A Gaushala is a protective shelter for cattle in India. Cows are considered sacred in the Hindu religion and so Gaushalas are a refuge for them. In a Gaushala, cattle are respected, venerated and treated with dignity. Gaushala is a Sanskrit term which combines go or “cow” and shala or "shelter". Providing sanctuary, the Gaushala protects those animals which would have been mercilessly killed otherwise.

How can you help a Gaushala?

Now that you know what is a Gaushala, you probably want to help one with its mission. Luckily, there are many different ways you can help a Gaushala in India.

If you live near a Gaushala and practice Hinduism, you can participate in agnihotra, the milk offering. Gaushalas offer you a chance to participate in this ritual to put animal waste to use and purify the environment, as in agnihotra cow dung is fed to the fire. Then, an offering of rice with ghee is placed on the fire. The smoke from this fire purifies the surrounding and works to repel mosquitoes. Agnihotra is a wonderful way to purify the air and repair the ozone layer.

The rice and ghee of agnihotra also combines with fresh dung to work as a fertilizer, while ash mixed with cow ghee or butter has antibacterial properties and can be used to heal wounds. As you can see, the different products from cows can be reused and sold, helping maintain the Gaushalas and the environment.

What does energy have to do with cows?

If you can, a great way to help a Gaushala is to use bio-gas from cow waste for all your daily energy needs and give the pecuniary benefits to the shelter. This act will help you go green and also save the environment, not just the animals in the Gaushala. By using bio-gas as a renewable form of energy, you can meet two worthy goals through a single action.

What is seva or selfless service?

In Hinduism and related religions, the idea of offering selfless services without any reward for the benefit of others is called "seva". Doing seva is considered a devotional and extremely positive act. If you want to offer seva but don't know to what cause, consider the cows in Gaushalas.

Grooming and brushing cows offers material and spiritual benefits to society. Volunteers at Gaushalas can also do seva by cleaning the sheds. Hindus believe cow seva is one of the highest duties and holy actions, and therefore brushing cows is also considered a privilege for a Gaushala volunteer.

Other activities at Gaushalas include bathing the cows, cleaning the open enclosures, inspecting the cattle for injury or diseases and healing cows that are injured or in need of medical care. You can also help clean the premises and layer the roads so that cows are able to walk with ease and do not get injured

Why should cows be protected?

Even if you're not a Hindu and don't believe that cows are sacred, you can surely appreciate cows for their service to humans. Milk, yogurt, ghee, butter are all useful and medically beneficial for us. Cattle are a source of sustenance and protection for the agrarian farmer, and therefore they have economic value and utility for almost everyone.