Periyava among the cows


The five-day old calf catches the attention even as one walks up to meet Sadhana Rao. Its soft brown coat and liquid eyes capture the heart, which melts when the background is revealed. The mother and calf were rescued from a roadside near Chingleput.

The fully pregnant cow had been noticed by a passerby, who tried all possible ways to get help. A regular on that route, his concern turned into panic when the cow eventually delivered. For five days mother and calf had struggled under the Agni Nakshatram heat, without water and food.

The cow unable to stand any longer had collapsed and the baby managed to survive by suckling in a kneeling posture. The area was beyond the jurisdiction of the Blue Cross and the man with great difficulty brought them to Sadhana Rao’s Indian Institute of Animal Welfare. Medical care was given but the cow died. The male calf (picture right top) is doing well.

“It was a peaceful death,” says Sadhana Rao for whom this is part of a mission, which she took up 40 years ago. “My mother’s father maintained a gosala, may be I inherited the trait from him. A Kashmiri (pundit), the family moved South decades ago.

The Indian Institute of Animal Welfare was founded by Dr. S. Shankardev, Sadhana Rao and K.M. Padmanabhan. What started with half-a-dozen cows has expanded into a unit that shelters over 200 cows inside Kapaleeswarar Nagar, Neelangarai.

Another unit at Venkatapuram beyond the Poondi reservoir on the Oothukottai route houses 300 cows. Temples such as Marundiswarar and Tiruvidanthai Nityakalyana Perumal regularly send their animals to her shelters that have become sanctuaries for buffaloes, bullocks, sheep and goats too. “These dogs came from Kanchipuram. A swamiji found some urchins pelting stones at the mother and its just-born puppies. He sent them here,” informs Sadhana.

Sadhana has imbibed a lot from the Pondicherry Mother, who taught her spiritualism. “At the Ashram, a decision was made to cut down a mango tree that had dried. As was practice, Mother was informed. She came to the spot and sat under the tree with eyes closed for a while. ‘Don’t cut the tree, it is going to yield fruit,’ she said. Believe me, the tree put out fresh shoots, soon green leaves covered the branches and we tasted sweet mangoes. When a ‘dead’ tree has life within, how can animals be killed with such nonchalance?”

The shelter houses cattle rescued from smugglers. The caretakers show the wounds inflicted during transportation. A young cow is recovering from a fracture. “It has taken three months to heal and the animal can now walk, although with a limp,” they explain.

It has been a bumpy, sometimes even dangerous, ride. Sadhana recalls those days when a gang smuggling animals to slaughter houses was after her. “This person would scout for stray animals during the day and seize them in the middle of night. The animals would be packed into a van and despatched to slaughter houses. Naturally, they resented my intervention and waited for me with sickles. I moved about in a burkha for nearly six months and a kind police officer gave me discreet protection.”

Such was Sadhana’s determination that threat to life did not matter. Hailing from an affluent family, she spent all the wealth bequeathed for the cause. Her grandfather was a secretary to the Mahatma and the family donated 40 villages to Vinobha’s bhoodan movement. Sadhana has mortgaged all her jewels to meet the gosala expenses.

“The cows have given me spiritual strength in return, a gift so precious for those born in this punya bhoomi. Crises don’t worry me these days,” says Sadhana softly. “I’m a devotee of Paramacharya. Waking up at 3 a.m., I looked towards the shelter and found all the cows standing, eyes focused in one direction. This was unusual. For a fraction of a second, I saw the figure of Periyava amidst the cows. I did namaskaram from where I was.

“Another time, a group of sanyasis from Gujarat came here and offered obeisance to the cows. I can talk about such experiences endlessly…”

It is the Jain community that is supporting the Institute. Fodder, maintenance, medical care, salary for the helpers, etc., run into lakhs of rupees. Sri Rajendra Jayant Goseva Samiti and Sri Om Shakti Seva Mandal are helping the Neelangarai shelter. Sambhavnath Seva Mandal is taking care of the Venkatapuram gosala. But spiralling costs and increase in the number of animals make funds a constraint.

Finding land is on top of Sadhana’s mind now. Posh houses have been built in the neighbourhood. The residents object to the surroundings. “This is where the Government can help us. Close to the Nityakalyana Perumal temple in Tiruvidanthai, a sprawling area is available. The Institute needs five acres for the animals and the caretakers. If this can be allotted to us, we will be grateful. A gosala in close proximity will bring more devotees to the temple. We have represented to the HR and CE Board and hope they oblige.”

Sadhana strongly appeals for a veterinary ambulance service on the lines of 108.

The Institute can be contacted at 24493141 and 9840456623.

Gems of justice

Sadhana Rao commends judge Karpagavinayakam, who ruled against auction of cows by temples.

She admires the courage of the woman magistrate at Nazarethpet, who under Section 429, handed over to the Institute the lorry load of animals it had intercepted instead of returning them to the smugglers as is done in some cases.

