Gopalpur is located about a mile south of Pandharpur on the southern bank of the Pushpavati where, on a hill is the temple of Gopalkrishna. Hundreds of pilgrims gather here every year to mark the end of their yatra to Pandharpur. This story is part of many songs and folktales and is commonly recounted by the pilgrims as they wend their way to the temple; it was recorded in the Maharashtra State Gazetteer (1977) and several versions of the story exist in guidebooks and local texts.

The story starts with Gopalkrishna (an interesting combination of the boyhood and adult names of the god) and his 16,000 gopis and eight wives. The favourite among his wives was Rukmini and the rule was that whenever she walked in on Krishna and his gopis or any of the other wives, they would stand up out of respect for her.

One day in Dwarka, Krishna sat with Radha on his thigh, amusing himself when Rukmini came in. But the two carried on and Radha, elated with the attention being showered upon her by Krishna, did not stand up.  An offended Rukmini walked out of Dwarka and marched to Dindirvan (present day Pandharpur). Krishna rushed after her, followed by his cattle and cowherds. The Govardhan mountain followed too, not wanting to be left behind without its god. River goddesses Ganga and Yamuna joined them too and in their present forms, Ganga is called Chandrabhaga and Bhagirathi while Yamuna is the Pushpavati.

When the two finally met, Rukmini and Gopalkrishna made up on the hill, which is a part of the Govardhan mountain that had made the journey all the way from Dwarka. The two held a feast on the hillock for their followers where everyone brought their own food. The main food that they feasted on was kala – a mixture of parched maize and curds. It was made and consumed by all the participants of the feast as it is done today on appointed days during the months of the pilgrimage. Scholars have remarked extensively on the temple and the interested feast of the gods and their followers, kala. Many even believe that this is the ritual that lives on in the popular dahi-handi festival in Maharashtra (before the commercialisation, pots used to carry buttermilk and even a mix of curd and maize).

Story collected by: Arundhuti Dasgupta

Text source: Folk culture, folk religion and oral traditions as a component in Maharashtrian culture, Edited by Gunther-Dietz Sontheimer

Location: Maharashtra

Image source: By Shreeram Ghaisas – originally posted to Flickr as Vitthal – Rakhumai, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6736470