Govardhan Puja day is celebrated as the day when Lord Krishna defeated God Indra and generally it occurs the next day after Diwali Puja.
Religious Books suggest that Govardhan Puja should be performed during Pratipada Tithi of Kartik month. Govardhan Puja day may fall one day before Amavasya day on Hindu calendar, which depends on the starting time of Pratipada.
Gowardhan Puja is also popular as Annakut Puja. Food items like rice, curry made of gram flour and leafy vegetables, food made of cereals like wheat, etc., are cooked on this day and offered to Lord Krishna.
In Maharashtra this day is observed as Bali Pratipada or Bali Padva. The day marks the victory of Vamana, the fifth incarnation of Lord Vishnu, over Asura King Bali when King Bali was pushed down to the Patal Lok (the netherworld). It is believed that as per the boon given by Lord Vamana, the Asura King Bali from Patala visits Prithvi Lok on this day to bless his people.
Govardhan Puja day and Gujarati New Year day are observed on the same day, on Shukla Paksha Pratipada in Kartik month. However, it may become one day before Gujarati New Year day, which depends on the starting time of Pratipada Tithi.
Govardhan Puja Story:
Govardhan puja is celebrated to commemorate the story of Govardhan Parbat through which the lives of many people have been saved from the critical rain. It is considered that the people of Gokul were accustomed to worship God Indra, also known as the god of rain. But Lord Krishna had to change that kind of opinion of the people of Gokul. He told that you should all love Annakut Hill or Govardhan Parbat, since he is the true god who takes care of and saves the lives of drastic conditions giving you food and shelter.
Therefore, they had begun to worship this mountain in the place of God Indra. Upon seeing this, Indra became angry and started to rain too much in Gokul village. Finally, Lord Krishna had saved the life by raising Govardhan Hill on his little finger and covering the village of Gokul below. In this way, the proud Indra had been defeated by Lord Krishna. Now the day is celebrated as Govardhan Puja to offer tribute to Govardhan Parbat. Govardhan puja festival is also celebrated as Annakut.
The day is also celebrated as Padva or Bali Pratipada in Maharashtra state because it is considered that the demon king Bali was defeated and pushed to Patal Loka by Lord Sri Maha Vishnu in Vamana Avatar.
How to celebrate Govardhan Pooja / Annakut Puja.
The people of Gokul and Mathura celebrate this festival with great enthusiasm and pleasure. People go around, also known as Parikrama of Govardhan Hill and offer Puja.
People make a form of Govardhan Dhari Ji through the cow manure mound, mountain food and adorn flowers and worship. The mean of Annakut is that people make variety of Bhog to present Lord Krishna. The idols of the god bath in the milk and are dressed in new clothes as well as jewelry. Then, the worship is done by traditional prayers, Bhog and Aarti.
It is celebrated throughout India by decorating the temples of Lord Krishna and organizing many events and after puja food is distributed among the people. People get blessings from Lord Krishna to have prasad and touch their heads at God's feet.
Importance of Govardhan Puja:
People offer puja to the Govardhan mountain for the preparation of Annakut (many variety of food) and through singing and dancing. They consider that the mountain is their true god and offers the way to life, provides shelter under harsh conditions and saves life. There are various customs and traditions to celebrate Govardhan Puja each year with great pleasure. People worship Sri Krishna on this special day to celebrate God's victory over the power of evil. People love Govardhan Mountain believing that they would be protected by this mountain and that they would always have the source of life.
People offer a bath to their cows and bulls in the morning and decorate with saffron and garlands, etc. Make a pile of cow manure and worship, offering Kheer, Batashe, garland, sweets and delicious dishes with immense enthusiasm. They prepare Naivedya from Chappan Bhog (means 56 food varieties) or 108 food items in order to offer the Lord during the puja.
Govardhana Parbat is like the form of the peacock that can be described as being; Radha Kunda and Syama Kunda are making their eyes, Dan Ghati is doing the neck, Mukharavinda makes mouth and Punchari, as well as tail feathers. It is considered that the height of this mountain decreases day by day (a mustard seed per day) because of the curse of Pulastya Muni.
Once, in the Satya Yug, the Pulastya Muni went to the Dronacala (the king of mountains) and requested for his son named Govardhana. The king was very depressed and appealed the Muni that he cannot bear the disconnection from his son. Finally his son was sent with Muni under the circumstances that if he would put down, he would stay there.
On the way the Muni had put him down while passing through the Braja Mandala in order to reply the nature’s call. After coming back he found he cannot move the Govardhana from that place. Then he got angry and cursed the Govardhana to get reduce in size slowly. It was around 64 miles long and 40 miles wide, 16 miles high and now remains only of 80 ft.