Last updated: December 21, 2023

What Does Gopi Mean?

Gopi is a Sanskrit word that means “female cowherd,” “wife of a cowherd,” “milkmaid” or “female guardian.” In Hinduism, it typically refers to the cow-herding girls and women who were devoted to Krishna.

Lord Krishna, a major deity and sometimes worshiped as the supreme deity, was himself a cowherder, having been secreted away as a child to protect him from his uncle, the evil king Kamsa. It was among the cowherds that the young Krishna gained a reputation as a prankster and a lover.


Yogapedia Explains Gopi

According to Hindu mythology, Krishna would play his flute and the gopis would come to him and dance around. Some literature says he multiplied himself so he could dance with each. The gopis became a symbol of suddha bhakti, the highest unconditional love for God.

It was said that there were 108 gopis in the region where Krishna was raised, but other sources describe up to 16,000 gopis. The gopis included three groups, listed in order of importance:

  • Age-mates of Krishna
  • Maidservants
  • Gopi messengers

Included in the first category are the varisha gopis, who are intimate friends of Krishna and Radha, his consort and most favored of the gopis.

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