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Govardhana Puja is celebrated in the month of Karthika (October – November) to commemorate the pastime of Lord Sri Krishna lifting the Govardhana Hill to protect the residents of Vrindavana from the wrath of Indra.
When the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna saw the residents of Vrindavana making for Indra-yajna, He suggested that they should forgo the worship of Indra and instead worship the Govardhana Hill. Knowing this, Indra became angry and sent a devastating rainfall over Vrindavana. Krishna picked up the Govardhana Hill like an umbrella and gave shelter to all the inhabitants of Vrindavana. Indra became conscious of his offense and begged for forgiveness from Krishna. Thus the Supreme Lord established that a devotee who is surrendered to the Supreme Lord and engaged in devotional service is free from all obligations and need not worship any demigods for material favor. This pastime, known as Govardhana Lila, is described in the tenth canto of Srimad Bhagavatam (chapters 24 – 27).
As per the instructions of Krishna and following in the footsteps of the residents of Vrindavana, this festival is celebrated every year in the month of Karthika. Devotees prepare varieties of foodstuff with grain and ghee (like rice, dhal, halva, pakora, puri etc.) and all kinds of milk preparations (such as sweet rice, rabri, sweetballs, sandesha, rasagulla and laddu). The food is stacked like a small mountain and offered to the Lord. Then it is distributed to everyone. Hence, this festival is also called Annakuta Festival.
Devotees also worship the cows on the day of Govardhana Puja. Krishna is known as Gopala – the protector of cows. There is also a prayer in Vishnu Purana (1.19.65) that states: namo brahmanya-devaya go-brahmana-hitaya ca. Here Krishna is described as the well-wisher of the cows and the brahmanas. The cows are decorated and fed well. Keeping the cows in front, devotees circumambulate the Govardhana Hill.
The Deity of Lord Sri Krishna is decorated in Giridhari alankara, holding the Govardhana Hill on the little finger of His left hand. A replica of Govardhana Hill made of 100% vegetarian cake is offered to Giridhari.
In Srimad Bhagavatam the description of Govardhana Hill is given as follows:
hantayam adrir abala hari-dasa-varyo
manam tanoti saha-go-ganayos tayor yat
Of all the devotees, this Govardhana Hill is the best! O my friends, this hill supplies Krishna and Balarama, along with Their calves, cows and cowherd friends, with all kinds of necessities: water for drinking, very soft grass, caves, fruits, flowers and vegetables. In this way the hill offers respects to the Lord. Being touched by the lotus feet of Krishna and Balarama, Govardhana Hill appears very jubilant. [Srimad Bhagavatam 10.21.18]
Taking a clue from this description, the devotees of Hare Krishna Movement,Hyderabad. make the replica of the Govardhana Hill with cakes and varieties of cookies. The cakes and cookies are prepared in the temple bakery and are 100% vegetarian. The Govardhana cake is offered to the Deities of Sri Sri Krishna Balarama and later distributed to all the devotees. The cows are well decorated and offered worship. An arati is performed for Gopala, the protector of the cows. Devotees sing various songs like Yashomati Nandana. The Govardhana Lila pastime is narrated to everyone.
A grand arati is performed for Krishna Balarama while the devotees sing Sri Govardhanashtakam – eight verses glorifying the Govardhana Hill.