Thus hearing the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, speaking to pacify them, the gopīs became very much pleased. They became completely relieved of the great suffering of separation, not only by hearing the words of the Supreme Personality of Godhead but also by touching His hands and legs. After this, the Supreme Personality of Godhead began His rāsa dance. A dance in the midst of many girls is called a rāsa dance. So Kṛṣṇa began to dance among the most beautiful and fortunate girls within the three worlds. The gopīs of Vṛndāvana, who were so attracted to Him, danced with Kṛṣṇa, hand in hand.
Kṛṣṇa's rāsa dance should never be compared to any kind of material dance, such as a ball dance or a society dance. The rāsa dance is a completely spiritual performance. In order to establish this fact, Kṛṣṇa, the supreme mystic, expanded Himself into many forms and stood beside each gopī. Placing His hands on the shoulders of the gopīs on both sides of Him, He began to dance in their midst. The mystic expansions of Kṛṣṇa were not perceived by the gopīs because Kṛṣṇa appeared alone to each of them. Each gopī thought that Kṛṣṇa was dancing with her alone. Above that wonderful dance flew many airplanes carrying the denizens of the heavenly planets, who were very eager to see the wonderful dance of Kṛṣṇa with the gopīs. The Gandharvas and Kinnaras began to sing, and, accompanied by their respective wives, all the Gandharvas began to shower flowers on the dancers.
As the gopīs and Kṛṣṇa danced together, a very blissful musical sound was produced from the tinkling of their bells, ornaments and bangles. It appeared that Kṛṣṇa was a greenish sapphire locket in the midst of a golden necklace decorated with valuable stones. While Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs danced, they displayed extraordinary bodily features. The movements of their legs, their placing their hands on one another, the movements of their eyebrows, their smiling, the movements of the gopīs' breasts, clothes and earrings, their cheeks, their hair with flowers—as Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs sang and danced these combined to appear like clouds, thunder, snow and lightning. Kṛṣṇa's bodily features appeared just like a group of clouds, the gopīs' songs were like thunder, their beauty appeared to be just like lightning in the sky, and the drops of perspiration visible on their faces appeared like falling snow. In this way, the gopīs and Kṛṣṇa fully engaged in dancing.
The necks of the gopīs became tinted with red due to their desire to enjoy Kṛṣṇa more and more. To satisfy them, Kṛṣṇa began to clap His hands in time with their singing. Actually the whole world is full of Kṛṣṇa's singing, but it is appreciated in different ways by different kinds of living entities. This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā: ye yathā māṁ prapadyante tāṁs tathaiva bhajāmy aham (BG 4.11). Kṛṣṇa is dancing, and every living entity is also dancing, but there is a difference between the dancing in the spiritual world and that in the material world. This is expressed by the author of the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, who says that the master dancer is Kṛṣṇa and everyone else is His servant. Everyone is trying to imitate Kṛṣṇa's dancing. Those who are actually in Kṛṣṇa consciousness respond rightly to the dancing of Kṛṣṇa: they do not try to dance independently. But those in the material world try to imitate Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The living entities are dancing under the direction of Kṛṣṇa's māyā and are thinking that they are equal to Kṛṣṇa. But this is not a fact. In Kṛṣṇa consciousness, this misconception is absent, for a person in Kṛṣṇa consciousness knows that Kṛṣṇa is the supreme master and everyone else is His servant. One has to dance to please Kṛṣṇa, not to imitate or attempt to become equal to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The gopīs wanted to please Kṛṣṇa, and therefore as Kṛṣṇa sang, they responded and encouraged Him by saying "Well done! Well done!" Sometimes they presented beautiful music for His pleasure, and He responded by praising their singing.
When some of the gopīs became very tired from dancing and moving their bodies, they placed their hands on the shoulders of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Then their hair loosened and flowers fell to the ground. When they placed their hands on Kṛṣṇa's shoulder they became overwhelmed by the fragrance of His body, which emanated from the lotus, other aromatic flowers and the pulp of sandalwood. They became filled with attraction for Him, and they began to kiss Him. Some gopīs touched Kṛṣṇa cheek to cheek, and Kṛṣṇa began to offer them chewed betel nuts from His mouth, which they accepted with great pleasure by kissing. And by accepting those betel nuts, the gopīs spiritually advanced.
The gopīs became tired after long singing and dancing. Kṛṣṇa was dancing beside them, and to alleviate their fatigue they took Śrī Kṛṣṇa's hand and placed it on their raised breasts. Kṛṣṇa's hand, as well as the breasts of the gopīs, are eternally auspicious; therefore when they combined, both of them became spiritually enhanced. The gopīs so enjoyed the company of Kṛṣṇa, the husband of the goddess of fortune, that they forgot that they had any other husbands in the world, and upon being embraced by the arms of Kṛṣṇa and dancing and singing with Him, they forgot everything. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam thus describes the beauty of the gopīs while they were rāsa dancing with Kṛṣṇa. There were lotus flowers over both their ears, and their faces were decorated with sandalwood pulp. They wore tilaka, and there were drops of perspiration on their smiling mouths. From their feet came the tinkling sound of ankle bells and bangles. The flowers within their hair were falling to the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa, and He was very satisfied.
As stated in the Brahma-saṁhitā, all these gopīs are expansions of Kṛṣṇa's pleasure potency. Touching their bodies with His hands and looking at their pleasing eyes, Kṛṣṇa enjoyed the gopīs exactly as a child enjoys playing with the reflection of his body in a mirror. When Kṛṣṇa touched the different parts of their bodies, the gopīs felt surcharged with spiritual energy. They could not adjust their loosened clothes, although they tried to keep them adjusted properly. Their hair and garments became scattered, and their ornaments loosened as they forgot themselves in the company of Kṛṣṇa.
While Kṛṣṇa was enjoying the company of the gopīs in the rāsa dance, the astonished demigods and their wives gathered in the sky. The moon, being afflicted with a sort of lust, began to watch the dance and became stunned with wonder. The gopīs had prayed to the goddess Kātyāyanī to have Kṛṣṇa as their husband. Now Kṛṣṇa was fulfilling their desire by expanding Himself in as many forms as there were gopīs and enjoying them exactly like a husband.
Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī has remarked that Kṛṣṇa is self-sufficient—He is ātmārāma. He doesn’t need anyone else for His satisfaction. But because the gopīs wanted Kṛṣṇa as their husband, He fulfilled their desire. When Kṛṣṇa saw that the gopīs were tired from dancing with Him, He immediately began to wipe His hands over their faces so that their fatigue would be relieved. In order to reciprocate the kind hospitality of Kṛṣṇa, the gopīs began to look at Him lovingly. They were overjoyed by the auspicious touch of the hand of Kṛṣṇa. Their smiling cheeks shone with beauty, and they began to sing the glories of Kṛṣṇa with transcendental pleasure. As pure devotees, the more the gopīs enjoyed Kṛṣṇa's company, the more they became enlightened with His glories, and thus they reciprocated with Him. They wanted to satisfy Kṛṣṇa by glorifying His transcendental pastimes. Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the master of all masters, and the gopīs wanted to worship Him for His unusual exhibition of mercy upon them.