India has declared February 14 “Cow Hug Day” and asked Indians to embrace the bovines to celebrate love as the world marks Valentine’s Day.
Many among India’s majority Hindu population consider cows sacred and since coming to power Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Modi's government has pushed policies to elevate the status of the animal.
The Animal Welfare Board of India said it had decided to declare February 14 — celebrated the world over as Valentine’s Day — as Cow Hug Day after consulting the federal animal husbandry ministry.
The board asked citizens to celebrate cattle as part of the natural world that provides “riches to humanity”, a statement released earlier this week said.
"In view of the immense benefit of the cow, hugging with cow will bring emotional richness hence will increase our individual and collective happiness,” it said.
As cows form a “backbone” of India's culture and rural economy, people should be encouraged to hug the animal, it added.
The board claimed that the "dazzle of western civilisation has made our physical culture and heritage almost forgotten" but did not explicitly mention Valentine’s Day.
"Vedic traditions are almost on the verge of extinction due to the progress of west culture over time," it said.
Some members of right-wing Hindu groups, including Mr Modi’s ruling Bharitya Janata Party, have previously denounced young couples for celebrating Valentine's Day and claimed such events were corrupting Indian culture.
Extremist groups in India have been known to attack couples in parks and restaurants, even forcing some to marry on the spot in an attempt to dissuade others from celebrating the global event.
They often burn effigies of Saint Valentine.