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Govardhan Leela

  1. Indra Yajna Revoked


When we were kids, we looked forward to all the festivals that were celebrated round the year. But the celebrations picked up momentum with the oncoming of Durga Puja. After the grandeur of the Puja we would wait for the Deepavali which would fall on the Amavasya. We would be busy the whole day decorating the house with mud lamps, drying the crackers in the sun to make sure they deliver the light, sound and joy as promised by the shopkeeper. For us, the celebration didn’t end there but we would excitedly wait for the next day. The day after Deepavali is the day of ‘Govardhan Puja’ or widely known as Annakuta. In Annakuta ceremony, food and sweets prepared by the devotees are heaped into the shape of a hill and offered to Krishna.

The Govardhan Puja was celebrated in our nearby Radha Krishna Temple. In the evening, we would meet there with our group for bhajan, kirtan, leelabhinaya followed by a discourse by Pandit Rangadhar Sarangi, a well-known Sanskrit scholar. He would tell us the story behind Govardhan Utsav and how the Annakuta started.

When Krishna was a small kid, he saw the inhabitants of Vrindavana running and fussing around, pottering about and carrying all sorts of ingredients to make a magnificent puja for Indra. Seeing the bustle, Krishna went to his father, Nanda Maharaj, and asked him the reason for this commotion. Looking at Krishna’s inquisitive eyes, Nanda Maharaj lifted him up and making his son sit on his lap answered with a smile, “My dear Krishna, we are performing the Indra yajna. We are an agrarian community. We grow grains, we take care of cows and are completely dependent on rain. If it does not rain, we will have no success in our life. And Indra is the lord of rain. He bestows rain upon earth when he is pleased. So, every year we perform this yajna to please Indra, so that he will provide plentiful rains. Adequate rain will ensure a good and prosperous life and the cows will also be happy.”

Krishna was amused when he heard his father narrate the reason behind Indra yajna. He widened his eyes and said, “There is no logic behind this ceremony. I don’t think Indra has anything to do with how much rain we get. According to the laws of Karma, we are either punished or rewarded for our deeds. Indra is simply the deliverer of our ‘karma’. If we are doing good, Indra has to give rains and if we are committing sins, then Indra will withhold the rain. So, what’s the need of worshipping Indra, wasting time to flatter him? He is just doing his duties, not favouring us.” He continued, “O Father! Work is worship. You just have to do your work and you will definitely get the results. Whether there is a God or is not a God, it doesn’t really matter, because God is subservient to your karma. According to the varnasrama dharma, if you just act according to your natural propensity, as a Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaishya,Shudra, then all the needs of your life will be fulfilled. So we just have to perform our duties as cowherds.”

Krishna then tried telling his father what he should be doing instead.He said that it was the Govardhan Hill, the cows and the brahmans that gifted them all that they needed for their sustenance. So it was wiser to worship the Brahmans, the cows and Govardhan hill. They lead their lives by the blessings of Brahmanas and following the Vedic knowledge imparted by them. Govardhan hill supplied grass that the cows ate to give milk. The trees and water bodies in Govardhan also supplied them with all the fruits, flowers and water they needed. It was Govardhan who was delivering them their requirements.

So, Krishna proposed to worship Govardhan instead. He said, "Let us worship what benefits us. The people near us are the ones who we actually turn to for everything we need. But because they are around us, every day of our lives, we do not appreciate them. We are cowherds and we need to worship the cows, we need to worship Govardhan, we need to worship the brahmanas. Why worship Indra?! We get spiritual knowledge from the brahmanas, we get milk from the cows, and from Govardhan we get grass and pure water – that is all we need."

The word Govardhan is composed of two words ‘go’ and ‘vardhana’. Go means ‘a cow’ and vardhana means ‘intensification, escalation or growth.’ Cows graze, breed, get nourished and their number rises because of Govardhan. Govinda is the one who pleases the cows and satisfies our senses. Govardhan intensifies our senses’ attraction to Krishna.

There was another strong reason why Krishna wanted his community to stop worshipping Indra. Only those who had hearts full of true devotion understood that Krishna was the supreme absolute. Others considered him to be a very powerful mystic. Krishna knew that Indra was very proud. Indra was in a position of great power and control. In this world, it is very difficult to have a high position, wealth, beautiful looks, power or authority over others and not become condemned by false pride. It is almost impossible unless one is seriously devoted and takes shelter at the lotus feet of the Lord and the wise souls. Krishna knew that Indra was intoxicated by his high position and had forgotten that he used to be a devotee of Krishna. But Krishna is merciful and wanted to curb this pride of Indra and purify his life.

Krishna also wanted to give pleasure to the Brijwasis and to establish the fact that there is no need to worship anyone but Him. So he put forth his thoughts and convinced Nanda Maharaj to stop this Indra Yajna.

... to be continued

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