Sunday, October 22, 2006

Govardhana Hill Celebration

Today is Govardhana Puja, one of the most cherished holy days in Vrindavan, India. Every culture has its thanksgiving festival. This is only proper. Thousands of years ago, when the residents of Vrindaban were making preparations for their festival, child Krishna inquired from His father Nanda Maharaja about the nature of the event. Nanda Maharaja told Him that it was a traditional sacrifice to King Indra, the bringer of the rain, and this offering was very important since no one could live without rain. But Krishna countered that it was not necessary to worship Indra nor any of the demigods since their powers are actually derived from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Krishna went on to question the necessity of the sacrifice because the rain even falls on the oceans and rocky cliffs although Indra is not worshiped there. Krishna explained that the villagers have a closer connection to the forests, pasturing grounds and hills of Vrindaban, and especially Govardhana Hill. Krishna directed the residents to prepare great quantities of delicious foods to distribute freely to everyone and anyone, to chant the Vedic hymns, to decorate the cows, give charity to the brahmanas, and worship Him (and honor the earth) by circumambulating Govardhana Hill (about a twelve mile hike around the hill).

When the residents, at Krishna’s request, redirected the festival to Govardhana Hill, King Indra became indignant. He couldn’t believe that the villagers would take this seemingly insignificant, "talkative child" so seriously. In his anger, Indra sent huge rain clouds to inundate the land and destroy the village of Vrindaban. But Krishna lifted up Govardhana Hill just as easily as a child picks up a mushroom. He held it up with one hand like a huge umbrella, and for seven days and seven nights the villagers and the animals lived quite comfortably underneath the hill, experiencing no hunger or thirst, until finally the rains subsided.

King Indra realized his mistake and soon enough he came to Krishna in a secluded place to offer prayers and beg His forgiveness. Indra admitted that when he was not offered proper respect by the Vrindaban residents, he became overwhelmed by pride and anger. Now, he recognized Krishna as the supreme father, the spiritual master of all living beings. and the very source of the cosmic manifestation. He thanked Krishna for arranging this situation to destroy his pride because pride is a great stumbling block to one’s spiritual life. Krishna explained that His crushing one’s false pride and taking away someone's opulence was actually His special mercy on that person.

During the festival of Govardhana Hill, Krishna declared that anyone who does not engage in Govardhana Puja would not be happy, and indeed, they would be bitten by the poisonous snakes on Govardhana Hill.