Festival of Govardhan Puja

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On the fourth day of Diwali is celebrated the Govardhan puja in honour of the Govardhan hill, which is near Vrindavan, with particular reverence to Krishna. The fourth day is called Padwa or Varsha Pratipada.

Throughout the year, the devotees come here to honour it through performing the parikrama or pradakshina, with the circumambulation of the hill itself, and that of a 21 Km route visiting the many holy places along the way from temples, ashrams, kunds, large water basins, tanks, with stone stairs to get down to bathe with devotion around sacred trees.

The battle between Indra and later gods of Hinduism such as Vishnu, Krishna and Shiva became central. Vedic gods of Indo-European origin, together with Indra, Varuna was among the major gods, and was often associated with Mitra. Both were later demoted to tutelary deities of sky, rains, rivers and seas, protector of fishermen, and were made demi-gods of lower rank. Every few thousand years, gods have their share of promotions and descents.

Originally Indra was not the head of the devas, but because of the religious observances instituted necessitating the invocation of the deity of the atmosphere, he replaced the more spiritual Varuna and thus more Vedic hymns were addressed to Indra than to any other deity for his heroic victory over the asura Vala and the dragon Vritra. Then, however, the Trimurti (Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva) became very prominent and therefore Indra was relegated to a subordinate position.

Not that Indra was an Asura, but the pride of his material position and illicit sexual aberrations with apsaras like Urvashi, Rambha or Menaka and the wife of the priests like Ahalya prompted the vedic narrators and the priestly class to demote him from the position of supreme god.

At Brij, in an area near Mathura and Vrindavan, Krishna once lived with his adopted parents, Nanda and mother Yashoda. As a child, with his friends of his age, the gopas, he brought the cows and they enjoyed teasing the gopis, the girls in the area.

During that time a big celebration after the end of each monsoon season used to take place in honor of Indra, dispenser of rain and a fierceful Deva warrior of an earlier era. Krishna was able to distract the interest of the population at Brij saying that it was not necessary to arrange any celebration in Indra's honour.

The origins of this event date back to the time when Krishna was protecting humanity from the great flood of Vrindavan. The act began to terrorize the populace as the water level increased and threatened to engulf everything and kill everyone, including men and animals.

Krishna then arranged to protect the place by bringing the populace to fill up the creeks with rocks through which water flowed near the Govardhana hill, for seven days and seven nights and save all the people and the animals. After the flood ceased and the rivers in full flood waters receded, people loaded their belongings on carts and slowly went away followed by cows leaving the place. Then all the inhabitants of Vrndavana ran to him and embraced him in great ecstasy. Since then on this day the hill is worshipped, to thank it for protecting them.

On the same day is also celebrated Annakut, through feasts of food, to propitiate a good start of the new year. At Brij, especially, there are big celebrations, but also in many other cities, temples and ashrams, where are built reproductions of the small hill with miniature men, plants and animals and on this special day a special offer of food, Chhappan Bhog, is made 56 different food preparations. The hill is 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 is called Bali Pratipada.