“When the cowherd men of Vrindavana, under instruction of Krishna, stopped offering sacrifice to the heavenly King, Indra, the whole tract of land known as Vraja was threatened with being washed away by constant heavy rains for seven days. Lord Krishna, out of His causeless mercy upon the inhabitants of Vraja, held up the hill known as Govardhana with one hand only, although He was only seven years old. He did this to protect the animals from the onslaught of water.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.7.32)
गोपैर् मखे प्रतिहते व्रज-विप्लवाय
देवे ऽभिवर्षति पशून् कृपया रिरक्षुः
धर्तोच्छिलीन्ध्रम् इव सप्त-दिनानि सप्त-
वर्षो महीध्रम् अनघैक-करे सलीलम्
gopair makhe pratihate vraja-viplavāya
deve ‘bhivarṣati paśūn kṛpayā rirakṣuḥ
dhartocchilīndhram iva sapta-dināni sapta
varṣo mahīdhram anaghaika-kare salīlam
Emergency preparedness. In times past there were periods of constant threat of bombs from foreign attackers. There was the possibility of nuclear war. Children in school were taught how to take shelter underneath their desks in the classroom. There are also fire drills, where an orderly evacuation is necessary to avoid chaos in the case of an unexpected fire.
In Vrindavana a long time ago all the preparation in the world wouldn’t have predicted the emergency situation that suddenly arose. It was after a religious ceremony; a time of otherwise great joy and bliss. Who would have thought the weather would turn into a lethal threat at that precise moment? On the occasion of Govardhana Puja we remember who and what exactly saved the residents. In this instance, we look to the places they did not go for help.
Things went a little differently this year in the farm community headed by Nanda Maharaja, whose beautiful son Krishna was the darling of the town. Everyone felt like He was their own. There wasn’t a rivalry, where children were compared to one another, with the parents wondering why Krishna was a certain way and the other children different.
Nanda was accustomed to worshiping Indra, the king of heaven. A tradition related to sacrifice for higher benefits, it was known as a yajna. This year Krishna stepped in. Though a small child, He could speak with great philosophical backing. He managed to convince Nanda to use the preparations for worshiping Govardhana Hill instead. The logic was that Govardhana did more for the community than the king of heaven. It was the grass that the countless cows ate, and cows were so important to the people. Besides, what harm was a single deviation going to cause?
In business dealings there is something known as the customer loyalty discount. A store provides incentives for repeat patronage. If you shop at a particular store on a regular basis, the owners will give discounts on future purchases. Never is it imagined that suddenly choosing a different store will result in punishment. The dealership from where you bought your last three cars won’t come after you with a hammer should you buy the next car from some other place.
Yet this is what happened in Vrindavana. Indra was so insulted by Krishna’s persuasion that he punished the entire area for the supposed misdeed. The king of heaven sent the cloud of devastation to target the area. He wanted to wash the people away in a great flood, and he almost succeeded.
Govardhana is a massive hill; its circumference is many miles. The truth is attested to by personal observation, as the hill is in the same place today. As with any mountain-like structure, there are caves. The people in Vrindavana at the time did not seek shelter in these places, though caves are known for protecting against the rain.
2. The side of the hill
Perhaps the side of the hill. One side there is rain, maybe the opposite end will provide respite. Maybe the rain is only over a certain area. Yet the people did not choose this route, either. They had no time to travel the distance for only a chance at safety.
3. Under a tree
Vrindavana is a beautiful, forest-like area. There are many trees. Maybe one of them could provide shelter. The people could rush underneath to get some relief.
4. Under the cows
A last resort, underneath the cows was maybe an option. They could protect against the rapidly falling water. The cows provided so much to the community already; maybe they could protect against someone whose anger went too far.
These options were not chosen because the rain was devastating in nature. The cows were being washed away by the flash-flooding. Trees would be uprooted, and there was no time to find a shelter wide enough to cover everyone.
Yet there was no reason to fear. The same Krishna whose idea it was for the original puja decided to uproot Govardhana Hill. He lifted it up and held it in the air, calling everyone to come and take shelter. There was no other option, and the people had always trusted Krishna anyway.
On the occasion of Govardhana Puja we remember that all-attractive son of Yashoda and Nanda, who is the supreme shelter for all living entities. The identification of “devotee” is for those who are blessed to recognize His position. They abandon all other options for safety, comfort and happiness, and as a result they eternally bask in the bliss that is surrender to God the person.
When Indra’s devastation making,
People not other options taking.
Like in Govardhana’s many a cave,
Or large tree under to save.
Rain maybe not on other side,
But always before in Krishna to confide.
Who that massive hill for them lifted,
And danger away soon drifted.