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Govardhana Pūjā

[November 14, 2023 is the Govardhana Pūjā in Vṛndāvana, India. The following is a bhāva anuvāda of the kathā given by Śrīla Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja on the same tithi on October 24, 2014. Editors’ input: Additional text has been included in square brackets to facilitate the flow of content.]

Today is Govardhana Pūjā, a special day [known as] Annakūṭa Mahotsava [literally meaning the great festival of the ‘Mountain of food grains’]. It is also the āvirbhāva tithi of Śrīla Rasikānanda Deva Gosvāmī.


One unique feature of Annakūṭa Mahotsava is that Bhagavān Himself introduced the process of His own worship by performing the worship Himself. Gauḍīyas see that Annakūṭa Mahotsava has been referenced in two places [Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta].

In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself taught us to serve the mūla-vigraha [main deity] rather than worship the ādhikārika devatās [demigods that have been assigned the potency to perform a particular function]. At the same time, [in the form of Govardhana] He accepted the worship Himself.


[In Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta] Bhagavān mentioned to Śrī Mādhavendra Purīpāda, “I am very hungry”. Yet, can Bhagavān experience hunger? Bhagavān is pūrṇa-vastu [the complete whole] [Endnote 1]. So is there any possibility that something that is complete in itself, pūrṇa-vastu, experiences hunger at any given point? The different systems of thought and philosophical considerations mentioned in the darśana-vicāra [Endnote 2], reveal that not even a blade of grass can exist outside of the pūrṇa-vastu. If it does exist, then that would imply that He is not pūrṇa [complete], because a blade of grass can exist outside of Him. Since Bhagavān is pūrṇa-vastu, everything resides within Him, therefore, what other objects can we bring and offer Him?

As long as hunger and thirst remain, food and water will give happiness and taste good. But Bhagavān is pūrṇa-vastu, from where will hunger arise? Bhagavān feels hungry observing the love a devotee holds for Him deep within his heart.

In other words, the hunger in Bhagavān is for the loving service that exists in the heart of His devotee. Śrī Mādhavendra Purīpāda had accepted ayācaka-vṛtti, which means accepting only that which comes of its own accord (without begging alms) and of that too, accepting only milk and otherwise simply remaining without food. Bhagavān said to Śrīla Mādhavendra Purīpāda, “I am feeling very hungry. Please feed Me.” There were many wealthy people available, yet Bhagavān did not ask from them. Bhagavān is hungry for the love in the heart of His devotee.

nānopacāra-kṛta-pūjanam ārta-bandhoḥ

premṇaiva bhakta-hṛdayaṁ sukha-vidrutaṁ syāt

yāvat kṣud asti jaṭhare jaraṭhā pipāsā

tāvat sukhāya bhavato nanu bhakṣya-peye

(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 8.69)

[Rāmānanda Rāya continued, "'As long as there is hunger and thirst within the stomach, varieties of food and drink make one feel very happy. Similarly, when the Lord is worshiped with pure love, the various activities performed in the course of that worship awaken transcendental bliss in the heart of the devotee.']


In this context, the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam mentions that when Bhagavān was a seven year old child, he asked his father, Nanda Mahārāja, “If they are all ādhikārika devatās, what is the utility of worshiping them? Why not worship Girirāja, under whose shelter we live?” So, in turn, they began worshipping Girirāja instead of Indra. Bhagavān is maṅgala-māyā [all-auspicious], His activities are also all-auspicious. When his worship was stopped, naturally, Indra became very angry. What is the reason?

‘kāmāt krodho ’bhijāyate’[Bhagavad-gītā 2.62], from unfulfilled desires, anger arises. Demigods have the desire to gratify their own senses, ‘ātmendriya-prīti-vāñchā’ [Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi 4.165], thus, in a fit of anger, Indra resolved to submerge the entire Vraja-maṇḍala in water and began pouring torrents of rains. First, he ordered the wind-gods, who are sub-ordinate to him, to blow strong winds, and then he instructed the clouds [of destruction] named Sāṁvartaka, whose rain drops are as thick as the trunk of an elephant, to pour down heavily. So this is how it began to rain heavily. All the Vrajavāsīs became fearful, thinking, “Now where will we and our animals go [for shelter]?”


Śrī Kṛṣṇa said to them, “You all served Girirāja, now He Himself will protect you. You need not fear.” Then He lifted Govardhana as if lifting a chatrāk, mushroom, which is very light or like an umbrella on the tip of the little finger of His left hand. Different fingers have different names - anguṣṭa [thumb], tarjani [forefinger], madhyama [long finger], anāmikā [ring finger] and kaniṣṭha [little finger]. He placed Girirāja on the nail of His little finger. How many kilos of weight can you hold on your little finger? Is there anyone who can try to hold up even a kilogram? Yet Kṛṣṇa lifted Govardhana, which by external consideration, measured 22 kilometers [13.67 miles].


