They chose a quiet, secluded place for the kätyäyané-püjä. It was a pure place, free from the contamination of river foam and the footprints of birds or animals. One gopé asked, “Are we going to worship Katyayani separately or are we going to do it all together? We should decide now because we don’t want to make any mistakes.” Another gopé answered, “We should do it together because to worship separately is not very good. Worshipping together will be more beneficial.”
The deity of goddess Katyayani was fashioned out of sand from the bank of the Yamuna. As the vraja- kumärés did this, they chanted lovely verses praising Krishna. But even before they established the deity with mantras, they sensed that Katyayani was present and thus felt successful that she is already pleased. This encouraged them from the very beginning.
The young gopés started the püjä by chanting a mantra to invoke the deity’s presence. They beckoned her, “Please come Devi! Please come and accept this mürti. Please help me to come close to Krishna. I offer my obeisances unto you.” After welcoming her by bathing her feet with water, they offered arghya, äcamana and madhuparka. While offering these preliminary sweet items, the gopés prayed to taste Krishna’s sweet lips.
They began worshipping Katyayani in an extremely elaborate way, expressing their heart-felt desires while doing so. The lotus-eyed girls offered a sari woven with golden threads, and prayed, “O Devi! Please accept this golden sari. And please arrange that my clothes will be exchanged with Krishna’s clothes.” They brought flawless jewels and ornaments, and prayed, “Please adorn yourself with these priceless ornaments. And please adorn me with the nectar of Krishna’s limbs.” They offered fragrant ointments made of aguru, camphor and musk, and prayed, “O Devi! I anoint you with these rich ointments. Please arrange that I will become anointed with the touch of Krishna’s limbs.”
They began offering sandalwood paste, incense, flowers, ghee lamps, fruit, betel nuts, milk, butter, bananas, coconuts, mung-däl, rock candy, sun- dried rice, and cakes soaked in sugar water. They decorated her with new leaves from the trees and with garlands they had strung. They also offered various clothing, ornaments and cooked food like malpua, sweet rice, amåta-keli, and many different kinds of cakes. They prayed, “Please accept all of these offerings, dear goddess Katyayani, and please bestow upon me the remnants from the lotus mouth of the ever-youthful Krishna.” Then they chanted with great feeling the mantra found in Çrémad Bhägavatam (10.22.4) and other scriptures:
kätyäyani mahä-mäye mahä-yoginy adhéçvari nanda-gopa-sutaà devi patià me kuru te namaù
“O goddess Katyayani! O great potency of the Lord! O possessor of great mystic power and mighty controller of all! Please make the son of Nanda Maharaja my husband! I offer my obeisances unto you.”
Goddess Katyayani might object, “But when you say kuru, ‘Please do it!’ what do you want from me? You should be allowed to marry whomever you wish. I shall simply inspire your parents to arrange it. Therefore you should rather use the words, ‘please cause someone to do it’.”
Anticipating this objection, the gopés spoke this verse in agitation. “My connection with him should be immediately arranged by you, rather than with the unnecessary disturbance of my parents. After all, I am extremely anxious and cannot wait any longer. Besides, Krishna has not yet taken initiation and thus is not ready for formal marriage. O goddess, without the formal marriage ceremony, simply by the Gandharva rite, please make him my husband.”
The word adhéçvaré in the above prayer implies that, “There is nothing impossible for you.” But the goddess may object, “How can your desire to have intimate association with Krishna come to pass without your parents even knowing?” The gopés reply by the word mahä-mäyä: “By the power of illusion you should bewilder everyone so that no member of the cowherd community may cause them to surmise my marriage. They should not be able to ascertain the secret of my intimate association with Krishna. The status of being a husband can be achieved without marriage, and thus there is no harm even if I am formally married to some other cowherd man.” In this way, each of the gopés separately meditated on the meaning of the mantra.
Srila Vishwanath Chakravartipad has commented that the gopés were not actually worshipping mahä- mäyä, but rather yoga-mäyä. This is clear since the gopés are such exalted devotees of the Lord that they could never be in contact with the material energy. And they certainly do not need to worship mäyä-devé. Yogamäyä in Vrindavan is Paurnamasi and in other places she expands as Subhadra or Ekanamsa.
Hypothetically, there is no fault even if they were worshipping mahä-mäyä, since the inhabitants of Vraja are performing the pastime of acting as members of ordinary society. Furthermore, we have the statement of Çré Vaiñëava-toñaëé, Srila Sanatan Goswami’s commentary on the tenth canto, that some persons may think that this Durga is mahä- mäyä. But because such an idea is contrary, such persons are unable to touch even a faint trace of a taste of the gopés’ love for Krishna.
After offering ärati and finishing their prayers, the gopés paid their obeisances and offered the deity of Katyayani into the Yamuna. Throughout the entire month, the vraja-kumärés kept their enthusiasm, and even increased the standard of worship. Every day at dawn the young girls of Vrindavan village would come to the Yamuna and perform the same activities. The common folk thought that they were trying to obtain wealth, but they had no desire for wealth.
