Guruvayur: Revered by devotees of Lord Krishna, cows and bulls past their prime are being looked after at an 'old age home' by a temple in Guruvayur.
"It is a very old practice among devotees to offer cows and bulls for fullfilment of their vows to Lord Krishna, considering 'his association' with them," T V Chandramohan, Chairman of Guruvayur Devaswom Management Committee (GDMC), which manage the temples, said.
He said most cows and bulls were donated years back and are very old now and not producing milk. As religion prohibits slaughter of cows and bulls, it is the temple management's duty to take care of them till their death.
So the animals were shifted to the old age home for bovines at Vengad, he said.
The management has earmarked Rs. 72 lakh for renovation, improvement and repairs of the home in Malappuram district.
The running expenses annually comes to around 2.5 crore, Chandramohan said.
There are a total of 1,055 cows and bulls, devoted to the presiding deity by worshippers over a period of time, now shifted to the "Gokulam" (cowshed) at Vengad, about 60 km from Guruvayur, spread over 96 acres, Chief Veterinarian of the cowshed Dr V Suma said.
The aim was to use the facility as a "care station" for aged and unwell cows without any emphasis on milk production, which is only about 40 litres per day, as they were at the fag end of their lactation period, she said.
Though there may be several takers for the aged animals, especially from butchers and meat exporters, the management does not want to sell them, considering the "religious ethics as it will be equivalent to defeating the objective of devotees who offered the cows to Lord Krishna", she said.
"The proposal is to set up a most modern old age home for the animals", she said.
Besides Vengad, there are two cowsheds under GDMC - one at Guruvayur and another at nearby Kaaveed - where a total of 45 milch-cows are being grown, Suma said.
On an average 13 cows die per month at Vengad, mainly due to age-related diseases. Milch cows at Kaaveed and Guruvayur would be shifted to Vengad once they become old or unwell.
The 'old age home' is perhaps the first of its kind in the world as aged cows and bulls are sent to slaughter houses in other parts of the world, according to doctors of Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University.
Devaswom Executive Engineer K Sumathi said that as part of renovation, more paddocks would be set up. Though there were iron fences around the paddocks, dogs and foxes entered there through fence holes and attacked the animals, she said.
"Staff of the Gokulam are afraid of walking alone in the paddocks as dogs in groups of 12 and 13 encroached the paddocks", Suma said.
Burial of carcasses of bovines also pose a problem now following protests from people in nearby areas, who complain of environmental and atmospheric pollution.
An electrical incinerator was installed, but necessary equipment was not fitted with it and there is no power connection as yet and hence even its trial run was not conducted, Suma said.
Cow-dung pits and flurry pits would also be modernised and improved so that the animals do not slip into them accidentally. Hygienic conditions and the sanitary facilities would also be improved as part of the renovation.
The Gokulam at Vengad was inaugurated in 1984 by the then Chief Minister of Kerala late K Karunakaran, who was an ardent devotee of Lord Krishna.