May Krishna’s cows, whose beauty puts small white mountains to shame, who have lovely dark hooves that shimmer like sapphires, and whose horns are painted golden, protect us.
I worship the cows, who are the daughters of Surabhī, who always engage Sri Krishna, His brother Balram and His friends like Sridama, in a festival of herding and milking them. They are beautifully decorated by the dust thrown up by their own hooves and they lovingly sport in the deep forests, on the mountains and on the banks of the rivers in Vraj.
indranīla khura rājitāḥ paraṁ
svarṇa baddha vara śṛṅga raïjitāḥ
pāṇḍu-gaṇḍa giri garva kharvikāḥ
pāntu naḥ sapadi kṛṣṇa-dhenavaḥ
yāsāṁ pālana-dohanotsava-rataḥ sārddhaṁ vayasyotkaraiḥ
kāmaṁ rāma virājitaḥ prati dinaṁ tat pāda reṇūjjvalam
prītyā sphīta vanoru parvata nadī kaccheñu baddha spṛho
goṣṭhākhaṇḍala nandano viharate tāḥ saurabheyīr bhaje
Stavāmṛta Kaṇā Vyākhyā: In these two verses, Sri Raghunath Das Goswami praises the cows who accompany Sri Krishna in his pastimes. Who can describe the fortune of these cows, whom the the Supreme Person – the attainment of the dust of whose lotus feet is ascertained by all the Vedic scriptures as the highest goal of all spiritual practises – herds while wandering from forest to forest, playing his flute while leaning against their bodies, lovingly caressing and massaging their bodies, his body becoming most lovely when it is greyed by the dust thrown up by their hooves?
If Gopāla does not go out into the woods the cows will also not go, and when the other cowherd boys begin to serve them, the cows will loudly bellow and simply return to the gośālās (cowpens).
When Sri Krishna sets out for the woods, mother Yashoda weeps with a heart agitated by fear of separation from him – ore mora jīvana dulāliyā! kibā ghare nāhi dhana, keno vā yāibe bana; rākhāle rākhibe dhenu loiyā (Pada Kalpataru)
“Oh child of my heart! Don’t we have any wealth at home? Why are You going into the woods? Let the cowherdboys take the cows out and herd them!”
Krishna then says: “Oh mother! If I don’t go out, your wealth of cows will also not go out into the woods!” Mother Yaśomatī has no answer to that, so she must grant her son, who is dearer to her than life, leave for tending the cows.
Being subdued by the sweetness of his cows’ love, Gokula-maṇi goes into the woods to herd them. surabhīr abhipālayantam (Brahma Saṁhitā) Sri Jiva Goswami comments on this verse: abhi-sarvatobhāvena vana-nayana cāraṇa gosthānānayana sambhālana prakāreṇa ‘pālayantam’ sasnehaṁ rakṣantam “He herds the cows in Sri Vrindavan in all respects, which means that he brings them into the forest, herds them there, collects them and brings them back to their barns. In this way he maintains them”
The Brahma Saṁhitā also says: sa yatra kṣīrābdhiḥ śravati surabhībhyaś ca sumahān “The cows inundate Sri Vrindavan with the streams of milk that automatically trickle from their udders.”
In his commentary on this line Sri Jīva has written: surabhībhyaś ca sravatīti tadīya vaṁśī-dhvanyādyāveśād iti bhāvaḥ “The cows issue such streams of milk as a loving reaction to hearing Krishna’s flutesong.”
Sri Śuka Muni has also described how ecstatic the cows were upon hearing Sri Krishna’s flutesong: gāvaś ca kṛṣṇa-mukha nirgata veṇu gīta pīyūṣam uttabhita karṇa puṭaiḥ pibantyaḥ (Bhāga. 10.21.13) “With the cups of their pricked-up ears, the cows relish the song that emanates from Krishna’s flute.”
When Sri Krishna plays in the meadows with his pals and the cows freely wander through the extensive meadows of Vrindavan, getting more and more distant from Krishna as they graze, Krishna collects them all by playing his flute.
āju bone ānanda bādhāi!
pātiyā vinoda khelā, rākhāla hoilā bholā,
dūra bone gelo sab gāi
“Today the bliss in the forest increases! As the cowherdboys get carried away by their blissful games, the cows go far into the forest!”
dhenu nā dekhiyā bone, sthakita rākhāla-gaṇe,
śrīdāma sudāma ādi sabe
kānāi kohiche bhāi, khelā bhāṅgā yābe nāi,
ānibo godhana veṇu rave
“The cowherd boys, like Śrīdāma and Sudāma, become stunned when they do not see the cows in the woods anymore, but Kānāi (Krishna) says: “O brothers! Don’t interrupt the game! I will get our dear cows back by playing my flute!”
sab dhenu nāma koiyā, adhare muralī loiyā,
ḍākiyā pūrilo ucca svare
śuniyā veṇura rava, dhāya dhenu vatsa sab,
puccha pheli’ piṭhera upare
“Placing his Muralī-flute to his lips, Krishna loudly called each cow by name. Hearing the sound of the flute the cows and calves came running with their tails going up on their backs.”
dhenu sab sāri sāri, hāmbā hāmbā raba kori,
dāḍāilo kṛṣṇera nikaṭe
dugdha sravi’ paḍe bāṅṭe, premera taraṅga uṭhe,
snehe gābhī śyāma aṅga cāṭe
“In line, the cows then came to Krishna’s side, mooing and bellowing. Waves of love arose from the streams of milk that trickled from their udders. Affectionately Śyāma scratched their bodies.”
dekhi’ sab sakhāgaṇa, ābā ābā ghane ghana,
kānura korilo āliṅgana
prema dāsa kohe vāṇī, kānāira muralī śuni,
paśu pākhī pāilo cetana
“Seeing this all the cowherd boys tightly embrace Krishna. Prema dāsa says: ‘Hearing the song of Krishna’s Muralī-flute all the animals and birds become conscious.'”
ananta kāma-dhenu yāhā cara vane vane
“Innumerable desire-cows wander there from forest to forest.”
