Govathsa Dwadashi is the day ascribed to worshipping cows. Bhagwan Krishna is also called as “Go vathsa” which means “the one who loves and protects the cattle”. It occurs on the twelfth day of the waning moon from Ashwin Purnima, i.e., Krishna Paksha Dwadashi of Ashwin month.
Govathsa Dwadashi occurs on the next day of Rama Ekadashi and on the day prior to Dhanteras during Deepavali time. For the year 2023, it occurs on Thursday, 9th November 2023 and Friday, 10th November 2023. The exact duration of the Dwadashi Tithi has to be ascertained from the respective regional calendars.
On the day of Govathsa Dwadashi, the devotees conduct puja to cows along with their calves and worship them. The celebration of Govathsa Dwadashi heralds the onset of Deepavali festivities.
The festival is named as Vasu Baras in Maharashtra. It is called as Vagh Baras in Gujarat and the cash registers are closed on this day with no cash transaction. This ritual is the fore-runner for the Lakshmi Puja. The festival is called as Sri Pada Vallabha Aradhana Utsav in Telugu speaking States. The festival is also called as Nandini Vrat and Bachh Baras.
Sri Bhavishya Puran is said to mention the significance of Govathsa Dwadashi. As per the legend, King Uthana Padha and his wife Sunithi were blessed with their Son Dhruva only after they had observed Govathsa Dwadashi Vrat.
On this day, the cows are worshipped as Nandini, the daughter of the holy cow Kamadhenu. Kamadhenu was also known as Surabhi. She was one of the earlier treasures which rose from under the ocean when Samudra manthan was done by the Devas and Asuras to get the amrut.
Kamadhenu was the celestial cow capable of providing sustenance to any number of people. She used to provide food to all the starving people with love. She is always associated with fertility, abundance, sustenance and benevolence. Her daughter Nandini also has such benevolent attributes.
The devotees rise early in the morning and after bath, they make arrangements to do puja to cows and calves.
The cows and calves are given bath. They are decorated with colourful garlands and shawls. Vermillion and turmeric tilaks are kept on the foreheads of the cattle.
They are fondly fed with their favorite grains and fodder. Aarti is taken to the cattle.
The ritual of conducting Puja to the idols of cow and calf is also followed.
The devotees abstain from partaking milk and milk-based products on this day. Some women observe fasting on this day for the welfare of their children.
Govathsa Dwadashi is celebrated grandly at the goshalas where cattle are cared for.