By Swami Harshananda
pañcagavya (‘five products [derived] from a cow’)
The Hindu society has been venerating the cow for over three millennia. Working for the good of ‘go-brāhmaṇa,’ the cows and the brāhmaṇas, has been considered as a very pious act.
The Hindu dharmaśāstras have prescribed several prāyaścittas or expiations for sins. In many of these rites consuming the pañcagavya finds a place, thereby reflecting the great veneration for the cow.
The pañcagavya is a preparation from five (= pañca) products derived from a cow (= gavya). They are: milk, curds, ghee, urine and dung. The proportion in which they are mixed is 8:8:4:2:1
All these are to be taken from a kapilā (brown) cow. While preparing it, several mantras from the Rgveda (for e.g., 1.91.16; 4.39.6) and other Vedas (for e.g., Taittirlya Ārany aka 10.1; Vājasaneyī Samhitā 22.1) are to be chanted. A part of it, mixed with green darbha (Poa cynosuroides) is offered into fire with some more Vedic mantras and the remainder is consumed with a special mantra indicating the power of this pañcagavya to burn up all sins.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore