On the eighth day of the bright fortnight (shuklashtami) of Kartik, Lord Vasudeva took up cowherding. Previously, since He was still young, He and His fellow cowherd friends took care of calves. This day, which marks the day Lord Krsna began His pauganda pastimes (when he was between 6-10 years of age) is celebrated worldwide. Srimati Radharani joins Lord Krsna in this pastime, but Herself dressing as a cowherd boy (Her brother Subala was Krsna’s close associate, and there was certainly a resemblance between Subala and Radharani). Seeing Srimati Radharani dressed as a cowherd boy, Her gopis joined in, making for an unusual celebration.
On this day cows are worshipped. To worship a cow, the scriptures say that one pets it on the head, and under it’s neck. Then one offers it some grass to eat. Simple! Yet, this gracious act is so pleasing to Lord Krsna, Who is the protector of cows, and personally appeared and cared for them. In the Gita dhyana, there is a verse which states that all the upanishads became cows, and Lord Krsna, the son of a cowherder, milked them. Arjuna became the calf, and the entire universe benefitted from the milk he drank…
The following are pictures of the Gopashtami celebrations this year at the ISKCON temple in Tirupati. This temple was recently consecrated by my spiritual master Srila Jayapataka Swami. The deities are Sri Sri Radha Govinda, surrounded by the ashtasakhis, or the eight closest friends of Srimati Radharani. This day is special, because when Srimati Radharani appears in gopa-vesha, Her lotus feet are visible to the devotees. One who sees Her lotus feet is assured of attaining pure love for Lord Krsna very soon (the only other occassion this occurs is on Sri Radhashtami – Srimati Radharani’s birthday). This festival has been celebrated for years at ISKCON Mayapur, and below are pictures of the beautiful presiding deities Sri Sri Radha Madhava, with the Ashtasakhis…
Sri Sri Radha Govinda, ISKCON Tirupati
The Ashtasakis on either side of Sri Sri Radha Govinda
Sri Sri Radha Madhava, ISKCON Mayapur
The Ashtasakhis on either side of Sri Sri Radha Madhava
Note: Pictures courtesy of my dear friend Sumati dasi ACBSP.