Govardhan Puja is celebrated a day after Diwali, that is the fourth day of the 5-day grand Hindu festival. Occasionally, there can be a day gap between Diwali celebrations and Govardhan Puja. According to the Hindu calendar it falls on the first lunar day called ‘Ekam’ of the Shukla Paksha (bright fortnight of moon) in the month of Kartik. It forms an integral part of Diwali celebrations. Govardhan Puja commemorates the victory of Lord Krishna over Indra. Govardhan Puja is called by different names in different parts of the country. In some places it is known as ‘Bali Pratipada,’ ‘Annakut Puja,’ ‘Padwa’ or even ‘Gujarati New Year.’ Govardhan Puja is celebrated with great enthusiasm and zeal in the Indian states of Haryana, Punjab, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
Rituals of Govardhan Puja:
On the day of Govardhan Puja, people make hillocks from cow dung, which represents Mount Govardhan. These hillocks are then beautifully adorned with flowers and worshipped with Kumkum and Akshatra. Devotees then perform ‘Parikrama’ (a ritual of taking rounds) around the hillocks. They pray devotedly to Lord Govardhan (Lord Krishna) and ask him to protect them from the hardships of life. On this day, in India, people also give baths to their bulls and cows and decorate them with garlands and saffron. They then worship the cows and bulls as they were considered dear to Lord Krishna. This event used to take place in Guyana during the 1900’s.
The preparation of ‘Annakoot’ is an integral part of the Govardhan Puja. The word ‘Annakoot’ means ‘mountain of food.’ Therefore, on the auspicious day of Govardhan Puja, devotees prepare 108 or even 56 varied preparations of food to offer as ‘Bhog’ to Lord Krishna. The idols of Lord Krishna are bathed in milk and adorned with beautiful and dazzling clothes and jewelry. They are then worshipped by traditional means, including Bhog and Aarti. The ‘Annakoot’ Prasad is then distributed amongst family members and friends. In Guyana, however, our traditional Prasadam and ‘seven curry’ is prepared and served to members of the Gau (village).
In some states of India, the day just after Diwali is observed as ‘Kartik Shudha Padwa.’ This day celebrates the return of KingBali and is also called ‘Bali Padyami.’ In Maharashtra and some western states, Govardhan Puja is celebrated as ‘Gudi Padwa.’ On this day wives garland their husbands, apply ‘Tilak’ on their forehead and perform an Aarti for their long and prosperous life. As a token of appreciation and love, the husbands then shower their wives with expensive gifts. Hence, the festival of Gudi Padwa cherishes the bond of selfless love and devotion between husband and wife. In Guyana, very little is known about this festival due to the fact that husbands and wives were not given a chance to celebrate it.