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. 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 Puja is celebrated the day after Diwali. It is the day Lord Krishna defeated Indra, the deity of thunder and rain. As per the story, Krishna saw huge preparations for the annual offering to Indraand 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.
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. The more we look at his life story – we find him to be a great reformer of his time.
According to ancient Vaishnava legends the Vedic Deva (demigod a kin 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.