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India Was Not Always This Cruel

By Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

India was not always this cruel. Inspite of the culture of animal sacrifice and ritual hunts by tribals, it was, by and large, a peaceful country where people lived together with animals and respected their lives. All this has changed in the last 50 years. Now animals are either a nuisance, or a commodity, and hurting them is no longer something one thinks about. What can you say about a country whose government says, happily, that 52% of our exports are meat, fish and leather. And close on their heels are eggs.

Till a few decades ago, most villages and communities has a gramadev: a god or goddess who looked after the area, had his/her own little temple and was regularly prayed to. Many of them represented, or looked after, animals and so did the villagers .

Bhramari is the goddess of bees and wasps who cling to her body. An avatar of Durga,  She is mentioned in the Devi Bhagvata Purana. Her main temples are in Trisrota, Jalpaiguri and in Nashik.

Arunasura meditated for thousands of years to Brahma. For the first ten thousand years, he lived by ingesting only dry leaves; for the second, he lived by drinking only drops of water; and, for the third, he lived by inhaling air alone. For the fourth ten thousand years, he did not consume anything. Light emitted from his body and began to burn the whole world. Lord Brahma appeared and granted him his wish : protection from all two- or four-legged creatures. Thinking himself invincible Arunasura assembled  an army of asuras to vanquish the gods. Indra trembled with fear and went with the Gods to Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.

Arunasura took the moon, the sun and then attacked the abode of the gods, Mount Kailash. Shiva brought his army but was unable to defeat him. He called out to Parvati, and the Shakti grew tall, wielding a mace, trident, long sword and shield, in her four hands.  She closed her three eyes in concentration, summoning forth  six legged creatures - bees, hornets, wasps, termites and spiders from the skies. They emanated from her as Bhramari Devi and  both destroyed the asuras. They attacked Arunasura and ripped open each part of his body.

Scorpions are worshipped from time immemorial: seals with Scorpion images are discovered in Indus Valley, heaven is called ‘scorpion world’ (puth Thel Ulaku) in Tamil. In Urvasi, or Peacock Island, in the Brahmaputra river in Guwahati, the Devi in the Umananda temple is represented by a scorpion.

In Kandakoor village in Yadgir, Karnataka the villagers celebrate Nagapanchami as Chelina Jatre (festival of the scorpion). The villages worship the scorpion goddess Kondammai and play with live scorpions as well. Interestingly, there have been no cases of people being stung by these scorpions. People come  from nearby districts, and the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, to be a part of this religious ceremony. Milk, coconut oil and sarees are offered to the Scorpion goddess.

Chelamma is a Scorpion Goddess of southern Karnataka. Followers believe that by praying at the Chelamma shrine a person will be guarded from scorpion bites. She is the goddess of the Kolaramma temple in Kolar. There is an ancient Hundi which is carved down into the ground and people have been putting coins into it for the last 1,000 years.

Gogaji, also known as Jahar Veer Gogga, Gugga Vir, Gugga Rana, is a folk warrior-hero deity venerated as a 'snake-god' worshipped in the villages of  Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana and Jammu.

According to legend, Goga was born with the blessings of Guru Gorakhnath and was called Goga ji because of his service to cows. It is believed that he lived in the 12th Century and his kingdom was called Bagad Dedga, near Ganganagar. He was a member of the Chauhan clan.

Goga protects his followers from snakes, poisons and other evils. Although a Hindu, he has many Muslim devotees. His shrine is a one-room building with a minaret on each corner and a grave inside, marked by a  bamboo stick with peacock plumes, a coconut, some coloured threads and  a blue flag on the top.

His symbol, a black snake, is painted on a wall. Fairs are held at Gogamedi in Hanumangarh, Rajasthan. It is a common sight to see people with snakes lying around their necks. According to a folklore in and around his birthplace, Dadrewa, it is believed that if someone picks up even a stick from Johra (a barren land which has a sacred pond in Dadrewa), it turns into a snake.

In the Punjab region Guggaji  is worshiped in shrines known as marris. The shrines can range from ant holes to structures that resemble a Sikh Gurdwara, or a Mosque. People bring food offerings and also leave them in places where snakes reside.

Nagnachiya Ma, the snake goddess, is the kuldevi of the Rathore Rajput clan. Her upper half is a woman and her lower half is a snake. Her main temple is in village Nagana near Jodhpur. She was originally established by Rao Dhuhad under a Neem tree, which makes that tree also holy for the Rathores. She is also worshipped in Khakharechi in Gujarat, where the Rathores built a lake. In all villages where Rathores live they have a shrine of Nagnachiya Mata.

Manasa Devi, the folk goddess of snakes, is worshipped, mainly in Bengal and north-eastern India, for the prevention and cure of snakebite, smallpox and chicken pox, and for fertility and prosperity. She is also known as Vishahara (the destroyer of poison), Nityā (eternal) and Padmavati.