Just before the end of the month, the gopés received the mercy of Katyayani. Katyayani reciprocated with the young vraja-kumärés by appearing in their minds. She spoke to each of them thusly, “O young girls, you are the topmost attraction for Krishna’s conjugal love. You will attain all good fortune by worshiping Krishna. Your sincere prayers indicate your strong longings for Krishna. Your prayers also make me glorious. Very soon you will all attain Krishna’s association according to your individual tastes. Now you can complete your austerities.”
The Last Day
When the gopés received this revelation, they became greatly encouraged and finished the last few days of the vrata. Then, on the last day, which was Pürëimä, they went to take their final bath. The Bhägavatam tells us that they were bathing naked every day. To celebrate the successful completion of their vow, they, all having the same idea in mind, invited the daughter of Vrishabhanu, Sri Radhika, who along with her prominent sakhis was a special object of their affection. They brought these special gopés with them to the river that last morning. This statement indicates that Sri Radhika was not performing this vrata daily along with them because she and her girlfriends were already betrothed to be married.
The significance of the gopés’ inviting Sri Radha and her sakhis to the last day of their vrata is that one cannot enter vraja-lélä without the sanction and assistance of Vraja’s eternal residents. Therefore a sädhaka takes shelter of a nitya-siddha associate of Sri Radha and Sri Krishna and prays for that associate’s mercy to be accepted into the specific group desired. Srila Prabhupada describes:
“The våndävana-väsés — mother Yasoda, Krishna’s friends, and Krishna’s conjugal lovers, the younger gopés with whom he dances — have very intimate relationships with Krishna, and if one follows in the footsteps of these devotees, Krishna is available. Although the nitya-siddha expansions of Krishna always remain with Krishna, if those engaged in sädhana- siddhi follow in the footsteps of Krishna’s nitya-siddha associates, such sädhana-siddhas also can easily attain Krishna without difficulty.” [Purport to Bhäg. 10.9.21]
On that last morning, the gopés felt quivering in their left arms, eyes and thighs. This is auspicious for ladies, whereas quivering on the right side would indicate inauspiciousness. They were happily playing in the water that morning, feeling successful in the fulfillment of their vow. Their playing in the water was meant to serve as their avabhåtha-snäna, the ceremonial bath taken immediately upon the completion of a Vedic sacrifice.
Krishna knew and understood everything about the gopés’ desires and austerities, and he went to the bank of the Yamuna with four young boys to award the gopés the results of their loving endeavors. The four boys, whose names were Sridama, Sudama, Vasudama and Kinkini, are known to be the external manifestations of Krishna’s intelligence, ego, heart and mind. From the moment of their departure, the boys, being enthusiastic, kept asking him, “Where are we going? Where are we going?” until they finally arrived at the Yamuna.
Srila Sanatan Goswami and Srila Jiva Goswami have written that these boys were four or five years old, which makes their presence completely inoffensive. Srila Kavi Karnapur further describes that these boys were friends from the same group who were tending the cows that day along with Krishna. According to Srila Vishwanath Chakravarti Thakur, however, these boys were even younger, only two or three years old. As such they could not even judge the difference between a boy and a girl. He writes that they had left their homes completely naked in the usual fashion of young village boys. These little boys from Vrindavan were so attached to Krishna that when he left the village to herd the cows in the pasturing grounds, they had to follow him, not being able to tolerate his absence. Either way, Krishna arranged younger friends to accompany him that morning because the gopés would be too embarrassed if older boys were present.
The gopés’ prema had reached its goal because they had no other desire. This is necessary for success on the path of bhakti. Srila Rupa Goswami has defined uttama-bhakti as anyäbhiläñitä-çünyam, devoid of any other desires. Ones bhakti must gradually become one-pointed, and Krishna often helps his devotees to achieve this stage by taking everything else away from them. This is his special mercy. In this way, Bhagavan Sri Krishna is more assertive in dragging his devotee to perfection than the Paramatma, who simply fulfills desires. Srila Kaviraja Goswami has written in Caitanya-caritämåta madhya 22.38–39:
kåñëa kahe, — ‘ämä bhaje, mäge viñaya-sukha amåta chäòi’ viña mäge, — ei baòa mürkha
ämi — vijïa, ei mürkhe ‘viñaya’ kene diba?
sva-caraëämåta diyä ‘viñaya’ bhuläiba
Krishna says, “If one engages in my transcendental loving service but at the same time wants the opulence of material enjoyment, he is very, very foolish. Indeed, he is just like a person who gives up ambrosia to drink poison. Since I am very intelligent, why should I give this fool material prosperity? Instead I shall induce him to take the nectar of the shelter of my lotus feet and make him forget illusory material enjoyment.”
This scenario is for very sincere devotees. Srila Prabhupada has commented on this verse as follows:
Of course, sometimes if a devotee is very sincere, the Lord, as a special favor to him, refuses to fulfill his material desires and directly blesses him with pure, unalloyed devotional service. [Purport to Bhäg. 8.16.21]
Because of the strong, pure love of the gopés, Krishna left his cowherd friends and Balaram to reciprocate with them.