Vrindavan, 2017.10.28 (VT): Today is the festival of Gopashtami.
In Vrindavan, Gopashtami is known as the day the Child Krishna graduated from tending calves to herding grown-up cows. On this day, Shri Radharaman Lal is dressed in full cow-herding costume, complete with a buffalo-horn bugle, a jauntily-tied dhoti, and a cow-herding rope stylishly twisted around his crown. The following song by Shri Gunamanjari Das Goswami of the Shri Radharaman Temple describes his beauty:
श्रीराधारमण किये नटवर भेख ।
आज गोपाष्टमी आली शोभा बड़ी विशेख ॥
जूरो मुरली लकुट काछनी कछि सिंगार कू देख ।
गुणमञ्जरी निर्योग पास श्रृंगार चित में लेख ॥
śrī-rādhāramaṇa kiye naṭavara bhekh
āj gopāṣṭamī ālī śobhā baḍī viśekh
jūro muralī lakuṭa kāc̣anī kac̣i siṅgāra kū dekh
guṇamañjarī niryoga pāsa śhṛṅgāra ćhita mẽ lekh
Looking incomparably splendid on Gopashtami, Shri Radharaman wears an exquisite cowherd dress. O sakhi, just admire His unique style of dhoti and his special crown. The way He holds His flute and cow-herding stick is so charming. This vision of Him with that charming lasso draped over his crown is etched upon Gunmanjari’s heart! (English translation from the book Shri Radharaman Gita)
Radharani in “Subal Vesh” at the Radha-Govinda temple in Radhakund (P.C. Stephen Knapp)
In many other temples, Shri Radharani is dressed in the guise of Subal, one of Shri Krishna’s cowherd companions, on this day. The lila behind this special shringar is that once Radha’s in-laws locked her in the house, and she was unable to meet Krishna. Krishna then devised a plan to help her escape. He sent his friend Subal, who looks very much like Radha, to her house where they exchanged clothes. Subal then spent the rest of the day disguised as Radha, while in the guise of Subal, Radha played with Krishna all day in the pasturelands of Vrindavan.
Shri Krishna loves cows so much that he refuses to wear shoes, since his cows do not wear any. Naturally, worshipping Shri Krishna’s beloved cows is a major part of the Gopashtami celebration. The worship is performed in the morning of Gopashtami day, as well as during go-dhuli (twilight). Some traditional ways of worshipping the cows include bathing them, decorating them with flowers, dressing them in ornaments and new cloth, and offering aarti to them. Devotees also hand-feed the cows sweets, especially jaggery (gur). Those who are able to may take the cows for a walk and play with them on this day.
Today the temples and streets of Vrindavan were packed with devotees from all over India and the world, eager to enjoy the special darshan of Shri Radha and Krishna. The crowding is expected to continue for the rest of Kartik month.