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Srila Prabhupada & Kaliya Beginning of Cow Protection and Varnasrama in ISKCON – Oṁ Śrī Surabhi Campaign

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Srila Prabhupada & Kaliya: Beginning of Cow
Protection and Varnasrama in ISKCON
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Srila Prabhupada & Kaliya: Beginning of Cow Protection and Varnasrama in ISKCON
UPDATE: December
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December 24th, 2020
There’s no doubt that protecting cows was very close to Srila Prabhupada’s heart.
In a series of Back to Godhead magazine articles in the mid 1950s, he was already envisioning a community where
residents lived a simple life and protected cows.
Soon after registering ISKCON in New York in 1966, he began requesting his disciples to start a rural community,
asking them to call it “ISKCON-Nagari or New Vrindaban.”
And when Hayagriva Das, Kirtananda Swami and a
handful of other devotees began New Vrindaban,
ISKCON’s rst farm, in 1968 in the hills of West
Virginia, he urged them to keep cows and bulls there,
and to maintain them comfortably throughout their
natural lives as their proverbial mothers and fathers.
Kaliya Cow at New Vrindaban – BTG photo 1971
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The cow’s milk could be used to create all kinds of
staple foods, and their dung dried and used as fuel, he
explained. Bulls could pull plows to till the ground for
food grains. Together, they offered the chance of a
peaceful, self-suf cient life free from the modern
world’s stressful rat race and favorable for advancing
in Krishna consciousness.
What’s more, he explained to Hayagriva in one of his
rst letters about New Vrindaban’s development,
caring for cows was what Lord Krishna did every
morning in Goloka Vrindavana. “Krishna by His
practical example taught us to give all protection to
the cows, and that should be the main business of New
Vrindaban,” he said.
Prabhupada continued to write the New Vrindaban devotees nearly every month, espousing the bene ts of cow
protection along with outright entrities for action.
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“I am anxiously awaiting receipt of your rst cow,” he wrote to Shyama Dasi in March 1969. And
in April: “I hope you will soon be getting a cow for New Vrindaban. Vrindaban without cows
does not look well, so we must have many cows as soon as possible.”
Devotees were glad to have nally purchased their rst cow by the time Srila Prabhupada rst visited New
Vrindaban in May 1969. A black Jersey with a white mark on her forehead where Vaishnavas wear their tilak, she
was named Kaliya, or “black,” by Prabhupada himself.
One of the rst things the “Brijabasis” did when Prabhupada arrived was offer him a seat beneath a willow tree,
and bring him fresh milk from Kaliya. They then sat around him in a semi-circle on the grass, looking up at him
expectantly as he raised the cup to his lips.
Prabhupada was delighted. “I haven’t tasted milk like this in fty years,” he said.
Excited at pleasing their spiritual master, the devotees brought Kaliya to meet him. Ranadhir Das paraded her
before him, and Prabhupada admired her. “We don’t have such fatty cows in India,” he said. “In days past, yes, but
now no one can feed them nicely. That is the way the Vedas calculate a man’s wealth—in cows and grains.” He
even walked out to the barn to watch Ranadhir put Kaliya back in her stall.
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Prabhupada at New Vrindaban with Kaliya Cow 1976
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During his visit, which lasted a whole month, Prabhupada continued encouraging the devotees, meeting with
community leaders to discuss growing their herd from one to fty. One cow’s milk could be shared by at least ten
people, he said; or if each resident had their own cow, they could sell excess milk products and “get other
necessities of life in that way.”
New Vrindaban and Kaliya stayed on Prabhupada’s mind after his visit. “I am always thinking of your New
Vrindaban,” he wrote from Los Angeles just two days after leaving. “The rst thing I nd is the taste of the milk.
The milk which we are taking here is not at all comparable with New Vrindaban milk.” He even offered to help
nance more cows for the community.
Over the next few months and years, Prabhupada greatly enjoyed receiving in the mail curd cheese and milk
sweets made from dairy provided by New Vrindaban’s protected cows; and he guided devotees in how to prepare
them. “The whole idea of New Vrindaban is that men who are living there should produce their own food, of which
milk is the principal thing,” he wrote.
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After visiting New Vrindaban again in September 1972 to deliver a series of Bhagavat Dharma discourses, he was
clearly enlivened by the progress he had seen. “I can see that Krishna is giving you more and more facility for
developing this New Vrindaban scheme,” he said. “So this is very nice. I am very pleased that you have acquired
some more cows.”
