Krishna and the Gopotsav
Sadhguru narrates Krishna’s revolutionary act of dropping the yearly festival and sacrifice, “Indrotsav" and starting the “Gopotsav.” This is the story of how a "mere boy" turned a celebration of fear into a celebration of life.
Sadhguru: In the pastoral community in which Krishna lived, there was a yearly festival and sacrifice, which was a very major ritual in the area, known as Indrotsav. Indrotsav means the celebration of Indra, who was considered the king of gods. He was also the god of rain, lightning and thunder. The festival used to be a big sacrifice with many rituals conducted around a fire. All kinds of offerings were made to the sacrifice, and enormous amounts of ghee, milk, and various grains were used. It is a certain process to create a certain situation, and it used to happen in a colossal way.
When he was 15, because Nanda was the chief of the community, Krishna got the opportunity of being the chief person to conduct the sacrifice. It was a great honor for a person in that society to be what was known as a Yajamana for the sacrifice. The Yajamana is the one who offers and leads the sacrifice. It was offered to him by his preceptor whose name was Gargacharya. But Krishna refused and said, “I don’t want to be the Yajamana. I don’t want to participate in that sacrifice.” Gargacharya was shocked. Anyone would grab an opportunity like this because it raises your social status in a huge way. So he asked Krishna, “Why?”
Krishna looked away and said, “I don’t think I am fit for such things. Let someone else do it.”
Gargacharya said, “No, last year your elder brother did it. Now it’s your turn. If there is anyone fit to do this, it’s you. Why are you saying such a thing? Tell me what is on your mind.”
“I don’t like this sacrifice.”
“What do you mean you don’t like the sacrifice? This is the greatest thing that we can do in the society. This is a tradition we have carried on for thousands of years. In the very Vedas it says Indrotsav is a sacrifice of enormous significance. How can you say you don’t like it? You are a mere boy.”
“I don’t like people doing any kind of sacrifice out of their fear for some god. I don’t like this worship which is coming from fearfulness. People fear that if they don’t make this sacrifice, Indra will punish them. I don’t like to participate in something which is coming from people’s fear.”
This struck Gargacharya, and he smiled and said, “Okay, then. What else shall we do?”
“We will do Gopotsav. Let’s celebrate the cowherds, not some fearful god sitting up there. I love the people around me. The gopas, the gopis, the cows, these trees, this river, Mount Govardhan – this is our life. It is these people, these animals, these trees and this mountain which sustain and nourish us and which make our life happen here. Why should I worship some other god of which you are all afraid? I am not afraid of any god. If we must celebrate and offer sacrifice, we will do Gopotsav.” The whole idea and process of what Krishna did was to celebrate the ordinary. He lived his life like it was a festival. Even as a child, when he was just six, he said many beautiful things about himself. One thing he said was, “When I wake up in the morning, when I hear the cows mooing and my mother calling each cow by its name before milking them, I know it is time to rub my eyes and smile.”
There was a huge reaction in the community to Krishna’s idea. People questioned him, “How can you just write off something that has been happening for hundreds of years? It is our tradition. How can you just drop it? And if Indra gets angry what will he do to us? He may flood this place.”
Krishna said, “If you want me to be the Yajamana it has to be Gopotsav. It has to be a celebration out of our love and joy, not out of fear. We will just make a symbolic offering to the fire. We will eat and drink the rest of the milk and ghee.”
So, the village was split into two – the people who were not willing to give up the tradition were a small, splinter group, and they performed Indrotsav. Krishna and the majority of the community performed the Gopotsav. But after the Gopotsav happened, Krishna went and participated in the Indrotsav also. He had no resistance to it, he was just bringing sense to life.
So he’s a living celebration. He lived as a celebration. Even if he was in war even then he went up fully dressed with a peacock feather. He’s not a vain man but he’s absolutely committed to make every aspect of his life into a celebration, every aspect of his life into a festivity. He will not make anything into a drab process. For Krishna life is a festival.