Govardhan Puja: The worship of the holy mountain
Govardhan Puja, or known as Annakut “mountain of food” is a Hindu festival in which devotees prepare and offer a large variety of vegetarian food (Chappan Bhog) to God as a mark of gratitude. This day also contributes to the incident of Lord Krishna in which he lifted Govardhan Hill to provide the villagers of Vrindavan shelter from torrential rains. The people of Gokul offered food to Lord Krishna and Goverdhan Parvat as a gratitude from saving them. The Annakut festival occurs on the first lunar day of Shukla Paksha (bright fortnight) in the Hindu calendar month of Kartik, which is the fourth day of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.
Origin of Goverdhan Puja
According to the history, forest-dwelling cowherds living close to Govardhan used to celebrate the autumn season by paying respect to Indra, the god of rain and storm. Krishna did not approve of this since he desired that the villagers should not pray to distant gods but rather give appreciation to avatar of God present before them. He therefore initiated a festival that paid respect to Mount Govardhan by preparing a 'giriyajna' - a "great offering of foods and delicacies to the mountain" Krishna then assumed the form of a mountain himself and accepted the villagers' offerings. Indra was angered upon seeing the villagers' devotion diverted away from him and toward Krishna and directed a lightning storm and a torrential downpour upon the village for days. To protect the villagers from this calamity, Krishna lifted Mount Govardhan on his little finger and had the entire village come under the hill to take shelter from the storm. Indra, after causing torrential rains for seven days, ultimately gave up and bowed to Krishna’s superiority. This story is one of the most recognizable in the Bhagavata Purana. Govardhan has since become a major pilgrimage site in Braj for devotees of Krishna.
Goverdhan Puja is celebrated on the fourth day of Diwali. The fourth day of Diwali is also the first day of the Vikram Samvat calendar. Therefore,the are closely linked with the rituals of the five days of Diwali. While the first three days of Diwali are days of prayer to sanctify wealth, and invite greater wealth into the devotee’s life, the annakut day is a day of offering gratitude for God’s benevolence.
There are many ways of how Govardhan Puja is performed. One ritual involves making small mounds of cow dung or dirt symbolizing Mount Govardhan, which are then adorned with flowers and later worshipped by circumambulating around them. Prayers are also made to Lord Govardhan.
Offering to Lord
A vast variety of vegetarian foods is traditionally arranged in front of the deities. Usually, the sweets are placed nearest to the Deities. As the tiers descend, other foods such as 'dal', vegetables, pulses and fried savory foods are arranged. A mound of cooked grains, symbolic of Mount Govardhan, is placed in the center. In Swaminarayan shikharbaddh mandirs, sadhus begin to arrange the Annakut in the morning and finish before noon.
Celebrate this Goverdhan Puja with Lord Krishna.