According to Indologist Madeleine Biardeau, Kamadhenu or Kamaduh is the generic name of the sacred cow, who is regarded as the source of all prosperity in Hinduism. Kamadhenu is regarded as a form of Devi, (the Hindu Divine Mother) and is closely related to the fertile Mother Earth (Prithvi), who is often described as a cow in Sanskrit. The sacred cow denotes "purity and non-erotic fertility, ... sacrificing and motherly nature, [and] sustenance of human life".
Frederick M. Smith describes Kamadhenu as a "popular and enduring image in Indian art." All the gods are believed to reside in the body of Kamadhenu—the generic cow. Her four legs are the scriptural Vedas; her horns are the triune gods Brahma (tip), Vishnu (middle) and Shiva (base); her eyes are the sun and moon gods, her shoulders the fire-god Agni and the wind-god Vayu and her legs the Himalayas. Kamadhenu is often depicted in this form in poster art.
Another representation of Kamadhenu shows her with the body of a white Zebu cow, crowned woman's head, colourful eagle wings and a peacock's tail. According to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, this form is influenced by the iconography of the Islamic Buraq, who is portrayed with a horse's body, wings, and a woman's face. Contemporary poster art also portrays Kamadhenu in this form.
A cow, identified with Kamadhenu, is often depicted accompanying the god Dattatreya. In relation to the deity's iconography, she denotes the Brahminical aspect and Vaishnava connection of the deity contrasting with the dogs in his company—symbolizing a non-Brahminical aspect as well as the Panch Bhuta—the five elements. Dattatreya is sometimes depicted holding the divine cow in one of his hands.
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