Recreating Char Dham

Duden brings cow to be worshiped at Hindu celebration


MAPLE GROVE, Minn. — It is not every day that a cow is welcomed to roam in a temple. But Thomas Duden and his cow, Brickton Impression Rio, experienced just that June 8 as the guest of honor at the Hindu Society of Minnesota.

“It was a unique and interesting concept,” Duden said. “I never would have thought I would end up in the Twin Cities with a cow and bringing it into a temple, but the culture was interesting.”

Duden, who operates a dairy farm near Princeton and milks 40 cows, got connected with HSMN’s event organizer, Sripad Devaraju, and was asked to bring a cow to the event.

Devaraju said the event is in honor of the pilgrimage known as Char Dham.

Within the Hindu religion, Devaraju said there are four pilgrimage sites in India — Badrinath, Dwarka, Puri and Rameswaram.

“The ceremony was about Char Dham in India,” Devaraju said. “Hindus want to go and visit these places at least once in their life. Being in America we cannot go there and visit all of these four places sometimes for many different reasons.”

At HSMN they worked to recreate these four places in the temple so people would still have the chance to worship in a traditional way.

“We did the prayer sessions in those stations exactly the way they happen in the four pilgrimage areas,” Devaraju said. “We recreated all four different rituals, cultural dressing, cultural music and cultural food. We recreated all four things in each station.”

In Hinduism, cows are associated with motherhood and they represent a source to nourish all living things.

“We worship cows because the cow is our mother, so we worship every day in our house,” Devaraju said. “When we pray, we ask her to bless us.”

During the ceremony, they sprinkled water over the cow to resemble giving her a shower. This process is called Abhisheka. Brickton Impression Rio was treated in the same manner as a guest would be treated in someone’s home in Hindu society.

“As soon as any guest comes to our house, we clean their feet first,” Devaraju said. “So we cleaned the cow’s feet because she was our guest for the day. Then we gave her a shower so she is purely fresh. We feed them after that. This is the process of when a guest comes to your house. That is how we treated the cow on that day.”

They draped the cow with garland and long cloths to show respect and provided her with a special place to walk.

“When we led her into the temple, the floor is granite so they had a carpet laid down and she got to walk on the carpet the whole time,” Duden said.

Before Duden agreed to bring a cow in, the HSMN showed him videos and explained what they would like her presence for at the celebration.

“Everyone was so happy to have the cow there,” Devaraju said.

When it came time for Duden to pick the cow to send to the celebration, Duden’s wife did the choosing. Brickton Impression Rio is a former 4-H show cow that Duden was able to put a halter on and load into the trailer, no preparation needed.

The cow participated in the three-hour ceremony and afterward people wanted to see and touch the cow. A lot of participants asked what was going to happen to the cow after the ceremony.

“There were a handful of people that offered to pay to house her so she could live and die a long natural life and to be buried on the farm,” Duden said.

Duden even received an email from someone who asked if he could get pictures of her to see her live out her long at the Duden’s farm.

“I invited him to the farm so we can walk out on the pasture,” Duden said.

At the ceremony, everyone was invited to join and be a part of the day.

“This temple welcomes everybody; you do not need to be Hindu,” Devaraju said. “I invited all of my friends and if they are interested, we take them. This is a place of worship, a place of purity.”

People of the Hindu society worship every cow just as they welcome every person.

“Cow is mother of us; we don’t discriminate mother,” Devaraju said. “Any cow we worship.”

At the end of the day Brickton Impression Rio made the day at the temple complete.

“Once we told them that she was pregnant everyone got really excited,” Duden said.

This meant she would be able to live her life to the fullest and fulfill the role of being a mother again.


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