The Humbling of Lord Indra

This view of the history of Diwali regards the humbling of Lord Indra, who was misusing his powers on the villagers, and Lord Krishna, who humbled Indra, and saved the villagers.

The Humbling of Lord Indra

In 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 welcomed.

Once, unknown 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.

"How 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."

The 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!

"What 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."

Suddenly 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 one finger!

"Come, hurry and take shelter," he invited them, "It's warm and dry under here."

Seeing 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.

"Shame 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."

The 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.
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