“As the director of different kinds of clouds, Indra called for the samvartaka. This cloud is invited when there is a need to devastate the whole cosmic manifestation. The samvartaka was ordered by Indra to go over Vrindavana and inundate the whole area with an extensive flood. Demonically, Indra thought himself to be the all-powerful supreme personality.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 25)
Might is right? Survival of the fittest? The strongest person is automatically the best? He with the most money should be honored and worshiped by society? That person wielding the most influence is best equipped to be leader? The occasion of Govardhana Puja reminds us how there is no match for the potency found in the Supreme Personality of Godhead and how He properly discriminates in revealing the extent of that potency.
Today it is an annual tradition, but it began as a rebellious act. Nanda Maharaja’s son was something like an iconoclast. No one would suspect Him of nefarious motives, as Krishna was a mere child. Innocent and adorable, though able to survive potentially lethal attacks from the worst of the asuras, who visited from the nearby town of Mathura.
Nanda was the king of the farm community known as Gokula. Too many cows in his possession to count. Living off the land, free of exploitation. Every person happy and satisfied in their occupation of choice, matching their nature. At one with the beautiful creation surrounding them, appreciating everything God’s mercy has to offer.
Pious in every way, the people were rewarded with the direct presence of the Almighty in the avatara known as Krishna. God is indeed a person, and He can appear in front of us in so many ways. He is neither limited to the unmanifest concept nor prohibited from action which invites subsequent worship.
Whatever Krishna does is dharma. He is the object of religion. He is the source of the material and spiritual worlds, and He is the origin of the instruction manual, so to speak, for living within those worlds.
अहं सर्वस्य प्रभवो
मत्तः सर्वं प्रवर्तते
इति मत्वा भजन्ते मां
ahaṁ sarvasya prabhavo
mattaḥ sarvaṁ pravartate
iti matvā bhajante māṁ
“I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who know this perfectly engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.8)
There is a small amount of independence in those worlds for the living entities, who are sparks, amshas, emanating from the original spiritual energy. That means you and I have the freedom to choose in which direction to go. I can stay with Krishna or I can try to compete with Him, which involves forgetfulness of His position.
When travelling in the direction of competition, there is potential for promotion to the highest post: king of heaven. I could be the leader of svarga-loka, the place where the pious land after the completion of life. The term “dying and going to heaven” equates to promotion to the svarga-loka region, according to the Vedic tradition.
Such a promotion should never be equated with becoming God or even wielding the most influence in the world. A conditioned soul remains conditioned if they have the material consciousness. In the first Govardhana Puja, we see Indra succumbing to petty jealousy, directed at a child, no less.
The people skipped the sacrifice in Indra’s honor that year. No malice intended. Krishna convinced Nanda to worship Govardhana Hill, instead. There was a method behind the madness. There was a purpose to breaking from tradition.
Indra decided to retaliate with overwhelming force. Assert your dominance over those that you rule. Prove to everyone that you are indeed God. If Indra were actually so, he would not need to display any potency or magic. There would be no reason to justify horrible behavior in order to remind yourself of how much power you have.
What would normally be considered devastating rain, instigated by the samvartaka cloud, did not make a dent in the place guarded by Krishna. The young son of Nanda simply lifted the just-worshiped Govardhana Hill and held it above His head for seven straight days. The world’s largest umbrella thwarted Indra’s attack.
Krishna could have shown this might at the beginning. Just as a way to scare people, to prove wrong the doubters, to remove any ambiguity to the situation. But it wasn’t necessary. The real God is always sure of His abilities. He does not need to prove anything to anyone.
On the other hand, even if we rise to the position of king of heaven, we will always be looking over our shoulder, to see if a challenger is encroaching upon our territory. This is all Krishna’s space, to begin with, and so the devotees have no reason to fear or be paranoid. They are never in competition with the Almighty, who can protect them through even inanimate objects like a hill.
Through inanimate object protecting,
When that hill into air projecting.
So defeated Indra’s strength,
Where retaliation severe in length.
Never this way inferior to feel,
Krishna in standing real.
So beautiful that puja to see,
Lifter of Govardhana is He.