Govardhan Puja (IAST: Govardhana-pūjā), also known as Annakut or Annakoot (meaning a “mountain of food”),[1][2][3][4] is a Hindu festival celebrated on the first lunar day of the bright fortnight of the month of Kartika, on the fourth day of Diwali.[5][6] Devotees worship Govardhan Hill and prepare and offer a large variety of vegetarian food to Krishna as a mark of gratitude.[7] For Vaishnavas, this day commemorates the incident in the Bhagavata Purana when Krishna lifted Govardhan Hill to provide the villagers of Vrindavan shelter from torrential rains. This incident symbolizes God offering protection to devotees who take singular refuge in him.[8] Devotees offer a mountain of food, metaphorically representing the Govardhan Hill, to God as a ritual remembrance and to renew their faith in taking refuge in God.[5] The festival is observed by most Hindu denominations all over India and abroad.[citation needed]

Govardhan Puja
Painting of Annakut feast offered to Krishna icons in Nathdwara, late 18th century
Also calledAnnakoot
Observed byHindu
TypeHindu
DatePratipada Tithi of Shukla Paksha in the month of Kartik
FrequencyAnnually
Related toDiwali

It is an important festival in Vaishanava sects, such as the Pushtimarg Sampradaya,[9] Gaudiya Sampradaya[10] and Swaminarayan Sampradaya.[11]

Origin

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Krishna holding the Govardhan, a historic legend is depicted in many major Hindu temples complexes. This panel is from the Hoysaleswara temple, Halebidu Karnataka (c. 1150 CE). The stone block was carved to show the Krishna legend, and Indra behind it.

Krishna spent most of his childhood in Braj, a place devotees associate with many of Krishna's divine and heroic exploits with his childhood friends.[4] One of the most significant incidents, described in the Bhagavata Purana,[4] involves Krishna lifting Govardhan Hill, a low hill situated in the middle of Braj.[4] According to the Bhagavata Purana, forest-dwelling cowherds living close to Govardhan used to celebrate the autumn season by paying respect to Indra, the god of rain and storm. Krishna did not approve of this since he desired that the villagers worship only one Purna Parmatma and not worship any other deities and stone, idols, etc.[12] Indra got angry with this advice.[13]

Krishna, though being younger than almost everyone in the city, was respected by everyone due to his knowledge and immense power. So, the people of Gokul agreed with Krishna's advice. Indra was angered upon seeing the villagers' devotion diverted away from him and toward Krishna. Indra decided to initiate thunderstorms and heavy rains in the city because of his anger. To protect the people from the storms, Krishna lifted Govardhan Hill on his little finger and provided shelter to all the people and cattle of the city. After seven days of continuous storms, seeing the people of Gokul unaffected, Indra accepted defeat and stopped the storms. This day is therefore celebrated as a festival that paid respect to Mount Govardhan by preparing a giriyajna- a "great offering of foods and delicacies to the mountain" Krishna then assumed the form of a mountain himself and accepted the villagers' offerings.[4][14]

Rituals and Celebrations

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Govardhan has since become a major pilgrimage site in Braj for devotees of Krishna. On the day of Annakut, devotees circumambulate the hill and offer food to the mountain—and old ritual in Braj, established by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The circumambulation consists of an eleven-mile trek dotted along the way with several shrines, before which devotees place flowers and other offerings. Others may circumambulate the mountain by offering dandavats (full body prostrations) which can take ten to twelve days.[4][15]

Families create an image of Govardhan Hill from cow dung, adorning it with miniature cow figures as well as grass as twigs, representing trees and greenery. In the days leading up to Annakut, fifty-six food items (chappan bhog) are typically prepared and offered in the evening. A member from the cow-herding caste officiates the ritual, circling the hill with a cow and a bull, followed by families in the village. They partake in the sanctified food after offering the food to the hill. The festival often draws a large crowd, including the Chaube brahmins of Mathura.[4]

Annakut is celebrated on the fourth day of Diwali. Therefore, the rituals surrounding Annakut are closely linked with the rituals of the five days of Diwali. While the first three days of Diwali are days of prayer to sanctify wealth and invite greater wealth into the devotee's life, the annakut day is a day of offering gratitude for Krishna beneficence.[16]

Govardhan Puja

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Govardhan Puja is a principal ritual performed during Annakut. Although some texts treat Govardhan Puja and Annakut as synonymous, the Govardhan Puja is one segment of the day-long Annakut festival.[17][18]

There are many variants of how Govardhan Puja is performed. In one variant of the ritual Krishna is made out of cow dung in horizontal position. After completing the structure, it is decorated by earthern lamps (deepak or diya), seenkh (a material used for broom chaffs), and candles. After worshipping, the structure of the god is fed by devotees, and women fast. Prayers are also made to Govardhan.

