Celebrating Govardhan – a day after Diwali

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govardhan 100dpi - Copy Krishna lifting the Govardhan mountain on his little finger.

Govardhan is a mountain in Vrindavan near Mathura in India where Lord Krishna was born. The day after Diwali is celebrated as Govardhan. The story/myth behind the celebration is very interesting.

A long time ago Vrindavan was a village kingdom. The inhabitants were mostly farmers and cowherds.  The area was ruled by King Nanda and his wife Yashoda. They had two sons Balaram and Krishna, the reincarnation of Lord Vishnu.   Since it was a farming community the villagers were scared of Lord Indra, the God of rain and thunder. According to mythology in the month of July, Lord Indra rides out of his palace in all his glory, on a chariot drawn by his white elephant called Airavat. Followed by dark clouds he brings rain to the entire Indian sub-continent. After a scorching summer, the rains bring life and happiness to the farming community.

In order to appease and thank Lord Indra, the people of Vrindavan performed sacrifices and made offerings to him every year. Krishna as a young boy saw all the preparations being made before sunrise. He went to his father and asked,

“Why is the entire village making all these preparation. Some people are gathering wood while others are preparing the ‘havan kund‘ (for lighting the religious fire to offer food to the Gods). I can see everybody is busy performing some task or the other.”

His father King Nanda replied,

“Krishna, we perform this ritual every year. The entire village gathers and we offer our farm produce to Lord Indra through Lord Agni, the God of Fire as a thanksgiving.”

Krishna was puzzled,

“But father why Lord Indra? The farmer gets up early every day to work his fields. He hoes, sows, and nurtures his plants. He works day and night and looks after them before he can harvest the crop.”

King Nanda smiled,

“Krishna you are so right but you forget that without Lord Indra and the rain he sends, there can be no crop and no food. If Lord Indra is annoyed then he can send more rain than we need and cause floods. If we have floods then we lose all our food and our hard work is also lost. If Lord Indra refuses to send rain then also we lose our food as it will result in our crops shriveling up. So you see it is very important that we have this prayer service with all the trappings to appease Lord Indra and keep him happy.”

Krishna looked at his father and said,

“Actually if we need to thank anybody it should be the mountain Govardhan which stops the rain clouds and we get water for our fields.”

Krishna managed to convince the villagers not to worship Lord Indra.  Now Lord Indra was hearing the entire discourse sitting in his palace in heaven.  He was very annoyed by this developing situation. He also had a very big ego and right now he could not forgive little Krishna for stopping the sacrifice to him. He thundered and shouted out to his minions in anger,

“Clouds go to Vrindavan and rain as never before.”

“Lightening go to Vrindavan and scare the daylight out of those ungrateful farmers.”

“Thunder go to Vrindavan and make so much noise that they cannot hear each other.”

“I want all three of you to create a deluge so great that the entire village with all the dwellings and cattle are washed away. I want to see death and destruction everywhere. Make sure that Sun God cannot penetrate your cover. Scare the villagers so that they start praying and beg me for mercy.”

So saying, he unleashed his army.

Now in Vrindavan, everybody was peacefully following their day’s activity when they noticed dark clouds gathering.  They could also hear approaching thunder and lightning. They understood that this is Lord Indra’s doing.  As this was not the time for heavy rain, it was happening because Lord Indra was angry. They ran to Krishna and said,

“See we told you, if we do not satisfy Lord Indra he will be angry, we will all be destroyed.  Just look at the approaching dark clouds. Oh! We will all be killed.  Our cows will drown.  Our food will be soaked and we will have nothing to eat for the whole year.  Oh Krishna! What have you done? Please save us.”

Krishna could see and feel their distress.  He smiled,

“Dear friends, do not worry I will save all of you.  Please come with your families and valuables.  Come with whatever you need to keep safe.  Just follow me.”

So saying Krishna went towards the Govardhan mountain.  To the surprise of all the villagers, he lifted the mountain and balanced it on the little finger of his left hand.

“Come my friends and shelter under this mountain. You will be safe.”

Lord Indra continued with his rain, thunder, and lightning for seven days and seven nights without having any impact on the inhabitants of Vrindavan.  Frustrated and shocked he ordered the rain to stop. As soon as the clouds of devastation retreated, the rain stopped and the sun shone.  People started going back to their houses.  Indra realized that Krishna could not be an ordinary mortal and arrived to beg his forgiveness.  He recognized him as the supreme being.

Thus Lord Indra’s pride and ego were humbled.

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