“My dear Lord, You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead. I offer my respectful obeisances unto You because You are the Supreme Person and the Supreme Soul. You are the son of Vasudeva, and You are the Supreme Lord, Krishna, the master of all pure devotees.” (Indra praying to Krishna, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 27)
Govardhana Puja celebrates the anniversary of the lifting of Govardhana Hill by Lord Shri Krishna. How a young child could hold up an entire hill by just one finger for seven consecutive days is a fact only understood by the true devotees of the Lord.
Millions of planets are floating in the air all without any intervention by man. Scientists have come up with the Big Bang Theory to explain the creation of the universe, but they have no way of explaining how such a bang could take place and what existed before then. The Vedas represent perfect knowledge since they were passed down from God Himself:
“The Blessed Lord said: I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Ikshvaku.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.1)
The answer to every question can be found in the voluminous works authored by Vyasadeva and other great authors of the Vedic tradition. The historical account of the lifting of Govardhana Hill can be found in the Bhagavata and Vishnu Puranas, as well in several other books. The significance of the event is quite apparent: if God wants to protect someone, there is nothing that anyone can do, even if they are a powerful demigod.
In the Vedic tradition, many demigods are regularly worshiped since they bestow material benedictions. The King of Vraja, Nanda Maharaja, used to regularly perform a puja, or religious worship ceremony, for Lord Indra, the god of heaven. Indra is one of the chief demigods whose name gets brought up quite often, especially when making comparisons. His strength is great since he uses the thunderbolt as his weapon. For this reason, people often make comparisons to him when describing someone having extraordinary strength. Lord Krishna, who was playing the part of the foster-son of Nanda, asked His father to worship Govardhana Hill instead of Indra. Nanda was hesitant to do so out of fear of offending Indra, but nevertheless, he followed through on Krishna’s request.
This is an example of a perfect guru-disciple relationship. If a person wants to make spiritual advancement, he should follow the instructions of the guru without question. Since the spiritual master is the bona fide representative of Krishna, he is to be afforded the same respect as God. The spiritual master is also referred to as guru-deva, meaning he is god-like. Lord Krishna is the original guru, so He gave Nanda the chance to serve Him even though the outward relationship appeared to be that of a father and son. Following Krishna’s advice, the residents of Vrindavana prepared a huge feast to be offered to the hill:
"Prepare very nice foodstuffs of all descriptions from the grains and ghee collected for the yajna. Prepare rice, dahl, then halavah, pakora, puri and all kinds of milk preparations like sweet rice, sweetballs, sandesha, rasagulla and laddu and invite the learned brahmanas who can chant the Vedic hymns and offer oblations to the fire. The brahmanas should be given all kinds of grains in charity. Then decorate all the cows and feed them well. After performing this, give money in charity to the brahmanas. As far as the lower animals are concerned, such as the dogs, and the lower grades of people, such as the chandalas, or the fifth class of men who are considered untouchable, they also may be given sumptuous prasadam. After giving nice grasses to the cows, the sacrifice known as Govardhana Puja may immediately begin. This sacrifice will very much satisfy Me." (Lord Krishna, KB, Vol 1, Ch 24)
Lord Krishna wanted Govardhana Hill to be worshiped since it provided so many benefits to the citizens. This represents one of the primary principles of the Vedic system; respect. A cow freely gives us milk, not putting up any opposition. For this reason, she is to be respected as a mother, not mercilessly killed in a slaughterhouse. Our parents serve as our initial spiritual masters, guiding and protecting us in our youth. For this reason, they are to be shown the highest respect. The same principle holds true for land. Due to the nature of the material world, we are required to take certain actions to maintain our mind and body. Using land for farming and housing is a necessity, but we should be careful not to unnecessarily burden the earth. We should show respect to the land that we do use, since we would not be able to maintain our livelihoods without it.
“Lord Chaitanya has recommended that since Krishna is worshipable, so His land, Vrindavana and Govardhana Hill, are also worshipable. To confirm this statement, Lord Krishna said that Govardhana Puja is as good as worship of Him.” (Shrila Prabhupada, KB, Vol 1, Ch 24)
Govardhana Hill was shown the highest respect since it proved so beneficial to the citizens. Indra became angry since his worship was skipped, so he decided to take out his wrath on the citizens by pouring down an onslaught of rain. The demigods are god-like, but they are not equal to God. They are still vulnerable to the defects of man. Indra is especially notorious for transgressing the rules of propriety from time to time, and this was one of those occasions. Lord Krishna came to the rescue of the citizens by holding up Govardhana Hill and using it as an umbrella:
"My dear brothers, My dear father, My dear inhabitants of Vrindavana, you can now safely enter under the umbrella of Govardhana Hill, which I have just lifted. Do not be afraid of the hill and think that it will fall from My hand. You have been too much afflicted from the heavy rain and strong wind; therefore I have lifted this hill, which will protect you exactly like a huge umbrella. I think this is a proper arrangement to relieve you from your immediate distress. Be happy along with your animals underneath this great umbrella." (Lord Krishna, KB, Vol 1, Ch 25)
Ever since that time, Govardhana Hill has been worshiped annually to mark the occasion of the Lord’s bestowal of mercy upon His devotees.