According to Vedic civilization, unmarried girls from ten to fourteen years of age are supposed to worship either Lord Śiva or goddess Durgā in order to get a nice husband. But the unmarried girls of Vṛndāvana were already attracted by the beauty of Kṛṣṇa. They were, however, engaged in the worship of goddess Durgā in the beginning of the Hemanta season (just prior to the winter season). The first month of Hemanta is Agrahāyana (October-November), and at that time all the unmarried gopīs of Vṛndāvana began to worship goddess Durgā with a vow. They first ate haviṣyānna, a kind of food prepared by boiling together mung dhal and rice without any spices or turmeric. According to Vedic injunction, this kind of food is recommended to purify the body before one enacts a ritualistic ceremony. All the unmarried gopīs in Vṛndāvana used to daily worship goddess Kātyāyanī early in the morning after taking a bath in the river Yamunā. Kātyāyanī is another name for goddess Durgā. The goddess is worshiped by preparing a doll made of sand from the bank of the Yamunā. It is recommended in the Vedic scriptures that a deity may be made from different kinds of material elements: it can be painted, made of metal, made of jewels, made of wood, earth or stone or can be conceived within the heart of the worshiper. The Māyāvādī philosopher takes all these forms of the deity to be imaginary, but actually they are accepted in the Vedic scriptures to be identical with either the Supreme Lord or a respective demigod.
The unmarried gopīs used to prepare the deity of goddess Durgā and worship it with candana pulp, garlands, incense, lamps and all kinds of presentations—fruits, grain and twigs of plants. After worshiping, it is the custom to pray for some benediction. The unmarried girls used to pray with great devotion to goddess Kātyāyanī, addressing her as follows: “O supreme external energy of the Personality of Godhead, O supreme mystic power, O supreme controller of this material world, O goddess, please be kind to us and arrange for our marriage with the son of Nanda Mahārāja, Kṛṣṇa.” The Vaiṣṇavas generally do not worship any demigods. Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura has strictly forbidden all worship of the demigods for anyone who wants to advance in pure devotional service. Yet the gopīs, who are beyond compare in their affection for Kṛṣṇa, were seen to worship Durgā. The worshipers of demigods sometimes mention that the gopīs worshiped goddess Durgā, but we must understand the purpose of the gopīs. Generally, people worship goddess Durgā for some material benediction. Here, the gopīs prayed to the goddess to become wives of Lord Kṛṣṇa. The purport is that if Kṛṣṇa is the center of activity, a devotee can adopt any means to achieve that goal. The gopīs could adopt any means to satisfy or serve Kṛṣṇa. That was the superexcellent characteristic of the gopīs. They worshiped goddess Durgā completely for one month in order to have Kṛṣṇa as their husband. Every day they prayed for Kṛṣṇa, the son of Nanda Mahārāja, to become their husband.
Early in the morning, the gopīs used to go to the bank of the Yamunā to take a bath. They would assemble together and, holding one another’s hands, loudly sing of the wonderful pastimes of Kṛṣṇa. It is an old system among Indian girls and women that when they take a bath in the river they place their garments on the bank and dip into the water completely naked. The portion of the river where the girls and women bathe was strictly prohibited to any male, and this is still the system. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, knowing the minds of the unmarried young gopīs, blessed them with their desired objective. They had prayed for Kṛṣṇa to become their husband, and Kṛṣṇa wanted to fulfill their desires.
At the end of the month, Kṛṣṇa, along with His friends, appeared on the scene. Another name of Kṛṣṇa is Yogeśvara, or master of all mystic powers. By practicing meditation, the yogī can study the psychic movement of other men, and certainly Kṛṣṇa could understand the desire of the gopīs. Appearing on the scene, Kṛṣṇa immediately collected all the garments of the gopīs, climbed up into a nearby tree, and with a smiling face began to speak to them.
“My dear girls,” He said, “please come here one after another and pray for your garments and then take them away. I’m not joking with you. I’m just telling the truth. I have no desire to play any joke with you, for you are tired from observing the regulative principles for one month by worshiping goddess Kātyāyanī. Please do not come here all at once. Come alone; I want to see each of you in your complete beauty, for you all have thin waists. I have requested you to come alone. Now please comply.”