Bhagwan Shri Krishna is the embodiment of pure love and devotion. As the incarnation of Bhagwan Vishnu, he taught the world that devotion is not just offerings, practise of rituals or leading an austere life, but it is something done with pure love, friendship and affection for the Supreme Being.
Once the celestials in the heavens were discussing as to who were the great devotees and started boasting about their own devotion to Bhagwan Vishnu. Shri Krishna who was in Vrindavan came to know about this and decided that the celestials needed a small lesson to learn. Immediately, he lay on the bed and acted as if he was down with a severe headache. News spread like wild fire that that Shri Krishna was in pain.
The news reaches the heavens too, and Rishi Narad came rushing and asked Shri Krishna the cure for his headache. Shri Krishna whispered something in his ears and Rishi Narad understood his task and the real intention of Shri Krishna. Rishi Narad approaches Devraj Indr whether he could help Shri Krishna get rid of his headache. With a hint of pride, Devraj Indr asked him the solution for Shri Krishna’s pain, but was in for a shock when he listened to the solution. He immediately refused to do it. Rishi Narad approached all the celestials, but none of them came forward to help cure Shri Krishna’s ailment.
Mocking the celestials for their namesake devotion, Rishi Narad now approached the Gopis of Vrindavan on the banks of River Yamuna. When Rishi Narad explained them the crisis, all got worried for Shri Krishna and asked what the cure for the same is, to which the sage mentions that the only cure was to apply the sands of River Yamuna to Shri Krishna’s forehead with one’s feet. But, as they would touch the forehead of the Supreme Being with their feet, they would also have to bear the consequences of suffering in hell for a thousand years for the same.
No sooner Rishi Narad said this, the Gopis rush into the river and wet their feet in the water and rub their feet in the sand making them as sticky as possible. Surprised at their behaviour, Rishi Narad asks them the reason behind this. The Gopis earnestly reply that sand would get stuck more to wet feet and when they applied the same to his forehead, the more the sand, quicker the relief to Shri Krishna.
When Rishi Narad asked them whether they were ready to undergo punishment in hell for the same, the Gopis with great devotion answer that they were ready to undergo any kind of punishment as long as Shri Krishna’s pain was relieved. All the celestials watching this were awestruck with this answer and felt ashamed of their own behaviour that they could not even just bear the thought of going to hell, while the Gopis went ahead with the solution and were ready for the great sacrifice.
Then, Shri Krishna appears and mentions to the celestials that while they worshipped him out of fear and an obligation, the Gopis loved Shri Krishna sincerely and all their acts of devotion were out of sheer love towards him, and that was what true devotion was. By embracing a pure act of love by the Gopis of Vrindavan, he proves that one should love the Almighty and worship him, but not fear him and worship him for the sake of rituals.