The tale of Mathura’s Govardhan Hill

Traditions and beliefs associated with the sacred hill

Culture

August 10, 2018

/ By / Mathura

According to Hindu mythology, Lord Krishna protected the residents of Govardhan in Uttar Pradesh (north India) from harsh rains and thunderstorms by lifting the Govardhan Hill on his finger. Today, people from various parts of the world visit the place to circumambulate the hill, and the locals narrate stories associated with beliefs and rituals that go around it.

Situated in Govardhan, Mathura, Uttar Pradesh (north India), the Govardhan Hill is considered sacred and is believed to have been protecting the residents of the area for decades. Surrounded by tributaries of the Yamuna river, the hill holds a rich, religious significance and the locals have a book full of stories associated with its existence.

As we begin our parikrama (circumambulation) around the hill on the long wide road, we come across roadside Krishna temples after every kilometre, and sadhus singing “radhey radhey” in praise of Lord Krishna.

Mathura is the birthplace of Krishna (an avatar of Lord Vishnu – believed to be the creator of the universe according to the Hindu mythology) and here, ‘hello’ and ‘sorry’ are replaced by ‘radhey radhey’ that translates to ‘the one who adores Krishna’.

“One of Krishna’s mythological stories that the locals cherish the most is linked with Govardhan Hill, also known as Giriraj. According to mythology, people in Govardhan were preparing to worship Lord Indra (Hindu god of thunder and rains) seeking his blessings to grace their land with rain. As a child, Krishna debated that farmers must perform their duty to the best of their abilities, rather than concentrating on worshipping or making sacrifices for a natural phenomenon like rain. Convinced, the villagers did not perform the rituals. Lord lndra was not very happy with the decision of the villagers and lashed the village with heavy rains and thunderstorms. It was then when Krishna lifted up the entire Govardhan Hill and held it up like an umbrella for around seven days,” explains Satya Prakash, a local tourist guide in the city.

Soon after, the locals started worshipping the hill by circumambulating it during a special religious ceremony called ‘Govardhan Puja’. People continue to practice the tradition, however now, the parikrama can be made around the year and not just during Govardhan Puja.

While some simply do it by walking around the hill, which is a stretch of 23 kilometres, others choose to crawl or roll around the path out of immense devotion and faith. Interestingly, according to the locals, the parikrama must be done in even numbers – for instance, twice or four times, or else it would not be considered ‘complete’.

 

The circumambulation path is dotted with many temples and tributaries of Yamuna river, which flows past here and is lined with 25 big and small ghats (steps leading down to a holy water body).

Today, the hill, surrounding temples and the river tributaries in this area stand as major tourist attractions. “It is believed that the Earth is safe only till the time the Govardhan Hill and the Yamuna river are existent. If they ever dissipate, our existence will also come to an end,” Prakash adds.

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