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On Gopastami day, Nanda Maharaja performed a ceremony for the cows and Krishna (and His friends) in Vrindavan, as He reached the pauganda age. This was the day Nanda Maharaja sent his children Krishna and Balarama to herd the cows for the first time. On this day they became qualified cowherds. Before this day, they were keepers of the calves.
“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.” — From The Killing of Dhenukasura
It was a celebration meant only for men and boys. As Srimati Radharani and Her friends wanted to enjoy the fun, and because of Her resemblance to Subala-sakha, She put on his dhoti and garments and joined Krishna. The other gopis joined in too.
Devotees remember this sweet pastime on Gopastami day. This is a very special day at Mayapur as we are fortunate to have darshan of the most merciful lotus feet of Srimati Radharani and Her sakhis.
In His honour, and thinking of Him one should worship the cows with ten upacharas, with the mantra “om gave namah” etc. In some places they dress a small boy as Krishna to invoke stronger remembrance of the pastime.
One can anoint or “paint” the horns with turmeric and put sindura on their foreheads, and hand marks on to their bodies. One should then feed them fresh sweet grasses and circumambulate them. Go-puja is also done on this day. Devotees visit the Gosala, bathe and clean the cows and the Gosala. The glories of the cow and her protection are discussed by senior devotees. All of them feed the cows and partake of a feast near the Gosala.