22 Nov Gopashtami story for children
On Gopashtamy day, Nanda Maharaja sent his sons, Krishna and Balarama, to herd the cows for the first time. Krishna reached the age of 6 years, known as the beginning of His pauganda lila (from 6 to 10 years old), which marks His readiness to herd the cows and bulls instead of calves. It is an ideal occasion to give respect and worship to a mother cow, as the cowherd men of Vrindavan did on this day. I put together a short story for the young children to be narrated for this festival.
A beautiful morning colored the sky above Gokul with a gentle blush. In Nanda Maharaja’s barn, all the cows were awake and excited. Their joyful moans could be heard from all sides.
“Finally, a good fortune has smiled upon us today!”
The birds that flew around became curious.
“What is going on in the barn? Why are cows so excited? What are they waiting for?”
The white Surabhi cow replied to the birds with a merry moan:
“Today, we are going to pasture with Krishna and Balarama for the first time! That is the reason for our great happiness. We have been impatient since the early morning, waiting for Them.”
Soon, Krishna and Balarama arrived at the barn accompanied by their father and several cowherd men. They started cleaning, brushing, and decorating cows and bulls for this special occasion. Each cow and bull has been given necklaces, nano-rings with bells, and a blanket embroidered with gold thread. They looked divine with gold-colored horns and hoofs, and eyes shining with love for Krishna.
Before they left, Nanda Maharaja addressed his sons and gathered cowherd boys with the following words:
“My dear boys, until today, You took care of calves. But now You are big enough to take care of cows and bulls. As you all know, cows are our greatest treasure. They give us milk, the most important food. From milk, we make butter, ghee, yogurt, and cheese, of which we further prepare countless healthy and delicious preparations. Ghee is especially important to us because it is necessary to perform religious rituals with sacrificial fire. These rituals are necessary for our well-being and peaceful life because they satisfy the Supreme Lord. The bull is a representative of religion, and the cow is our respected mother who nurtures us. That is why we have to take care of them the best we can.”
Krishna and Balarama took their father’s words to heart. Together with Nanda Maharaja and cowherd men of Vrindavan, They performed a sacred ritual of cow worship, known as go puja. From that day on, They regularly take the cows to pasture, milk them, bathe them, clean them, and decorate them. In return, the cows give them huge amounts of milk, full of nutritious and healing juices from the succulent grass that they graze all day long. Strong bulls plow their fields every day, which yield an abundance of grains and vegetables. Thus all the inhabitants of Vrndavana live happily and contentedly, serving Krishna, cows, bulls, and brahmanas.
But, the gopis were not fully happy on that occasion. They wanted so much to join Krishna and the cowherd boys on the pasture on that special day. But the girls were not allowed to take the cows to pasture. They had other duties to perform at home. Seeing the shadow of sadness in the eyes of her dearest friend Srimati Radharani, her girlfriends advised Her:
“Radha, You look like your brother Subala very much. If You disguise yourself as Subala no one will recognize You, and You will be able to join Krishna in a pasture pastime.”
Radha’s eyes shone with joy. Yes, that’s exactly what She’s going to do! So Radha and Her most trusted friends disguised themselves as cowherd boys by dressing up dothis and hiding their hair under a turban. They were the happiest to join the fun with Krishna, Balarama, and Their cowherd friends in the forests and pastures around the village.
It was the only time they could glance at Krishna all day long, with their hearts overjoyed with love and happiness.
This story has one prominent topic for discussion with children – the protection of the cows and its importance to human civilization. Children by nature love animals and it is easy to evoke their feelings toward cows and calves. My daughter has always been thrilled about the way Krishna`s cows are nicely decorated. She enjoys decorating her cow toys, and she has a set of miniature jewelry kept for them. Today we are going to make blankets for them as well, most probably from the pieces of felt with some simple embroidery design. If you don`t have any cow toys for children`s play, you can make them out of clay, play dough, felt, or paper (it could be a craft project for a day). Make a stable for cows out of cardboard boxes, spread a wide piece of green cloth as a pasture and the fun can begin! For small children, this kind of hands-on activity, accompanied by a loving story, is the most appropriate learning engagement. Of course, even better is to feed and serve the real calves and cows if you have a chance to do it.
As the children have been growing we can discuss more with them why the cows are so important for maintaining brahminical culture, what are the basics for a healthy functioning and a just human society, and how humans should relate to the animal and plant world according to God`s will. Children will perceive these truths mainly through the stories and examples of practical work and activities of significant adults from their nearest surroundings. Only if this kind of basis is built inside the children`s inner perception of the world during early childhood years, we can successfully continue with our philosophical explanations later on.
I am going to elaborate more on this in some of my next articles.