Jul 2, 2009

Cow cure-alls rush off Indian shelves

Cow cure-alls rush off Indian shelves

Alongside life-size posters of Hindu nationalist leaders, Indian political activists can now buy lotions, potions and pills to cure anything from cancer to hysteria to piles - all made from cow urine or dung.

A new goratna (cow products) stall at the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) souvenir shop is rapidly outselling dry political tracts, badges, flags and saffron-and-green plastic wall clocks with the face of former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. "You won't believe how quickly some of the products sold out," Manoj Kumar, who runs the souvenir shop along with his brother, Sanjeev, said. "The constipation medicine is a hot seller." But the biggest seller is a "multi-utility pill" that claims to cure anything from diabetes to piles to "ladies' diseases". "It's a miraculous cure" the container declares. A month's supply costs a little over $US1. Another cure for all is Sanjivani Ark, a liquid medicine that battles cancer, hysteria and irregular periods among other things.

In addition to medicines, the goratna products range from cow dung toothpaste, to detergents, a skin-whitening cream, baldness and obesity cures, soap and a cow urine "antiseptic aftershave". BJP spokesman Siddarth Singh says the stall aims to promote village industry, one of the biggest employers in India. "If you go back in the history of India, this belongs to our culture," he said. "There's no commercial value to us. Village industry in this country needs to be promoted."

The use of cow products in India is centuries old. The five key products - butter, milk, curd, urine and dung - are collectively known as panchgavya and are an important part of ayurvedic medicine. The cow is worshipped by Hindus, who make up some 82 per cent of India's population. Cow slaughter is banned in most parts of the country. The goratna products, made by a cooperative in the northern "cow-belt" state of Uttar Pradesh, are rapidly gaining in popularity. "Once they use it, they are coming back and they are bringing their friends and their family and their neighbours back with them," Mr Kumar said. Mr Singh already uses the detergent and is thinking of experimenting further. "I'm tempted to try something for the hair - let's hope," he grins, running his fingers through his thinning crop.

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