When Krishna turned sixteen years old, his family threw a huge party. They were very rich, you know. People were invited from all around, and most of them brought quite impressive presents. Amongst the invited guests were the gopis, girls who watched over the cows. Krishna would visit the gopis in the evening on his way down to the river to play his flute. They all had a big crush on him and each liked to flatter herself that Krishna liked her best — and on hearing of the birthday party, each girl determined that her present would be the finest of all. Some girls even stole from their families in order to get an extravagant gift!
However, there was one girl from a family that was struggling a bit, and she didn’t have the means to get him a present at all, or dress up fancy for the party. She was very shy and mouselike — and she would never dream of lying or stealing to impress anyone. But on the morning of the party, she found a peacock feather in the lane. It was huge and perfect — the most beautiful she had ever seen. She took it to the party and presented it to Krishna as a little offering. He was so touched by her humble gift that he tucked the feather into his head-dress and then called for a looking glass so that he might admire himself. He wore the feather all night and then for several days afterwards. As you can imagine, that little gopi girl was very flattered and proud that he wore her present, while the others were very chagrined — and just a bit jealous. After a few days, the feather was a little ragged, so Krishna had someone get him another. Pictures of Krishna often depict him wearing a peacock feather in his head-dress — and this is the story behind it — no matter what might have been written since.