On this day lord Sri Krishna became a qualified cowherd. Before this day, he was a keeper of the calves.
The Killing of Dhenukasura
“Thus Sri Krishna, along with His elder brother Balarama, passed the childhood age known as kaumara and stepped into the age of pauganda, from the sixth year up to the tenth. At that time, all the cowherd men conferred and agreed to give those boys who had passed their fifth year charge of the cows in the pasturing ground. Given charge of the cows, Krishna and Balarama traversed Vrindavana, purifying the land with Their lotus footprints.”
nyavisad vayuna vatam
“Sukadeva Gosvami said: ‘Thus the Vrndavana forest was filled with transparent autumnal waters and cooled by breezes perfumed with the fragrance of lotus flowers growing in the clear lakes. The infallible Lord, accompanied by His cows and cowherd boyfriends, entered that Vrindavana forest.’”
The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Shri Krishna, also celebrated as Govinda, the one who gives pleasure to the cows, and Gopal, the one who takes care of the cows, ever engages Himself in herding, milking and taking care of the Surabhi cows in the most magnificent holy land of Vrindavan, filled with lush green grass, tender and delicious, which is relished by the cows, at the banks of the river Yamuna, the crystal clear and fragrant waters of whose currents are sweeter than nectar and are enjoyed by the cows of Vrajendranandan Shyamsundar. Although the pastime of herding the cows is eternally going on in the nitya lila in Golok Vrindavan where there is no past and future, rather only the present in which the Lord relishes transcendental loving pastimes with all his associates; but in this material world the Lord performs occasional pastimes called naimittika lila such taking birth and killing the demons. One such naimittika lila that he performed in his pastimes in Bhauma Vrindavan was on the ashtami tithi in the month Kartik, when the Lord took the calfs for the first time for grazing at a very young age, and on the same day after a few years he took out the cows for grazing. Therefore this festival is celebrated as Gopashtami. It was on this day that the Lord went out for the very first time with his cowherd boyfriends and taking his innumerous cows he entered the beautiful forests of Vraja filled with fragrant fruits and flowers and honey dripping from beehives. Thereafter everyday when he would go to graze the cows, he would enjoy many joyous sports like wrestling, tug of war, football with bael fruits, hide and seek, and many other games, with his friends. While grazing the cows he would go to the various forests in Vraja and bestow upon all the forest plants and animals the nectar of his beautiful smile, seeing which all the inhabitants of the forest would offer all that they had with their hearts full of love. Along with performing pastimes with his friends in the forest, Gopinath would also everday at the time of madhyan lila, hidingly dissappeare from the midst of the gopas, who at that time take rest after their lunches, and goes and meets the gopis at Radhakund, where he enjoys various amorous pastimes with Shrimati Radhika and the other gopis in the beautiful fragrant kunjas surrounding Radhakund.
Another glorious pastime took place on this auspicious day, which is relished by the devotees who have taken shelter of the lotus feet of Shrimati Radhika and take her to be their life and soul and their Swamini; as this lila shows the intense longing that Shyam feels when he is separated from Govinda-anandini Radha. Once when Shrimati Radhika was restricted to leave her house by her mother-in-law Jatila and was unable to go meet Govinda, Shri Hari felt intense separation from Shrimati and was weeping calling out her names in utter distress. Seeing the sorrowful situation of Shyam, His intimate friend Subal, who also assists in the pastimes of the divine couple, reassured him of figuring out a way to bring Radhika to him. Saying this he went to Shri Radha’s house where he confronted Jatila, and when Jatila asked for the purpose of his coming there, he said that a calf from his herd had entered in their house and that he had come to look for that calf, hearing which Jatila told him to find the calf and leave as soon as possible. Saying this he entered the area surrounding the house and with the help and direction of the gopis he entered the room of Shrimati Radhika through the window, where he explained the pitiful condition Krishna was in, in separation from her. Hearing Subal, Shrimati Radhika felt great distress and was eager to dissipate the separation that Shyam was feeling by immediately going to him. However, she felt extremely anguished at not being able to do so due to her mother-in-laws severe restrictions. Upon seeing this Subal suggested that they should change their dresses so that she could escape in place of him and he would stay in her room, so that Jatila would not get suspicious. All the gopis consented to the idea as Subal and Shrimati Radhika were similar in complexion and look, and therefore they immediately started dressing Shrimati Radhika in Subal’s clothes and Subal was given the dress of Shrimati Radhika. She then immediately left the room and took a calf in her arms as the calf that Subal had been looking for and to hide her breasts so that Jatila would not be suspicious. Thereafter she went to the kunja where Shri Krishna was weeping in lamentation due to feeling extreme separation from her. Seeing the condition of Krishna Shrimati Radhika felt very sad, however to increase the rasa of meeting, she came before Krishna in her disguise as Subal, speaking in the voice of Subal and with a sorrowful expression, she said that she had been unable to bring Shrimati Radhika. Hearing this statement Shri Krishna, who had become hopeful of meeting Shri Radha upon seeing Subal, became even more distressed knowing that his friend had been unable to bring his Priyatama to him. Seeing this Shrimati Radhika smiled with her beautiful lips, red as the bimba fruits and displaying a row of shining white teeth which appeared like a row of precious pearls, and she embraced Shri Krishna with her graceful lotus stem like arms. Being embraced by Her Shri Krishna felt immense pleasure and satisfaction in his heart and realizing that it was Shrimati Radhika herself in the form of Subal, he was immersed in the ocean of joy of being able to meet his most beloved Govinda-mohini. In this way, the divine couple met on this auspicious day by Radhika disguising as Subal in order to escape the strict constraints of her mother-in-law.
In remembrance of this beautiful pastime, Shrimati Radhika, on this day, in Krishna Balaram Mandir, is dressed as Subal, doning a dhoti, kurta and turban, appearing extremely beautiful. On this day also many devotees go and feed the cows in the goshala. This auspicious day is therefore truly relished by all the devotees and we pray that some day we will be blessed with the good fortune to personally witness all these beautiful pastimes.
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