Govardhan Puja : Celebration of Krishna’s protection
Govardhana Puja is celebrated the day after Diwali to bring to mind Krishna’s pastime of lifting the Govardhana hill.
It is the day Lord Krishna defeated Indra, the deity of thunder and rain. As per the story, Krishna saw huge preparations for the annual offering to Indra and questioned his father about it. He told his father that as farmers and cowherd men, they should do their duty and concentrate on farming and protection of their cattle. He continued to say that all human beings should merely do their 'karma' (action), to the best of their ability and not pray or conduct sacrifices for natural phenomenon. The villagers were convinced by Krishna and did not proceed with the special puja (prayer) and offering to Indra.
As appealed by Krishna, the residents of Vrindavan offered choicest foodstuffs and prayers to the Govardhana Hill that supplied them with succulent grass for the cows, cooling waters, caves for cowherd boys to play in and appealing fruits and flowers.
Indra was thus angered and flooded the entire village with fierce rain and thunderstorm. Krishna subsequently lifted Govardhana Hill and held it up on His left little finger of the hand for seven days as protection for the residents and cattle of Vrindavan from the incessant rain mercilessly lashed out by Indra. Indra finally realized his mistake of being overtly proud and recognized Krishna as the supreme and accepted defeat.
Govardhana Hill attained special status on being lifted by Lord Krishna. Also, at the time of Annakuta ceremony (offering foodstuffs to the Deity), Krishna declared that He was non-different from Govardhana Hill. The Vedic scriptures also acknowledge Govardhana hill as the most sacred mountain in all the three worlds and inform us that Govardhana hill is to be understood in two different ways; first as the greatest devotee of Lord Krishna and second as being non-different from Krishna Himself.
The name 'Govardhana' has two primary translations. In the literal meaning, 'Go' translates to 'cows' and 'vardhana' translates to 'nourishment'. Another meaning of 'Go' is 'the senses' and 'vardhana' can also mean 'to increase' – thus the name is also translated as 'that which increases the senses' in their attraction to Krishna. Thus, it is believed that the personality of Govardhana blesses the devotee by increasing his devotion.
Devotees at the temple remembered and recreated the The lifting of the Govardhana Hill pastime this year on 27 October 2011. They conducted the Govardhana puja following in the footsteps of the residents of Vrindavan who had performed this under the guidance of Lord Krishna five thousand years ago. The festivities started with go puja in the morning. The cow is revered, as she is Krishna’s favorite, as well as the mother. It is also said that the earth takes the form of a cow. Therefore, the devotees directed their prayers to mother cow by offering her ghee lamp, flower garlands, fruits and grains. Thereafter the assembled devotees, congregation and guests performed the parikrama of the temple with mother cow and her calf while performing kirtan. The program then shifted to the inner courtyard where mounts of food offerings were placed on the platform to symbolize the Govardhana hill. There were more than 500 bhoga offerings including halava, different flavored rice, pulav, sweets, savories, fruits, etc. prepared by the devotees and congregation who toiled for long hours to lovingly make all the preparations. Amid this offering, stood the Deity of Lord Krishna holding the Govardhana hill atop His little finger. The temple looked resplendent with brightly colored flowers and the strains of kirtan beautified the whole atmosphere. The bathing ceremony of the Govardhana Shila was performed using various sacred substances amid the chants of the Brahma Samhita followed by arati. Assembled devotees, congregation and guests then performed the Govardhana parikrama (circumbulated the Govardhana hill) and enjoyed the delicious prasada.