It was the custom in the Vraja kingdom to perform annual sacrifice to Indra, deemed responsible for benevolent seasonal rains. The Lord, wishing to chastise Indra of his pride, an impediment to spiritual evolution in humans and celestials alike, persuades Nandagopa and other elders to perform the sacrifice to the mountain Govardhana instead, pointed out Sri B. Sundarkumar in a discourse.
Krishna explains that it is the law of Nature that functions to sustain life and not Indra. He states: “All are born because of karma which is responsible for the joy or sorrow of individuals. Even the Lord who is supposed to bestow the fruits of individual karma cannot award the same to one who has no karma. The three Gunas, Satva, Rajas and Tamas, are the root cause for the functioning of the universe. Rains, etc., are maintained by Rajas. Since the Vraja people live in the mountains and the woods, it would be fitting for them to honour the mountain instead of Indra.”
As per Krishna’s advice, the sacrifice is performed and the offerings are placed before Govardhana. The Lord assumes the form of the spirit of the mountain and accepts the offerings even as He stands as a spectator along with them and shares their joy and wonder. He joins them in their prostrations to the spirit of the mountain as a mark of respect and gratitude for sustaining life in the cowherd settlement.
A raving Indra, denied his share of the sacrificial offerings, blames Krishna, a mere mortal and, that too, a cowherd to be the source of his predicament. He orders the clouds at his command to destroy the entire Vraja regions with heavy downpour. To provide refuge against the torrential rains, the result of Indra’s hurt pride, Krishna lifts up Govardhana with His hand and holds it up as it were an umbrella. All the terrified folk along with the cows and calves take shelter under the mountain. For seven days, the rains pour incessantly, and all the while the boy Krishna holds the mountain without moving a step and without taking food or water, providing succour to his people. Indra then realises the futility of his anger against the yogic power of the Cowherd and lets his pride go.