Goverdhan (Mathura) (IANS) It is festival time in Braj mandal, the Sri Krishna-Radha land that comprises towns of Goverdhan, Vrindavan, Gokul, Barsana and Mathura.
With Diwali just over, lakhs of pilgrims have now joined the Goverdhan Puja and Annakoot Mahotsav.
The five-day Deepawali celebrations conclude on Tuesday with a special snaan (bath) at Mathura's Vishram Ghat on the Yamuna river bank.
"Brothers and sisters together take a dip in Yamuna, to appease Yamraj, brother of Yamuna. The only temple dedicated to Yamraj is in Mathura. After the customary dip, devotees will perform puja of Yamraj in the temple and have his darshan," said a local 'panda' Madhu Mangal.
Meanwhile, thousands of pilgrims from all over the world have congregated in the holy town of Goverdhan hill (said to have been lifted by Sri Krishna on his little finger to protect Brajbasis from the wrath of Indra Dev) to participate in the Annakoot Bhoj ceremonies in the temples, after the 21-km long parikrama of Goverdhan parbat.
Annakoot is basically community feasts, after ceremonial offerings to the deities, of Prasad that includes more than 50 types of preparations.
"A wide range of vegetables and sweets are offered, from rice, kadhi, to kheer and burfies. The entire array of north Indian cuisine is on show, now even ice creams," said Mathura resident Pandit Pavan Gautam.
The holy Goverdhan hill, is the focus of celebrations as lakhs of pilgrims perform parikrama and take a holy dip in the Mansi Ganga, in the centre of the town.
NRIs and Sri Krishna bhakts from several European countries and the US have been making a beeline to join the celebrations since Friday.
People all over Braj, in Mathura, Agra, Bharatpur, even Delhi, performed the Goverdhan Puja with great enthusiasm and devotion. said that the Annakoot Bhoj after Goverdhan puja will be held Monday evening. An official of Sri Radha Braj Vasundhara said: "Goverdhan parbat of varying sizes made of cow dung are being worshipped and pilgrims after taking seven rounds of the symbolic Goverdhan, are joining the mass feast that comprises more than 56 varieties of food items. The Goverdhan is made of cow-dung and the community collectively worships the deity with sweets and milk."
The immersion in the river or ponds takes place the next day.
Acharya Madhukar Chaturvedi said: "Annakoot falls on the first day of the fortnight of the waxing moon, also known as Shukla Paksha, in the Hindu month of Kartik. Goverdhan means the nurturer of the cows."
During Annakoot, lots of food items, sweets, namkeens and dry fruits are offered to Goverdhan.
"For convenience sake, the Goverdhans these days are made on bullock carts which can be easily towed to the river the next day for immersion ceremony with lots of music, dance and the customary pujas," he added.
As all communities and castes living in a colony participate, the Goverdhan Puja is a very powerful bonding festival, said Pandit Jugal Kishore of Sri Mathuranath temple in Agra.