The festival of lights is here and while, Diwali in itself is a grand celebration there are several other occasion that precede and succeed ‘the’ day. This year, Diwali was celebrated on October 19, and it is followed by Govardhan Pooja on October 20, and then by Bhai Dooj on October 21. All these days have varied stories and significance attached to them, along with their distinct rituals. Govardhan Puja, also known as Annakut/Annajoot, which means mountain of food, is commemorated by Hindus all across the country.
On this occasion, devotees prepare large and lavish meals that are offered to Lord Krishna. The offering is done in the form of a food mountain, which is symbolic of Govardhan Hill. Over 56 varieties of food items are prepared for the deity as a ritual of remembrance and to renew their faith in taking refuge in God. The Annakut festival occurs on the first lunar day of Shukla Paksha (bright fortnight) in the Hindu calendar month of Kartik.
Significance/History of Goverdhan Puja
According to mythological stories and Hindu scriptures, the people of the forest of Vrindavan followed a practice of offering elaborate meals to Lord Indra, the god of rain and storm. They did so to please him enough to be blessed with timely rainfall and good harvest. However, this custom was later questioned by little Krishna, who believed that such a practice is a burden on poor farmers as it puts immense pressure on them to prepare lavish food. Known for his convincing power, Krishna soon convinced the entire village to stop making these offering and to put the same effort is looking after themselves and the village.
Unfortunately, the lack of food offerings angered Indra and he sent down torrential rain and thunderstorm to the region of Vrindavan. The storm went on for days and the village soon started drowning in the water. It is then that the people begged for Krishna’s help, who advised them to move towards the Govardhan hill. Once there, he lifted the whole hill with his little finger, urging everyone to come under the hill to take shelter from the storm, and thus saving them from the wrath of Indra.
Ultimately, Indra bowed down to the might of Krishna and the rains stopped in Vrindavan after pouring for seven days. From then on, Govardhan Puja has been celebrated by people, who on this auspicious prepare special dishes and offer it to thank Krishna.
On this day, people are charged up with energy and enthusiasm. They do up their homes and offices with diyas, candles, flowers, rangoli and more. It is also a common ritual of making small mounds of cow dung to represent the Govardhan mountain, which once dried, is decorated with fresh and beautiful flowers. In temples, devotees and preists together sing ‘Thaal’ or devotional hymns composed by poet paramhansas of Swaminarayan. These describe the food items and request the deity to accept the offerings. Once, the food is offered, it is then distributed as ‘Prasad’. In some temples, aartis are performed several times during the day and idols are given a milk bath and dressed in elaborate clothes and ornamentation.