The name 'Govardhan' has two primary translations. In the literal meaning, 'Go' translates to 'cows', and 'Vardhan' translates to 'nourishment'. Another meaning of 'Go' is 'the senses' and 'Vardhan' can also mean 'to increase' - thus the name is also translated by devotees of Krishna as 'that which increases the senses' in their attraction to Krishna - In this connection it is believed that the personality of Govardhan blesses the devotee by increasing his devotion. Thus by residing in the foothills of Govardhan Hill, all the senses and the respective duties of a soul attain divinity and are more inclined to perform service to Krishna.
Till 5 decades ago Goverdhan Hill, popularly known as Giriraj Ji was an isolates forest with few villages around it. It was full of wild life and was considered a dangerous place to live. However many exalted saints use to reside in the groves and caves of Goverdhan.
In last 50 years slowly urbanization has engulfed the entire parikrama marg of Goverdhan. Encroachment is rampant and the hill is not being spared. The villages have also extended their boundaries towards the hill. Ever since the popularity of it's parikrama has spread world over more than fifty million people come annually to circumvallate the hill. This has created tremendous pressure upon it's natural environment and has generated demand for urban infrastructure.
In the year 2003 when the CEO was the Receiver of Daan Ghati Mandir an effort was made by him to study the problem. With the help of local people and Distric Admnistration he studied the parikram marg for two years and shared his experiences with experts , when they were roped in by the Braj Foundation to do professional study and landscape development of Giriraj ji. Encouraged by the support extended by the UP Tourism Dept the Foundation engaged best experts from the field of landscape designing, architecture, sanitation, solid waste management, traffic management, tourism etc. and has prepared a comprehensive development plan for the total transformation of Goverdhan. The salient features are in the next section.
The vision and strategic plan fosters high quality design and is intended to aesthetically improve the ambiance of the area, improve its civic fabric, traffic movement, infrastructure etc., apart from simultaneously improving the economic investment for future growth and give employment to local people and setting up of home/ cottage industries. As a part of the comprehensive, bold and compelling vision that seeks to revitalize Govardhan, the area along it will be organized to serve and provide quality facilities to millions of pilgrims visiting the area. It will be re-born as a great pilgrimage destination with a memorable sequence of authentic and vibrant gathering community places and tourist destinations with sound infrastructure. The development should celebrate and reflect Braj's culture, diversity, heritage, community spirit and help it in prospering.
Govardhan Puja is celebrated the day after Diwali. It is the day Lord Krishna defeated Indra, the deity of thunder and rain. As per the story, Krishna saw huge preparations for the annual offering to Lord Indra and questions his father Nanda about it. He debated with the villagers about what their 'dharma' truly was. They were farmers; they should do their duty and concentrate on farming and protection of their cattle. He continued to say that all human beings should merely do their 'karma', to the best of their ability and not pray or conduct sacrifices for natural phenomenon. The villagers were convinced by Krishna, and did not proceed with the special Puja. Indra was then angered, and flooded the village. Krishna then lifted Mt Govardhan and held it up as protection to his people and cattle from the rain. Indra finally accepted defeat and recognized Krishna as supreme. This aspect of Krishna's life is mostly glossed over- but it actually set up on the basis of the 'karma' philosophy later detailed in the Bhagavat Gita.
It also represents the downfall of Indra, and a new beginning in Hindu philosophy, from a more sacrificial/ appeasement oriented worship, to a more spiritual plane of thought. This evolution of thought in Hinduism was brought about by Krishna, and therefore he has been the most important Hindu deity since then - considered an 'avatar' of the supreme. The more we look at his life story - we find him to be a great reformer of his time.
According to ancient Vaishnavs legends the Vedic Deva, Indra was feared by human beings because he would either give the people no rain or flood them if he was not satisfied with their worship. When Krishna found out, he opposed the performance of sacrificial worship for Indra. He emphasized the importance of karma and doing ones duty. This supposedly made Indra angry at the boy Krishna.
Indra thus invoked many clouds to appear in the sky and schemed to flood the region with rains lasting for seven days and seven nights. Krishna in reply then lifted Govardhan hill, under which all the animals and people of the region took shelter, safe from the rains of Indra's fury. Ultimately, Indra accepted defeat, and after praying to Krishna, left for his heavenly abode, the Svarga.