Prithu is celebrated as the first consecrated king, from whom the earth received her (Sanskrit) name “Prithvi”. Chinese scholar Hiuen Tsang (c. 640 AD) records the existence of the town Pehowa, named after Prithu, “who is said to be the first person that obtained the title Raja (king)”.
The Atharvaveda credits King Prithu of the invention of ploughing and thus, agriculture. He is also described as one who flattened the Earth’s rocky surface, thus encouraging agriculture, cattle-breeding, commerce and development of new cities on earth. To understand the beginning of civilization as we know it, let us understand the story of Prithu.
The Bhagavata Purana and Vishnu Purana tells the story of Prithu: King Vena, from the lineage of the pious Dhruva, was an evil king, who neglected Vedic rituals for sustenance of earth. Thus the rishis (sages) killed him, leaving the kingdom without an heir and in famine due to the anarchy of Vena. The heir, Prithu unlike his father, had no evil traits.
To end the famine which was a result of slaying the earth and getting her fruits, Prithu chased the earth (Prithvi) who fled (represented) as a cow. Finally, cornered by Prithu, the earth states that killing her would mean the end of his subjects too. So Prithu lowered his weapons and reasoned with the earth and promised her to be her guardian. Finally, Prithu milked her using Manu as a calf, and received all vegetation and grain as her milk, in his hands for welfare of humanity.
Before Prithu’s reign, there was “no cultivation, no pasture, no agriculture, no highway for merchants”, all civilization emerged in Prithu’s rule. By granting life to the earth and being her protector, Prithu became the Earth’s father and she accepted the patronymic name “Prithvi”. O’Flaherty interprets the story of Prithu—his transformation from a hunter who chased the earth-cow to the herdsman-farmer—as a transition in people from eating beef to having cow’s milk and cultivated vegetables and grain instead of beef.
D. R. Patil suggests that the Rigvedic Prithu was a vegetarian deity, associated with Greek god Dionysus and another Vedic god Soma.
Once again, earth is standing at cross-roads – to survive or perish. Many wise people and researchers have pointed out the reasons for destruction of earth – the most important one being animal agriculture and beef, in particular. It is the most environmentally damaging meat, accounting for more than 51% of green house gases, more than all of transportation emissions combined.
The United Nations Environment Program also thinks that beef is ‘climate harmful meat’ since it takes a huge amount of energy and water to produce a single gram of beef. Approximately 16,000 litre of water is consumed to make 1 kg of beef. Can a water starved, famine-prone earth afford to kill cows for food? Many are petitioning White House to #GoVegetarian on #EarthDay as an inspiration for public. Each person who switches to a vegetarian diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 sq ft of forested land, and 20 lbs CO2 equivalent per day!
Cows are a boon as her dung is considered a great resource for human prosperity, energy and food. Her Panchgavya (milk, curd, ghee, gomutra and gobar) are an integral part of Ayurveda and human health.
Like Prithu who promised to safeguard cows thereby saved earth, each of us should realize the role of cows for ecology because the future of earth depends on what we chose on our plate.
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