#Festivals of India

Festivals Via Feminist Lens: Know The Story And Significance Of Govardhan Puja

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On November 15, India will be celebrating Govardhan Puja, a popular festival observed a day after Diwali. Govardhan puja occurs on the first day of Shukla Paksha of the Kartik month. On this day, devotees worship and supplicate Lord Krishna.

How it is celebrated

Govardhan Puja is celebrated by worshipping and supplicating Lord Krishna. Cereals like wheat, rice, and curry of gram flour and leafy vegetables are supplicated to the deity. On this day Govardhan hill is also worshipped by making hillocks of cow dung. Moreover, some devotees make a miniature idol of Lord Krishna, decorate it with seenkh, candles and diyas and worship it. Women on these days commonly observe day-long fasts.

In some families, Govardhan puja is celebrated by worshipping Lord Vishwakarma, the God of machines. Daughters of the house worship the machines and automobiles in the house and put a tilak on each. There is also a ritual of giving money as gifts to women on this day. The day ends with a puja in which Lord Krishna is worshipped.

Also Read: Festivals Via Feminist Lens: Diwali Should Be About Celebrations Not Stereotypes

History behind it

Govardhan Puja is celebrated to commemorate the tale of Govardhan hill and Lord Krishna. According to the legend, when Lord Krishna was staying in Gokul, his natives were a staunch follower of Lord Indra, the God of Rains. They used to worship and supplicate him enthusiastically. However, one day, Lord Krishna questioned the villagers and advised them to worship the Govardhan hill rather than Lord Indra as the hill protected them from the rain and other calamities. Convinced by Krishna’s plea, the natives started worshipping Govardhan hill. This infuriated Lord Indra and consequently, he cursed Gokul with heavy rains. Then Lord Krishna came to the rescue of the natives. It is believed that he picked up the Govardhan hill on his little finger and protected the natives who snuggled under the shade of the hill.

Since then, Govardhan Puja is held to commemorate Lord Krishna who protects his devotees. This festival upholds the belief that any devotee seeking protection from God with pure heart and devotion, will be granted.

Watching from the feminist lens

Govardhan Puja is a festival that upholds the powerful bond of trust and protection between Gods and devotees. But again it falls under the category of many other festivals in which the onus of observing the rituals falls on women. They are supposed to fast, cook a meal and holy food and run all around the house to prepare for the puja. If festivals are a moment that brings the family together, wouldn’t it be better if everyone took part in its preparations and rituals?

And even if these festivals become a space in which women dominate, why it is seen as unusual if they pray for their own happiness? It cannot be ignored that all the festivals in which the onus of following the rituals fall on women are celebrated for the welfare of the husband, brother, children or the family. Why should women be responsible to pray and wish for the welfare of the whole family, but not for themselves?  Let us change the way we perceive festivals. First of all, it is not only the woman’s duty to perform the rituals. And even if she wants to take the charge, the family members should extend support and help in every way possible. Rather than assuming that it is the woman’s problem to worry about.

Also Read: How Religion Plays A Role In Perpetuating Period Myths