Govardhan Puja is a Hindu religious festival celebrated after Deepavali. Also known as ‘Annakoot’, the festival falls on the fourth day of the five-day Diwali celebrations. Devotees prepare and offer a large variety of foods to lord Krishna and worship him on this day. It is believed that Krishna protected the entire Vrindavan region from heavy and dangerous rainfall by lifting the huge Govardhan hill over everyone, thus protecting them from the torrential rain that had been sent forth by the rain god Indra, out of jealousy and anger (more of that story later).
This year, Govardhan puja falls on October 31.
The puja itself has an interesting story of ego clash associated with it.
Significance of Govardhan Puja
According to Bhagvad Puran, the people in the forest-regions of Vrindavan used to worship lord Indra, the god of rain and storm, as well as the king of all gods during the autumn season, thanking him for the bountiful rains and good harvest. Krishna, who is believed to be an incarnation of lord Vishnu, did not approve of the villagers worshipping a distant god instead of thanking the one much closer. So, he set about convincing the people that they should create a mountainous offering of food and delicacies for a ‘giri yagna’. He then assumed the form of a mountain – Govardhan – himself to accept those offerings.
Once the news that the villagers had started worshipping Govardhan instead of Indra reached the rain god, he was extremely upset. Indra decided to punish the villagers by creating a storm and torrential rain on the villagers for days at an end. The people, for fear of life and their houses, cried to Krishna for help. Krishna then told everyone to head towards the Govardhan for protection, where he lifted the whole hill with just his little finger, urging everyone to come in its protection, and thus saving them from the wrath of Indra.
After much trial and tribulation, Indra accepted that he could not harm the villagers and realised that he had let his ego dictate his actions, thus, conceding defeat. Indra then cleared the storm and everything returned to normalcy. Since then, Govardhan Puja has been celebrated by people, mainly in the northern states such as Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Bihar.
Those with access to the Govardhan hill, go to the pilgrimage site, circumambulate the hill and offer food and delicacies as a way to thank Krishna for his blessings and protection.
The Annakoot Puja
People celebrate the day by preparing a mountain of food, which is called the Govardhan mountain or Annakoot. They perform the puja with devotion, by asking for forgiveness and expressing their love towards God. People light diyas (oil lamps), decorate their houses with rangoli, coloured rice and flower petals.
There are many interesting ways of conducting the puja, which forms an essential part of the festival. For instance, one ritual requires taking small mounds of cow dung to represent Govardhan mountain and then decorate it with flowers.
The annakoot is made by preparing huge quantities of vegetarian dishes. Most times, the traditional sweets are placed the nearest to the deities. Other foods such as vegetables, pulses, dals and other savoury foods come in other tiers. Known as the chhappan bhog, the annakoot generally has 56 dishes being offered to the god.
The Govardhan puja is conducted in the morning as well as the evening, on the day. Here are the mahurat timings for conducting a hurdle-free and blessed puja.
Govardhan Puja Pratahkal Muhurat: 06:36 am to 08:47 am
Duration: 2 Hours 11 Mins
Govardhan Puja Sayankal Muhurat: 3:21 pm to 5:32 pm (October 31, 2016)
Duration: 2 Hours 11 Mins
Also celebrated on this day is Vishwakarma puja, when people pay their respects to their tools and machinery. People worship Vishwakarma, the divine architect on this day and pray for the smooth functioning of their machinery and tools.