We offer our obeisances and adorations unto the lotus feet of Mahadeva as the greatest of Vaishnavas and as Gopeshwar, the gate-keeper of the rasa mandali who very kindly grants us entrance into Lord Krishna's maha raas.
Once while in deep meditation on Mount Kailash, Lord Shiva heard the sweet vibration of Krishna playing His divine flute. Mesmerized, He entered samadhi. He followed that transcendental sound until He came to Vrindavan, where Lord Gopinath was getting ready to start the Maha raas with His gopis.
Desiring intensely to join the maha-raas, when He came to the entrance of the raas-sthali, He was stopped by Yogamaya, who told him, "No males except Krishna are allowed entry. First you must have gopi-rupa, the form of a Vraja milkmaid, a gopi, only then can you enter."
Lord Bholanath asked "How can I get gopi-rupa?" Yogamaya replied, "Seek the shelter of Vrinda Devi. She will grant you the form of a gopi."
Vrinda devi asked Lord Shiva to take a dip in the waters of Manasarovar. After bathing there, Lord Shiva emerged from the lake with the form of a beautiful gopi.
Vrinda devi then took Lord Shiva in her gopi form to one corner of the raas sthali. Lord Shiva stood there and prayed to Sri Sri Radha Krishna for getting prema-bhakti.
Then the raas started. Lord Krishna danced with all the gopis. He also danced very elegantly with Lord Shiva disguised as a gopi.
Then after some time, when they rested, the Lord said 'I'm not getting the usual pleasure from our raas. Something is not right. I think there is another man in our midst." Then He asked Lalita devi to check all the gopis and make sure no man was lurking amongst them dressed as one of them.
Lalita devi went around and lifted the veils of all the hundreds of gopis but couldn't find any man disguised as a woman. She came and reported to Krishna, "I have not found any man, but there is one gopi with three eyes." she said puzzled.
Lord Krishna asked her to bring her to Him. When the Lord saw the Shiva gopi, He laughed heartily and addressed him, "O Gopeshwar, I am very pleased to see you in the form of a gopi. But you know that this raas is not for grihastas (householders). Therefore, since you have already participated and fulfilled your desire, now I offer you the post of raas dwaar paal (gatekeeper of the raas). I also give you the blessing that henceforth, all the gopis will offer respect to you and seek your blessing to get gopi bhava."
From that time, Gopeshwar Mahadeva has been worshipped in Vrindavan in the form of a Shiva linga in the mornings. In the evenings, the shiva-linga is decorated beautifully as a gopi.