Even devotees inclined towards Śrī Bhagavān’s opulence (aiśvarya) long to attain gopī-bhāva. This is stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.44.14):
gopyas tapaḥ kim acaran yad amuṣya rūpaṁ
lāvaṇya-sāram asamordhvam ananya-siddham
dṛgbhiḥ pibanty anusavābhinavaṁ durāpam
ekānta-dhāma yaśasaḥ śriya aiśvarasya
Sakhī, I do not know what austerities the gopīs have performed to be always drinking the sweetness of Kṛṣṇa’s form with their eyes. What is the nature of His form? It is the essence of bodily beauty (lāvaṇya-sāra)! Within this material existence or above it, there is no beauty equal to His, what to speak of a greater beauty. He is not decorated by anyone, nor is He perfected by ornaments and clothes. Rather, He is perfect in Himself. While seeing this form, one does not become satiated, because its beauty increases at every moment. All fame, beauty and opulence take shelter of it. Only the gopīs are fortunate enough to have such a darśana of Kṛṣṇa; no one else.
yaśaḥ śrī aiśvarya-dhāma durlabha ekānta
atīva-lāvaṇya-sāra svataḥ-siddha kānta
ki tapa karila gopī yāhe anukṣaṇa
nayanete śyāma-rasa kare āsvādana
This Text was spoken by the young, beautiful women of Mathurā in Kaṁsa’s wrestling arena when they had received darśana of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s unprecedented lustrous body. Amazed by that form, they yearned to taste it. They said, “O sakhī, what kind of austerities have the gopīs performed to be able to fill their eyes with the extraordinary beauty of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s form? They have made their birth, body and mind successful. What is this beauty like? There is no rūpa-mādhurya equal to or greater than this. In Paravyoma, there are so many forms of Bhagavān, but even Nārāyaṇa, Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s pastime expansion (vilāsa-mūrti-svarūpa), does not have such rūpa-mādhurya, what to speak of other forms.”
Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s beauty is topmost. It is incomparable, perfect and natural, and it is not brought about by any kind of ornamentation. In fact, it is both the origin and treasury of all beautiful, sweet qualities. Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s form, which is filled with unequalled beauty, is only present in Vṛndāvana, and Vrajabhūmi is blessed because the original Person (purāṇa-puruṣa) performs pastimes there in disguise. In this Vrajabhūmi, the vraja-devīs are especially blessed because they received darśana of dhīra-lalita-nāyaka Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who is adorned with all beauty and sweetness.
By the word amuṣya, the women of Mathurā note, “Today in this wrestling arena, by our insignificant piety, we are receiving Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s darśana, but the gopīs’ piety is complete. O omniscient munis, please direct us how to perform austerities like those performed by the gopīs, so that we also will be able to gaze at Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s sweet form in Vraja.”
Another woman of Mathurā said with amazement, “O sakhī, the good fortune of the vraja-devīs is not the result of any austerity; their prema is without cause and cannot be expressed in words.” If she had said, “We can also go to Vraja and drink the nectar of Kṛṣṇa’s beauty like the gopīs,” another lady would have replied, “That is very difficult for us (durāpam). Only by the mercy of the gopīs, who possess the topmost prema, is it possible to drink this nectar.”
Another lady started speaking. “Oh! Before the vraja-gopīs, Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s beauty manifests in newer and newer forms, uninterruptedly, moment by moment.”
The women of Mathurā glorified the good fortune of the vraja-devīs and eagerly desired to have a sevā like theirs. They used to hear from the fruit-sellers and others coming from Vraja about the sweet pastimes of Śrī Kṛṣṇa and the vraja-devīs. By hearing descriptions of these pastimes, a yearning for a sevā like that of the gopīs arose in their hearts.
An introduction to the evening pastimes (sāyaṁ-kālīya-līlā) is found in Govinda-līlāmṛta (20.1):
sāyaṁ rādhāṁ sva-sakhyā nija-ramaṇa-kṛte preṣitāneka-bhojyāṁ
sakhyānīteśa-śeṣāśana-mudita-hṛdaṁ tāṁ ca taṁ ca vrajendum
susnātaṁ ramya-veśaṁ gṛham anu-jananī-lālitaṁ prāpta-goṣṭhaṁ
nirvyūḍho ’srālidohaṁ sva-gṛham anu punar bhuktavantaṁ smarāmi
I remember Śrī Rādhā who, in the evening, sends many kinds of cooked foodstuffs with Her sakhīs to Her lover, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and who becomes joyful by taking Kṛṣṇa’s remnants that are brought back to Her by Her sakhīs. I remember Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who takes bath upon returning from cowherding, who is dressed in beautiful attire, and who is fondly attended in many ways by Mother Yaśodā. He goes to the cowshed, and after milking the cows returns home for His evening meal.
śrī-rādhikā sāyaṁ-kāle, kṛṣṇa lāgi’ pāṭhāile,
sakhī haste vividha miṣṭhānna
kṛṣṇa-bhukta śeṣa āni’, sakhī dila sukha māni’,
pāñā rādhā haila prasanna
snāta ramyaveśa dhari’, yaśodā lālita hari,
sakhā-saha godohana kare
nānāvidha pakva anna, pāñā haila parasanna,
smari āmi parama ādare
When Śrī Rādhā sees that evening has come, in Her heart She becomes very eager and thinks, “Now Kṛṣṇa must have returned from cowherding!” In the kitchen, She wears a white dress, and together with Her sakhīs prepares many kinds of sweets, such as amṛta-keli, karpūra-keli, candrakānti and modaka. All the preparations are put into new clay pots and covered with white cloth. She puts the pots into the hands of Her nitya-sakhīs and prāṇa-sakhīs to take to Her priyatama in Nanda-bhavana. The sakhīs depart, and Śrī Rādhā’s mind goes with them. She thinks, “When My sakhīs reach the house of Nanda, Maiyā will embrace them to her heart, and she will remember Me and give Me her blessings. My prāṇanātha, surrounded by Bābā and the sakhās, will eat these preparations. I do not know which ones He will like and which ones He won’t.” In this way, with eyes of bhāva, Śrī Rādhā has internal darśana of the evening meal. The sakhīs offer all the preparations to Yaśodā, the queen of Vraja, who affectionately serves them to Kṛṣṇa, Balarāma and the sakhās. Cleverly, Dhaniṣṭhā places Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s remnants in the hands of a sakhī and sends them to Śrī Rādhā, along with information about the location of Their abhisāra later that night. At that time, Śrī Rādhā anxiously awaits the sakhīs’ return from Nanda-bhavana. When they arrive, they describe all the conversations at Nanda-bhavana and how Kṛṣṇa relished each preparation. Śrī Rādhā relishes Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s remnants in the same way. The sakhīs are also extremely happy to take the remnants of Śrī Kṛṣṇa and Śrī Rādhā.
Thus ends the Ṣaṣṭha-yāma-sādhana,
Sāyaṁ-kālīya-bhajana, of Śrī Bhajana-rahasya.