But he also cautioned the devotees not to forget about the bulls. “The cow is so wonderful and valuable in
society,” he wrote. “But you should also use the bulls by engaging them in tilling the ground. People may call this
primitive way
» but it is very practical for engaging the bulls.”
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By the time Prabhupada visited New Vrindaban again in July 1974, its cow protection program was thriving. There
were 100 cows spread across three farms – Bahulaban, Vrindaban and Madhuban – including sixteen milking cows
who produced over 600 gallons of milk per week. A fourth farm, Nandagram, housed young oxen, and three ox
teams were being trained.
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Prabhupada visited the Bahulaban barn, walking down
its length and closely observing the cows on either
side. He stopped at Shukla, whose milk he had also
drank, and patted her on the head. He then observed
the cow Satyabhama being milked, and when told that
she was giving nine gallons daily said to cowherd
Devakinandana Das, “You are doing wonderfully here.”
After his visit, Prabhupada wrote that he was “very
happy” while in New Vrindaban and enjoyed the
atmosphere, “especially the cow protection scheme.”
He continued to encourage the devotees to build a
farm community that would set an example for how to
treat cows: “Let other farms see… how we derive
bene t from them and that will be the living example
to persons who are using cow esh rather than cow
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New Vrindaban 1975 Summer Ox Team
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In 1976, when he visited New Vrindaban for the last time, the community was caring for four working teams of
oxen and over 150 cows. A new barn had been erected in Bahulaban, and Prabhupada visited it to see the cows
and four new-born calves. He let one of them lick his hand as a devotee told him how the cows were yielding
about 120 gallons of milk every day, which they were turning into ghee, cheese and buttermilk. Prabhupada was
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But there was one cow he still hadn’t seen. Kaliya, now fourteen years old, was the retired matriarch of New
Vrindaban’s herd. She had given birth to eight calves herself, and up until the previous year, had still been
producing about six gallons of milk a day for the Lord and the devotees – despite having maladies common to
aging cows of her breed, such as blindness in one eye and respiratory problems.
Writing in Brijbasi Spirit magazine, cowherd Amburish Das described how Kaliya – the smallest cow in New
Vrindaban at 800 pounds – never pushed and shoved to eat grain as the other cows did, but stood patiently
waiting her turn. “There may be some mild cows, but Mother Kaliya is even more than mild – she is a devotee,” he
said. “Her humility is unmatched.”
This rare soul was nally reunited with Srila Prabhupada after seven years in a meeting that left an indelible mark
in the minds and hearts of those who witnessed it.
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Towards the end of his visit, Prabhupada walked with a large group of devotees to go see Sri Sri Radha Vrindaban
Nath in the farmhouse temple at the old Vrindaban farm, where Kaliya resided. It was a beautiful morning, the rays
of the rising sun shining hazily through a light mist.
As Prabhupada rounded a curve and spotted the Vrindaban farmhouse in the distance, one of the devotees,
Advaitacarya Das, pointed to a small herd of cows far up at the top of “Govardhana Hill,” which rose to their left.
“Srila Prabhupada, look!” he said. “There’s Kaliya. She’s our rst cow. You used to drink her milk.”
Suddenly, as Prabhupada looked up at her, Kaliya broke away from her herd and made her way alone down the
steep bank. Matching the devotees’ pace, she stepped out right in front of Srila Prabhupada, and began walking
with him as if she were his pet calf.
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“Ah,” Srila Prabhupada said simply. “My dear old friend Kaliya.”
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She continued to walk with him for some time, a quiet connection hanging between them that the devotees all
felt. Then, nally Kaliya picked up her pace and disappeared over the horizon.
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“For me, it was a mystical experience,” says Advaita. “Srila Prabhupada was always preaching that we’re all trying
to get to Vrindavana, where Krishna and his cowherd boy friends are eternally playing and taking care of the cows.
And to see Kaliya come down the hill and walk with him like that just made it all very real.”
 October 2018 (10)
After this last visit to New Vrindaban, Prabhupada continued to encourage his followers to establish cow
protection programs all over the world. And to all of them, he gave New Vrindaban as the model farm community
to emulate – the home of Kaliya, the “Queen of New Vrindaban,” and ISKCON’s very rst cow.
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Reported by: Madhava Smullen, New Vrindavan, WV, USA.
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Archival Research by Chaitanya Mangala.
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By Administrator | January 12th, 2016 | Categories: Articles | Tags: cow protection ISKCON, ISKCON Varnasrama, Srila Prabhupada
cow protection | Comments Off
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