Devotees are those who have devotion for Bhagavān (Bhagavān bhaktimān) and Bhagavān is He who has devotion unto His own devotees (Bhakta bhaktimān); [bhagavān bhakta-bhaktimān, means He who is devoted to His own devotees, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 10.86.53] in this way, He serves His own devotees. Do only human beings qualify as devotees? No. From human beings to the insects and worms, any living entity can be a devotee.

So to give happiness to His devotees, Kṛṣṇa lifted Govardhana onto His left hand. Vāma aṅga, the left side represents Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, hlādinī-śakti. Through Her, He lifted Govardhana and through the medium of hlādinī-śakti, Bhagavān gives bliss to the living entities.

Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī explained this in the verse:

sukha-rūpa kṛṣṇa kare sukha āsvādana bhakta-gaṇe sukha dite ‘hlādinī’ — kāraṇa

(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 8.158)

[“Lord Kṛṣṇa tastes all kinds of transcendental happiness, although He Himself is happiness personified. The pleasure relished by His pure devotees is also manifested by His pleasure potency.]

Kṛṣṇa gives happiness to His devotees through the medium of hlādinī-śakti. Who is a devotee? One who has devotion to Bhagavān is a devotee. Devotees are of five types - śānta, dāsya, sakhya, vātsalya and mādhurya. From sakhya onwards two channels have been formed – one is viśrambha [intimacy] and the other is gaurava [awe and reverence].

But, in essence, it is through hlādinī śakti only that the devotees experience happiness irrespective of their rasa.] This is why Govardhana was lifted through the medium of hlādinī. Devotees in śānta, passive mood are gau-vetra-viṣāṇa-veṇu [cows, cow-herding stick, flute, a buffalo horn bugle]. All these are in śānta; Bhagavān gave happiness to them as well. Devotees in dāsya like Citraka, Puṣpaka, also taste happiness. He gave happiness to friends and to the devotees in conjugal mood (mādhurya) and everyone else. This is the special feature of Annakūṭa Mahotsava, that Kṛṣṇa awarded happiness to every kind of devotee, from śānta (neutral) to kānta (conjugal). Not only that, even to those who are jaḍa (life-less), though there is no mention in our scriptures about this class, they are called supta-cetanā [dormant consciousness]. There is life in all things. The purpose of this pastime was to bestow [transcendental] happiness to all.


He exhibited this pastime for seven days and nights non-stop. It is said,

sura-pati-durmati-nāśa vicāri’

[In order to curb the malice of Indra, king of the demigods, You will protect me from his torrents of rain, O lifter of the mighty Govardhana Hill! “Ātma-samarpane” song from Śaraṇāgati of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura].

The wicked emperor of the demigods, Indra, exercised his power, but could he cause any interruption in the happiness of Bhagavān’s devotees? They began to drink the beauty of Bhagavān in such a way that seven days elapsed but everyone was oblivious to it. No one experienced any hunger or thirst during this period. Did anyone rest or take food? How did they spend these days? When happiness is experienced time passes swiftly, whereas the time of distress doesn’t pass [so swiftly]. Once a Ṛṣi said to a king, “Those who give distress to others live longer.” During summer, the days are longer because [the heat of] summer causes everyone difficulty and during winter the [cold] nights are longer, and this cold weather gives poor people distress. So it is often seen that the people who give distress to others, must endure a longer life.

The Ṛṣi further blessed the King, ‘May your enemy remain hungry in the cold night of the month of Pauṣa [Dec/Jan]”, meaning due to the pain [of being hungry and experiencing cold] he will face difficulties. This is how it is said in the scriptures. But in this case, were any of the Vrajavāsīs hungry or thirsty? Where did they go? When one is tasting the sweet mellows of Bhagavān, hunger and thirst are not experienced.

That is why whenever Śukadeva Gosvāmī offered rest from his hari-kathā, Parīkṣit Mahārāja would urge him to continue. Śukadeva Gosvāmī asked, “Are you not hungry or thirsty? If this is so, then why did you put a dead snake around the neck of a brāhmaṇa? Weren’t you thirsty then?” Parīkṣit Mahārāja responded, “At that time I was thirsty, but then I did not get to drink, however, now I am drinking (pibantam) the nectar of hari-kathā emanating from your lotus lips, so how can there be any hunger or thirst?”

Through this pastime of lifting Govardhana it has been shown that not only human beings, but even cows, goats, sheep, etc. did not experience any hunger and thirst during those seven days. That Indra, who had made this arrangement to give them trouble, was left wondering where all the water went? ‘I am not noticing any trace of water here.’ Then he felt fearful.


Why did Indra experience fear and no one else? What is the reason for his fear?

bhayaṁ dvitīyābhiniveśataḥ syād īśād apetasya viparyayo ’smṛtiḥ tan-māyayāto budha ābhajet taṁ bhaktyaikayeśaṁ guru-devatātmā

(Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 11.2.37)

[Fear arises when a living entity misidentifies himself as the material body because of absorption in the external, illusory energy of the Lord. When the living entity thus turns away from the Supreme Lord, he also forgets his own constitutional position as a servant of the Lord. This bewildering, fearful condition is affected by the illusory potency, called māyā. Therefore, an intelligent person should engage unflinchingly in the unalloyed devotional service of the Lord, under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master, whom he should accept as his worshipable deity and as his very life and soul. BBT]

When one becomes engrossed in other activities and thoughts, this is dvitīyābhiniveśa. Fear is caused by dvitīyābhiniveśa, which causes one to forget Bhagavān. [When one is engrossed in something other than Kṛṣṇa] then īśād apetasya, one turns away from Bhagavān, it results in viparyāya [misidentification]. And the outcome of viparyāya is asmṛti, forgetfulness of one’s constitutional position as servant of Kṛṣṇa. And fear is a result of forgetting the Lord.

