Govardhana Puja to Uplift Devotees with a Mountain of Sweetness

Govardhana Hill in New Vrindaban

Govardhana Hill in New Vrindaban.

By Madhava Smullen

It’s not something you see every day.

A group of young girls and boys are huddled in the middle of the temple hall, some shocked and some cheering. They’re looking unbelievingly at the particularly effulgent boy at their center as he lifts an impossibly heavy burden.

The young boys and girls might be made of cardboard, but their emotion and the divine pastime they’re portraying shines through as if it’s really there. The hill Lord Krishna’s lifting, fashioned out of cloth by artist Laksmana Dasi, looks like it weighs a ton. And above it, hanging high above the the temple hall, the demigod Indra grips a dark cloud and peers over the edge as shimmering icicle lights make it look as if it’s really raining through flashes of lightning.

It must be Govardhana Puja at New Vrindaban.

Coming up on Thursday November 12th this year, the festival will see residents and visiting devotees absorb the Vrindavana atmosphere the makeshift hill creates during the morning program. They’ll also be invited to bring their own home Govardhana Silas to worship on the temple altar for the day. Then, around noon, they’ll head out for parikrama of the real life-sized Govardhana Hill outside.

“I am hopeful that our New Vrindaban will be an exact replica of Vrindaban in India,” Srila Prabhupada wrote to his early disciples, adding, “The hills may be renamed as New Govardhana. And if there are lakes, they can be renamed as Syamakunda and Radhakunda.” He later referred to New Vrindaban as “non-different from Vrindavana.”

dioramas - Govardhana Hill

Dioramas to be placed outside on Govardhana Hill.

The devotees attending Govardhana puja this year will get that experience as they begin the hour-and-a-half-long tour by viewing three new dioramas also created by Laksmana, now kept in the temple room but set to be placed on the Parikrama path. They show Uddhava speaking to Lord Krishna’s queens at Kusum Sarovara; Gopalnathji telling Madhavendra Puri in a dream to excavate Him from Govardhana Hill; and the Lord helping Srimati Radharani down from a tree.

Outside in the cool autumn air, the devotees will hear about Lord Krishna’s boat pastimes with the gopis while looking over the mirror-like waters of New Vrindaban’s Kusum Sarovara, where the community’s famous swan boat festivals are held.

Next they’ll hear about Lord Chaitanya and Nityananda’s pastimes as they gaze up at Their 40-foot-tall sculptures. They’ll see and hear the glories of Manasi Ganga; Lalita Kunda, where the aptly named Lalita Gopi Dasi has constructed a beautiful waterfall; and Gopisvara Mahadeva. And they’ll hear how Radha Kunda and Shyama Kunda were created in transcendental competition by the Lord and Srimati Radharani Themselves.

“When they sprinkle the water from the lakes on their heads, many devotees and pilgrims actually have tears in their eyes, because they’re so happy to be in this holiest of places,” says festival organizer and tour guide Gauranataraj Das.

The tour will end with kirtan and a class on the pastimes of Govardhana Hill at Aniyor, where the personification of Govardhana is said to have eaten all the offerings of the Brijabasis and called out, “Aniyor! Aniyor!” (“Bring more!”)

After lunch, the devotees will visit the goshala, where they will decorate Krishna’s beloved cows with maha garlands from the altar. Meanwhile, the children of Gopal’s Garden school will dip their hands in colored dyes and cover the cows with multicolored handprints.

Decorating cows New Vrindaban

Decorating the cows.

“It’s very fitting to honor mother cow on this day, as Govardhana means ‘where cows find shelter and protection,’” says Gauranataraj.

After 6pm arati, an offering of sumptuous food will be made to the Lord in the shape of Govardhana, with rice, dahl, puris, pakoras, sweet rice, ladhus, rasgulas, sandesh, and burfis all marked with signs and built to represent various holy places on the hill.

“And then there’s the most joyful, big, dancing kirtan around Govardhana Hill,” says ISKCON New Vrindaban president Jaya Krsna Das.

After everyone has finished jumping, spinning, running, laughing and calling out the Holy Name, they’ll sit down to honor a delicious feast, that will surely have everyone crying out, “Aniyor! Aniyor!”

But that’s not all. The festivities will continue on Saturday November 14th, with an extended Govardhana Puja/Diwali event for pilgrims who can’t make it during the week.

As well as all the same activities as on the 12th, this festival will include a special Diwali fire sacrifice to invoke auspiciousness, dramatic retellings of Krishna’s pastimes by award-winning storyteller Sankirtan Das, and the lighting of one thousand lamps for Diwali.

“We put the lamps on plates, which the pilgrims decorate with elaborate rangoli designs,” says Gaurantaraj. “Then we offer the one thousand lamps, and place them all around Srila Prabhupada and in front of Their Lordships. They create such a serene atmosphere and beautiful spectacle.”

Finally, the day ends with a sparkling firework display in the night sky.

“This festival reminds us that we also have Govardhana here at New Vrindaban, and that Govardhana is Krishna Himself,” says Jaya Krsna. “It’s a such a special, joyful, devotional event.”


2015 Festival Schedule.

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