“When Indra understood that the sacrifice offered by the cowherd men in Vrindavana was stopped by Krishna, he became angry, and he vented his anger upon the inhabitants of Vrindavana, who were headed by Nanda Maharaja, although Indra knew perfectly well that Krishna was personally protecting them.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 25)
Shri Krishna, the darling child of mother Yashoda and Maharaja Nanda, on the spot decided upon a new ritual. This would be a puja, or ceremony of worship. Not for getting a new toy. Not for receiving the privilege to stay up later into the night, past the normal bedtime. Not for creating a general atmosphere of auspiciousness.
This was for worshiping the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the animals most dear to Him: the cows. The suggestion was to take the preparations for the annual Indra-yajna and direct them towards the nearby Govardhana Hill, the place dear to the cows, who were dear to Krishna. This hill would soon become quite famous.
Indra, the king of heaven, had several options in how to respond. He was skipped over, after all, and at the suggestion of a small child, no less.
1. Brush it off
It was kind of a tradition in Gokula, where the people lived in a farm community and were pious by nature. They had no intention of angering any of the devatas, who are responsible for rain and other important aspects to maintain material life.
It was just that Krishna was so dear to them that His suggestion could not be brushed aside. Parents tend to have this soft spot for their young ones. It is not proper for an infant learning to crawl to put objects like smartphones in their mouth. Yet for some reason this child particularly loves your phone. Once they get it, they don’t want to give it up. From time to time, you relent and allow them to play with it, even though there is an increased risk of incurring damage that would require an expensive replacement device.
There should not have been any damage by having the people of the town worship Govardhana Hill nicely. It would bring everyone together and there would be the distribution of prasadam afterwards. This is the Lord’s mercy, which in this case would be many varieties of food dishes.
“Prepare very nice foodstuffs of all descriptions from the grains and ghee collected for the yajna. Prepare rice, dahl, then halavah, pakora, puri and all kinds of milk preparations like sweet rice, sweetballs, sandesha, rasagulla and laddu and invite the learned brahmanas who can chant the Vedic hymns and offer oblations to the fire.” (Krishna instructing the cowherd men, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 24)
It was a slight to Indra, but he could have let it go. It was the decision of village folk, after all. There was no ill intent.
2. Wait until another time
There was no guarantee that Indra would be forgotten entirely. He was put into the high post for a reason. He should have known that Krishna is actually Bhagavan. The Supreme Lord was in Gokula delighting His devotees. He showed them ways to increase their love for Him. The process of Govardhana Puja inaugurated a ceremony that would keep countless future generations conscious of Him, without much effort.
Indra could have waited for another time. There are other people in the world, after all. Accept their offerings. No need to get hung up on people who had worshiped you previously and simply skipped one year.
3. Participate in some way
During that age the demigods would descend to the earthly realm from time to time. In fact, after this inaugural puja Indra would make an approach towards Krishna, though not in the traditional way. The king of heaven could have ensured that the weather stayed nice before, during and after. He would get some of the benefits of honoring Giriraja, the king of hills.
4. Seek revenge
Sadly, this was the option Indra chose. The envy was too much. He couldn’t stand that the people forgot him and turned their attention to wherever Krishna directed. Never mind that there should have been something like a customer loyalty discount. The fine print doesn’t say that if you fail to perform this puja just one time you will get lethal punishment as a consequence.
Fortunately, there was only the threat. Heavy rain and flash flooding would have destroyed the scene in other cases, but here Krishna was ready to protect. Not only did He direct the proceedings to show how to please Him, He made sure that there was no negative consequence.
When the flooding arrived, Nanda’s son lifted up Govardhana Hill and used it as an umbrella. That particular piece of land was already amazing, but it then became even more important. Devotees remember that pastime very fondly, for they understand that all dharma exists in pure devotion to the Supreme Lord.
All dharmas in bhakti to reside,
Hidden truth acharyas to confide.
Proof from Govardhana Puja coming,
Where hill massive umbrella becoming.
Indra or other demigod forsaken,
Who then by envy taken.
But Krishna there to protect,
Even in flood a savior to expect.
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