By Swami Harshananda
Gopāsṭami literally means ‘eighth day connected with Gopa Kṛṣṇa’.
Great men like Kṛṣṇa have left an indelible impression upon the collective psyche of the people. Even a small incident in his life becomes a great event worthy to celebrate. Gopāṣṭamī is one such festival.
Kṛṣṇa as a little boy was given the task of grazing and looking after the calves only. He was too small to take care of the cows and the bulls. But when he grew into an adolescent boy, he had to be given the charge of cows and bulls too! The day on which this was done was Kārttika śukla aṣtamī. It was the eighth day of the bright fortnight of the month of Kārttika (November). It was declared as Gopāṣṭamī.
Gopāṣṭamī is specially celebrated by feeding the cows, worshiping them and then circum-ambulating them. Being pleased by this, Lord Krṣṇa will fulfill all our desires.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore