Kṛṣṇa's age, His beauty, His bugle, His flute, His conchshell and His pleasing attitude all provoke love in friendship for Him. His exceptional joking abilities, exhibited sometimes by His pretending to be a royal prince, or even the Supreme Personality of Godhead, also give impetus to devotees developing love for Kṛṣṇa in friendship.
Learned scholars have divided Kṛṣṇa's age into three periods: the age up through five years is called kaumāra, the age from the sixth through the tenth year is called paugaṇḍa, and the age from the eleventh through fifteenth year is called kaiśora. While Kṛṣṇa is spending His days as a cowherd boy, He is in the kaumāra and paugaṇḍa ages. In the kaiśora age, when Kṛṣṇa appeared in Gokula, He acted as a cowherd boy, and then, when He was sixteen, He went to Mathurā to kill Kaṁsa.
The kaumāra age is just suitable for reciprocating the love of a child with mother Yaśodā. In the Tenth Canto, Thirteenth Chapter, verse 11, of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Śukadeva Gosvāmī tells King Parīkṣit, "My dear King, although Lord Kṛṣṇa is the supreme enjoyer and the beneficiary of all kinds of sacrificial ceremonies, He still used to eat with His cowherd boyfriends. This is because at that time He accepted the pastimes of an ordinary boy, keeping His flute under His arm and His bugle on the right side in His belt, along with His cane. In His left hand He would hold a lump of rice paste with yogurt, and in His fingers would be pīlu, the king of fruits. When He would thus sit among His friends, it would appear that He was the whorl of a lotus flower and that the friends surrounding Him were petals. As they thus enjoyed joking among themselves, the denizens of heaven would become struck with wonder and would only stare at the scene."
Kṛṣṇa's paugaṇḍa age can be further divided into three periods—namely the beginning, middle and end. In the beginning of the paugaṇḍa age there is a very nice reddish luster on His lips, His abdomen is very thin, and on His neck are circles like those on a conchshell. Sometimes, some outside visitors would return to Vṛndāvana to see Kṛṣṇa and, upon seeing Him again, would exclaim, "My dear Mukunda, Your beauty is gradually increasing, just like the leaf on a banyan tree! My dear lotus-eyed one, Your neck is gradually manifesting circles like those of the conchshell. And in the shining moonlight Your teeth and cheeks are competing with the padmarāga jewels in their beautiful arrangement. I am sure that Your beautiful bodily development is now giving much pleasure to Your friends."
At this age Kṛṣṇa was garlanded with various kinds of flowers. He used to put on a silk dress, colored with various kinds of dye. Such beautiful decorations are considered cosmetics for Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa would wear this dress when He used to go into the forest to tend the cows. Sometimes He would wrestle there with His different friends, and sometimes they would dance all together in the forest. These are some of the specific activities of the paugaṇḍa age.
The cowherd friends of Kṛṣṇa were so happy in His company that they expressed their transcendental feelings within themselves thus: "Dear Kṛṣṇa, You are always busy tending the cows which are scattered all over beautiful Vṛndāvana. You have a beautiful garland, a small conchshell, a peacock feather on Your turban, yellow-colored silk cloth, decorations of karṇikāra flowers on Your ears and a mallikā flower garland on Your chest. Appearing so beautiful, when You pretend, just like an actor, to be fighting with us, You give us unlimited transcendental bliss."
When Kṛṣṇa is more grown up, in the middle age of paugaṇḍa, His nails become finely sharp, and His chubby cheeks become lustrous and round. On the two sides of His waist above His belt there are three distinct lines of folded skin, called trivalī.
The cowherd boyfriends of Kṛṣṇa felt very proud of their association with Him. At that time the tip of His nose defeated the beauty of sesame flowers, the luster of His cheeks defeated the glow of pearls, and the two sides of His body were exquisitely beautiful. In this age Kṛṣṇa wore a silk dress that glittered like lightning, His head was decorated with a silk turban covered with gold lace, and in His hand He carried a stick about fifty-six inches long.* Seeing this exquisitely beautiful dress of Kṛṣṇa, one devotee addressed his friend in this manner: "My dear friend, just look at Kṛṣṇa! See how He is carrying in His hand a stick which is bound up and down with golden rings, how His turban with golden lace is showing such a beautiful luster, and how His dress is giving His friends the highest transcendental pleasure!"
At the end of Kṛṣṇa's paugaṇḍa age, Kṛṣṇa's hair sometimes hangs down to His hips, and sometimes it becomes scattered. In this age His two shoulders become higher and broader, and His face is always decorated with marks of tilaka. When His beautiful hair scatters over His shoulders, it appears to be a goddess of fortune embracing Him, and this embracing is highly relished by His friends. Subala once addressed Him in this way: "My dear Keśava, Your round turban, the lotus flower in Your hand, the vertical marks of tilaka on Your forehead, Your kuṅkuma-flavored musk and all of Your beautiful bodily features are defeating me today, although I am usually stronger than You or any of our friends. Since this is so, I do not know how these features of Your body can fail to defeat the pride of all the young girls of Vṛndāvana. When I am so defeated by this beauty, what chance is there for those who are naturally very simple and flexible?"
At this age Kṛṣṇa took pleasure in whispering into the ears of His friends, and the subject of His talks was the beauty of the gopīs, who were just tarrying before them. Subala once addressed Kṛṣṇa thus: "My dear Kṛṣṇa, You are very cunning. You can understand the thoughts of others; therefore I am whispering within Your ear that all of these five gopīs, who are most beautiful, have been attracted by Your dress. And I believe that Cupid has entrusted them with the responsibility of conquering You." In other words, the beauty of the gopīs was capable of conquering Kṛṣṇa, although Kṛṣṇa is the conqueror of all universes.
The symptoms of the kaiśora age have already been described, and it is at this age that devotees generally most appreciate Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa with Rādhārāṇī is worshiped as Kiśora-kiśorī. Kṛṣṇa does not increase His age that although He is the oldest personality and has innumerable different forms, His original form is always youthful. In the pictures of Kṛṣṇa on the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra we can see that He is youthful, although at that time He was old enough to have sons, grandsons and great-grandsons. The cowherd boyfriends of Kṛṣṇa once said, "Dear Kṛṣṇa, You need not decorate Your body with so many ornaments. Your transcendental features are themselves so beautiful that You do not require any ornamentation." At this age, whenever Kṛṣṇa begins to vibrate His flute early in the morning, all of His friends immediately get up from bed just to join Him in going to the pasturing grounds. One of the friends once said, "My dear cowherd friends, the sound of Kṛṣṇa's flute from above Govardhana Hill is telling us that we need not go to search Him out on the bank of the Yamunā."
Pārvatī, the wife of Lord Śiva, told her husband, "My dear Pañcamukha (five-faced), just look at the Pāṇḍavas! After hearing the sound of Kṛṣṇa's conchshell, known as Pāñcajanya, they have regained their strength and are just like lions."
At this age, Kṛṣṇa once dressed Himself up exactly like Rādhārāṇī, just to create fun among His friends. He put on golden earrings, and because He was blackish, He smeared the pulp of kuṅkuma all over His body in order to become as fair as She. By seeing this dress, Kṛṣṇa's friend Subala became very astonished.
Kṛṣṇa played with His intimate friends sometimes by fighting or wrestling with their arms, sometimes by playing ball and sometimes by playing chess. Sometimes they carried one another on their shoulders, and sometimes they exhibited their expertness at whirling logs. And the cowherd friends used to please Kṛṣṇa by sitting together with Him on couches or on swings, by lying together on their beds, by joking together and by swimming in the pool. All these activities are called anubhāva. Whenever all the friends would assemble in the company of Kṛṣṇa, they would immediately engage in all these functions, especially in dancing together. Regarding their wrestling, one friend once asked Kṛṣṇa, "My dear friend, O killer of the Agha demon, You are very proudly wandering among Your friends trying to exhibit Your arms as very strong. Is it that You are envious of me? I know that You cannot defeat me in wrestling, and I also know that You were sitting idly for a long time because You were hopeless of defeating me."
All the friends were very daring and would risk any difficulty, because they were confident that Kṛṣṇa would help them to be victorious in all adventures. They used to sit together and advise one another what to do, sometimes inducing one another to be engaged in welfare work. Sometimes they would offer betel nuts to one another, decorate one another's faces with tilaka or smear pulp of candana on one another's bodies. Sometimes, for the sake of amusement, they used to decorate their faces in strange ways. Another business of the friends was that each of them wanted to defeat Kṛṣṇa. Sometimes they used to snatch His clothing or snatch away the flowers from His hands. Sometimes one would try to induce another to decorate his body for him, and failing this, they were always ready to fight, challenging one another to combat in wrestling. These were some of the general activities of Kṛṣṇa and His friends.