Aarti Natarajan Sharma
The day after Diwali is known as Govardhan Puja. Govardhan Puja is also known as Annakut or Annakoot, which literally means ‘a mountain or heap of food.’ In this festival devotees worship the Govardhan Parbat or mountain in Gokul (Uttar Pradesh) and offer a wide array of vegetarian food dishes to Lord Krishna as a mark of their gratitude to him and to affirm their faith in him. Offerings are made through flowers and a variety of food dishes.
This year it falls on 5 November.
History behind Govardhan Puja
According to Hindu mythology, Lord Krishna had lifted the Govardhan Parbat on his little finger as a small child. Once the elders residing in Braj were making arrangements for the worship of Lord Indra. On being questioned by Lord Krishna as to why they were doing this, the villagers told him that they were appeasing Lord Indra so that he would continue to provide rain for their crops. Krishna convinced them to focus on their karma as farmers and not to resort to such measures of pleasing gods through prayers and sacrifices. The villagers were convinced and did not perform the puja that year.
A furious Lord Indra decided to punish the villagers by sending torrents of rain to flood Vrindavan. He called upon the Samavartaka clouds to lash Vrindavan with rain and thunderstorms which would destroy the crops of the farmers.
Soon the land started getting submerged under water. The frightened residents approached Lord Krishna for help. Lord Krishna, who understood what was happening, and the intention of Lord Indra, lifted the entire Govardhan Parbat with his left hand and held it up like an umbrella. The inhabitants of Vrindavan, along with their cows and other household possessions took shelter under the hill from the rains. They stayed there for seven days, safe from the rains and unaffected by hunger or thirst.
Lord Indra was baffled as to what was happening and finally decided to call back the clouds of devastation. The residents returned home, on being advised by Lord Krishna, who then gently placed the Govardhan Parbat back where it had been.
Lord Indra realised that it was Lord Krishna who had helped the residents. His pride was shattered and he came to Lord Krishna with folded hands and prayed to him for forgiveness. Lord Krishna used this opportunity to enlighten Indra on his duties and dharma.
Celebrating Govardhan Puja
Govardhan Puja is celebrated on the first lunar day of Shukla paksh (bright fortnight of the moon) in the month of Kartik, a day after Diwali.
Devotees go around the hill and offer food to it. The circumambulation consists of 11 miles and the way is dotted with several shrines. Many people walk barefoot and at the end of the circumambulation, they offer food and flowers to the hill.
In some homes, an image of Govardhan Parbat is made from cow-dung and 56 items of food are prepared and offered to the hill in the evening. This is why Govardhan puja is also called Chappan Bhog (56 types of food).
In Mathura and Vrindavan, the idols are bathed in milk and dressed in new clothes and ornaments for the Govardhan Puja. Worker and crafters pay reverence to their tools on this day and in many parts of the country the tools are given rest and not worked with. Govardhan puja symbolises the gratitude of the devotees to Lord Krishna for protecting them.