Gopashtami is the festival ascribed to the worship of cows and calves by way of showing gratitude for their abundance of milk, which is the source of prosperity. The festival occurs on the Shukla Paksha Ashtami of Karthika month as per Purnimantha Calendar.
Gopashtami occurs on Tuesday, 1st November 2022. The exact duration of the Ashtami Tithi has to be ascertained from the respective regional calendars.
It was a practice to send the boys who are of the age between 6 and 10 to herd the cattle. The age is known as Pauganda age.
As per the legend, it is believed that on a Shukla Paksha Ashtami of Karthika month, Nanda Gopa, the foster father of Sri Krishna at Gokulam had sent both Sri Krishna and His brother Sri Balarama for herding the cattle for the first time.
As per another legend, when Sri Krishna was a kid, He used to play with his cowherd friends. During rainy season, the people used to invoke Lord Indra and observe Indra-Utsav. When Sri Krishna asked them the reason for the festival, they told Him that only Indra was providing sustenance to them and their cattle.
Sri Krishna told that only the Govardhan hill was providing food to them and the cattle and that they should worship only the hill and not Indra. The people accepted His words. They did not observe Indra Utsav that year.
Lord Indra got angry. He surmised that a small kid had diverted the minds of the people and prevented him to get proper Puja. So, he ordained for a torrential rain.
Sri Krishna had lifted the Govardhan hill with His little finger and provided shelter to the people and cattle. The rain lasted for seven days. Indra had realized the divine power of the Child. He felt ashamed of himself for wanting people’s adulation when the real God is present amongst them.
He prostrated before Bhagwan Sri Krishna asking for forgiveness. Sri Krishna had granted the pardon.
On the day of Gopashtami, the devotees wake up early in the morning. After completing their morning bath and rituals, they bathe the cows and calves.
The cows and claves are adorned with tilak of Chandan and Kumkum. Fresh shawls are put on the cattle. Their horns are freshly painted and decked up with flowers.
Special pujas are done to the cows and calves by showing aarti. They are fed with sumptuous food.
At temples, special Go-puja is done to the cows and calves.