In 21st century India, there is a village in Jharkhand that does not milk its cows. Superstitious, people of Chaura village – a nondescript hamlet in Seraikela-Kharsawan district – have been buying milk from neighbouring villages despite each family having at least two cows.
"We have not milked our cows for at least 150 years," says Kunaram Hansda, 70. "My father used to say a priest had warned the villagers not to milk the cows," he said, adding, "Those who dare to defy the diktat suffer physically and mentally."
Local lore has it that some ancestors had killed two black cats for sneaking up to their kitchens and emptying the milk pots. Days later, several villagers fell sick as 'the cats' spirits' lay a curse on the village. Thereafter, goes the story, anyone consuming the milk of their cows would fall ill.
Another villager Mukesh Hansda said, "When some villagers tried to milk their cows the milk turned red." But this is only the stuff of a legend for Mukesh has never seen it happen, as none among his generation, he claims, has tried to test the story on its merit.
Science, however, may have an answer to this phenomenon. Dr Manoj Tiwary, veterinary physician and junior research officer at the Institute of Animal Health and Production (IAHP), Ranchi, said, "These cows might be suffering from Mastitis disease due to which blood sometimes mixes with the milk giving it a reddish colour. It's a bacterial disease and prone to be contagious. But, it would be clear only after a proper examination of the cows."
Till then the 150-odd families of Chaura keep the business going for milkmen in nearby villages.