In the first month (Märgadirsa), in the season of Hemanta, maids in the Vraja (cowherd-settlement of Nanda), observed the vow of adoring goddess Katyayani, eating only pure food fit for being offered to sacrificial fire. Having taken bath in the waters of the Yamunā at day-break, they made an image in sand of the goddess, just near the river water, on the bank, and worshipped her with sandal-paste, fragrant flowers, offering her propitiatory oblations, burning frank-incense, waving lights before her, and presenting other miscellaneous gifts of varying costs, along with tender shoots, fruits and unbroken grains of rice.
Those virgins performed the worship of the goddess, each repeating the prayer (as a mantra or incantation): “Oh goddess Katyayani! Oh great deluding potency of the Lord! Oh great yogini of great Superhuman powers! Oh absolute ruler of the universe! Be pleased to grant the son of cowherd Nanda i.e. Krishna as my husband! The maidens who have set their heart on Kṛiṣhṇa, observed the vow for the period of a month, worshipping goddess Bhadrakali with the prayer, “May Nanda’s son be our husband”.Getting up early in the morning, and calling others by their names to wake them up, they sang in loud chorus the glory of Lord Krishna, as they went to bathe in the Yamuna clasping each other’s hand.
On one occasion i.e. on the last day of that vow which was a full-moon day, they, as usual, left their garments on the bank, and singing the glory of Krsna, they sported in the water merrily as that was the concluding day of their vow and they concentrated on Krishna in mind, word and deed Understanding their intention, the glorious Lord Kṛiṣhṇa, the Supreme Master of all other experts in yoga, surrounded by his companions, went there to grant them the fruit of their vow.
After Going there he collected all their garments and quickly climbed a Kadamba tree (nearby). Laughing loudly, he spoke to them in fun, while other boys also kept a-laughing. “Oh delicate girls! As you are exhausted by observing a religious vow, I am not joking. Earnestly I tell you. Let each of you come here at will, and receive her respective garments. As these cowherd boys know it, I have never spoken a lie up till now. Oh girls with beautiful waists ,Oh girls of pure hearts! You may come here one by one or all together, and take your own clothes.” Perceiving the implications of his joke, the cowherd girls were overcome with love. Bashfully they looked at each other and smiled, but none came out of the water.
When Krishna was speaking to them jokingly, the girls got confused in their minds. Keeping themselves immersed in the cold water upto the neck, they requested him, while shivering with cold. “Oh dear Krsna Pray, do not be unjust to us. Darling! We know that you, the son of Nanda, are our beloved, whom the whole of Vraja praises. Pray, do return our clothes to us, as we are shivering (with biting cold).
Oh beautiful Krsna of charmingly bluish complexion! We are your servants. We all shall carry out your behests. You are a knower of dharma (righteous conduct). We Pray to return our clothes, else we shall (be constrained to) report the matter to the king (Nanda)” (threatened the elderly gopi’s). The glorious Lord said: “If you are my servants (as you say), and undertake to abide by my biddings, come here and take back each of your (respective) clothes, have a countenance beaming with a smile. Otherwise, I will not return the garments. What will the angry chief do to me ?”.
At this, all the girls shivering with cold and covering their private parts with the palms of their hands, came out of the water, frozen with cold. Perceiving their virginity,’ the glorious Lord who was propitiated with the purity of their hearts, placed their clothes on the branch of the tree and smilingly addressed them, with great pleasure.”It is a positive offence against gods, that you entered water in a nude state, after undertaking the observance of a religious vow. For the expiation of this sin, you bow raising up your folded palms to your heads, and lay prostrate on the ground) after which you accept your respective clothings.” Hearing this command full of religious significance, from the supreme Soul Lord Krishna), the damsels paid obeisance to him with one hand, covering their private part with the other.
Seeing them violate the proper way of bowing to the Lord, the glorious Lord uttered this observation full of righteousness and concerning religious formality), “Those who are experts in Vedas know it and have laid it down that he who bows to god Achyuta (Krishna or Vishņu) with one hand only, should be punished by cutting off the other hand not used in bowing.Hence, a person should pay respects to his Lord by both of his hands. You, therefore, comply that way, and that will please me the better”.
Considering what was explained to them by Lord Kṛiṣhṇa (Achyuta), the maids of Vraja realized that taking a plunge (bath) in a nude state is a transgression in the observation of their vow. Being desirous of completely fulfilling the vow, with all the related rites and formalities, they bowed to Lord Krishna, the very embodiment of the fruit and religious rites, directly present before them. And it was he who washes off all sins, flaws and transgressions.Seeing them bowing down humbly before him, the merciful Lord Krsna, the son of Devaki, was pleased with them, and returned to them all their clothes.
Though they were badly deceived by the criticism of their nudity , were compelled to give up bashfulness, were ridiculed , were treated like puppets and robbed of their clothings, they were so much satisfied with the company of their beloved that they bore no displeasure towards him.They put on their clothes. So charmed were they with the company of the Lord, and their hearts were so much attracted, that they did not stir away from that place but continued to cast their bashful glances at him.Understanding that their motive of undertaking the observance (of Katyayani) vow was the longing to touch his feet, the glorious Lord Damodara (Kṛiṣhṇa) addressed the maidens: “Oh chaste ladies! Your object in observing the Katyayani vow viz. to worship me, is already known to me, It is approved of by me, and it shall be realized.
Your desire for my company is not censurable, for your longing to have enjoyment with me will not again lead to a birth in Samsara. A seed once fried or boiled does not sprout. Return to Vraja, Oh girls, as your object is accomplished. You will spend the autumnal nights in enjoyment with me-the object for which you, good ladies, have observed the vow of the worship of Kätyäyani.”
Thus commanded by the Lord, the maidens whose object was accomplished, continued to contemplate in their minds the lotus-feet of the Lord, and returned to Vraja with great difficulty.