"The cowherd men then inquired from Krsna how He wanted the yajna performed, and Krsna gave them the following directions. "Prepare very nice foodstuffs of all descriptions from the grains and ghee collected for the yajna. Prepare rice, dhal, then halava, pakora, puri and all kinds of milk preparations, like sweet rice, sweetballs, sandesa, rasagulla and laddu, and invite the learned brahmanas who can chant the Vedic hymns and offer oblations to the fire. The brahmanas should be given all kinds of grains in charity. Then decorate all the cows and feed them well. After performing this, give money in charity to the brahmanas. As far as the lower animals are concerned, such as the dogs, and the lower grades of people, such as the candalas, or the fifth class of men who are considered untouchable, they also may be given sumptuous prasadam. After giving nice grasses to the cows, the sacrifice known as Govardhana-puja may immediately begin. This sacrifice will very much satisfy Me."
Krsna Book, Chapter 25
Govardhana Puja is the festival celebrating Sri Krsna's pastime of lifting Govardhana Hill to protect the residents of Vrindaban from the wrath of Lord Indra's storm. In Krsna Book, Srila Prabhupada relates the story of how the village cowherds and local vaisyas arranged to worship King Indra, hoping for boons of rain and good crops to feed the cows. Krsna's father, Nanda Maharaja, was arranging a yajna to the demigod, but Krsna encouraged him instead to make many opulent preparations from ghee and grains for offering to the cows, the brahmanas and to Govardhana Hill. The residents of Vrindaban did just that, circumambulating Govardhana Hill worshipfully. Krsna then expanded Himself into the giant form of Govardhan and accepted their offerings.
This all greatly agitated the mind of Lord Indra, who called forth the samvartaka clouds to produce an intense storm and flooding that would destroy the entire village. Lord Krsna saved the residents of Vrindaban by lifting the entire Govardhana Hill aloft, keeping it raised on his one little finger for seven days while everyone took shelter beneath it from Indra's wrathful storm.
Devotees around the world celebrate Sri Krsna's Govardhan pastime with a yearly festival called Govardhan Puja. A replica of Govardhan is built with prasadam, and a murti of Lord Krsna is placed atop it for the devotees to circumambulate and offer kirtana to.
Govardhan replicas may be as simple as a mound of decorated halvah, while others are multi-tiered mountains of prasadam preparations. All Govardhan replicas are at least partially made of foodstuffs for offering to the Lord then distributing as prasadam. Some, however are constructed as earthworks or with painted rocks, shaped cow dung, flowers, etc. Linked below is a collection of various wonderful Govardhan replicas.
There are endless ways to create prasadam replicas of Govardhan Hill to glorify the Lord's pastimes there. How and what you build depends on time and resources, of course, but also depends on available space and how many devotees can assist in cooking and construction. As always, remnants of Krsna's mercy should be enthusiastically distributed, so an over-abundance of Govardhan prasad is never a difficulty.
Especially for home temple programs, where there may not be enough time to cook a sizeable feast in addition to constructing the prasadam Hill, it's nice to construct a Govardhan replica that incorporates not only sweets, but a number of savories, vegetables and other items, both hot and cold. While there are always devotees (young and old) who enjoy making an entire meal of halvah, most of us feel the need for a little more balance.
You can begin by deciding how large your Govardhan Hill will be. If you want to create a sizeable hill for decorating, but don't want to make the 100 pounds of halvah it would take to form that surface, there are a number of options. For example, you can begin making a base with upside-down plastic bowls or cardboard shapes, covering them over with plastic wrap. A thick layer of halvah or other foodstuffs can then be spread overtop, creating wonderful shapes and sizes without requiring they be made of solid foodstuffs.
You can also make a large base that's built on top of a “cow cake” . Cow cakes are made from ingredients edible by cows, made just damp enough so they can be shaped. Cover the cow cake base with plastic, and build the rest of the prasadam hill on top. Afterwards, distribute the Govardhan prasadam to the cows who live nearby.
If you'd like to create a Govardhan Hill base made of both sweet and savoury foodstuffs, it's nice to somehow mark off the portion of the hill which is either sweet or savoury beneath. For example, you might have a center mound of halvah surrounded by a lower, outer bank of vegetarian pate. As part of the decorations layered on top, add a fence line or sweetball wall so balanced portions of prasadam can be easily served afterwards without the servers having to guess at what lies beneath the surface.
As we read in the above quote from Krsna Book, Lord Krsna suggested that the Govardhan offering should include grains and ghee, rice, dhal, halava, pakora, puri and milk sweets like sweet rice, sweetballs, sandesa, rasagulla and laddu. Linked below are the recipes and ingredients spreadsheet for many of these preparations. Blueberry Sweet Rice works well for making the blue Kunda waters on Govardhan. Round shapes are always popular on Govardhan Hill, appearing as stones and rock walls. We include Fried Chenna Balls, various Pakoras, and Fragrant Rice Balls. The Red Pumpkin Pooris are earthy and warm. All these savouries can be hand-dipped into halved coconut shells filled with a thick, no-spill Channa Dal that's nice at room temperature.
There are far too many wonderful decorations to be made for Govardhan to mention here. Some of our favorites include grass made of Pandan Coconut, and a host of Hill personalities like Marzipan cows, snakes and furry and flying creatures. Marzipan is a paste made of extra fine ground blanched almonds that holds color, molds beautifully, and holds its shape well at room temperature. Endless decorations for Govardhan can be fashioned from marzipan. Trees and bushes can be created from any number of green leafys like parsley and root vegetable tops, or try Avocado-smeared Cauliflower bushes. Fence posts and tree trunks are made from fried Boondi Sticks, while shaped cut-outs from Pooris make nice walls or rock shelves. Rock and pebble paths can be made from pomegranite seeds, and don't forget the wonderful cow patties made by flatting small, soft Damayanti's Sweetmeats
If you want to go all-out with your Govardhan replica, try suspending it above a form of Lord Krsna with his left arm raised. Add a fluffy, gray cotton cloud above, with glass or tinsel rain coming down. We once built a small electric water fountain into the Hill, with alternating running water and little puffed clouds of dry ice smoke, which enchanted the children. Your Govardhana Hill is complete with Lord Krsna himself placed atop it, for all the devotees to worship.