Govardhan Puja Date 2016
Monday 31 October 2016
Govardhan Puja is the day celebrated to honor Lord Krishna who lifted the Govardhan hill to protect the inhabitants of Mathura. This day is special in many ways. It is the first day of Sukla Paksha (brighter half) in the month of Kartik. It is also called Annakut, meaning the Heap of Grains! In major parts of North India, it is termed as Govardhan puja. It is a major festival in a majority of North Indian states. The festival is celebrated in a lavish manner in many Vaishnava temples.
When Govardhan Puja Falls?
It falls on the fourth day of five day Diwali Celebration. Literally, it falls on the next day after Diwali. The fourth day of Diwali celebration is called varsha pratipada or padwa.
In 2016, it falls on 31 October.
About Govardhan Hill
Govardhan is a hill located in the town, Vrindavan, in the district of Mathura, UP. It is worshipped as a form of Lord Krishna.
Govardhana literally has two meanings.
- Go means Cows – in Gokulam, cattle rearing was the major business
- Vardhana means nourishment
On this day, people nourish, celebrate and offer special pujas to the cattle.
In other terms,
- Go refers to senses
- Vardhana means increase
It refers to increasing the senses by associating with Lord Krishna.
Both these terms associate greatly with the story of Govardhan hill raised by Lord Krishna and Govardhan Puja.
Legend of Govardhan Mountain
There is an interesting legend revolving around Govardhan Hill.
Govardhan hill is the son of the King of Mountains, Dronacala. Govardhan hill was cursed by Sage Pulastya Muni. It happened during the Satya Yuga, the first yuga of four yugas. (Lord Krishna’s reincarnation as a human being happened in the third yog, Dwapara yuga, where the end of Mahabharata marks the arrival of Kalyuga.)
The sage requested Dronacala to give his son. Dronacala did not wish to get separated from his son. He gave his son on one condition that the sage should carry him and if he put down the son (the Govardhan mountain), he would stay put and doesn’t move.
The muni agreed and carried Govardhan hill on his shoulders. However, due to nature’s call, he put the mountain down. After he returned, he realized he couldn’t move the mountain. The angry muni, cursed the mountain to reduce in size gradually.
Originally, according to Vedas, Govardhan hill measured around 16 miles high, 40 miles wide and 64 miles long. However, the hill that remains today measures around 80 feet high. The size of the mountain decreases every day by a size of a mustard seed!
Legends associated with Govardhan Puja
Govardhan is another name of Lord Krishna. Lord Vishnu’s reincarnation as Krishna had many purposes to fulfill. His childhood in Mathura has been filled with joy and happiness. Besides, he destroyed many evil powers during his childhood. Lord Krishna as a boy taught life lessons to demons and even devas. This puja is associated with one such incident that Lord Krishna came across in his life.
Lord Indra is the Lord of rain. He always felt proud as he bestows the people with rain and help them in agriculture and cultivation.
The story of Lord Krishna lifting the Govardhan hill and sheltering all the people living in Vrindavan is almost familiar to everyone. However, it was Krishna, who planned to teach a lesson to Lord Indra.
Lord Krishna as a boy lived as the son of Nandagopal and Yasodha. One day, he saw huge preparations for an annual festival that offers puja and special offerings to Lord Indra. People made this offering to please Lord Indra for helping them in agriculture by providing rain at appropriate times. However, Krishna was against this dedication.
In fact, he was the only one who knew about Lord Indra, who believed himself the supreme power. Without rain people would starve. Lord Indra made people suffer either with no rain or flood if he doesn’t get satisfied with the offerings and special pujas made by people.
So, he gathered the villagers and stimulated an argument about what the real dharma is! He told the villagers that they rear cattle and they were farmers. Their duty is to protect cattle and ensure that their cultivation is good. So, they should concentrate on what they do and respect their nature of profession. Offerings made to a demigod who is responsible for a natural element or rendering pujas to natural phenomenon doesn’t make any sense. So, they should not go against dharma. Hence, he requested the villagers not to offer any special puja to lord Indra as blessing people with adequate and appropriate rainfall is his duty, where it should naturally occur to the people who live in this earth.
Villagers were contended and convinced with Krishna’s idea on dharma. They decided not to offer any special puja.
This fumed Lord Indra. In anger, he created massive cluster of clouds, which poured heavy rain and flooded the entire village. Villagers rushed to Krishna for help. Lord Krishna lifted the Govardhan hill on his little finger and sheltered the entire village including cattle from rain and flood.
He held himself carrying the Govardhan hill for seven days and seven nights. Lord Indra admitted his mistake and defeat. He pleaded Krishna to apologize him and to him that Krishna is the supreme power.
