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Godana In Hinduism – Gifting Or Offering Cow

Godana is an auspicious ritual of gifting or offering a cow to a learned person in Hinduism. Hindus gift a cow to a self realized soul to gain merit or to fulfil a vow or as atonement. A noted theologian (late 13th century – early 14th century) describes the procedure o this gift in his book Chaturvarga Chintamani in detail.

According to Vishwamitra, an authority codified that the cow which is to be gifted should be with her calf and should stand facing east at the time of dana (offering); after bathing, the donor should stand near the cow’s tail and the person, who accepts the gift should sit facing north.

Then the priest should take a bowl of ghee (clarified butter), put gold in it and ask the donor to dip the cow’s tail in the bowl; after that the receiver o the gift should take sesame seeds in this hands and sit facing east.

Finally, the priest recites Gomati mantra and asks the donor to give away the cow, touching the tail from the top to the end.

The Mahabharata also suggests recitation of Gomati mantra at the time of dana but it is slightly different than the one mentioned by Vishwamitra.

Discussing the merits of Godana, it is said that a person who donates a black cow, covered with silk and gold ornaments, does not go to hell and enjoys lifelong happiness and prosperity. Similarly, by gifting a blue cow, ancestors get release from rebirth in the world. By donating a white cow, one washes away his sins. Ancient texts also refer to the habit of decorating a cow’s horns with gold and her hooves with silver at the time of dana.

According to Bhavishya Purana, the cow is the Sun God’s daughter and was born for the welfare of people. It is also believed that the cow gave room for all the inanimate things, creatures and gods in its body during a crisis.

Different significance is attributed to various parts of its body – all tirthas (holy places) are situated in the frontal part of her horns, Shiva on her head, Goddess on her forehead, God Kartikeya on her hones, Ashwini Kumaras in her voice and milk, river Narmada in her curd, the Goddess of Earth in her stomach and the Goddess of wealth in the hind rant. Hence it is touched reverentially and one who donates a cow has thus donated the whole universe.

On the twelfth day after death or thereafter, when the dead person is united with his ancestors in the ceremony called Sapindikarana; a cow is gifted to help the dead person cross the river of hell known as Vaitarani. It is known as Vaitarani Godana.

Godana also refers to a sacrament performed towards the end of Vedic studies. The procedure is similar to Chaula (making the tuft). This ceremony can be performed with or without oblations in fire. The Sutra texts mention this sacrament. This is done as part of the Vedic rites. But the manuals of Yajurveda, though listing this, do not include it in the list of sacraments.

SourceEncyclopedia of Hinduism Volume IV- IHRF page 313-314