Diwali & Govardhana Puja


Offering a ghee lamp during Diwali

Diwali is a five-day festival widely known as the Hindu New Year, and comes from the Sanskrit word dipavali (dipa— lights, vali— numerous). The festival is commonly observed by illuminating candles or other lights in homes, temples and public spaces, and by offering opulent preparations of food to the deity.

In ancient times, Diwali was first observed by the citizens of Ayodhya to celebrate the joyful return of King Rama, an incarnation of Krishna. In another era, this was also the day when Lord Krishna performed His Damodara childhood pastime of breaking the pots of yogurt and letting Himself be bound by Mother Yashoda. Devotees remember these pastimes during this auspicious month known as Karttika.

The Founder-Acharya of the Hare Krishna Movement, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada wrote about Diwali in a letter to a disciple:

“Diwali ceremony can be observed in the temple by illuminating hundreds of candles, in different parts of the temple, and offering special Prasad to the Deity. This ceremony was observed by the inhabitants of Ayodhya, the Kingdom of Lord Ramacandra, while Lord Ramacandra was out of His Kingdom due to His fourteen years banishment by the order of His father. His younger step-brother Bharata, took charge of the Kingdom and the day on which Lord Ramacandra took back the charge again from His brother, and seated on the throne, this is observed as Diwali function. This is the original idea of Diwali, and Dipabali. Dipabali means the same thing—Dipa means candles, and bali means numerous. When numerous candles are lighted it is called Dipabali. In India, this Dipabali function is celebrated in a special auspicious occasion.”

Govardhana Puja

In ancient times, Annakuta, the day after Diwali, was an Indra-yajña, a traditional sacrifice honoring the demigod Indra for providing rains essential for a successful harvest. During His manifest pastimes on Earth in Vrindavana, some 5000 years ago, Lord Sri Krishna emphasized that exclusive devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead is of greater importance, and that benefits bestowed by demigods are actually sanctioned and bestowed by Himself.

Furthermore, sensing that His devotee Indra had become overly proud of being king of heaven, Krishna wanted to teach him a lesson. So He convinced the residents of Vrindavan to stop the Indra-yajña and instead worship Govardhana Hill and the brahmanas. Lord Krishna argued that it was the fertile soils on the hill that provided the grass upon which the cows and bulls grazed; that it was the cows and bulls who provided milk and ploughed the lands and should therefore be worshiped; and, to convince the devotees that Govardhana Hill and Krishna Himself are identical, He expanded himself into a great transcendental form and began to eat all of the food offered there. This turn of events naturally upset the mighty Indra, who, blinded by anger, retaliated with terrifying thunderstorms, hail and torrential rains.

Seeing this, Lord Krishna, the all powerful Supreme Personality of Godhead, effortlessly lifted Govardhana Hill with one hand and held it up like a giant umbrella, providing shelter for the people and animals of Vrindavan. For seven days, as Indra’s fury raged and the rains intensified, Lord Krishna held up the hill while the residents of of Vrindavan chanted His praises and glanced at Him with joyful and amazed eyes.

In the Srimad-Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana) we read: “When Indra observed this exhibition of Lord Krishna’s mystic power, he became most astonished. Pulled down from his platform of false pride, and his intentions thwarted, he ordered his clouds to desist.”

In this way Lord Krishna demonstrated that He is Deva Deva, the Lord of the demigods, and that any purpose for which demigods might be worshiped could easily be served by worshiping Him, the supreme cause of all causes.

Several thousand years later, on this same day, Srila Madhavendra Puri established a temple for the Gopala Deity on top of Govardhana Hill.

To celebrate this festival, devotees build a replica of Govardhana Hill made of various opulent foods, worship Lord Krishna as the lifter of Govardhana Hill, worship the hill as His incarnation, and worship the cows and bulls who are dear to the Lord. At the end of the festival, the hill of prasada (sanctified food) is distributed to the public. Vaishnava temples in India and throughout the world observe this ceremony, and thousands of people are fed prasada according to the capacity of each temple.

To read this pastime in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana), click here:

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