These are all wishyielding cows, not ordinary cows. Thus Raghunath Das Goswami describes their beauty – “Their hooves are blue like sapphires, their horns are studded with gold and they defeat the beauty of small white mountains with both their complexions and their shapes. May these cows of Sri Krishna swiftly protect me, in other words: may they protect me from fear of material existence by granting me prema.”
Śrīpāda speaks these words in sādhakāveśa (when his consciousness is absorbed in his external form as a practitioner of bhakti).
The cows of Vraja have feelings of motherly love for Sri Krishna just as Vraja’s elderly gopīs do. They thus bless the world by bestowing prema.
When Brahmā stole Krishna’s cows, calves and cowherd boy friends during the Brahma Mohana līlā and Krishna re-entered the cowherd-abode assuming the forms of all these cows, calves and cowherd boys, the cows showed love for their calves as they previously showed for Krishna, just as the elderly gopīs now showed love for their sons as they previously did for Krishna.
gāvas tato goṣṭham upetya satvaraṁ
huṅkāra ghoṣaiḥ parihūta saṅgatān
svakān svakān vatsatarān apāyanan muhur
lihantyaḥ sravadaudhasaṁ paya
“When the cows returned to the gośālā in the evening they suckled their calves with the overflowing milk of their udders, licking them again and again when they approached them on being called with their soft, but deep mooing.”
In Śrīmad Bhāgavata it is also described that the cows were just as upset as the Vrajavasis when they witnessed Krishna’s bold pastime of entering into the poisoned lake of the Yamuna to subdue the Kaliya-snake:
gāvo vṛṣā vatsataryaḥ krandamānāḥ suduḥkitāḥ
kṛṣṇe nyastekṣaṇā bhītā rudatya iva tasthire
“The cows, bulls and calves that were present at the Kaliya-lake lowed loudly in great misery and shed tears while fixing their gaze on Krishna in great fear.”
In times of danger and distress the cows also took shelter of Sri Krishna, just like the Vrajavasis:
tam āpatantaṁ parito dāvāgniṁ
gopāś ca gāvaḥ prasamīkṣya bhītāḥ
ūcuś ca kṛṣṇaṁ sabalaṁ prapannā
yathā hariṁ mṛtyu-bhayārditā janāḥ
“When the cows and cowherds saw the forest fire quickly closing up on them from all directions they became very much afraid and took shelter of Krishna and Balarāma, just as living beings that are afraid of death take shelter of Lord Hari.”
In this way we can learn about the love for Krishna of Vraja’s cows in so many different situations. That is why the Lord, who is subdued by love, remains engaged in herding them, takes part in the festival of milking them and lovingly wanders with them through the woods, over the mountains and on the banks of the rivers along with Baladeva and his friends, while his body is decorated by the dust thrown up by their hooves.
Raghunath Das Goswami says: “I worship these cows, that are protected by Sri Krishna!”
indranīlamaṇi tulya khura kṛṣṇa-varṇa;
rañjita śṛṅga yādera jaḍita suvarṇa
śubhra varṇa deha yādera atīva ujjvala;
gaṇḍa-giri garva jini kore jhalamala
śrī kṛṣṇera sei sab priya dhenugaṇa;
e prārthanā rakṣā korun more sarva kṣaṇa
“I pray that Sri Krishna’s dear cows, whose hooves are dark like sapphires, whose horns are coloured golden and whose bodies defeat the pride of white mountains in great splendour, may always protect me.”
vrajendra-nandana nitya baladeva saṅge;
śrīdāmādi vayasyagaṇa saṅge atiraṅge
pālana dohana kore yāhādera nitya;
ei to utsava mane śrī kṛṣṇera kṛtya
yādera pada-reṇute ujjvala kalevare;
vana parvate vihare prīti sahakāre
surabhi-nandinī sei yoto dhenugaṇa;
nitya nava bhāve bhaji ei mora mana
“In ever-fresh ways I always worship the cows, who are the daughters of Surabhi, who are always blissfully herded and milked by Vrajendranandana, Balarāma, and Their friends headed by Subala.
“All these blissful activities of Sri Krishna are like festivals! Krishna’s body is brightened by their foot-dust as he lovingly sports with them in the woods and on the mountains!”
It was published in Gaurābda 503 (1989 A.D.) by Sri Krishna Chaitanya Shastra Mandir, Vrajananda Ghera, PO Radhakunda (district Mathura), U.P., India.
The devotional songs in Bengali that follow each commentary were composed by Dr. Haripada Sheel.