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IVRI study, 2023
Bareilly : Fresh cow urine may contain potentially harmful bacteria and is not suitable for direct human consumption, research carried out by Bareilly-based ICAR-Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI), the country’s premier animal research body, has revealed. Urine of buffalo was more effective on certain bacteria though, the research added.
The study led by Bhoj Raj Singh of the institute along with three PhD students, found that urine samples from healthy cows and bulls contained at least 14 types of harmful bacteria with the presence of Escherichia coli, which can cause stomach infections, most commonlydetected. The findings of the peer-reviewed research have been published in online research website, Researchgate. Singh heads the department of epidemiology at the research institute.
Can’t generalise that cow urine is an antibacterial: IVRI
Statistical analysis of 73 urine samples of cow, buffaloes and humans suggest that antibacterial activity in buffalo urine was far more superior than cows. Urine of buffalo was significantly more effective on bacteria like S Epidermidis and E Rhapontici,” the research said.
He added: “We collected urine samples of three types of cows — Sahiwal, Tharparkar and Vindavani (cross breed) from local dairy farms — along with samples of buffaloes and humans. Our study, carried out between June and November 2022, concluded that a sizeable proportion of urine samples from apparently healthy individuals carry potentially pathogenic bacteria. The urine of some individuals, irrespective of sex and breeder species, might be inhibitory to a select group of bacteria but the common belief, that cow urine is antibacterial, can’t be generalised. In no case can urine be recommended for human consumption.”
He added that “some people put forth the contention that distilled urine doesn’t have infectious bacteria.” Notably, cow urine is widely sold in the Indian market without the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) trademark by manysuppliers.
Meanwhile, former director of IVRI, RS Chauhan, told TOI:“I have been researching cow urine for 25 years and we have found that distilled cowurine improves immunity of humans and helps against cancer and Covid...”
The colour Indian Yellow in art
The colour known in the West as Indian Yellow was used by European painters in the 18th and 19th centuries. Indian Yellow, popular for its luminosity, was made using cow urine.
Painted on a summer night of 1889 by Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night is one of the most recognised paintings in the world, depicting the dreamy star-filled night sky that appeared before van Gogh from the window of his asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence
While the original painting is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Delhi’s art aficionados have been treated to the Dutch post impressionist’s work in the ongoing exhibition titled “Van Gogh 360°”. Art lovers can now literally step into a magnified version of van Gogh’s work, with large projectors creating an immersive and intimate experience.
Interestingly, the yellow that Van Gogh used to paint the radiant moon in The Starry Night had travelled all the way from India. Named Indian Yellow, the shade was popular across Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, and The Starry Night is considered to be among the last masterpieces to have used it, before its production was outlawed in India.
We look at its history, origin and popularity.
Produced using cow urine
Known for its radiant and deep orange-yellow hue, it is believed that though artists in the West had been using Indian Yellow for centuries, they were unaware of its ingredients.
Its popularity, though, is evident from the fact that it found a mention in several notable publications. French writer-painter JFL Mérimée wrote in The Art of Painting in Oil and in Fresco (1839) that “the colouring matter is extracted from a tree, or a large shrub called Memecylon tinctorium … (which had) a smell like cows’ urine”, describing the colour as “a brilliant yellow lake”.
However, it was years later that British botanist Sir Joseph Hooker attempted to discover the details of the ingredients that made Indian Yellow. He reportedly wrote a letter to the Indian Department of Revenue and Agriculture find out. Hooker’s letter was responed to by TN Mukharji, author-curator and public servant.
Mukherji wrote that he had travelled to Mirzapur, Bengal, and observed that the colour came from the urine of cows that were given a special diet of mango leaves and water, occasionally mixed with turmeric, to get a bright yellow urine. The urine would be collected in earthen pots and placed over fire nightlong to attain a more condensed liquid, which was then strained and hand-pressed into sediment balls that were further dried in the heat. The piuris reached Europe through merchants sailing from Kolkata.
A report published on Sciencedirect.com in 2019 confirmed Mukharji’s analyses. Researchers wrote: “All the materials were shown to contain variable ratios of reported components of Indian yellow (euxanthic acid, euxanthone, and a sulfo-derivative of euxanthone), and some presented hippuric acid, a ruminant metabolite found in urine.”
Use in India and the West
The colour was widely used in India since the 15th century and is seen in traditional Mithila paintings of Bihar as well as Pahari and Mughal miniatures in the 16th to 19th centuries. According to reports, a yellow pigment called gorocana, also believed to have been made from cow’s urine, was also used for several rituals in India and also applied as tilak.
In the West, several artists took a liking for the colour that was supplied in the form of “chalky spheres” in Europe and had to be merely mixed with a binding agent to create paint. Its use was prominent as early as the 1700s, when artists such as Sir Joshua Reynolds used it in works such as The Age of Innocence (1788). The colour was also extensively used by JMW Turner in his oil and watercolours, and works such as The Angel Standing in the Sun (1846). The light emanating from the lanterns in John Singer Sargent’s Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose (1885-86), was also painted using Indian Yellow.
Dutch painters like Jan Vermeer and van Gogh specifically admired it for its luminosity – something that can be seen in its use in The Starry Night.
Banning the colour
Though there is no concrete written evidence to suggest specific reasons, animal cruelty during the process of procuring the colour eventually led to a ban on its production in the early 1900s. The dehydrated cows “looked very unhealthy”, Mukharji had noted in his communication with Hooker.
In addition, scientists have pointed out that mango leaves are known to contain the toxin urushiol, which would also take a toll on the bovine animal’s health.
Indian miniature painting
The ingredients of Indian yellow: It was prepared from the urine of cows fed only mango leaves and made in villages like Mirzapur, the yellow pigment was refined by heating the liquid and pressing it into round balls.
Cow urine was also used by artists in Kangra (Rajol) and Basohli.
ZAHRA'S BLOG + BROWN LADY ART COLLECTIVE/ Art, Design and Cultural Heritage adds: Indian Yellow is a vivid orange-yellow pigment that originates from India in the 15th century and was mostly used there during the Mughal period. It was introduced to European artists shortly thereafter, where it was used until it became commercially unavailable in the early 20th century. This pigment was a popular choice among frescoists, oil painters, and watercolorists, although it was said to have an unpleasant odour.
This odor may stem from the alleged original source of the pigment— cow urine. ... the cattle responsible for Indian Yellow were only fed water and mango leaves, ingredients that supposedly made their urine (and thereby the pigment) especially luminescent.