Animal language

When a cow vigorously swishes her tail, she is in distress. When in pain, she will shake her head and shed tears.

If she is thirsty and you happen to pass by with a pail of water, she will glance at you and the bucket. Otherwise she will run her tongue over her muzzle.

Hunger and thirst are signalled through loud bellowing.


Categories: Announcements


16 replies

  1. Pls share the contact details of this Ashram for cows… Also, if any of you know Goshala in Bangalore/ Karnataka pls lemme knw thru email :

  2. Koti pranams. Would like to donate a small amount. The account details does’not have account name. Can anyone help?

    Jaya Jaya Sankara!!

  3. It is worth paying a visit to the above place and offer our mite for the
    maintenance of cows. A great job indeed. Let God Bless Her for all the
    services, she is rendering.

    Balasubramanian NR

  4. oh, forgot to give these details as part of my earlier comment (as given by Ms. Rao) –

    ICICI Bank, Dr. Radhakrishnan Road, Mylapore
    a/c no. 602201177547, IFS – ICIC0006022

    you may want to confirm with them before sending funds, if feel like. When I did send in, it made it to above account, if that’s reassuring.

    Unfortunately, they do not have an email contact yet and I’ve tried a few times to get at least the contact of one of the trustees, no luck so far. If someone here able to manage that, would much appreciate if shared, as someone in Canada raising funds have it a bit hard to confirm the fund transfer, because of the time difference to call in every time.

  5. Amazing.

  6. Yes. This article came in Friday Review of Hindu paper. I already wanted it to email you but i forgot.


  7. Namaskaram Amma!

  8. the article appeared in the Hindu on May 31st and following is what I shared with another news group on June 2nd, if it interests –

    I spoke to Ms. Sadhana Rao this morning and here are some more facts that are not in the article.

    – she studied medicine in UK

    – when she had financial crunch to take care of the cows, she visited Mahaperiyava at the kanchi-mutt. She found herself all alone in front of Periyava, who of course, didn’t look at this “single-lady”. Ms. Rao was praying in her mind on how to feed the cows she was taking care of. Periyava turned toward his back and told one of the mutt-staff “dagam edutha yaravadhu thaneer koduppa” and Ms. Rao took that as the message for her mental-prayers and that’s exactly how she’s been managing the gosalas thus far

    – some Saivite swamis from out of state on pilgrimage in Tamil Nadu visited Ms. Rao’s gosala and prostrated only in front of few select cows among many. This got Ms. Rao curious and on asking them they said they saw Lord Siva on those particular cows only. Turned out that those were the cows turned in by Thiruvanmiyur Marundeeswarar temple

    – People For Cattle, the group that keep vigil on interstate highways and seize truck-loads of cattle that are bound for slaughter in neighbouring states also turn in their catch at Ms. Rao’s Gosala

    – varatti (dung-cake) made at the gosala is given to temples and ceremonies at home

    – there are about 450 cows at two different centres

    – she said even Rs. 5 will go a long way as she could get fodder for that amount

    – when Ms. Geetha Venkatramanan of the HINDU visited her, Ms. Rao had no clue there was going to be an article on her place until after it was published. She is yet to take a look at the article as unfortunately, she had a road accident while bringing cows and got her eyes hurt

    It is indeed a worthy cause –


  9. PASUNAAM PATHA YE NAMAHA… Yes lord shiva loves cow.. Mahaperiyava with cows is the same of Lord shiva with cows…

  10. I wanted to make some monetary contribution to her institute and so I just casually called up and spoke to this lady today – Sadhana Rao.
    Once I got the details, I also requested her to tell me about her experience wherein she saw MahaPeriyava. This is what she had to say:

    Apparently, she wakes up every day at 2:30 in the morning to do meditation. One day, a few weeks back, she happened to look out of her window towards the Goshala at around 3 am and she saw all the cattle getting up all at once and looking in a particular direction. She found this really strange and continued to watch. Soon she could smell a beautiful perfume which lasted for 30 minutes. She was puzzled and decided she would watch the next day also.
    The next day, at exactly the same time, all the cattle got up and she could smell the same perfume. That day, she could see Periyava standing there – in the direction the cattle were looking at ! The vision disappeared in a fraction of a second and she has not been able to see Him again since.
    However, to this day, she says the cattle still get up together at the same time; evidently, they are able to see something we are not.


  11. what a true devotion to the job she is doing. our family’s pranams to Smt Sadhana Rao and her team for this great punya karma. Sri Paramacharya’s blessing will be always with them. pls contact me at 09482660733, I can provide a small monetary help.

  12. simply moved by her dedication .. we are nothing before her .. mahaperiyavas blessings and guidance will always be with her ..some day, each one of us must take a vow to have a small ghosala in each and every house of mahaperiyava bhaktas ,, mahaperiyava will bless us if we takeup go samrakshanam .. Jaya Jaya Sankara … Hara Hara sankara

  13. would love to visit the Goshala share the address please.

  14. Brilliant!

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