Govardhan Puja, or Annakut is celebrated a day after Diwali in general. Sometimes there can be a gap between Govardhan Puja, or Annakut and Diwali, but that seldom happens.
It is a festival where the Hindu devotees as well as Vaishnavites worship Lord Krishna. Various Anna or food is prepared on this day and offered to the almighty for his benevolent protection of us.
It also commemorates the occasion when to save Gokul, Lord Krishna had to lift the Govardhan Parbat or mountain in his small finger. The Govardhan Puja or Annakut is observed on the first day of the shukla paksha, which is the fourth day of the Diwali celebrations in the month of Kartick as per traditional Hindu calendar.
According to Gregorian calendar this is observed in the month of October or November. In 2019, the Govardhan Puja, or Annakut will be observed on the 28th of October, Monday.
- Legend behind Govardhan Puja, or Annakut
The legend behind the Govardhan Puja or Annakut is one of the most important ones found in the Bhagavata Purana. It recounts the tale of how Krishna saved the people of Gokul and Braj from the wrath of God Indra. Braj and Gokul are places where Lord Krishna had spent his childhood and he had observed that people prayed to Lord Indra for their sustenance rather than acknowledge the mountain. Thus he initiated a puja called the Giriyajna. All the cow herds and forest dwelling people started following this ritual. This angered Lord Indra, the God of thunder, shower and rain so much; that he sent thunder with terrible showers on this region for consecutive 7 days to make people understand who to pay homage to. Lord Krishna however, seeing the torrential rain and flood, picked up Mountain Govardhan in his little finger and saved the entire region of Braj and Gokul. Till date this incident is commemorated on the day of the Govardhan Puja, or Annakut by devotees.
Annakut is a day of offering various Anna or food items to the Gods to seek their benevolence. A vast array of various types of food is prepared and is offered in tiers in front of the deities, for them to eat. The sadhus or the sages serving in the Swaminarayan temple start arranging the Anna in the morning and can only finish by noon, such is the quantity.
- Rituals and celebrations of the Govardhan Puja, or Annakut
On the fourth day of the Diwali celebrations, people offer the Govardhan Puja, or Annakut. People of Gokul and Mathura in particular celebrate these festivals with supreme devotion. The rest of India too follow suit. Devotees do a parikrama, starting from the Manasi Ganga and continue doing the round while doing puja of Manasi Devi, Harideva and Brahma Kunda. There are eleven silas to the Govardhan parbat for the devotees to offer puja.
People make a mountain like structure of Govardhandhari Ji out of cow dung, decorate it with flowers and worship it as such.
The Annakut is the observance of cooking and offering various preparations for the deities. Sometimes the number of preparations can run into hundreds and aarti is done continuously as long as the food offerings remain in front of the deities. In mandirs, especially the ones in Mathura and Nathdwara, the deities are given a milk bath in the morning and then they are decorated with new cloth and new ornaments for this auspicious occasion.
After the food is offered to the deities in tiers, the sadhus and devotees sing Thaal. This is mostly observed in the Swaminarayan temples. These devotional hymns or kirtans describe the various food items offered and requests the deities to partake them. The singing lasts for an hour after which a grand Aarti is offered in front of the deities.
The Annakut festival in recent times has become a charitable act where after the Annakut is done and dedicated to the deities, the Prasad is distributed amongst all the devotees congregated for the occasion.
- Significance of Govardhan Puja, or Annakut
The celebration of the Govardhan Puja or Annakut is a reminder of the ultimate victory of good over evil. The devotees worship the Govardhan parvat in the belief that it will always save them from all natural calamities and save their livelihood too. The Govardhan is symbolic and it is the gods who can save devotees from all pitfalls.