The Humbling of Lord Indra
Rajasthan, in northwestern India there is a little village called Vrindavan. Its
people were mostly shepherds and farmers who grazed their cattle on the lush slopes
of the nearby Govardhana hill. Each year, the villagers held a great homa in honour
of Indra, the Lord of Rain, to express their gratitude for the monsoons. It was
held on the sixteenth day of Kartika, during the Deepavali celebrations. Ghee and
other offerings were poured into the sacred fire, with the priests chanting holy mantras.
Cattle were sacrificed, followed by a great feast to which even passersby were
to the villagers, the great god Vishnu was living amongst them in his eighth incarnation,
as the cowherd, Krishna. He was upset by the slaughter of the cows.
can sacrificing these gentle, selfless creatures effect the rainfall?" he
demanded. "How is it beneficial at all? Let us instead honor some one who
looks after our welfare, like the Govardhana mountain. This mountain blocks the
rain-bearing clouds for our fields and provides grazing grounds for our cattle."
farmers saw sense in his arguments and decided not to sacrifice any more cattle. Indra,
however, was enraged when he heard about their decision. "How dare they?"
he roared. "Don't they know how powerful I am?" With a crash of thunder
and a flash of lightening, he sent down torrential rains to drown the residents
of Vrindavan as a punishment. It rained continued for days. Fields were submerged,
rivers overflowed and the village was flooded!
shall we do?" cried the farmers in despair. "Our crops are ruined and
our homes are flooded and we may all be drowned! This is Krishna's fault."
the earth began to shake. Fearing an earthquake, the villagers ran here and there
looking for shelter. Suddenly, the rumbling stopped and, to their surprise, the
Govardhana hill...began rising!
Up it rose, higher and higher, until it soared
above them. Then, to their further amazement, they saw that it was being held
overhead by Krishna, the cowherd, like a giant umbrella. He was balancing it on
hurry and take shelter," he invited them, "It's warm and dry under here."
that he was outdone, Indra withdrew the rain and clouds. Bowing to Krishna whom,
he realized, was none other than the great god Vishnu, he begged for mercy.
on you, Indra," scolded Krishna sternly. "Power has corrupted you, so
from now on you will no longer be honored. Now, go and use your powers wisely."
farmers were overjoyed. "Let us hold a feast to honour Krishna's feat,"
they said joyfully.
And, to this day, people celebrate Krishna's feat during
the Deepavali festival by organising a special puja. As for Indra, he is honored
no more, because he had misused his powers.