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Sacred Hills and Mountains

 


In a temple in Wembley, a murti of Shiva meditating in the Himalayas. These mountains are the home of numerous ascetics, many of whom consider Shiva their worshipful deity. Lord Shiva is called Maha-yogi – the greatest yogi


Govardhana hill as it looks today. Legend holds that it is slowly sinking into the ground by the width of a mustard seed each year. Pilgrims come annually to circumambulate the entire hill, covering a distance of some 14 miles.


A traditional painting of Krishna , known as Nathji (in the centre). With the little finger of his left hand, Krishna held up Govardhana hill for seven days, whilst all the residents of Vrindavana sheltered from the torrential rain sent by Indra. In this painting, Nathji is worshipped by Vallabha (left), founder of the Pushti-marg tradition, and Yamuna (right), goddess of the sacred river that runs through Vrindavana.

Hills and mountains have special significance within Hinduism. Most important are the Himalayas, the vast range in North India to which countless ascetics have retired for a life of seclusion and austerity. Shiva is considered to reside on Mount Kailash and his spouse's name, Parvati, means "daughter of the Himalayas." Within the Himalayan range and its foothills are many places of pilgrimage such as Haridwar, Hrishikesh, Badrinatha, and Kedarnath.

The Vindhya Mountains separate the North from the Deccan (South) and are mentioned repeatedly in the Epics and the Puranas. Another popular pilgrimage site is the cave of Vaishno Devi, north of Amritsar. Pilgrims climb many steps up to the cave, which is dedicated to three goddesses – Lakshmi, Kali and Sarasvati. It is the only temple in India where all three are worshipped together. Also famous, in the South, is Vyenkata Hill, whose 2,800-foot peak is crowned with the Tirupati temple (see The Temple).

Perhaps India's most famous hill is Govardhana, which was raised by Lord Krishna to protect the inhabitants of Vrindavana from the wrath of Indra. The God of Rain was infuriated when child Krishna persuaded his father, head of the village, to stop the Indra-sacrifice and worship the hill instead. Indra sent torrents of rain but Krishna picked up the hill, and, holding it on the tip of the little finger of his left hand, used it as a giant umbrella. Govardhana Puja is still a popular festival and the story is central for the followers of Pushti-marg, who call Krishna "Nathji."

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