Change in the face of Hindu Philosophy
This particular indecent led to the downfall of Lord Indra and most of devas. Besides, it marks the onset of new philosophy in Hinduism. There was no more sacrificial or special offering or any kind of appeasement paid to any god or demigod, rather worshipping god has stepped into spirituality. It marks an important evolution in the Hinduism, which is brought by Lord Krishna.
Two important elements we learn from this story.
- Do your duty, don’t expect any favor to perform your duty – A lesson taught to Lord Indra
- Worship your work and celebrate what you do
Govardhan Puja existed before Diwali
There was no celebration called Diwali until the Naraka was killed by his mother, Bhudevi, in reincarnated from as wife of Lord Krishna. However, Govardhan hill incident happened when Lord Krishna was a boy and before he left Vrindavan. Literally, Govardhan puja has been celebrated even before the occurrence of Diwali celebration. Essentially, Govardhan puja is observed on the dawn of Shukla Paksha in the month of Kartik, the next day after the new moon day.
The festival is beyond the celebration and commemoration of Lord Krishna. In fact, Lord Krishna’s avatar as a typical human being has a lot of implications. It influenced many changes in the way of life. Govardhan Puja and the story behind it indicate many aspects and invoked many changes.
Govardhan Puja Rituals
People living in different states perform the rituals in different ways. However, everyone who celebrate Govardhan puja follow a single element religiously, which is creating the Govardhan Hill! Yes, people, especially the devotees of Lord Krishna celebrate this in a grand manner.
Cow Dung Hillock
Generally, people used to craft Govardhan hill using cow dung. The devotees collect cow dung (which is a holy element) and build Govardhan hill. After drying, the hill is decorated with flowers, decorative ornaments, photos and idols of Lord Krishna. The size of the hill generally varies.
After the decoration, the devotees offer sweets made with milk and ghee, cheese, poha, etc to Lord Krishna, they are all placed before the hill. Later, they worship the hill and move in circle around the cow dung hill.
Hillocks made of sweets and fruits
In some places, instead of making cow dung hillock, people make sweets, desserts and buy a lot of fruits to make an edible Govardhan mountain. All the sweets and fruits are accumulated like a mountain, which is decorated with diyas and photos or idols of Lord Krishna placed before the hillock. Devotees perform bhajans and pujas before the mountain. After completion of pooja, they distribute the sweets and fruits.
Bhog refers to the variety of the delicious sweets and dishes prepared on Govardhan Puja. Generally, devotees prepare 108 dishes or 56 dishes for Lord Krishna. Usually, people living in a street collectively prepare 108 dishes, where each family look after preparation of a few dishes. All the dishes are made into Anna-Koot, the mountain of food.
Padwa and Gudi Padwa
In addition to Govardhan Puja, the fourth day of Diwali celebration also includes two festivals.
Padwa: The day celebrated to commemorate King Bali. It is also known as ‘Kartik Shuddh Padwa’. It is only on this day that King Bali is believed to come out of Pathal Loka and rule Bhulok. This was the boon given to him by Lord Vishnu. This day also commemorates the coronation of King Vikramaditya. Vikaram-Samvat was started from this Padwa day. As such, many communities celebrated new year day on this day of Govardhan Puja. Gujarati community celebrates its new year day on this day. In fact, in Nepal too, new year is celebrated on this fourth day of Diwali celebrations. Marwari community though celebrates new year day on the day of Diwali.
Gudi Padwa: The term ‘padwa’ or ‘padavo’ is also associated with Diwali which falls at the end of the harvesting season. For the farmers, this is a festival which marks the end of one Harvest and the beginning of another. Courtyards in village houses are swept clean and plastered with fresh cow dung. Women make rangoli designs on their doorsteps. People wear new clothes and family gatherings make the whole environment burst with festivities. However, this should not be confused with Gudi Padwa celebrated in Maharashtra in the month of Chaitra (March-April)
Celebration of Govardhan Puja in Temples
Govardhan puja is a special day in Vaishnava temples with Lord Krishna as main deity. Especially, in Mathura, where Lord Krishna grew up, people celebrate this occasion as one of the special festivals. The deities are bathed (sacred bath called Abisheka) in milk, sandalwood, honey, curd, fruits, etc and adorned with embellished new outfits and jewelries.
Those who can afford also offer jewelries, expensive clothes to deities and arrange for donating food to the devotees in the temple.
On this day, devotees also visit the temple and offer desserts, sweets, fruits and eatables. All the eatables collected from the devotees are raised as Anna-koot, the food mountain, before idols. Anna-koot is later distributed to the devotees, which is considered highly auspicious.