Govardhan Hill Parikrama
Govardhan hill which has great religious significance in view of its association with Lord Krishna, presently at its highest point is just 25-metre high and is a wide hill near Mathura Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh, India. It is a narrow sandstone hill known as Giriraj which is about 8 kilometres in length. After Krishna protected the inhabitants of Vraj Vridavan from the wrath of Indra, he counseled them to worship Govardhana hill and they did by way of a Puja and a Parikrama around the hill. Thus, a festival in commemoration of the lifting of Mount Govardhan, near Mathura, by Krishna came into vogue as 'Govardhan Puja' when Mount Govardhan is worshipped, the day after Deepawali is celebrated. Pious people keep awake the whole night and cook 56 different types of food for the bhog to Krishna. This ceremony is called 'ankut' or 'annakuta' which means a mountain of food. Various types of food – cereals, pulses, fruit, vegetables, chutneys, pickles, and salads – are offered to the Deity and then distributed as 'prasada' to devotees. Thousands of devotees bring offerings for Giriraj. Followed by this pooja, the devotees perform the Govardhana Parikrama.
Govardana Parikrama is a sacred ritual performed by many believers as spiritual purification. There is no time limit for performing this Parikrama, but for those who perform the dandavata Parikrama, an arduous form which may take weeks and sometimes even months to complete. Dandavata Parikrama is performed by standing in one spot, offering obeisances like a stick by lying flat on the ground and then continuing, contiguously, till the entire route is covered. It is also said that some sadhus perform 108 obeisances in one spot before moving to the next. This can take a number of months to complete.
This ritual of Parikrama is considered to be even better if is it done with milk. A clay pot filled with milk, with a hole at the bottom, is carried by the devotees in one hand and a pot filled with dhoop in another. An escort continuously fills up the pot with milk till the parikrama is completed. Parikrama is also done with candy being handed out to children, en-route. Parikrama of Govardhana hill starts at the Manasi-Ganga Kund and then after having darsan of Lord Harideva, from Radha-kund village, where the Vrindavan road meets the parikrama path. After parikrama of 38 kilometres, covering important tanks, shilas and shrines such as Radha Kund, Syama Kund, Dan Ghati, Mukharavinda, Rinamochana Kund, Kusuma Sarovara and Punchari, it ends at Mansi Ganga Kund only.