Thoughts on Govinden

Brahmachari Arvind Chaitanya

nām rūpa gati akatha kahānī | samujhata sukhada na parati bakhānī ||

aguna saguna bica nāma susākhī | ubhaya prabodhaka catura dubhaṣī ||

The mystery of the name and form is a tale which cannot be told; though delightful to comprehend, it cannot be described in words. Between the unqualified Absolute and qualified Divinity, the Name is a good intermediary; it is a clever interpreter revealing the truth of both. (Śrī Rāmacaritamānasa | Translation from Gita Press Edition).

When Draupadi surrendered and called out to Him, He came and clothed her! When she thought of Him and desperately sought help while being tested by Rsi Durvasa, He appeared the very next moment and partaking one grain of rice, appeased the hunger of the universe. When Prahlāda assured his father of His omnipresence, He ran to the pillar to not let His young devotee down.

Why is it that when they called, He always came? It is because they cherished a close relationship with Him. We all have to make, foster, nourish and cherish our relationship with the Lord. It is for this that the beautiful path of Bhakti was defined by our great ancestors and sages. Across the Bhakti traditions that richly ornament the Hindu heritage, we come across a variety of relationships between the Lord and His devotee. Many like Meera, Andal and the Gopis of Brindavan have yearned for Him as their beloved. Some like Draupadi and Arjuna had Him as their friend and confidante. Then there are those like Hanuman who looked upon themselves as servants of the Master and for some others like Sundaramurthy Nayanar and the Pandavas, He acted as their servant, often sent on their personal errands. Such intimate expressions of devotion, implicit or explicit, finds an important place in almost all current faiths of the world. Through one's undying devotion to Him, whether we look upon Him as master, preceptor, mother, father, son, brother, lover, friend or even foe...WE MUST make Him a part of our lives. It is for this that many auspicious occasions and festivals are celebrated, with Shri Govinden Puja being yet another wonderful opportunity.

Interestingly, it is said that when Draupadī called out to Sri Krishna as Dwarakavasi (the one dwelling in Dwarka), He did not come...but the moment she cried out GOVINDA...He was there the very next moment. Though this does not find any support from the Bhagavatam or the Mahabharatam, it does bring to the fore the glory and importance of cherishing our relationship with Him specially as Govinda.


Srimad Bhagavatam says that this name was conferred upon Sri Krishna by Indra himself after Surabhi, the celestial cow of plenty declared Sri Krishna as their king and protector after He humbled Indra's ego by lifting the Govardhan mountain in Brindavan and protected the animals and human folk from the wrath unleashed by Indra for not propitiating him. If we try and understand this name of the Lord a little better, it will become easier for us to relate to Him.

Seen simply, Govinda can be etymologically explained as 'the King of the bovine' (gavānām indraḥ iti govindaḥ). However, the saṃskṛt word 'go' for cows has many different meanings and each lends its own unique flavour to the rasa of this divine name.

1. GO as Cow:

In this sense, Govinda is simply He who herds the cows being their leader, in their wanderings. However, one must understand that WE are the cows which are being referred to. Hence, Govinda is He who herds us or guides us in our journeys through this world and across it eventually.

2. GO as Senses:

Very interestingly, our senses also have been referred to as cows because they often go out grazing into the fields of sense objects and derive immense pleasure and satisfaction out of it. Just like cows, they not only eat while in the field but also store a bit for chewing later on. In this sense, Govinda is He who controls and directs our senses from within, our inner controller or antaryāmī, the very life-spark or consciousness in us, our very Ātman or Self.

3. GO as Word/Speech:

As the master of speech, Govinda is the very controller of all our expressions. Also, He is the foremost among all words and speech which is nothing but the eternal Vedas. Govinda is verily the embodiment of the Vedas or universal eternal knowledge. If 'go' is taken to mean the most divine word or the Vedas itself, then Govinda is the king or hero of the Vedas, implying that He is the very import of the Vedas, that Supreme and Absolute Truth indicated by the scriptures as Brahman. No wonder the Upaniṣads extol Him as the one who cannot be defined by speech but because of whom all speech is defined and expressed, Him from where all speech and words return without being able to define Him.

4. GO as Earth or Mother Nature (Prakriti):

The cow has been important in the Hindu tradition for its ability to provide for the many needs of man, directly and indirectly. Hence, Mother Earth or nature has been likened to the cow for its ability to provide us with all our needs, making it an invaluable and indispensable component of life and living. Thus, Govinda is the Lord or master of Prakriti and thus is the controller of the entire universe.

Is there any place you can be where you are away from Prakriti? Is there any place you can be where you are away from yourself? Keeping all this in mind, one should establish our relationship with the Him who is the all-pervading absolute Truth, the master of the manifest universe and our very own inner controller who directs us every single moment. If we call out to Him with this attitude, how long will He take to come? Is He not already with you, inside you and everywhere around you? Is He not the closest companion we have? Is He not the one companion we have with us always?

'How far is wave from water, that far is God from you,' says Pujya Swami Chinmayananda. Why confine Him to Dwarka or relegate Him further beyond to Vaikunta when He is ever present in your own heart-cave. Let us use this wonderful festival of Govinden to strengthen our invaluable and most beautiful relationship with Him, who is closest to us.

HariOM Tat Sat