अच्छे भाग्य (acche bhaagya)  . In the early mornings, you may have noticed cows resting, tethered, and positioned strategically on sidewalks and near busy streets or street corners. Bundles of long grass lie piled next to them, behind which sits a handler/cow owner. For a small fee, you can buy a bundle of grass घास (ghaas) and feed it to the cow as a small prayer प्रार्थना (praarthana) to ensure a day blessed by “go-mata” or “mother cow.”

For the same reason, many people touch the forehead of any passing cow and touch the same hand to their own forehead माथा (maathaa) as a mark of respect and to seek blessings आशीर्वाद (aashirvaad).
In South India, cows (and cattle) are revered during the harvest festival of “Pongal.” The third of this festival is reserved for a procession of cattle, as a way of acknowledging them and expressing gratitude for their hard work मेहनत (mehnat) in the fields खेत (khet).


Let us listen to this conversation between two friends discussing one friend’s trip to her village farm.

Seema: अरे इतने दिन कहाँ थी?
(Arre itne din kahaan thi?)
Where were you all these days?
Meena: गाँव गयी थी।  नानाजी का खेत है वहाँ।
(Gaanv gayi thi. Nanaji ka khet hai wahaan.)
I had gone to  my village. My grandfather’s farm is there.
Seema: वहाँ क्या किया?
(Wahaan kya kiya?)
What did you do there?
Meena: बैल गाडी में सैर किया। और रोज़ सुबह गाय-बैल को चारा खिलाया।
(Bail gaadi mein sair kiya. Aur roz subah gaay-bail ko chaara khilaya.)
I roamed around in a bull/cow-drawn cart and I fed the cattle every morning.
Seema: कितने गाय हैं?
(Kitne gaay hain?)
How many cows are there?
Meena: ५ गाय और ६ बैल।
(Paanch gaay aur chhah bail.) 
5 cows and  bulls.
Seema: तुम तो ग्वाला बन गयी।
(Tum to gvala ban gayi.)
You became a cowherd.
Meena: अरे नहीं।  बस नानाजी की थोड़ी मदद की। वह अकेले ही सारा खेत संभालते हैं।
(Arre nahin. Bas nanaji ki thodi madad ki. Woh akele hi saara khet sambhaalte hain.)
Not really. I just helped Grandfather a little. He looks after the farm singlehandedly.

Conversation Vocabulary
 नुक्कड़ nukkad street corners
फुटपाथ footpath sidewalk
झुंड jhoond herds
गाड़ियाँ gaadiyaan vehicles
गाय gaay cow
जगह jug-uh locations/places
दैनिक दृश्य dye-nik drishya daily sights
पावन paa-vun holy
पुण्य poonya goodwill
अच्छे भाग्य acche bhaagya good fortune
घास ghaas grass
प्रार्थना prarthana prayer
क्या बताऊँ kya bataaoon What can I say? (kya = what; bataaoon = should I say; infinitive: bataana = to say)
आशीर्वाद aashirvaad blessings
माथा maatha forehead
मेहनत mehnat hard work
खेत khet fields/farm
इतने itne so many
कितने kitne how many?
बैल bail bull
बैल गाडी bail gaadi cow/bull-drawn cart (gaadi = vehicle)
चारा खिलाया chaaraa khilaya chaaraa=fodder/grass; khilaana=to feed
सैर sair trip/tour
ग्वाला gvala cowherd (one who herds cows/cattle)
नानाजी nanaji maternal grandfather
थोड़ी thodi a little
मदद की madad ki helped (madad karna = to help)
खेत khet farm
अकेले akele all alone/singlehandedly
संभालते हैं sambhaalte hain looks after/manages; sambhaalna =to manage
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About the Author: Nitya

Namaste, friends. My name is Nitya. I was born and raised in Mumbai (formerly Bombay). I'm a native Hindi speaker. However, as life took me through school, college, work, and waves of friends from different parts of India, my repertoire of Hindi flavors and dialects grew and added dimension to my native fluency. Casual, formal, colloquial, and regional ... Hindi is a language with incredible variety and localization. Through this blog, I will help you learn Hindi through conversations, vocabulary, colloquialisms, and glimpses of Indian culture. आओ, मिलकर हिंदी सीखते हैं। (Aao, milkar Hindi seekhte hain!) Come, let's learn Hindi together.