Kartika Damodhara Deepotsava is celebrated in commemoration of an enchanting childhood pastime of Lord Krishna in Gokula. The Srimad Bhagavatam describes that once naughty little Krishna stole butter & also broke the pots containing butter and yogurt. Mother Yashoda then decided to bind Krishna to a wooden grinding mortar to restrain his naughty activities. She took some ropes & tried to bind the unlimited Supreme Lord, being unaware of His exalted position. But the rope was short by a measurement of two fingers. Yashoda gathered all the ropes from the household & joined them to bind Krishna. In spite of exhausting all the ropes, it was still short by two fingers. Observing the exhaustion of Mother Yashoda, Krishna finally agreed to be bound although the Supreme Lord is by nature boundless & infinite. This pastime made Krishna famous by the name ‘Damodara’. ‘Dama’ means rope & ‘udara’ means belly. Hence, Damodara is the special form of Krishna, as a baby tied with rope around his belly to a wooden grinding mortar.
There are many wonderful descriptions in the scriptures glorifying this pastime. The acharyas explain that actually the Supreme Lord Krishna can never be bound by anyone or anything. Yet out of His boundless love & compassion for his pure devotees like Mother Yashoda, he agrees to become subservient to them. Hence, Mother Yashoda did not bind Krishna with an ordinary rope but with her pure love and devotion.
Devotees celebrate this sweet pastime throughout the month of kartika by offering special prayers and lamps to Lord Damodara.
At ISKCON Mysuru, Damodara Deepotsava is celebrated by observing a month long festival of lights in the month of Kartika. Every day in the evening at 7:30 pm, the entire temple is decorated with lamps and a special flower rangoli is offered in front of the altar. All the devotees sing Damodarashtaka song and offer a lamp to Krishna.
Govardhan Puja is celebrated in commemoration of the fascinating pastime of Lord Krishna’s lifting the Govardhana hill to protect the residents of Vrindavana. This wonderful episode is described in pages of Srimad Bhagavatam.
Once all the residents of Vrindavana headed by Nanda Maharaja made elaborate arrangements to worship Indra, the king of the heavenly planets, who is the deputed agent of Krishna controlling the supply of rain. When Krishna observed that all the residents of Vrindavana were so engaged, He decided to instruct them in particular and to everyone for posterity that worship of the Supreme Lord Krishna is sufficient and there is no need to worship demigods. Krishna directed all the residents of Vrindavana to utilize all the paraphernalia gathered for Indra’s worship to be used for worship of the cows and the Govardhana hill which were their means of subsistence. Thus the residents of Vrindavana organized a grand worship of Govardhana hill instead of worshipping the demigod Indra. This infuriated Indra who had become puffed up with the false prestige of being the ruler of the heavenly kingdom. In order to teach a lesson to the residents of Vrindavana for stopping his worship, Indra sent powerful rain bearing clouds to drown the pasturing fields of Vrindavana. Accordingly, these clouds proceeded to Vrindavana and began to pour torrents of rain accompanied by lightning, thunder and hailstones as big as huge boulders.
Tormented by the heavy onslaught, the residents of Vrindavana took shelter of Krishna for protection. Krishna, the eternal protector of His unalloyed devotees, thought of a means to deliver the residents of Vrindavana from the grave danger and also to teach a lesson to the proud Indra. Krishna lifted the Govardhana hill and held it like an umbrella on the small finger of His left hand. He called all the residents of Vrindavana to come under the shelter of the Govardhana hill along with the cows. In this way, Krishna held the Govardhana hill for seven days as Indra continued to send heavy rainfall. Finally Indra came to his senses and realized the great mistake he had committed by defying his Supreme Master Krishna. He immediately withdrew the clouds and after some time approached Krishna in a solitary place in Vrindavana and begged pardon for his offenses. Krishna forgave the repentant Indra and bestowed His causeless mercy upon him.
ISKCON Mysuru celebrates every year Govardhan Puja in a grand manner. The festival celebrations start at 6pm onwards with Tulasi puja followed by Go puja (worship of the cows), Govardhana Puja (worship of Govardhana hill). The highlight of the festival is a magnificent replica of the Govardhana Hill made with 170 Kgs. of delicious Cake and various kinds of food items which includes rice preparations, sweets & savories are offered to Lord Krishna on this auspicious day. While the arati is performed for Govardhan, devotees sing Sri Govardhanashtakam – eight verses glorifying the Govardhana Hill. The program ends with Deepotsava and singing of Damodarshataka.