Originally a tribal goddess, Manasa was accepted in the Hindu pantheon by the 14th century. Manasa is depicted as a woman covered with snakes, sitting on a lotus or a snake. Her canopy is the hoods of seven cobras. Sometimes, she is depicted with a child on her lap. She is often called "the one-eyed goddess" and, among the Hajong tribe of northeastern India, she is called Kānī Dīyāʊ (Blind Goddess)

The Puranas are the first scriptures to speak about her birth. Once, when serpents and reptiles had created chaos on the Earth, Kashyapa created the goddess Manasa from his mind (mana). Brahma made her the presiding deity of snakes and reptiles. In other myths she is the daughter of sage Kashyapa and Kadru, the mother of all Nāgas. Myths glorified her by describing that she saved Shiva after he drank the poison, and venerated her as the "remover of poison".

Generally, Manasa is worshipped without an image. A branch of a tree, an earthen pot, or an earthen snake image is worshiped as the goddess. In North Bengal her shrine is found in the courtyard of almost every agrarian household.

Manasa is also worshipped in Assam, and a kind of Oja-Pali (musical folk theatre) is dedicated to her. Manasa is ceremonially worshiped on Nag Panchami - a festival of snake worship in the Hindu month of Shravan (July–August). Bengali women observe a fast on this day and offer milk at snake holes. In South India people worship her at the Manasa Devi Temple in Mukkamala, West Godavari, Andhra Pradesh.

Bagalamukhi  is a  crane-headed goddess in Hindu legend, Bagala controls black magic, poisons and disguised forms of death. She rules over the perception which make us feel, at a distance, the death or misery of those we know. She incites men to torture one another. She revels in suffering. She wears yellow and her left hand carries torture instruments, while the right hand holds the tongues of adversaries. Her hair hang freely about her back and shoulders, and her tiara is sealed with a crescent moon, two small golden cranes, while a large white crane with outspread wings rests upon the crown of her head.

Her legend relates how an asura named Madan, ‘The Seducer’, once gained the boon of omniscient speech, whereby everything he said came to pass. Intoxicated with this power Madan began to use it to defeat all his opponents. The gods petitioned Bagalamukhi. Seizing Madan by his tongue she paralysed his power of speech. She is often evoked to win lawsuits, to gain power, to render opponents speechless, to block or paralyse enemies, and to increase eloquence, memory, and knowledge.

The main  temple of Bagalamukhi is located in the Newar city of Patan, in the Kangra Valley, and in Datiya in Madhya Pradesh.

Airy, whose eyes are on his head, is the gramdeva of Kumaon and the protector of animals. His two attendants, Sau and Bhau, ride on dogs. His main temple is Byandhura, Champavat.

Chaumu is worshipped as the protector of animals in the Jhulaghat-Pancheshwar region. Bells and milk are offered. His main temples are in Chaupakhia in Pithoragar, and Chamdeval in Champavat.

There are hundreds more. If you know of any do send the details to me. 

To join the animal welfare movement contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , www.peopleforanimalsindia.org

  • Written by Denis Giles
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Are Goats as Smart as Dogs?

Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

Someone rescued a goat from the slaughterhouse and gave him to Sanjay Gandhi Animal Care Centre. We allowed him to run free and soon he was the leader of a pack of dogs who followed him everywhere at a respectful distance. When in repose he sat on the highest step – often a large window ledge - and they draped themselves round him.  When people gathered round to talk, while they were waiting for their animals outside the OPD, he would often join the humans. Once I made the mistake of rubbing him on his head as he stood in the group. He turned around, glared at me with his deep yellow eyes and then butted my hip. The staff told me he went looking for “murgas” like me to mistake him for a dog and caress him so that he could butt them.

Are goats as smart as dogs? Until recently, scientists thought that only animals that had been bred as companions or pets - such as dogs, cats, and horses - were intelligent, or able to form bonds with humans. This allows us to eat all the other animals, or kill them for sport. Mutton, goat meat, is a common item on the Indian menu.

Now research proves that goats try to communicate with people in the same way that dogs and horses do.

In a series of experiments published in Biology Letters, researchers found that when goats had a problem that they couldn't solve alone, they would gaze at a person for help. Also that goats changed their actions in accordance with a person's behaviour.

Researchers of Queen Mary, University of London concluded "From our earlier research, we already know that goats are smarter than their reputation suggests, but these results show how they can communicate and interact with their human handlers even though they were not domesticated as pets or working animals."

To test goat communication skills, the researchers trained the animals to remove a lid from a box to receive a reward. The reward was then made inaccessible by making the lid removal harder. The reactions of the goats toward the experimenters — who were either facing the goats, or had their backs turned away — were recorded. The goats would gaze toward the forward-facing person more often in a similar way to dogs asking for a treat, and for longer periods of time, than they would with the people who had turned away, which suggests that the goats were aware of where the human was looking. In some instances, the goats would also approach the forward-facing person before returning to the box.

