Govardhan Hill

Mathura, Uttar Pradesh

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Govardhana Hill also called Mount Govardhana, Giri Raj and Royal Hill, is a sacred Hindu site in the Mathura districtof Uttar Pradesh, India on a 8km long hill located in the area of Govardhan and Radha Kund, which is about 20 kilometres (12 mi) from Vrindavan.

Govardhan Hill is considered a sacred site because it is the setting for many legends relating to the life of Lord Krishna, the deity believed to be embodied in the earth of the hill. Krishna and his brother Balaram are said to have spent many happy hours roaming among its shady groves, pools, caves and lush cow-pastures. An Eden-like sanctuary, the area's waterfalls, garden-grove (van), arbour (nikunj), water tank (kund), and flora are depicted in scenes of Krishna's adventures and raas with Radha.

There are legends of Krishna’s saving the hill from a flood, “dalliances with gopis (cow-herdresses)’’ and interactions with demons and gods. Artwork has been created of the Hill represented as a bull and a peacock, Krishna in a cave, the Hill as a mountain of food Annakut, depicted in the floods brought on by Indra, and with the Yamuna River.

 

The lifting of Govardhan

Govardhan Puja is celebrated on the day after Diwali. It is the day upon which Lord Krishna defeated Indra, the deity of thunder and rain. As per the story, Krishna saw huge preparations for the annual offering to Indra and questions his father Nanda about it. He debated with the villagers about what their 'dharma' truly was. They were farmers, they should do their duty and concentrate on farming and protection of their cattle. He continued to say that all human beings should merely do their 'dharma', to the best of their ability and not pray or conduct sacrifices for natural phenomenon. The villagers were convinced by Krishna, and did not proceed with the special puja (prayer). Indra was then angered, and flooded the village. Krishna then lifted Mt Govardhan and held it up as protection to his people and cattle from the rain. Indra finally accepted defeat and recognized Krishna as supreme. This aspect of Krishna's life is mostly glossed over - but it actually set up on the basis of the 'karma' philosophy later detailed in the Bhagavad Gita.

According to ancient Vaishnava legends the Vedic Deva (demigod akin to guardian angel), Indra (god of rain & lightning) was feared by human beings because he would either give the people no rain or flood them if he was not satisfied with their worship. When Krishna found out, he opposed the performance of sacrificial worship for Indra. He emphasized the importance of karma and doing ones duty. This made Indra angry at the boy Krishna (one of the incarnations of the Supreme God).

Indra thus invoked many clouds to appear in the sky and schemed to flood the region with rains lasting for seven days and seven nights. Krishna in reply then lifted Govardhan Hill, under which all the animals and people of the region took shelter, safe from the rains of Indra's fury. Ultimately, Indra accepted defeat. He offered his prayers and left to his heavenly kingdom.

It also represents the downfall of Indra, and a new beginning in Hindu philosophy, from a more sacrificial/ appeasement oriented worship, to a more spiritual plane of thought. This evolution of thought in Hinduism was brought about by Krishna, and therefore he has been the most important Hindu deity since then - considered an 'avatar' of the supreme.

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