“Children play with an umbrella generally known as a frog's umbrella, and Lord Krishna, when He was only seven years old, could snatch the great hill known as the Govardhana Parvata at Vrindavana and hold it for seven days continuously with one hand, just to protect the animals and the inhabitants of Vrindavana from the wrath of Indra, the heavenly King, who had been denied sacrificial offerings by the inhabitants of Vrajabhumi.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.7.32 Purport)
Like child’s play, Krishna made an umbrella out of a hill. Not a mockup of a hill that He created in art class. Not a collection of mud that He held in His hand and then put over His head. This was a giant hill whose circumference spanned many miles. If you don’t want to believe it, you can visit the same hill today and see how long it takes to circumambulate it. Krishna made the hill an umbrella to protect the residents of Vrajabhumi, and since it was a remarkable feat, it is still remembered to this day.
Does this mean that through a little magic someone can get others to worship them? For instance, if I can somehow disappear from a room, hold my breath for a long time, or predict future events, others will worship me as God? In fact, such faux gods already exist, and they don’t even have to show magic. They simply show extraordinary ability in a certain field, though their ability is limited. A politician garners favor from their supporters when they can skillfully maneuver out of a difficult situation using word jugglery. If they can successfully win office, defeating their opponents, they are hailed as a great politician, a skillful leader.
The athlete who can perform better than others on the grandest stage is celebrated as the greatest of all time. The scientist who can develop new technology is honored for their contribution to mankind. There is worship in these instances, as the mind is dedicated to someone else. Thoughts, words and deeds are sacrificed in honor of someone else, thus constituting worship. If you were to ask such fans if they are worshiping God, they would look at you as if you were crazy. “What does God have to do with this? I’m simply admiring a notable figure within society.”
If worship already follows exhibitions of extraordinary strength and ability, what need would Krishna have to join the mix? If He is indeed God, He would have to be above cheap adoration based in temporary achievement. The lifting of Govardhana Hill shows real strength. It looks like magic to us because we can’t imagine a young child of seven years even moving a hill, let alone holding it up above His head for seven days. But the apparent miracles performed by Krishna show us what God’s nature is and how worshiping Him is the only worthwhile activity.
Is worship of other figures not good? If I don’t call it worship, if I call it mere attention, why is that wrong? What is the harm in celebrating an athlete? What is the loss if I celebrate the achievements of a politician?
We know that these figures are not God and that their abilities are temporary. The athlete will eventually have to give way to the influence of time. They won’t always be at the top of their sport. The politician manipulates the system to get what they want. They take advantage of the circumstances. They can’t win every election, and their victories are dependent on the will of the majority of the people. If not for the people, they would not reach their position of prominence.
Krishna’s abilities never diminish. In the Vedas He is described as Bhagavan. This is a Sanskrit word that means one who possesses all fortunes. He has full knowledge, full beauty, full wealth, full fame, and full renunciation. When He lifted Govardhana Hill to protect the residents of Vrajabhumi, He exhibited His full strength. This wasn’t a strong man competition, either. No one expected Him to lift the hill. He did so to protect the residents, who were being attacked because they neglected to worship someone else only one time.
It was the tradition in Vrindavana to worship Lord Indra, who is the king of the heavenly realm. With that post he has many responsibilities. He provides the rain, and to a farm community like Vrindavana, rain is very important. Every year they would have a grand worship of Indra, but one year Krishna persuaded His father, the leader of the community, to skip the worship. Krishna said that Govardhana Hill should be worshiped instead, as it provided the grass to the sacred cows of the community. The cows brought cash to the community in the form of milk products, and all the cows asked in return was love in the form of protection.
Since Indra is not the Supreme Lord, he is fallible. Though he is an authorized object of worship, the relationship between him and his worshipers is akin to business partners or a store and its customers. The customers can choose to take their business elsewhere, and if they find something better they are not worse off. The business owner, however, covets the customers, and if they lose enough customers they go out of business. Indra was so enraged that the customers, the residents of Vrindavana, skipped his worship just one time, despite having been faithful for many years prior, that he retaliated by instigating a torrential rainstorm, which caused immediate flooding.
Krishna knew that the storm was Indra’s work, so to save the residents He lifted the massive Govardhana Hill. He used the lifted hill as an umbrella for shelter for the residents. From this famous incident we see that only with worship of the real Supreme Lord is there full protection. All other living entities are fallible, in spite of how opulent they may be in the present. They are not capable of accepting an endless amount of worship and neither are they purely in it for the devotee’s interest.
Krishna has everything, so He does not require anyone’s worship. He kindly accepts loving devotion because that is the individual soul’s constitutional position. The first Govardhana Puja took place at His direction, and Krishna declared that worship of Govardhana is as good as worship of Him. The holy name is also non-different from the Lord, and so the same worship can take place by regularly chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. The young child of Nanda Maharaja, Shri Girivaradhari, the lifter of mountains, who kindly descended from the spiritual realm to take part in delightful pastimes, made a massive hill look like a frog’s umbrella, and similarly for His devotee He can shrink the large ocean of material existence into the size of a hoof print left by a calf.
Frog umbrella child to protect,
A larger one Krishna in His hand set.
Out of a hill this one was made,
Comfortably on His finger it stayed.
An ordinary trickster He is not,
Undiminishing abilities He has got.
That He is the only God from this understand,
Same as Him is Govardhana held in His hand.