 
Govardhan -1

Annkut Festival

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Vast array of vegetarian foods is traditionally arranged in tiers or steps in front of the deities.[19] Usually, the sweets are placed nearest to the deities. As the tiers descend, other foods such as dal, vegetables, pulses, and fried savory foods are arranged. A mound of cooked grains, symbolic of Mount Govardhan, is placed in the center. In Swaminarayan shikharbaddh mandirs, sadhus begin to arrange the Annakut in the morning and finish before noon.[20]

Many Hindus throughout the world celebrate Annakut as a part of Diwali and, most frequently, pair the Annakut celebration with the Govardhan Puja performed on fourth day of Diwali celebrations.[5] Hindus also view Annakut as a time to transmit religious and cultural values to children, ask for forgiveness from God and express devotion towards God. Annakut is celebrated with diyas (small oil lamps) and rangoli, decorative art on the ground made from colored rice, colored sand, and/or flower petals.[21] Many distinct food items, sometimes numbering in the hundreds or thousands, are offered to deities during Annakut.[7] For example, 250 kilograms of food were offered to Krishna at the ISKCON temple in Mysore, India in 2009.[22] Although Annakut is most often associated with Krishna, other deities are also focal points.[23][24] At the Shree Mahalakshmi Mandir in Mumbai, India, 56 sweets and food items are offered to Mataji and then distributed as prasad to more than 500 devotees.[24]

The Annakut festival is also celebrated annually at approximately 3,850 BAPS Mandirs and centers throughout the world in a day-long event. During the festival, Swaminarayan devotees prepare and offer a large variety of vegetarian food to Hindu deities including Swaminarayan and Krishna, among others.[25] The Annakut festival at BAPS mandirs is often the largest festival of the year.[25][26][27][28][29] Visitors learn about Hinduism, offer prayers for the new year, partake in the prasad, or sanctified food, and engage in other devotional activities.[30] A devotee at the BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in Leicester, England, which organizes the Annakut festival every year, describes Annakut as being a forum where spiritual aspirants can reaffirm their appreciation for the role God plays in their lives.[25] These gatherings also represent an opportunity to reaffirm a sense of community.[25] At the BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden, England in 2004, 1247 vegetarian dishes were assembled and offered to the deities during the Annakut celebrations in 2000 at the BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden, England.[7][31]

The Guinness World record for the largest Annakut ever held was on October 27, 2019 (Diwali) in BAPS Atladra Mandir in Gujarat with over 3500 vegetarian dishes.[32]

Thaal

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In all Swaminarayan mandirs, sadhus and devotees then sing thaal - kirtans or devotional hymns composed by the poet paramhansas of Swaminarayan. These kirtans describe the food items, and are about praying to the deities to accept the food. The singing lasts for about an hour, and is followed by a grand arti.[20] Afterwards, devotees do puja and circumambulate the deities and the offered food.[33][self-published source] In some mandirs, arti is performed several times in the day as long as the annakut offerings remain before the deities. In the evening, devotees take portions of the Annakut as prasad, sanctified food, that has been offered to God and is received as his mercy.[20]

In certain mandirs, especially in Mathura and Nathadwara, the murtis are also given a milk bath before being and dressed in elegant clothes and ornaments.[30][page needed]

Vishvakarma Puja

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Some craftsmen pay reverence to their tools and machinery on the day of Annakut.[34]