"Our results provide strong evidence for complex communication directed at humans and show similarities with animals bred to become pets or working animals, such as dogs and horses."

Researchers on goat intelligence – or the lack of it –conclude that goats are amongst the brightest ungulates on Earth. Scientists at the Institute of Agricultural Science in Switzerland, long suspected that goats might be more intelligent than they seem. For example, goats live in complex social groups; they are experts in getting at hard-to-reach foods (goats in Morocco, for example, climb the 30 foot Argan trees in search of tasty sprigs); they remember people, things, and skills, and they are picky eaters who can adeptly pick leaves off of thorn bushes, or seek out just the right sprig of grass.

In another experiment to judge their intelligence they  gave goats the “artificial fruit challenge”—a cognitive game originally developed for apes. Fruit was placed in a box which could only be reached by solving a puzzle. The goats had to use their teeth to pull on a rope to activate a lever, and then lift the lever up with their muzzle. Most of the goats could complete the task in four tries. The ones that failed did so because they tried to take a short cut and used their horns to pry open the box and they were disqualified.

The winning goats were given the same food box puzzle challenge after 10 hours to see how long it took them to solve it. All of them remembered how to solve the problem, and were able to access the fruit in less than a minute – showing an excellent long term memory.

Goat breeders say that goats have a calm and observational manner and can do the following :

Tell individual humans apart, even when they have changed clothes.

Remember at what time of day they are fed and complain if you're late.

Remember where the tastiest plants are, even if they have not been in that pasture for three months.

Follow an eye, or pointed finger, to a treat hidden in long grass

Learn simple tricks (stand on top of this stump, balance on your hind legs) indicated by hand gestures.

Respond individually to their names.

Remember which plant made them sick before, and never eat it again.

Plan routes to a desired destination. For example, if there is a stream between the goats and tasty food. they will go up and downstream looking for a way around the stream.

Bend a loose piece of wire outward from the fence until it is at the correct height to itch between the horns.

Open a clip hook.

Turn a doorknob with the mouth.

Goats are fascinated by mirrors.

Like dogs and horses, goats are comfortable living outside of a flock.

Goats can learn unusual tasks, even choosing abstract symbols to request a drink of water. When they learn that a longer route will get them the food treat, they restrain their natural urge to go through an obviously shorter route to the visible food. 

London researchers found that goats recognized the voices of their close friends, and looked at their mates when they heard the sound of their bleat. If there is a less familiar goat present, when they heard an unknown bleat, they looked at the lesser-known individual, showing that they inferred this goat made the call. They are sensitive to herd-mates’ facial expressions, too. French goats paid more attention when they saw the photographed face of a familiar goat in an unpleasant situation than when they saw that of a relaxed, contented companion.

Goats are naturally curious and independent, often getting upto mischief and always looking for escape. On You tube you can see the oddest unexplainable places that goats have been found. In March 2016, a goat in Greece was found dangling 20 feet in the air from a power line by its horns, with seemingly no jumping-off points in sight. Local officials are still unsure of how it landed in the power line—and had to use a long ladder and rope to pull the goat to the ground. After being rescued, the goat ran off happily.

Security cameras in Colorado, caught goats vandalizing windows. The footage shows a goat walking up to a glass door, butting its head against the pane, and then running away after the glass shatters. It returns and does it to the next glass door. Just having fun.

The Kinder Goat Breeders Association sayx that the goat is as good a companion as a dog .

“They are intelligent and affectionate and are easy to train, whether it’s for milking or something like cart-pulling. They love to be with their owners, so they make great companions for walking, hiking or even camping. They are natural comics and are great entertainment.”

Some pet goats are used as therapy goats. These goats accompany their humans to schools, assisted-living facilities and community centres. The Delta Society, an organization that tests and registers pets for therapy work, includes goats in their list of animals eligible for registration. To become a pet therapist, a goat must pass a test that shows it to be controllable, reliable and predictable. The goat must have good manners in public places, and have the social skills to behave with strangers.

We pick on the Nagas because they eat dogs. I find people who eat goats equally bizarre. 

To join the animal welfare movement contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , www.peopleforanimalsindia.org

  • Written by Denis Giles
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Be the Vegan Entrepreneur

By Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

This is my third article on the subject of business opportunities for vegans. The first two were about creating and marketing products and some services. This is about vegan hotels and retreats.

Bed and Broccoli - www.bedandbroccoli.com.au is a Vegan Bed & Breakfast in Australia. It offers vegan food, sauces, jams, preserves and chutneys, soaps, vegan cleaning products, and they are animal friendly. In fact they rescue abandoned animals themselves and all customers have the added experience of friendly dogs and cats. The owner explains that “Being vegan and unable to find vegan accommodation is what inspired Bed and Broccoli to open for business.”

