Gopashtami is an important festival not only for the devotees of Lord Krishna, but for all Hindus. Gopa means cowherd or cow and ashtami is the day when it is celebrated.
Gopashtami is celebrated on the ashtami of the Kartick shukla paksha as per the traditional Hindu calendar.
According to Gregorian calendar, it is celebrated on the waxing phase of the moon in the month of November.
- Legend behind Gopashtami
It is believed that on this auspicious day, Lord Krishna had gained the status of a full cowherd from the care taker of cows. Previously his father Nanda had not allowed him to look after the cows by himself and he was known as a Batsapal’, which meant one who takes care of the calves. This was the day when his father deemed him fir to take care of cows, and thus he became a Gopala or a Cowherd.
According to Hindu Mythology, Krishna also saved the entire Braj region from the wrath of Lord Indra. Previously the people of Braj used to worship Lord Indra, however Lord Krishna told them to only worship nature and the cows which protected them and were their source of sustenance. Lord Indra was terribly angry and sent thunderous clouds and heavy rain to the Braj region. Everything was flooded, when Krishna held up the Gowardhan Mountain on his little finger and everything took shelter underneath. Thus Lord Krishna had saved everyone from the wrath of Lord Indra. It is on this Ashtami day, that Lord Indra came to accept defeat and beg forgiveness form Lord Indra. Gopashtami is the eighth day or the ashtami.
According to some people this is also the day when the Divine Mother Surabhi rained milk on Lord Krishna and gave him the title of Govinda, meaning, ‘The Lord Of the Cows”.
- Celebration of Gopashtami
Because Lord Krishna was fond of cows, the traditional way of celebrating the Gopashtami is by decorating, bathing, taking care of the cows and worshipping them. The rituals followed are somewhat similar to the rituals followed for Go Vatsa Dwadashi in Maharshtra. The rituals are as follows –
- Clean, bathe and decorate the cows in the morning
- Worship the calves along with the cows
- Offer the cows Jaggery (gudd), rice and water
- Decorate the cows and calves with flowers, ornaments and putting on Tilak on them
- Take a parikrama around the cows
- Take the dust of the cow’s feet, or Gaudhuli on your forehead. It is said to bring great prosperity and happiness.
- When in the evening the cows return after grazing for the whole day, the cows and the calves should be worshipped once again. An aarti should be done of the cows and the calves.
- If there is any difficulty in worshipping cows, then money or food can be donated to the cattle farms.
- Significance of Gopashtami
Gopashtami is extremely meritorious as per the Hindu rituals and traditions. Gopashtami is celebrated by Hindus with a lot of devotion and fanfare. Cows are owners of divine qualities and those are remembered and pledge is taken to protect them. This festival is mostly celebrated in the Braj, Mathura, Vrindavan and Nathdwara areas and temples in and around it. In Nathdwara, hundreds of beautifully decorated cows are brought to the temples by the cow herders. Important seminars of cow preservation are held on this day.