Govardhan Hill (Hindi: गोवर्धन पर्वत; Govardhana Parvata; Pronunciation: [ɡoʋəɾdʱən]), also called Mount Govardhana and Giriraj, is a sacred Hindu site in the Mathura district of Uttar Pradesh, India on an 8 km long hill located in the area of Govardhan and Radha Kund, which is about 21 kilometres (13 mi) from Vrindavan. It is the sacred centre of Braj and is identified as a natural form of Krishna (Govardhana sila).
The name 'Govardhana' has two primary translations. In the literal meaning, 'Go' translates to 'cows', and 'vardhana' translates to 'nourishment'. Another meaning of 'Go' is 'the senses' and 'vardhana' can also mean 'to increase' - thus the name is also translated by devotees of Krishna as 'that which increases the senses' in their attraction to Krishna. In this connection, it is believed that the personality of Govardhan blesses the devotee by increasing his devotion (bhakti). Thus, by residing in the foothills of Govardhan Hill, all the senses and the respective duties of a soul attain divinity and are more inclined to perform service to Krishna.
Govardhan Hill, stretching from Radha Kund to south of Govardhan, is a long ridge that, at its highest, stands 100 feet (30 m) above the surrounding land. At the southern end of the hill is the village of Punchari, while at the crest stand the villages of Aanyor and Jatipura. The parikarma path of Govardhan hill is intersected by some part of district Bharatpur of Rajasthan.
Govardhan Hill is considered a sacred site because it is the setting for many legends relating to the life of Lord Krishna, the deity believed to be embodied in the earth of the hill. Krishna and his brother Balaram are said to have spent many happy hours roaming among its shade providing groves, pools, caves and lush cow-pastures. An Eden-like sanctuary, the area's waterfalls, garden-grove (van), arbour (nikunj), water tank (kund), and flora are depicted in scenes of Krishna's adventures and raas with Radha.
The buildings and other structures on the Hill date from the sixteenth century. As of 2013[update], there is no known archaeological evidence of any remains of greater age.
A few of the sites include:
There are legends of Krishna’s saving the hill from a flood, "dalliances with gopis (cow-herdresses)’’ and interactions with demons and gods. Artwork has been created of the Hill represented as a bull and a peacock, Krishna in a cave, the Hill as a mountain of food Annakut, depicted in the floods brought on by Indra, and with the Yamuna River.
According to the Giriraj Chalisa (a forty verse hymn dedicated to Govardhan Hill) Govardhan in human form, went to Vrindavan with Pulastya and decided to stay there evermore. The sight of Govardhan Hill and Yamuna River in Vrindavan attracted the demigods who took forms of trees, deers and monkeys to live in Vrindavan.
Main article: Govardhan Puja
Govardhan Puja is celebrated on the day after Diwali. It is the day upon which Lord Krishna defeated Indra, the deity of thunder and rain. As per the story, Krishna saw huge preparations for the annual offering to Indra and questions his father Nanda about it. He debated with the villagers about what their 'dharma' truly was. They were farmers, they should do their duty and concentrate on farming and protection of their cattle. He continued to say that all human beings should merely do their 'dharma', to the best of their ability and not pray or conduct sacrifices for natural phenomenon. The villagers were convinced by Krishna, and did not proceed with the special puja (prayer). Indra was then angered, and flooded the village. Krishna then lifted Mt Govardhan and held it up as protection to his people and cattle from the rain. Indra finally accepted defeat and recognized Krishna as supreme. This aspect of Krishna's life is mostly glossed over - but it actually set up on the basis of the 'karma' philosophy later detailed in the Bhagavad Gita.
According to ancient Vaishnava legends the Vedic Deva (demigod akin to guardian angel), Indra (god of rain & lightning) was feared by human beings because he would either give the people no rain or flood them if he was not satisfied with their worship. When Krishna found out, he opposed the performance of sacrificial worship for Indra. He emphasized the importance of karma and doing ones duty. This made Indra angry at the boy Krishna (one of the incarnations of the Supreme God).
Indra thus invoked many clouds to appear in the sky and schemed to flood the region with rains lasting for seven days and seven nights. Krishna in reply then lifted Govardhan Hill, under which all the animals and people of the region took shelter, safe from the rains of Indra's fury. Ultimately, Indra accepted defeat. He offered his prayers and left to his heavenly kingdom. According to some sources, the destructive cloud sent by Indra is Sāṁvartaka.
It also represents the downfall of Indra, and a new beginning in Hindu philosophy, from a more sacrificial/ appeasement oriented worship, to a more spiritual plane of thought. This evolution of thought in Hinduism was brought about by Krishna, and therefore he has been the most important Hindu deity since then - considered an 'avatar' of the supreme.
In 2018, the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath declared Govardhan as a pilgrimage centre (teerth sthal) along with Mathura, Baldev, Nandgaon, Radhakund and Gokul. Yogi Adityanath Government has also planned to rejuvenate Govardhan Parvat with Dvapara Yuga flora like kadamb, karoli, tamal, pakkad and tilkan.