There are thousands of such small hotels across the world. There is a site for vegetarian hotels which was started by two Germans, to which I have recommended a truly beautiful Tibetan, one called Norbulinka where I stayed some years ago. I googled vegan hotels just now and got 12.40 crore results. Right on top is veganhotels.com and they are advertising the most exciting places, in areas where you believe they would only have seafood –atolls in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives. Their food menu is delicious – enough to convert any carnivore! When you start one in India make sure you register it on their site.

You could also make a vegan nature retreat and offer not just a healthy way of eating, but workshops, meditation, fitness centres and spas, walks. You could sell oils, products not tested on animals, and food from there as well. No milk in any form, because then it is not vegan. You could even make it solar powered.

If you are vegan, you could offer your own rooms to just vegan travellers under the Airbnb scheme. It would be a relief to travellers not to worry about what they are getting fed in a homestay.

Another way to earn money is to hold vegan camps for children in the summer and winter holidays. The camps can be for two days, or a week, depending on the activities lined up. Mountaineering, trekking, walks even in the city. But, apart from their activities and the vegan food, it would do two things : it would allow vegan children to get to know each other and it would teach the science behind conscious living. Educational teaching with films on food choices, how to live healthily and how to respect the rest of the world, could make for a more thoughtful  child and gentler human society. KidsMakeaDifference.org and VeganCamp.org are two sites that might help you structure such a programme. Abroad, these camps have resulted in hundreds of children becoming vegan.

Youth Empowered Action Camp - www.yeacamp.org - is a summer camp for youth 12-17 who want to make a difference in the world. YEA trains young activists and builds knowledge, skills, confidence and community with youth change-makers. YEA Camp serves all-vegan food, although being vegan is not a requirement to come to the camp. While this is an American organisation, I see no reason why an Indian one cannot be started.

Evolotus PR was created to serve socially beneficial clients, such as nonprofits, documentary films, animal advocacy campaigns, books, health/wellness and vegan products. Their mission is to help like-minded organizations and businesses tell their story and gain visibility to create a better, more sustainable and peaceful world. The owners explain “Getting media attention for these issues is a form of activism for us.”

Sweta Thakur  started a  public relations company, called the Graffiti Collaborative, in Bangalore. After making a success of it she realized that her heart was not in doodles and jingles for products and would-be stars, and more in changing the way we live. So she became vegan and oriented her agency to promote vegan companies and products. She came to see me some months ago and  this resulted in my ministry adding vegan shops to our national organic mela. Now she has a permanent vegan mela, called Wilderfest, which had its first opening in Bangalore and then at Selectcity Mall in Delhi with hundreds of products. Apart from that they do public relations for animal groups, documentary film festivals. It is possible to do what you believe. Unhappiness comes when you separate yourself from what you do : Jains selling gelatine for instance.

Vegan Edge Consulting - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - operates worldwide and is a Business Development & Marketing agency working exclusively with vegan businesses & entrepreneurs. They offer Strategy & Planning, Branding & Marketing, Web Development & Graphic Design services. They also run several Vegan Facebook pages: Vegan Business Guide, Toronto Vegan Guide. Become A Vegan, and Vegan Maven. Why can’t a regular financial service in India start a wing like this?

Or, if you have money, and want to change the world, why not start a cruelty free angel investor fund. Or an ethical investor fund in which you tell your investors that you will only invest in companies that are environmentally sustainable and vegan. Cruelty Free Super is an Australian Superfund  and it is promoted through social media. It’s a vegan-friendly Superfund, investing in line with cruelty free principles. Lee Coates OBE, founded Ethical Money Pty Ltd in 2010. This innovative vegan business takes cruelty free principles to the heart of the animal unfriendly financial system.

This might be a doable idea – but with very little money to be earned. Start a Vegan Professionals Facebook group.

The idea that I like best – it appeals to the curious, searching-for-magic, part of me. Start a company called The Magic Vegan and people become members for mystery boxes. Every month I will get, as a member, a box full of amazing vegan products, from foods to creams to clothes and footwear, to whatever you can think of – from games to dyes, seeds, even coupons from vegan hotels. And the addresses of the companies would be given, so that if I liked the product I could buy directly from them. You would buy the products from them wholesale and retail them to me at the price you charge for the monthly membership.  If the idea worked, I could gift the TMV membership as birthday and wedding presents. Please somebody quickly start this!

As a vegan entrepreneur you can be bold, sophisticated and yet harm no one. You can use the beauty and bounty of the earth and leave it better for both animals and humans. Vegans commit themselves to learning , education, service to the community, fair trade, empathy and love – while making money. What more could you want? 

To join the animal welfare movement contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , www.peopleforanimalsindia.org

  • Written by Denis Giles
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