The Evening of the Govardhan Puja

On the fourth day of Diwali gets celebrated the Govardhan puja. It is in honor of the Govardhan hill, which is near Vrindavan. The fourth day is also Padwa or Varsha Pratipada.

The devotees come here to honor it through performing the parikrama or pradakshina. They walk all the way around the hill itself and that of a 21 Km route. They visit the holy places along the way from temples, ashrams, kunds, and large water basins. They get down to bathe with devotion around sacred trees.

On the same day is also celebrated Annakut, through feasts of food, to propitiate a good start of the new year. There are big celebrations at Brij and in many other cities, temples, and ashrams. People make reproductions of the small hill with plants and animals. On this day a special offer of food, Chhappan Bhog gets made with 56 different food preparations. The hill gets made with desserts like Barfi, Laddu, pear, fresh fruit and candied fruit and honey.

On this day is also celebrated the Gujarati New Year. The fourth day is also celebrated in memory of the Asura King Bali and gets called Bali Pratipada.

In Greek myths, Hera was the stepmother and enemy of Heracles. Hera then caused a flood that raised the level of a river so much that Heracles could not ford it with the cattle. Heracles piled stones in the river to make the water shallower. When it arrived at the court of Eurystheus, the cattle got sacrificed to Hera.

Eurystheus also wanted to sacrifice the bull from Crete to Hera. She refused the sacrifice because it reflected the glory of the latter. The bull got released and wandered to Marathon, becoming known as the Cretan bull.

Mabon, the second festival of the harvest got celebrated on the day of the Autumn Equinox. The sun loses power and the darkness begins to prevail on the light. The Druids called it Alban Elued. Barriers between the worlds become thinner and the invisible world was more accessible. People prepare for the long descent into darkness accompanied by songs and rites.

People burnt a straw man on the full moon closest to the September equinox. The ashes get scattered in the fields. Symbols of the festival were the traditional dolls of maize. With the advent of Christianity, the ritual got replaced by the Thanksgiving Day.

Many Asian countries celebrate the mid-autumn festival on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. In South Korea this party is Chuseok. Celebrations begin early in the morning. Families visit and clean up the tombs of their ancestors. During the day people prepare traditional foods such as Songpyeon rice cake. Sindoju and Dongdongju rice are also consumed.

In China, the origins of this tradition are very ancient and date back to the 2nd century BC. The houses get decorated with lanterns. People play gongs and drums. Among the traditional foods we find the rice cakes. In Japan, the Otsukimi festival gets celebrated. Among the traditional foods we find the Tsukimi.

A pyramid of rice dumplings gets placed next to the window so that the moon illuminates them. It gets accompanied by other food and flowers. Houses get decorated with Miscanto or elephant grass. In Taiwan, people celebrate with family grills and traditional lunar cakes. In Vietnam, the cakes have square shape. Children and dancers perform in the streets and homes of those who welcome them.

Iran and Afghanistan celebrate the Mehrgân, the Autumn Persian Festival. It originates in Zoroastrianism. People buy new clothes and decorate tables with flowers, sweets, fruits and vegetables. The ceremonies begin at lunchtime, when every member of the family prays in front of a mirror.

In Greece people celebrated the Oschophoria. In Greece and Persia, protagonists are Inanna and Persephone. Persephone was the daughter of Zeus and Demeter - the goddess of the harvest.