- Goverdhan Puja, or Annakut or Annakoot (translated as “a mountain of food”) as it is also known, is a Hindu festival in which devotees prepare and offer a large variety of vegetarian food to Bhagwan (God) Shri Krishna as a mark of gratitude.
- For Vaishnavas, this day commemorates the incident in the Bhagavata Puran when Bhagwan Shri Krishna lifted the Govardhan Hill to provide the villagers of Vrindavan shelter from torrential rains.
- The incident is seen to represent how God will protect all devotees who take singular refuge in him.
- Devotees offer a mountain of food, metaphorically representing the Govardhan Hill, to God as a ritual remembrance and to renew their faith in taking refuge in God.
- The festival is observed by most of the Hindu denominations all over India and abroad. For Vaishnavas, this is one of the important festivals.
- For the Vallabh Sampradaya (Pushtimarg), the Gaudiya Sampradaya of Chaitanya, and the Swaminarayan Sampradaya etc among others.
- The Annakut festival occurs on the first lunar day of Shukla Paksha (bright fortnight) in the Hindu calendar month of Kartik, which is the fourth day of Deepawali (Diwali), the Hindu festival of lights, and also the first day of the Vikram Samvat calendar.
- Hindus throughout the world actively celebrate Annakut as a part of Diwali and, most frequently, pair the Annakut celebration with the Govardhan Puja performed on fourth day of Diwali celebrations.
- Hindus also view Annakut as a time to transmit religious and cultural values to children, ask for forgiveness from God and express devotion to God. Annakut is celebrated with diyas (small oil lamps) and rangoli, decorative art on the ground made from coloured rice, coloured sand, and/or flower petals.
- Many distinct food items, sometimes numbering in the hundreds or thousands, are offered to deities during Annakut. For example, 250 kilograms of food was offered to Lord Krishna at the ISKCON temple in Mysore, India in 2009.
- Although Annakut is most often associated with Lord Krishna, other deities are also focal points.
- At the Shree Mahalakshmi Mandir in Mumbai, India, 56 sweets and food items are offered to Mataji and then distributed as Prasad to more than 500 devotees.
The Annakut festival is also celebrated annually at approximately 3,850 BAPS Mandirs and centres throughout the world in a day-long event.
During the festival, Swaminarayan devotees prepare and offer a large variety of vegetarian food to Hindu deities including Swaminarayan and Krishna, among others.
The Annakut festival at BAPS mandirs is often the largest festival of the year.
Visitors learn about Hindu spirituality, offer prayers for the new year, partake in the prasad, or sanctified food, and engage in other devotional activities.
A devotee at the BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in Leicester, England, which organizes the Annakut festival every year, describes Annakut as being a forum where spiritual aspirants can reaffirm their appreciation for the role God plays in their lives.
These gatherings also represent an opportunity to reaffirm a sense of community.
At the BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden, England in 2004, 1247 vegetarian dishes were assembled and offered to the deities during the Annakut celebrations in 2000 at the BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden, England.