One of the epithets of Sri Krishna and Vishnu; it means a cow-keeper and refers to Krishna's occupation in Gokula, the colony of cowherds. Gōviṃda and Gopāla (also known as Govind and Gopal) are the names of Vishnu which mean Cowherd and Protector of Cows. These names are also popularly addressed to Krishna, referring to his youthful activity as a cowherd. This name appears as the 187th and the 539th name of Lord Vishnu in Vishnu Sahasranama. Lord Vishnu or his complete incarnation Krishna are regarded as the Supreme God in the Vaishnava tradition and also by much of the pan-Hindu tradition.
Gopala Krishna of Krishnaism is often contrasted with Vedism when Krishna asks his followers to desist from Vedic demigod worship such as Indra worship. Thus the character of Gopala Krishna is often considered to be non-Vedic in one interpretation, while it can also be based on the popular understanding or rather misunderstanding of the Rig Vedic texts.
According to Klaus Klostermaier, Kumar 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.