Govatsa Dwadashi is a unique Hindu festival that is dedicated to worshipping the cows as a thanksgiving gesture for their help in sustaining the human life. It is also popularly known as ‘Nandini Vrat’ and is observed on the ‘Dwadashi’ (12th day) of the ‘Krishna Paksha’ (the period of waning phase of moon) in the ‘Ashwin’ month of the traditional Hindu calendar. This date falls in the months of October to November in the English calendar. Govatsa Dwadashi falls one day before the celebrations of ‘Dhanteras’. On Govatsa Dwadashi Hindu devotees worship ‘Nandini’, the divine cow. It is believed that by doing so all their wishes will be fulfilled. It is celebrated with immense enthusiasm in all parts of the country. In Maharashtra this day is observed as ‘Vasu Baras’ and is the first day of the Deepavali festivities. On Govatsa Dwadashi, the ‘Sripada Vallabha Aradhana Utsav’ is held at Pithapuram Datta Mahasamsthan in the state of Andhra Pradesh while in Gujarat it is celebrated as ‘Vagh Baras’.
Rituals during Govatsa Dwadashi:
- Cows are worshipped on Govatsa Dwadashi. A ritualistic bath is given and vermillion is applied on the forehead. The cows and their calves are then beautifully decorated with bright clothes and garland of flowers.
- On Govatsa Dwadashi devotees also make idols of cows and their calves from mud, if they cannot find a cow close by. These mud idols are then adorned with kumkum and turmeric. An ‘aarti’ is performed in the evening.
- Various offerings are made to cows like gram and sprouted moong. The offerings made are symbolic of Nandini on earth.
- Devotees also offer prayers to Sri Krishna, who is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and had profound gratitude and love for cows.
- Women observe a vrat or fasting on this day for the well-being of her children. They cannot eat or drink anything during the day and can only take one meal. The observer of the Nandini Vrat must refrain from physical activity and keep vigil all night. However if a person desires to sleep, he/she must do so on the floor and avoid sleeping on the bed.
- In some regions, people abstain from drinking cow’s milk and consuming curd and ghee on the day of Govatsa Dwadashi.