References

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  1. ^ Babb, Lawrence A. (1996-08-01). Absent Lord: Ascetics and Kings in a Jain Ritual Culture. University of California Press. ISBN 9780520917088.
  2. ^ "Govardhan_Puja - Govardhan Puja Legends, Govardhan Pooja Celebrations". festivals.iloveindia.com. Retrieved 2016-04-01.
  3. ^ Richardson, E. Allen (2014-07-29). Seeing Krishna in America: The Bhakti Tradition of Vallabhacharya in India and Its Movement to the West. McFarland. p. 187. ISBN 9780786459735.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Eck, Diana L. (2013-03-26). India: A Sacred Geography. Three Rivers Press. p. 361. ISBN 9780385531924.
  5. ^ a b c Livingston, Morson (2015-07-10). The Hidden Revelation: "My passion is Spirituality; my mission is to end homelessness and hunger.". Xlibris Corporation. ISBN 9781503584082.
  6. ^ Mukundcharandas (2007). Hindu Rites and Rituals: Sentiments, Sacraments and Symbols. India: Swaminarayan Aksharpith. p. 104. ISBN 978-81-7526-356-7.
  7. ^ a b c Mukundcharandas (2007). Hindu Rites & Rituals. India: Swaminarayan Aksharpith. p. 357. ISBN 978-81-7526-356-7.
  8. ^ "3rd Guinness World Record for Annakut". BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha. Retrieved 2016-04-01.
  9. ^ Richardson, E. Allen (2014-07-29). Seeing Krishna in America: The Hindu Bhakti Tradition of Vallabhacharya in India and Its Movement to the West. McFarland. p. 25. ISBN 9780786459735.
  10. ^ Richardson, E. Allen (2014-07-29). Seeing Krishna in America: The Hindu Bhakti Tradition of Vallabhacharya in India and Its Movement to the West. McFarland. p. 26. ISBN 9780786459735.
  11. ^ BBC. "Annakut Celebration!". Retrieved 2016-04-01.
  12. ^ Vanamali (2012-05-22). The Complete Life of Krishna: Based on the Earliest Oral Traditions and the Sacred Scriptures. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1-59477-690-8.
  13. ^ "Govardhan Puja 2020: Date, Story, Meaning, Arti, Supreme God". S A NEWS. 2020-11-13. Retrieved 2020-11-14.
  14. ^ "DISKUS: The journal of the British Association for the Study of Religions (BASR)". basr.ac.uk. Archived from the original on 2016-04-15. Retrieved 2016-04-01.
  15. ^ Holdrege, Barbara A (May 2018). "The Dynamics of Sanskritising and Vernacularising Practices in the Social Life of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa". The Journal of Hindu Studies. 11 (1): 21–37 – via Wikipedia Library.
  16. ^ "Govardhan Puja Vidhi: How to do Govardhan Puja at home, basic rituals to perform - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 2020-11-11.
  17. ^ Pintchman, Tracy (2005-08-25). Guests at God's Wedding: Celebrating Kartik among the Women of Benares. SUNY Press. pp. 212, 66. ISBN 9780791465950.
  18. ^ "Govardhan Puja 2020 date and time, tithi and other details". www.timesnownews.com. Retrieved 2020-11-11.
  19. ^ "DISKUS: The journal of the British Association for the Study of Religions (BASR)". basr.ac.uk. Archived from the original on 2016-04-15. Retrieved 2016-04-04.
  20. ^ a b c "Nutan Varsh - Annakut (New Year's Day)". www.swaminarayan.org. Retrieved 2016-04-04.
  21. ^ Germany, Baps. "BAPS Germany: Annakut at BAPS". BAPS Germany. Retrieved 2016-04-04.
  22. ^ "Govardhan puja at ISKCON temple". The Hindu. 2009-10-19. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2016-04-04.
  23. ^ "Diwali 2012: London temple welcomes Hindu New Year with a mountain of food". Telegraph.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2012-11-18. Retrieved 2016-04-04.
  24. ^ a b Designs, Enlighten. "Shri Mahalaksmi Temple Charities - Festivals and special arrangements". mahalakshmi-temple.com. Retrieved 2016-04-04.
  25. ^ a b c d BBC. "Annakut Celebration!". Retrieved 2016-04-04.
  26. ^ "Annakut Celebrations 2013". BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha. Retrieved 2016-04-04.
  27. ^ "New Year - Annakut Celebrations with Pramukh Swami Maharaj". BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha. Retrieved 2016-04-04.
  28. ^ Fulford, Paul (29 October 2014). "In Birmingham hundreds of people marked Hindu New Year and Diwali". birminghammail. Retrieved 2016-04-04.
  29. ^ Staff, Parsippany Focus (28 October 2014). "Diwali Celebrations at BAPS Parsippany". Parsippany Focus. Archived from the original on 2016-04-21. Retrieved 2016-04-04.
  30. ^ a b Rosen, Steven (2006-01-01). Essential Hinduism. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 9780275990060.
  31. ^ "– BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London". londonmandir.baps.org. Retrieved 2016-04-04.
  32. ^ "3rd Guinness World Record for Annakut". BAPS. Retrieved 2020-11-14.
  33. ^ Knapp, Stephen (2006-06-05). The Power of the Dharma: An Introduction to Hinduism and Vedic Culture. iUniverse. ISBN 9780595837489.
  34. ^ Festivals of India. Har-Anand Publications. 2002-01-01. ISBN 9788124108697.