The festival of Gopashtami is celebrated on the eighth day in the Hindu month of Kartik, during the period of Shukla Paksha. According to the Gregorian calendar, it falls in October and November.
The festival is dedicated to worship and offer prayers to Cows. It is a well-known fact that members of the Hindu community believe cows to be the reincarnation of God. And so, on this day, people pray to Godhan and also show gratitude and respect to the animal, regarded as life-givers.
In the Hindu culture, cows are referred to as ‘Gau Mata’ and are worshipped like a Goddess.
For Hindus, cows are regarded as the soul of their religion and culture.
According to Hindu mythology, it is believed that several deities, goddesses, and gods reside inside a cow, which is why they possess such a special place in the heart of Hindus.
Not only this, this pure animal is believed to be the owner of spiritual and divine qualities and is even considered to be a manifestation of Goddess Earth.
It is believed that those who worship Gau Mata on the eve of Gopashtami will be blessed with a happy, prosperous and fortunate life.
While there are several stories associated with the celebration of Gopashtami, the most famous scripture is linked to Lord Krishna. According to the legend, on the specific day of Gopashtami, Nand Maharaj sent his sons, Lord Krishna and Lord Balaram, for the very first time to herd the cows, since they had both entered into the Pauganda age i.e ages between 6 to 10 years.
And from this day onwards, they would both be in charge of herding the cows.
According to another legend, it is believed that Lord Indra, because of his ego, wanted to showcase his prowess to all the people in Vrindavan. He decided to flood the entire region of Brij so that the people worship him, and this resulted in a seven day long torrential rain in the village.
When Lord Krishna realised that the people were in danger, he lifted the Govardhan Parvat on his little finger to save and shelter all the beings.
On the eighth day, when Lord Indra realised his mistake, he stopped the rain and sought forgiveness from Lord Krishna. The cow, Surbhi, showered milk on both Lord Indra and Lord Krishna. She, then, declared Lord Krishna as Govinda, i.e. the Lord of Cows.
And this is how the 8th day, which is called as Ashtami, came to be celebrated as Gopashtami.
On Gopashtami, devotees wake up early in the morning to clean the cows and bathe them. The horns of the cows are also painted brightly with colours and decorated with jewellery.
As part of the rituals, it is customary to offer prayers and worship the calves and cows together on this day.
Gau Mata is worshipped with water, rice, clothes, fragrance, jaggery, rangoli, flowers, sweets, and incense sticks.
In many temples, specific pujas are also performed for Gopashtami by the pandits.
Gopashtami 2020 will be celebrated on November 22nd.