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Significance Of Deepavali And Goverdhan Pooja In Krishnabhakti Tradition

Deepavali celebration generally remarks the arrival of Prabhu ShriRām in Ayodhyā and his coronation as the king of Bhārat. In addition to this traditional pattern of celebrating the festival of Diwali, in Krishnabhakti traditions this festival is celebrated as part of GosavYāg, popularly known as Indra Yāg, a Smārtand Vaidic Yagy performed by Shri Krishna during his incarnation period as mentioned in 24th and 25th chapters from 10th canto of Shrimad BhāgwatMāhāpurān.

Celebration starts with basic preparations for Annakootbhog (larger scale bhog offering to be offered to the deity as a part of Goverdhan Pooja) with Bhatthi Poojan on Ashwin Shukl Poornima. From Kartik Krishna Pratipada, a significant tradition of placing the deity in Hatri starts. Hatri is a small cottage like structure made of wood, metallic structure, decorated with pearls or glass structure which remarks the concept of a shop. Varied types of Hatris, may be single storeyed and sometimes multi-storeyed structures are also placed as per the capacity of the devotee. Decorating Hatris and the festive mood keeps on increasing day by day. From Kartik Krishna Ekadashi till the day of Deepavali; which are 5 days in total are considered to be most festive. This ritual of Hatri happens as a part of celebrating the playfulness of Krishna as prior to the upcoming festivities Krishna also likes to open a small shop which is popularly termed as Hāt in Vraj cultute. Therefore, the worshipped deity is placed in the Hatri for 15 days along with various eatables and toys to be decorated for selling purpose; remarking Krishna’s playful Leela from Vraj where his market place ( Hatdi) is decorated by Shri Yashodāji. The deity is seated on the market place and calls upon Vrajvāsis by their name and gives them Prasad from by his own hands. Additionally, lamps are also lightened up all around for marking the tradition of Deepdān to be offered to the worshipped deities during the holy month of Kartik.


(Deepavali decoration, Mandvi-kutch, Gujarat)

On the evening of Deepavali along with Deepdaan; (lightened up lamp decorations) two more rituals are observed which are known as Kānjagai and Pāsākhel. A day prior to the Goverdhan pooja to be performed, Krishna decorates his cows as cows are very dear to him and brings them for the Pooja. Therefore devotee as a part of his worship also decorates the cows with Geru (Orangish coloured red powder) or Mehendi by creating various patterns and figures on the body of cows along with Morpankh on their head. All the decorated cows are brought in front of the deity where the Kānjagai ritual is performed. During this ritual, the cows are worshipped. , They are offered Prasadi eatables in front of the deity and are invited for the Goverdhan pooja. Kānjagai term means to speak in the ears of the cows. All these rituals are performed on behalf of Krishna by the devotee. 

(Decorated cows for Goverdhan Pooja)

Pāsākhel is the local ritual found in many areas of Bharat along with Vraj in which people belonging to royal families and higher communities play the game of dice on the evening of Deepavali. Remarking this ritual Pasakhel is also performed in front of the deity. On behalf of Krishna and Rādha, two devotees play the game of dice for sometime, after which the whole setup is kept intact throughout the night of Deepavali with the sentiment that Krishna and Rādha will keep on enjoying the game in their personal space. During the game money on behalf of Radha and Krishna are offered by the devotees.

(Pasakhel – The game of dice)

Shrimad Bhagwat mentions that Krishna’s father, Nandrayji belonging to the cattle rearing community, used to perform Indrayaag as mentioned in Ved and Smruti because cattle attain food from vegetations and vegetation prospers because of rain. Indra/Parjanya being the God of rain was worshipped with ample amount of eatables. Krishna himself appeared as Goverdhan hill in Vraj and asked Vrajvasis to worship him instead of Indra. 



Translation: To instill faith in the Gopas, Krishna thereupon assumed another form. Saying, “I am the Goverdhan hill.” He devoured the abundance of offerings with the immensity of his body.



Translation: Together with the people of Vraj he by means of himself, offered his obeisancesobeisance to himself: “Oh! Just see how this hill, by assuming its form, has bestowed his mercy upon us!

(10/24/35-36, Bhagwat Mahapuran)

Thus, as per the orders of Bhagwan Shri Krishna, Vrajvasis moved to Goverdhan along with their families and started preparing for the Pooja. They reached Goverdhan by the evening of Deepavali. Krishna asked all the Vrajvasis to perform Parikrama of Goverdhan hill as a part of the Poojan which was supposed to be performed on the next morning of Deepavali; i.e. Kartik Shukla Pratipada. Therefore all the Vrajvasis as per the direction from Bhagwan offered Deepdaan to Goverdhan and performed overnight Parikrama. After the Parikrama, next morning on the day of Kartik Shukl Pratipada, all the Vrajvasis under the guidance of Bhagwan performed Goverdhan Pooja. The ritual of the whole pooja as explained by Bhagwan was to first of all offer the holy water of MānasigangāKund which was created by Bhagwan himself. With Krishna’s desire Ganga appeared near Goverdhan, which place is known as MānasigangāKund. After offering the Holy Jal of Manasiganga, milk of the cow is offered as Abhishek to the Goverdhan hill. Instead of the Goverdhan hill, devotees perform the pooja by creating a hill structure of Goverdhan with cow dung at their respective places or the Shilā of Goverdhan hill if  If worshipped by the devotee at their respective places. After the Abhishek, flower garland, clothes and Bhog is offered. The first bhog is known as Kunwārabhog, later on accompanied with a larger scale bhog known as Annakoot. 

(Goverdhan hill made out of cow dung, Mandvi-kutch,Gujarat)

The term Annakoot means ample of eatable made out of various grains and vegetables.  In middle of all the bhog, a pile of rice is made decorated with Tulsi garland. In kirtans, it is mentioned that when Vrajvasis had offered the Annakootbhog, the size of the mount of the rice was larger thenthan the Goverdhan hill itself behind which Goverdhan was not visible. Around the rice, all the eatables are arranged for the Bhog. For resembling the Bhog offered by Vrajvāsis, specifically all the Bhog offerings are served in earther vessels and vessels made out of leaves, and strictly  by aavoiding all metallic utencilsutensils. The whole Goverdhan pooja ritual happens on the behalf of Krishna and Vrajvsis.


Thus, as Bhagwat mentions that the whole concept of Goverdhan Pooja lies in the doctrinal aspect that for a devotee, there is no one greater thaen Krishna and no one other thaen Krishna can be the worshipped dietydeity. For establishing the Ananya bhakti, Bhagwan Krishna presented his divine form as Goverdhan in front of Vrajvāsis; thereby establishing their anchored faith in Krishna. With this same devotion and sentiment all the devotees perform this Goverdhan Pooja with the belief that Bhagwān will bestow his grace upon them.

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