BY: SUN STAFF - 12.11 2021

Krsna, Balaram and the Gopas

The glories of Gopastami are observed on November 11th.

The celebration of Gopastami during Kartikka marks the day when Sri Krsna and Balarama are honored by Nanda Maharaja, who advanced their duties of caring for the calves to now giving them the charge of caring for the cows. Advancing to the role of transcendental Gopa marks Krsna's boyhood transition from His kumara period, from birth to age five, to His pauganda period, from six to ten years old.

Sri Krsna and Balarama's promotion to caring for the cows is described in Srimad Bhagavatam 10.15.1:

śrī-śuka uvāca
tataś ca paugaṇḍa-vayaḥ-śrītau vraje
babhūvatus tau paśu-pāla-sammatau
gāś cārayantau sakhibhiḥ samaṁ padair
vṛndāvanaṁ puṇyam atīva cakratuḥ

"Śukadeva Gosvāmī said: When Lord Rāma and Lord Kṛṣṇa attained the age of paugaṇḍa [six to ten] while living in Vṛndāvana, the cowherd men allowed Them to take up the task of tending the cows. Engaging thus in the company of Their friends, the two boys rendered the land of Vṛndāvana most auspicious by imprinting upon it the marks of Their lotus feet.


Lord Kṛṣṇa wanted to encourage His cowherd boyfriends, who had been swallowed by Aghāsura and then stolen by Lord Brahmā. Therefore the Lord decided to bring them into the palm-tree forest called Tālavana, where there were many delicious ripe fruits. Since Lord Kṛṣṇa's spiritual body had apparently grown slightly in age and strength, the senior men of Vṛndāvana, headed by Nanda Mahārāja, decided to promote Kṛṣṇa from the task of herding calves to the status of a regular cowherd boy. He would now take care of the full-grown cows, bulls and oxen. Out of great affection, Nanda Mahārāja had previously considered Kṛṣṇa too small and immature to take care of full-grown cows and bulls. It is stated in the Kārttika-māhātmya section of the Padma Purāṇa:

śuklāṣṭamī kārttike tu
smṛtā gopāṣṭamī budhaiḥ
tad-dinād vāsudevo 'bhūd
gopaḥ pūrvaṁ tu vatsapaḥ

"The eighth lunar day of the bright fortnight of the month of Kārttika is known by authorities as Gopāṣṭamī. From that day, Lord Vāsudeva served as a cowherd, whereas previously He had tended the calves."

The word padaiḥ indicates that Lord Kṛṣṇa blessed the earth by walking on her surface with His lotus feet. The Lord wore no shoes or other footgear but walked barefoot in the forest, giving great anxiety to the girls of Vṛndāvana, who feared that His soft lotus feet would be injured."

Sri Krsna's passage through the various stages of His childhood lilas is also mentioned in Nectar of Devotion, chapter 26:

"Krsna's age is considered in three periods: from His appearance day to the end of His fifth year is called kaumara, from the beginning of the sixth year up to the end of the tenth year is called pauganda, and from the eleventh to the end of the fifteenth year is called kaisora. After the beginning of the sixteenth year, Krsna is called a yauvana, or a youth, and this continues with no change.

As far as Krsna's transcendental pastimes are concerned, they are mostly executed during the kaumara, pauganda and kaisora periods. His affectionate pastimes with His parents are executed during His kaumara age. His friendship with the cowherd boys is exhibited during the pauganda period. And His friendship with the gopis is exhibited during the age of kaisora. Krsna's pastimes at Vrndavana are finished by the end of His fifteenth year, and then He is transferred to Mathura and Dvaraka, where all other pastimes are performed."

Among the lila pastimes enjoyed throughout Lord Krsna's three childhood phases are His many engagements with various transcendental demons. In His pauganda period, Krsna liberated numerous demons, most famously: Aghasura, Bakasura, Dhenukasura (Gardabhasura), Kaliya, Vatsasura, and Vidyadhara. The cows and the other gopas are mentioned in many of the Lord's various demon-killing pastimes, such as the narration of the Killing of Dhenukasura.