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and are names of Krishna, referring to his youthful occupation as a cowherd. He is regarded as the Supreme Godhead in the Vaishnava tradition and also by much of the pan-Hindu tradition. The ancient text Sri Brahma-samhita (5.1) describes him as the source of all that is and the original cause of all causes.

Both names (Govinda and Gopala) translate to "cowherd". Sanskrit go means "cow"; pāla and vinda form tatpurusha compounds, literally translating to "finder of cows" and "protector of cows", respectively.

The story of how Krishna was given the name Govinda is described in detail in the Vishnu Purana. After lifting Govardhan hill to protect the villagers and cows of Vrindavanmarker, the lord of devas Indra awarded him the title.

Gopala Krsna of Krishnaism is often contrasted Vedism when Krishna asks his followers to desist from Vedic demigod, Indra worship. Thus the character of Gopala Krishna is often considered to be non-Vedic, while it can also be based on the popular understanding or rather misunderstanding -of the Rgvedic texts.

A famous prayer called the Bhaja Govindam was composed by Adi Sankara, a summary of which is; "If one just worships Govinda, one can easily cross this great ocean of birth and death." This refers to the belief that worshipful adoration of Krishna can lead believers out of the cycle of reincarnation, or samsara, and into an eternal blissful life in Vaikuntha, 'beyond this material world' where Govinda resides.

Govinda is a name of Krishna and also appears as the 187th and 539th names in the Vishnu Sahasranama.

According to Adi Sankara's commentary on the Vishnu Sahasranama, translated by Swami Tapasyananda, Govinda has three meanings:
  1. The sages call Krishna "Govinda" as He pervades all the worlds, giving them power.
  2. The Shanti Parva of the Mahabharata states that Vishnu restored the earth that had sunk into the netherword, or Patala, so all the devas praised Him as Govinda (Protector of the Land).
  3. Alternatively, it means "He who is known by Vedic words alone". Adi Sankara's Bhaja Govindam prayer expresses the value of inner devotion to Krishna.

According the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, in his commentary on the Bhagavad-Gita, Govinda means "master of the senses".

In the Harivamsa, Indra praised Krishna for having attained loving leadership of the cows which Krishna tended as a cowherd, by saying, "So men too shall praise Him as Govinda."

According to Klaus Klostermaier, Krishna Gopijanavallabha, Krishna the lover of the Gopis, is the latest stage in the historical process resulting in contemporary Krishnaism, being added to the worship of Bala Krishna (the Divine Child Krishna), and the original cult of Krishna-Vasudeva which may date back to several centuries before the Common Era.


  1. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on the Bhagavad-Gita, a New Translation and Commentary, Chapter 1-6. Penguin Books, 1969, p 57 (v 32)
  • Sri Vishnu Sahasranama, commentary by Sri Sankaracharya, translated by Swami Tapasyananda (Ramakrishna Math Publications, Chennaimarker).

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