As you are browsing through Diwali home decoration items online, you will come to know that there are several other festivities that precede and succeed the festival of lights. For instance, Dwadashi, or the twelfth day of the lunar calendar is a very important day for the Hindus – it is one such Dwadashi that is celebrated as Govatsa Dwadashi; a day to celebrate the humble but all important cow. In India, the cow is a revered animal and this day is marked for celebrating this animal in the form of a provider, nourisher and symbolic mother. This day is also known as Vasu Baras, Nandini Vrat and Bach Baras.

Start The Diwali Festivities With Govatsa Dwadashi

The Kamdhenu:

The name Kamdhenu means wish cow or a cow that grants wishes – also known as Surabhi or Gau-mata, this is a divine creature that is known to have miraculous powers to grant wishes. She is also often portrayed as the mother of all cows, hence an all ambient mother. In ancient icons, she is represented as a white cow with a female head, wings of a bird and the tail of a peahen. There are also images of a cow with several deities portrayed within her. As a matter of fact, Frederick M. Smith, an American religious expert had described Kamdhenu as a vessel and indicator of all holy entities. While the legs are the Vedas, the horns represent Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. In addition, her eyes are the sun and moon, while the shoulders are Agni and Vayu with her legs represent the Himalayas.

In a different point of view, Indologist Madeleine Biardeau is of the opinion that Kamdhenu is a generic name given to the sacred cow, who is the source of Hinduism. She is a devi, who is related to fertility and the earth and is considered a constant giver.

The stories of Kamdhenu’s birth:

You might have a Kamdhenu cow with calf idol that you picked from eCraftIndia, but did you know that there are several stories associated with the birth of this divine cow?
  • In Mahabharata, Kamdhenu-Surabhi is supposed to have emerged from the churning of the cosmic ocean – when the Samudra Manthan happened between the gods and demons to acquire the elixir of life, Surabhi also emerged and she was ordered by Brahma to provide milk and ghee for rituals.
  • As per the Anushasana Parva, Surabhi was born from the belch of Daksha, the creator, as soon as he had drunk the amrita taken out from the Samudra Manthan. Surabhi went onto give birth to several other golden cows, referred to as Kapila cows, who are considered the mothers of the entire world.
  • Ramayana says that Surabhi was the daughter of the famous sage Kashyapa and wife Krodhavasha, who was the daughter of Daksha. Surabhi had two daughters, Rohini and Gandharvi are the mothers of all cattle and horses, however, it is Surabhi who is always considered as the mother of all cows and buffalos.
  • If you were to read Devi Bhagavat Purana, you would learn about a story that revolves around Krishna – once Krishna and Radha were enjoying their time together, when suddenly he felt thirsty. So, he created a cow and a calf (Surabhi and Manoratha) from the side of his own body and milked the cow to quench his thirst. However, when he was drinking the milk, the pot fell on the ground and milk spilt all over, creating the cosmic ocean of milk, Kshirsagar. Many cows emerged from the body of Surabhi and these were the cows that became his gopas. Krishna announced that Surabhi be worshipped, because of her divinity and her ability to supply milk.
  • Yet another legend is about the sage Jamadagni – it is said that Kamdhenu used to live with this sage. Kartavirya Arjuna, the Haihaya king with a thousand arms had destroyed the hermitage of the sage and taken away the calf of Kamdhenu. To bring the calf back, Jamadagni’s son killed the king and the sons of the king, killed Jamadagni. The sage’s son, Parashurama swore to destroy the warrior race and managed to restore life to his father as well. Finally, the cow and calf were returned to the sage and hermitage.
  • There is another version of the above given legend, however, this one comes from Ramayana – but here the king was Vishwamitra and the sage is Vashishta. When the king came to the hermitage, the sage offered the king and his army a lavish feast, most of which came from Kamdhenu, known as Sabala in this story. The king was smitten by this awe-inspiring cow and wanted her for himself, leading to a battle, wherein she was able to rescue herself and return to the hermitage.

The rituals of Vasu Baras or Govatsa Dwadashi:

In ancient times, Kamdhenu was associated with only the Brahmins, because the milk and milk products would be used most commonly for Vedic fire sacrifices and rituals. These products would include ghee, butter and milk and the same milk would be used to make prasadam. This is one of the reasons why Kamdhenu was also referred to as Homadhenu. The cow was also known to offer protection to brahmins and sages, who were not allowed to fight or defend themselves.

This day is actually meant to be the start of the Diwali celebrations, which is why if you are planning to buy diyas & lanterns online from eCraftIndia, you would want to do so a little early, so that you can use the diyas for Vasu Baras celebrations as well! In Maharashtra this festival is known as Vasu Baras, in Gujarat it is called Vagh Baras and in rest of the country it is known as Govatsa Dwadashi. In the northern parts of India, this is a day of repaying financial debts; so, businesspeople clear all their yearly account books and consider the year complete. The next entry will be made in new ledger books only on Diwali, which is supposed to be the first day of the new year.

This is a festival of thanksgiving towards cows, appreciating them for their assistance in sustaining life – people who are following the rituals will avoid consuming any wheat and milk based products. It is also believed that people who fast on this day are blessed by gau-mata and all their desires will be fulfilled.

In many parts of the country, the cows and calves are given a bath, their foreheads are anointed with turmeric or vermillion, they are draped in clothes or garlands made with flowers. In cases where there is no access to actual cows, people make cows and calves out of mud or use idols and figurines of Nandini or Kamdhenu cows and those are worshipped. Food made using wheat, gram and mung beans are offered to cows. One of the reasons why people avoid milk products on this day is because it is believed that the calf of the Kamdhenu cow gets the entire milk. Similarly, by forgoing wheat and cereal on this day, people are offering the same, or their “food” to the cow.

Given the relationship between Krishna and the cows, devotional songs related to Krishna are also sung during the day. Several women fast for the entire day to ensure good health and prosperity for their children. This particular fast is also known as the Nandini vrat, because Nandini is supposed to be an almighty mother. It is believed that couples who do not have children, should fast on this day and they will be blessed with children.

This year, you too can get prepared for not just Diwali but also Vasu Baras – pick out decorative lamps and diyas, figurines of cows and calves and of course, do remember to pick out a decorative pooja thali online from eCraftIndia.