Lord Krishna’s father Nanda maharaja once inquired from his brother Upananda how Govardhan hill had appeared in the sacred land of Vrindavan. Upananda replied that king Pandu, father of the Pandavas, had asked this very question to grandfather Bhisma, who had narrated the following story from the Garga Samhita:

“One day in Goloka Vrindavan Lord Krishna informed Srimati Radharani that She should now appear on earth as it was time for Them to perform Their transcendental pastimes within the material world. Radharani replied that unless Vraja dham, the Yamuna and Govardhana hill were present there, She would not be very happy. Krishna then told Radharani that She need not worry, as Vraja dham, along with the Yamuna and Govardhana hill had already appeared on earth.

Many years before this incident, in the land of Salmali dvipa, the wife of the great mountain Dronacal gave birth to a son named Govardhan. At the time of Govardhan’s birth all the demigods appeared in the sky and showered flowers upon him. The great mountains, led by the Himalayas and Sumeru, came there to offer their respects. They then performed parikrama of Govardhan and accepted him as their king. They offered very nice prayers praising Govardhan for having descended from Goloka Vrindavan, describing him as the “crown jewel of Vraja.”

Some years later, at the beginning of Satya-yuga, the great sage Pulastya muni paid a visit to Salmali dvipa. Upon seeing the beautiful Govardhan hill covered with many lovely creepers, flowers, rivers, caves and chirping birds, the sage felt that this hill was capable of giving liberation. He then went to meet Dronacal, who immediately offered his respects and inquired from the sage what service he could render.

Pulastya muni informed Dronacal that he was from Kasi (Benares) and was on pilgrimage to all the holy places. He said that even though the sacred river Ganges flows through Kasi, there is no beautiful hill. He then asked Dronacal to give Govardhana to him so that he could perform his austerities sitting on top of the hill.

On hearing the sage’s request, Dronacal, who was not willing to part with his son, started to shed tears in thought of separation from his beloved Govardhan. Not wanting to see Pulastya muni become angry and curse his father, Govardhan asked the sage how he would carry him all the way to Kasi. The sage replied that he would carry him in his right hand. Govardhan then agreed to go with the sage on one condition — that if the sage put him down anywhere during the course of the journey, he would not be able to lift him again. Pulastya Muni agreed. Carrying Govardhan in his right hand he left for Kasi.

By the will of providence Pulastya muni passed through Vraja on his way to Kasi. On arriving in Vraja, Govardhana thought that now he was here he should remain in the holy dhama. By his mystic power he was able to influence Pulastya muni to attend to the call of nature. Unmindful, the sage put Govardhan down and went off to answer the call. But when he returned he was unable to lift Govardhan again. Trying with all his might, using both hands, he could not lift Govardhan even slightly.

In great anger Pulastya muni cursed Govardhan to sink into the ground by the measurement of one mustard seed every day. When Govardhan first came to Vraja in the beginning of Satya-yuga, he was eight yojanas long (64 miles); five yojanas wide (40 miles) and two yojanas high (16 miles). It is said that after ten thousand years of the Kali-yuga, Govardhan will have completely disappeared.

After narrating the wonderful story of Govardhan’s appearance, Sunanda informed Nanda maharaja that as long as Govardhan hill and the river Yamuna remained manifest, Kali-yuga would not take its full effect. Sunanda also said that anyone who is fortunate enough to hear the description of the appearance of Govardhan hill would be freed from all sins.

Lifting of Govardhan Hill 

The destroyer of Mura is always eager to protect the cowherd community.
He has no other interest. He maintained the honour of Govardhan hill by lovingly
holding him aloft for seven days, playfully exhibiting with the hand that held the
hill charming gestures of respectful worship. May that Govardhan—whose caves are smeared
kunkuma left behind from the pastimes there of Gandharvika and Murabhit, and whose
exquisite boulders are covered with precious gems—protect us all

Vraja-vilas-stava 51, Raghunatha dasa Goswami

On seeing that the inhabitants of Vrindavan had neglected to worship him, Indra, the king of heaven, decided to punish them by sending terrible rain clouds to inundate the land of Vrindavan. Seething with rage, king Indra was thinking that simply on the advice of a talkative village boy named Krishna, the Vrajavasis had stopped the Indra-yajna and instead worshipped Govardhan hill, the brahmanas, and the cows. Unfortunately, being so puffed-up with his own self-importance and false prestige, Indra could not understand that this simple village boy called Krishna was in fact the Supreme Personality of Godhead enjoying His transcendental pastimes as a cowherd boy in the land of Vrindavan.

Calling for the samvartaka clouds of devastation that are used to destroy the whole cosmic manifestation at the end of a kalpa, Indra ordered them to proceed to Vrindavan and cause extensive floods that would destroy the livelihood of the inhabitants. Within no time torrents of rain as thick as pillars, accompanied by thunder, lighting and howling winds, descended on Vrindavan, causing great misery to its inhabitants. The land became so full of water that no one could distinguish between high ground and low ground. Shivering because of the severe cold brought about by the torrential rains, the inhabitants of Vrindavan approached Lord Krishna for shelter.

Understanding the situation, Krishna immediately lifted Govardhan hill with His left hand, just as a child picks up a mushroom, and held it up like an umbrella. Bringing all their household possessions, the inhabitants of Vrindavan, along with their cows, took shelter from the torrential rains under Govardhan hill. For seven days they remained safe under the hill, not even disturbed by hunger and thirst. They were simply astonished to see beautiful Krishna balancing Govardhan Hill on His little finger.

His false pride cut to pieces, baffled and dumbstruck, king Indra called back the clouds of devastation. At that moment the rains stopped, the sky cleared and the sun shone again over the beautiful land of Vrindavan. Krishna asked the Vrajavasis to return to their homes without fear, and then He gently replaced Govardhan hill in exactly the same place. Nanda baba, mother Yasoda, Balarama and all the inhabitants of Vrindavan embraced Krishna to their hearts content. The demigods in the higher planets began to beat kettledrums and shower the earth with fragrant flowers. As the gopis began to sing beautiful songs about the glorious and uncommon pastimes of Sri Krishna, all the inhabitants of Vrindavan returned to their respective homes along with their cows.

Instructions for Performing Parikrama

In Vraja-bhakti-vilasa the following instructions are found concerning parikrama of Govardhan hill:

  1. One should offer proper respect to all the deities, cows, brahmanas, trees, creepers, rocks and kundas  (holy ponds) one sees.
  2. One should not offend any living entity, moving or non-moving otherwise one will lose the benefits of his parikrama.
  3. While performing parikrama one should not wear shoes or leather items and one’s cloth should be freshly washed.
  4. One must observe brahmacarya and take bath as well as clean teeth before starting parikrama.
  5. One should not perform parikrama at night.
  6. While performing parikrama one should move carefully so as not to kill any living entities on the path.
  7. If one becomes sick during parikrama one should stop and take rest, parikrama should be continued after health is regained.
  8. One should not leave his parikrama uncompleted.
  9. Women should not perform parikrama during their menstrual period.
  10. One should not strain himself while performing parikrama.