Govardhan Puja

Pastoral scene in the Krishna Mandapam, Mamallapuram.

Govardhan pooja is celebrated in certain parts of India today. The legend behind this is as follows:

The pastoral folks of Gokul used to pray with lavish offerings to Indra for rains. Krishna advised them that they should rather be praying to Nature in the form of hills, trees, cattle etc. rather than appeasing Indra.  The people followed Krishna’s advice and stopped the offerings to Indra. Indra was enraged and he unleashed torrential rains with thunder and lightning on the Braj region. Seeing the sufferings and potential danger, Krishna lifted the Govardhan Mountain with his little finger as an umbrella protecting the entire region, its people, cattle and natural resources.

Indra did not relent. For seven days and nights he unleashed his fury in the form of torrential rains. On the eighth day, seeing that Braj and its people are still well protected, he conceded defeat and realized that the boy Krishna was none other than Lord Vishnu.

This episode illustrates the role of nature and the respect we must have for the environment.

In many parts, Govardhan pooja is performed for a heap of rice and/or vegeatbles (Anna koot) or a mound of cow dung or earth. The day is also dedicated to worship of the cow as a mark of respect and thanking for providing us healthy sustenance.

Mahabalipuram has one of the finest bas relief sculptures of this pastoral scene in the Krishna Mandapam near Arjuna’s penance. (7-8 century C.E) [above].

The one in Halebidu from the Hoysala period in Soapstone is also exquisite

Halebeedu, Karnataka, 12 century CE. Soapstone

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