By Madhava Smullen
A devotee-owned company, Ra Vino Industries, based in Mumbai has created a line of personal and home care products with Ayurvedic properties, using the panchagavyas – milk, ghee, curd, dung and urine – of indigenous cows.
Ra Vino was started as a regular personal care business by director Urukrama Gopal Das in 2008, named after his home Deities of Sri Sri Radha Vinodji.
A special line of products made with panchagavya, named Cowpathy, was introduced in 2012 on the request of Govinda Das, a brahmachari at ISKCON’s Sri Sri Radha Gopinath temple in Chowpatty.
“It began when Govinda Prabhu asked me to to make cowdung soaps that can foam, unlike the soaps devotees were making at Govardhan Eco Village using mud, dung and soap berries, which would get disintegrated while bathing,” says Urukrama Gopal. “The first soaps were sold at the Temple Gift Shop. Devotees loved them and began asking for other products. In 2014 we launched the entire range of cow products at Ghatkopar Rathyatra, and we continue adding a few new products every year.”
While cow dung and urine may seem unusual ingredients for personal care products to a Western audience, they are purifying and medicinal according to the Vedas, and Ayurveda in particular. What’s more, cows’ close association with Lord Krishna makes them sacred.
Urukrama Gopal quotes Ayurvedic scripture: “Yatvagasthi gatam papam dehe tishthti mamke / prasnat panchgavyasya dahasagnirivendhnam,” and translates, “From skin to bones, whatever diseases are in one’s body are destroyed by panchagavya, just as fire destroys fuel.”
He explains that Ayurveda describes cowdung as germicidal, nourishing, giving brightness to the body, deodorizing, moisturizing, intelligence-boosting, and supremely pure and holy.
Meanwhile cow urine, it is said, is antiseptic, balances bile, mucous and airs, removes heart diseases and poisonous effects, and enhances longevity. It has many medicinal properties, vitamins, enzymes and bio active substances. According to Urukurama Gopal, it is also now a part of cancer research medicines in some institutions.
“A2 type milk, obtained from indigenous cows and convertible to curd and ghee, is the second healthiest nourishing ingredient after mother’s milk,” Urukrama goes on. “Collectively the five vital derivatives from the cow, or panchagavya – dung, urine, milk, curd and ghee — are a super formula known in Ayurveda to cure and prevent many diseases when taken internally or applied topically.”
Cowpathy’s unique selling point is retaining the medicinal properties of the cow “gavyas” while using herbs and essential oils to mask the natural aroma, thus making them more appealing to the modern audience. The products are also free of harmful chemicals, dermatologically safe, and of course cruelty-free. Cowpathy purchases the Gavyas from cow shelter homes and individuals – often devotees – who are genuinely engaged in serving cows, thus supporting cow protection in the process.
With an office near Chowpatty’s Sri Sri Radha Gopinath temple and a factory in Mumbai, Cowpathy selects desi (indigenous) cows according to predefined standards. Dung from them is collected, dried and pulverized, after which it is heat-treated to control bacterial growth. Urine and other gavyas go through similar quality control processes. Products are made according to FDA guidelines, and are tested in a lab. They are also all offered to the Lord before being sold.
One of Cowpathy’s signature products is Panchatattva soap, containing milk, ghee, curd, cow dung and urine, visible in five different layers. The soap purports to have antibacterial and detoxifying properties, and to heal all skin ailments as well as moisturizing and adding lustre to one’s complexion.
Cowpathy also makes under-eye gel, with extracts of quinoa, white water lily and distilled cow urine, which removes dark circle under the eyes in twenty-eight days. Then there’s talcum powder, hand sanitizer, shampoo, hair oil, and even shaving cream made from panchagavya.
Products are sold online at cowpathycare.com and Amazon.in, as well as wholesale and to organic stores and retailers in India. Customers include ISKCON devotees as well as regular distributors and Ayurvedic doctors all over the world.
Urukrama Gopal Das says all have experienced the incredible effects of panchagavya products, proving the scriptures’ description of their benefits.
“Two devotees, Radha Vallabh Prabhu and Lalita Priya Mataji, told us of the immediate benefits of our under-eye gel,” he recounts. “Mataji had been hit by a fan on her eye, and the gel helped her remove blackening around her eye very fast. It was the same with Prabhuji, who had years old dark circles, which were erased by the gel.
“We’ve also had testimonies of people getting cured of eczema, heat rash, fungal infections in joints, bad breath, swollen gums, stiff joints, and hair loss.”