The Painted Cows of Rajasthan

Folk Art from India Indian Miniature Paintings Indian Paintings Krishna Rajasthan

In Rajasthan cows block the road but feature in beautiful paintings.

Journey down any road in Rajasthan, country lane or busy street and your way will be blocked by a cow. Or many cows. And not just in Rajasthan. I've got used to the way the cows and cars manage to avoid each other with a delicate nuanced last minute swerve. Even so, when they're strolling or standing on the four lane interstate freeway while cars, tuk tuks and lorries thunder past - OK tuk tuks don't thunder past but lorries do - I just have to believe it'll be OK.

Nonetheless I do find myself veering towards irritation at the apparent madness of letting ponderous cows share the same space as fast moving traffic. After all they're big animals that you wouldn't want to collide with for either the cow's or your sake. My irritation was with the cows actually and how stupid is that! However last year I had a change of heart.

The only way to see out of the way places in India is with a car and driver. For the last couple of years we've had a wonderful driver called Raj. He's a farmer in Haryana, just north of Rajasthan; he used to be a full time lorry driver but now he just does occasional driving jobs. He's a wonderful, dignified man, a great companion and I think he genuinely likes our company. He'll leave the farm to come and drive for us.



He doesn't think much of Rajasthan's cows; he says the milk yield isn't worth the disruption they cause. He and his wife keep a few water buffalo and Raj really loves his water buffalo. Rich milk and a good yield and far better suited to the conditions in Haryana than cows. The milk collector has to drive the milk 70km to the depot so Raj and his wife get up at 4am to milk them in good time.

Driving cross country with Raj is illuminating. We talk about his buffalo and he gives us an account of of what's being farmed and how the fields are looking. We often get held up by herds of cows and last October I started to notice just how beautiful they are, in particular the delicate shades of gray on their back, necks and flanks, around the face and ears. And then there's the expression, docility, equanimity unpeturbability; who knows what's going on? But it's attractive and it's been beautifully captured in the paintings we bought in Udaipur at the end of our trip.

I've been going to India for over 45 years but it took me until last October to notice the beauty of Rajasthan's cows so delightfully captured in these paintings. You can buy some examples in our Paintings Collection.


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