The term Giridhar (Giri – hill and dhar – one who holds or carries) means the one who lifted or carried a mountain or hill. The term reminds us of the divine play that Krishna unfolded as a young boy in the foothills of Govardhan. The name of the hill Govardhan is also interesting meaning the place that nurtured cows (Go-cows and Vardhan – nurturer or nourisher). Govardhan hills were highly fertile with greenery and sumptuously fed the herds of cows that Krishna and his companions took for grazing.
The story behind the incident
As per the customary tradition in the villages, once preparations were on the way for a festival meant to honor and worship Lord Indra, the king of gods. Indra being the god of rains and thunder, pleasing him with worships and offerings was considered necessary to ensure a good rainfall over the year. However, Krishna felt this was not necessary and the people of the region should be enjoined to Karma Marg – the path of action. Krishna convened a meeting of the villagers and told them it was never necessary to offer worship to Indira and instead they should worship the hill Govardhan (symbolizing nature) that nurtured the cows and supported their lives.
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The village folk agreed and shifted the preparations to worship Govardhan hill instead of Indra. Following elaborate preparations, a grand puja was performed for Govardhana hill. Since then the Govardhan Puja became popular among many Hindu households and continues to this day in which the image of Govardhan hill is made in clay, decorated well and puja is done.
Failing to do puja to him and offering puja to Govardhan hill came as an insult to Indra who showered torrential rains on the Gokul and Vrindavan region in a way flooding all the houses. In order to save the folks and cattle, Krishna lifted the Govardhan hill with his little finger as an umbrella and sheltered all of them. The downpour continued for days and Indra realized he was only trying in vain to play with the supreme Lord Vishnu incarnated as Lord Krishna. Finally he was humbled and asked for Lord Krishna’s pardon. Following this famous incident, Lord Krishna came to be called as Giridhar.