Milk is something special in India An Indian man carries milk canisters outside of a train station in New Delhi, India. At 4:30 AM, the New Delhi train station is already bustling with milkmen from surrounding towns, who arrive carrying cans of milk that they deliver to neighborhoods across the capital. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Milk is something special in India
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It is the world's largest producer of milk and also the largest consumer. And there's good reason for that fact. In India, milk is not just the morning glass you drink before you sprint out of the house. Its uses go far beyond the dietary and nutritional.

By the end of 2014, India was producing 140 million metric tons of milk per year. That's roughly 50 percent more than the United States, the second-biggest producer.

Milk's special significance in India goes back to Hindu mythology. It includes the legend of the Samudra manthan and the churning of the ocean that brought forth the drink of immortality, the amrit. It also includes the goddess Kamdhenu, which manifested itself as a wish-granting divine cow. Hindus consider cows to be sacred embodiments of Kamdhenu. They make up 81 percent of India's 1.3 billion people.

Krishna worshippers have special affection for cows because of the Hindu god's role as a cowherd. Stories about his love of butter are legendary, so much so that he is lovingly called "Makhan chor," or butter thief.

Hindus use milk and its products for religious purposes because it is believed to have purifying qualities: ghee, or clarified butter, is used in lamps for rituals; milk is used to bathe Hindu idols on special occasions; sweets made from milk or ghee are used as offerings to gods. It accompanies so much of Hindu life, in rituals from an infant's first food to the last rituals after death.

Milk also transcends religion: Ghee spread on flatbread can be a special treat for the poor; buttermilk is a popular summer drink to soothe the stomach. If you are in India, you cannot escape calorie-filled sweets made with milk. Another thing common across this large and diverse country is the morning cup of milky tea. Tiny tea stalls start their businesses early, with migrant laborers normally the first customers.

The dairy industry became the force it is today because of major changes decades ago. Amul, a co-operative dairy, was born in 1946 out of a revolt by milk producers against unfair trade practices and now has 3.37 million members. Amul was a model for Operation Flood, a nationwide campaign to increase milk production that began in 1970.

Many dairy operations are quite small. In a rural corner of India's northeastern Indian state of Assam, 24-year-old Srimoti Mandal milks her three cows in the early morning, getting an average of about 6 liters per day and selling it for about $3.50. With her husband unable to work because of asthma, she depends on the milk to support her family of four, which includes two young children.

In a neighboring village, a bent Pronoti Devi, 67, supplies milk from her three cows daily to a tea shop.

At 4:30 a.m., the New Delhi train station is bustling with milkmen from surrounding towns who arrive carrying cans of milk that they deliver to neighborhoods across the capital. Most were up hours before the sun's first rays. Some will make a second trip before the day ends. And then they will return to feed the cattle that in turn help feed their families.

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Why is milk so important in India?
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COMMENTS (36)
  • annabel1226-yyca
    11/02/2015 - 07:30 p.m.

    I never knew that India produced milk. I feel bad for the woman to sell all the milk by herself. I think America has to go help those people. I hope they help them. Also the woman should sell her milk more expensive. It is to cheap to be sold. If I were her then I would make it 50 dollars because milk in India is really rare. The woman has to feed her children then she has to be strict with her customers. The cows must been tired of getting milked. I really hope that America can help other people.

  • emmab-sch
    11/03/2015 - 08:15 a.m.

    Milk is so important in India because, it is used in religious purposes, and India produces most of the worlds milk

  • billiem-1-bar
    11/03/2015 - 07:56 p.m.

    Milk is important in india because it is considered sacred and it's a big part of religious practices and beliefs. I found this article interesting because it's cool how much of India's population is made up of cows.

  • lilyg-2-bar
    11/03/2015 - 10:16 p.m.

    Milk is so important in India because it serves as a drink, but is also very important in religious rituals for the Hindu religion in India. "By the end of 2014, India was producing 140 million metric tons of milk per year." This is evidence showing how much milk is being made and used in India. It is a very large amount. I think this was an interesting article because I never knew there were so many uses to some people for a simple drink, milk.

  • allyb-ver
    11/04/2015 - 07:15 p.m.

    This article is about milk in India. I was surprised to see that India is the worldest largest producer of milk. Milk is very important in Indian house holds it is the sprit of the house.

  • angelinat-3-bar
    11/05/2015 - 09:44 p.m.

    Milk is so important because for many Hindus, who live in India they believe that milk is a sacred gift. As mentioned in the article,"Hindus consider cows to be sacred embodiments of Kamdhenu," cows produce milk which is sacred to them. That idea comes from their religion and they believe in the god Kamdhenu and he is thought to have produced milk in his armpits. Hindus worship him and milk, so anything that produces milk, they worship also. I found this article interesting because I like to learn about other people's cultures. I found this surprising because I did not know that Hindus worshiped milk.

  • maggiec-3-bar
    11/05/2015 - 10:30 p.m.

    Milk is so important in India because it is used not only for drinking but for many religious purposes. Hindus use milk for religious purposes because it is believed to have purifying qualities. It is used for bathing Hindu idols during special ceremonies and to make sweets to offer to gods. I think its so cool that different cultures use things such as milk for different purposes. For example, in the US milk isn't a very big thing but in India it is a huge part of people's lives.

  • maddiei-orv
    11/05/2015 - 11:23 p.m.

    I knew that cows were sacred in India, but I didn't know how much milk they produced. It's interesting to know that the United States is the second biggest producer of milk, considering how we don't respect cows in the same way. I also learned that they still have milkmen in India, which is very cool. I have never seen one in the United States.

  • theaw-4-bar
    11/05/2015 - 11:52 p.m.

    Milk is so important to India because it is used for religious purposes. It is believed to have purifying qualities. "Ghee, or clarified butter, is used in lamps for rituals," also "milk is used to bathe Hindu idols on special occasions" and "sweets made from milk or ghee are used as offerings to gods." I did not like this article very much because I thought it was very repetitive. Even though the title seemed rather interesting and appealing, the article was not.

  • satchelr-6-bar
    11/06/2015 - 12:35 a.m.

    Milk is so important in india because it is a part of the religion. Milk can be used in many different ways in hindu rituals from bathing their gods to and offerings too. This is interesting because I use milk in my day to day life.

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