The Glorious festival of Govardhan Puja

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govardhano jayati śaila-kulādhirājo

yo gopikābhir udito hari-dāsa-varyaḥ

kṛṣṇena śakra-makha-bhaṅga-kṛtārcito yaḥ

saptāham asya kara-padma-tale ’py avātsīt

Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī’s 
Śrī Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta (1.7)

All glories to the emperor of all principal mountains, Śrī Girirāja-Govardhana, who is exalted in all splendor and whom the gopīs proclaim to be haridāsa-varya, the best servant of Śrī Hari. Worship of Śrī Girirāja-Govardhana was introduced by Śrī Kṛṣṇa when the Lord stopped the sacrifice for worshiping Indra. He then received the good fortune of resting continuously on Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s lotus hand for one whole week.

Govardhana-puja is one of the biggest festivals in the month of Kartika. It is observed on Shukla-paksa-pratipad and is celebrated with great jubilation in Sri Krsna-Balarama Mandira in Sri-dhama Vrndavana. In the morning on this auspicious day, the utsava-vigraha of Krsna-Balarama are taken to the goshala, where the cows are worshiped with great respect. Being the eternal servitors of Sri Krsna, who is a cowherd boy, all the devotees take great pleasure in feeding the cows and caressing them. Thereafter the cows and Giri-Govardhana are glorified in the peaceful atmosphere of the goshala amidst the mooing of the cows and bulls. Following the glorification, all the devotees return to the temple, which resounds with hari-nama-sankirtana, and take darsana of the splendid abhiseka ceremony of Giriraja. Being bathed with pancamrta, a wide, radiant smile playing on his divine lips, Giriraja glances upon all the Vaisnavas, his lotus-like eyes brimming with mercy and his charming countenance stealing the devotees’ hearts. Proceeding the abhiseka, Giriraja Maharaja is seated on Govardhana Hill made from halwa. From there, he conquers the devotees’ hearts, appearing most attractive and wonderful. 

The magnificent hill, upon which Giriraja comfortably sits, is prepared by devotees who artistically decoratethe hill with numerous sweets and other bhoga preparations. With affectionate hearts they create various pastime places on the hill, like Radha-kunda and Syama-kunda . 

Many days before the festival, other devotees prepare various delicious, beautifully presented delicacies to decorate the hill. In this way, Giriraj Maharaj gives all the devotees an opportunity to serve him and become the recipients of his mercy. Indeed, as sadhakas it is of utmost importance for us to receive the mercy of the devotees of the Lord (gopī-bhartuḥ pada-kamalayor dāsa-dāsānudāsaḥ). Srimati Radhika has herself proclaimed Giriraja Maharaja to be the best of Vaisnavas (haridāsa-varya); therefore it is our true good fortune to be able to engage ourselves in the service of Giriraja Maharaja. We pray to him to give us a particle of his mercy so that we shall be able to serve Sri Sri radha-Syamasundara in Their sweet lilas.

The glories of Govardhana are endless and the importance of his worship was established by Krsna himself in the following amazing pastime. Once the Vrajavasis were preparing for the yajna to be performed for the pleasure of lord Indra, to appease him and be blessed with sufficient rain. At that time, the young prince of Vraja, the very life and soul of all the Vrajvasis, Nandanandana Syamasundara, questioned the need for that ritual and proclaimed that the worship of lord Indra was unnecessary, as it was his responsibility to provide the required amount of rain to all the inhabitants of the world. He told them that instead, they should worship mother cow and Giriraja Govardhana, as it is they who are truly the sustainers of all the cowherds in Vrndavana. Upon hearing this, all the residents of Vrndavana headed by Nanda Maharaja agreed to take the advice of Krsna, and they all started gathering innumerable food items to offer to Giriraja Maharaja. They assembled in front of the hill and performed puja to mother cow and Govardhana hill and offered all the bhoga to him. Thereafter they circumambulated the hill and experienced great jubilation. Indra was greatly enraged by this and immediately ordered his Samvartaka clouds to go and devastate entire land of Vraja and inundate it with water. The wrath of lord Indra struck fear into the hearts of the Vrajavasis and therefore, they took shelter of Krsna and prayed to Him to protect them from the torrents of rain. Seeing the plea of the Vrajavasis, Krsna immediately lifted Govardhana Hill and held it up for seven days, providing all the residents of Vraja protection from the downpour. Thereafter, when Indra saw the supernatural potency of the young boy, he could understand that He was the Supreme Personality of Godhead and therefore came to ask for forgiveness. He offered many prayers in glorification of Krsna and bathed the Lord with the milk of the surabhi cow and water from Akash Ganga, thus forming the beautiful lake named Govinda-kunda. In this way Sri Krsna Himself established the worship of Giriraja Maharaja.

On the upcoming auspicious day of Govardhan puja, we shall pray to Giriraja that one day we may be able to serve the Divine Couple when they sport in the various groves on his hilltops, which are full with water falls and pristine lakes with blooming lotuses, fruit orchards which satisfy the cowherd friends of Sri Krsna and provide nectarean honey dripping from the branches, minerals with which they decorate themselves, and beautiful caves for the pranaya-keli of Sri Sri Radha-Syamasundara.

saptāham evācyuta-hasta-paṅkaje

bhṛṅgāyamānaṁ phala-mūla-kandaraiḥ

saṁsevyamānaṁ harim ātma-vṛndakair

govardhanādriṁ śirasā namāmi

Girirāja Govardhana rested like a bee upon the lotus hand of Acyuta for seven days. He expertly serves Śrī Hari and Śrī Hari’s dear associates by providing them with fruits, roots, and casves. I bow my head and offer praṇāma unto that Govardhana Hill.