Is there any reason to fear if we always remember that we are eternal servants of Kṛṣṇa? There is none. That is why king Kulaśekhara told Kāmadeva, “How dare you come near me. Do you know who I am? I am the servant of Madana-mohana. You went to enchant Śiva, but were you successful? You were reduced to ashes. Whose servant is Śiva? I am that Madana-mohana’s servant. So don’t you dare come near me.” [Endnote 3] Fear arises only when there is forgetfulness. [that we are eternal servants of Kṛṣṇa].

Did Sugrīva fear Vāli when Śrī Rāmacandra was in his remembrance? Earlier, fearing Vāli, he had left Kiṣkindhā and resided in Malyavana Parvata. He did not possess the qualification to enter Kiṣkindhā despite being Vāli’s twin brother. However, when he took shelter of Śrī Rāma, he remembered [Śrī Rāma], dvitīyābhiniveśa went away and no fear remained in him. Then he went and challenged Vāli, calling out, ‘Oh Vāli, come for a battle!’ At that time the wife of Vāli warned him, “Be careful, there must be someone behind him on whose strength he is challenging you for a battle. Otherwise how could he challenge you?” Vāli did not heed his wife’s words of caution, and he was killed.

So, the omnipotent (sarva-śaktimān) Bhagavān Himself awarded this teaching to all of us to exclusively worship Him. That is why Govardhana has two forms, one is Bhagavān and the other is bhakta-śreṣṭha, haridāsa-varya, best among the servitors of Śrī Hari.


In Vraja, there is a conversation between a śuka (male parrot) and sārī (female parrot). While singing the glories of Kṛṣṇa, the śuka said, “My Kṛṣṇa resides under the kadamba tree, as it gives Him pleasure.” To this, the sārī responds, “How did you come know that Kṛṣṇa likes to stand underneath a kadamba tree? Kṛṣṇa would never stand underneath the kadamba if Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī weren’t passing by. It is because Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī passes by and finds Kṛṣṇa standing underneath a kadamba tree, and later tells everyone about it that others come to know of Kṛṣṇa there. Otherwise, without Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, no one would know that Kṛṣṇa likes to stand underneath a kadamba tree.”

Then, the śuka declares, “Our Kṛṣṇa can even lift Girirāja Govardhana.” To this the sārī says, “It is true that Kṛṣṇa lifts Girirāja Govardhana, but do you know on which body part He lifted Govardhana? The left side where the śakti potency always resides. So Kṛṣṇa (śaktimān) is able to lift Govardhana because of (śakti) Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, who resides on His left side. If Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī didn’t empower Him, how could He lift Govardhan?” Every time the śuka describes any [glories] of Kṛṣṇa, the sārī retorts by glorifying Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī.

Endnote 1

Śrī Īśopaniṣad

oṁ pūrṇam adaḥ pūrṇam idaṁ pūrṇāt pūrṇam udacyate pūrṇasya pūrṇam ādāya pūrṇam evāvaśiṣyate

[Īśo Invocation]

["The Personality of Godhead is perfect and complete, and because He is completely perfect, all emanations from Him, such as this phenomenal world, are perfectly equipped as complete wholes. Whatever is produced of the Complete Whole is also complete in itself. Because He is the Complete Whole, even though so many complete units emanate from Him, He remains the complete balance."]

Endnote 2

The six philosophical thesis are (1) Vaiśeṣika, propounded by Kaṇāda Ṛṣi, (2) Nyāya, propounded by Gautama Ṛṣi, (3) Yoga, or mysticism, propounded by Patañjali Ṛṣi, (4) the philosophy of Sāṅkhya, propounded by Kapila Ṛṣi, (5) the philosophy of Karma-mīmāṁsā, propounded by Jaimini Ṛṣi, and (6) the philosophy of Brahma-mīmāṁsā, or Vedānta, the ultimate conclusion of the Absolute Truth (janmādy asya yataḥ (SB 1.1.1)), propounded by Vedavyāsa.

[Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 12.96 Purport BBT]

Endnote 3

madana parihara sthitiṁ madīye

manasi mukunda-padāravinda-dhāmni

hara-nayana-kṛśānunā kṛśo 'si

smarasi na cakra-parākramaṁ murāreḥ

Mukunda-mālā-stotra 22

[O Cupid, abandon your residence in my mind, which is now the home of Lord Mukunda's lotus feet. You have already been incinerated by Lord Śiva's fiery glance, so why have you forgotten the power of Lord Murāri's disc?]

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