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.”
When the girls in the water heard such joking words from Kṛṣṇa, they began to look at one another and smile. They were very joyous to hear such a request from Kṛṣṇa because they were already in love with Him. Out of shyness, they looked at one another, but they could not come out of the water because they were naked. Due to remaining in the water for a long time, they felt cold and were shivering, yet upon hearing the pleasing joking words of Govinda, their minds were perturbed with great joy. They told Kṛṣṇa, “Dear son of Nanda Mahārāja, please do not joke with us in that way. It is completely unjust to us. You are a very respectable boy because You are the son of Nanda Mahārāja, and You are very dear to us, but You should not play this joke on us, because now we are all shivering from the cold water. Kindly deliver our garments immediately; otherwise we shall suffer.” They then began to appeal to Kṛṣṇa with great submission. “Dear Śyāmasundara,” they said, “we are all Your eternal servitors. Whatever You order us to do, we are obliged to perform without hesitation because we consider it our religious duty. But if You insist on putting this proposal to us, which is impossible to perform, then certainly we will have to go to Nanda Mahārāja and lodge a complaint against You. If Nanda Mahārāja does not take action, then we shall tell King Kaṁsa about Your misbehavior.”
Upon hearing this appeal by the unmarried gopīs, Kṛṣṇa answered, “My dear girls, if you think that you are My eternal servitors and you are always ready to execute My order, then My request is that, with your smiling faces, you please come here alone, one after another, and take away your garments. If you do not come here, however, and if you lodge complaints with My father, I shall not care anyway, for I know My father is old and cannot take any action against Me.”