Govardhan Puja is celebrated across northern India on the fourth day of Diwali festivities, especially in the states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, with immense devotional fervor. This puja constitutes worshipping of Lord Krishna and Mount Govardhan. It is believed that this mountain, which is located near Mathura, was worshipped by Lord Krishna himself in order teach the common public the lesson of taking care of their environment rather than placing all their focus on far away deities. It is also said that he used this mountain as an umbrella to protect the villagers from instant rains, after which he was lovingly known as Govardhandhari.
Legend behind Govardhan Puja
A very interesting mythological anecdote is believed to be the cause behind the celebration of this day. As per Vishnu Purana, the people of Gokul worshipped and revered the rain deity so he would grant them favorable rains but all this made Indra, the rain god, quite thick headed. To teach him a lesson in humility and to make the villagers aware of the significance of nature around them, Lord Krishna pointed out to them that it was Mount Govardhan, who stopped the water laden clouds from passing over it and brought rain rather than Indra. Villagers, touched by Lord Krishna's logic, performed puja of Mount Govardhan rather than Indra.
Enraged by this act of villagers, Indra declared that he would wipe Gokul from the face of earth and hence, caused heavy downpour on Gokul resulting in flood-like circumstances. This is when to protect the lives of the villagers and their livestock, Lord Krishna worshipped Mount Govardhan and lifted it up on his little finger to provide shelter to the villagers beneath it. Surprised by his defeat, Indra sought advice from Lord Brahma, who revealed to him that Krishna was an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Realizing his grave mistake, Indra sought forgiveness from Krishna. Since that day, instead of Indra, this day was dedicated to the revelry and worshipping of Mount Govardhan.
Celebrations of Govardhan Puja
This day is celebrated by many different names and by different means throughout the country. Those, who are able to visit Mount Govardhan on this day, offer prayers to the sacred hillock by circumambulating around it. This act is referred to as Govardhan Parikrama. However, people who cannot visit the sacred hillock, especially in Haryana, make cow dung miniature replicas of it and adorn them with flowers and circle around them to pay homage to Mount Govardhan. This day is also known as Anna-Koot, which literally translates into 'mountain of food', as on this day, 58 to 108 special delicacies are prepared for Lord Krishna as an offering called 'Bhog'. This practice is more prevalent in Mathura and Nathdwara regions of Uttar Pradesh. In the temples of this region, the deities are bathed in milk and adorned with new attire and jewelry on this day.
This day is reveled as Padwa or Bali Pratipada in Maharashtra. It commemorates on the day on which King Bali can come out from the 'Patal Lok', the nether land, and rule the surface of earth for a day as granted in a boon bestowed upon him by Lord Vishnu in his incarnation as Batu Waman. On this day, wives worship their husband by garlanding and performing his Aarti. To show their appreciation for the kind and tender care of their wife, the husband presents her with gifts. Thus, the day also celebrates the pious relationship that exists between a husband and wife. In many regions of India, like Gujarat and Haryana, this day is also celebrated as Varshapratipada or New Year, since it is believed that King Vikramaditya was coroneted on this day. Hence, Vikram Samvat begins from this day.