The day after Diwali is referred to as Annakuta, or Govardhan Puja. On this day the inhabitants of Vrindavan (Lord Krishna’s abode on Earth) would hold a harvest festival in honor of King Indra, the demigod who provided the rains essential for the harvest.
One day, however, Lord Krishna wanted to teach Indra a lesson. He convinced the inhabitants of Vrindavan to honor Govardhan Hill instead, whose fertile soil provided the grass upon which the cows and bulls grazed, and to honor the cows and bulls who provided milk and ploughed the lands. Outraged, Indra retaliated with terrifying thunderstorms. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, calmly lifted Govardhan Hill with the little finger of his left hand. For seven days and seven nights the Lord held up Govardhan Hill, providing a giant umbrella to shelter the inhabitants of Vrindavan from the torrential rain. Realizing the futility of his actions, King Indra bowed down before the Lord with folded hands and offered prayers of supplication. In this way, Lord Krishna demonstrated that He is Deva Deva, the lord of the demigods, and that any purpose for which demigods might be worshiped could easily be served by worshiping Him, the cause of all causes.
Several thousand years later, on this same day, Srila Madhavendra Puri established a temple for the self-manifest Gopala Deity on top of Govardhan Hill.
To celebrate this festival, devotees build a replica of Govardhan Hill made of various opulent foods, worship Lord Krishna as the lifter of Govardhan Hill, worship the hill as His incarnation, and worship the cows and bulls who are dear to the Lord.
At the end of the festival, the hill of prasada (sanctified food) is distributed to the public. All Vaishnava temples in India observe this ceremony, and hundreds of people are given prasada according to the capacity of each temple.
Lord Krishna, as the teacher of human society, personally showed by His acts that the mercantile community, or the vaisyas, should herd cows and bulls and thus give protection to the valuable animals. According to smriti regulation, the cow is the mother and the bull the father of the human being. The cow is the mother because just as one sucks the breast of one’s mother, human society takes cow’s milk. Similarly, the bull is the father of human society because the father earns for the children just as the bull tills the ground to produce food grains. Human society will kill its spirit of life by killing the father and the mother. It is mentioned herein that the beautiful cows and bulls were of various checkered colors—red, black, green, yellow, ash, etc. And because of their colors and healthy smiling features, the atmosphere was enlivening. (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Srimad Bhagavatam 3:2:29. purport.)
pita-mata mari’ khao-eba kon dharma
kon bale kara tumi e-mata vikarma
“Since the bull and cow are your father and mother, how can you kill and eat them? What kind of religious principle is this? On what strength are you so daring that you commit such sinful activities?”
Everyone can understand that we drink the milk of cows and take the help of bulls in producing agricultural products. Therefore, since our real father gives us food grains and our mother gives us milk with which to live, the cow and bull are considered our father and mother. According to Vedic civilization, there are seven mothers, of which the cow is one. Therefore Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu challenged the Muslim Kazi, “What kind of religious principle do you follow by killing your father and mother to eat them?” In any civilized human society, no one would dare kill his father and mother for the purpose of eating them. Therefore Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu challenged the system of Muslim religion as patricide and matricide. In the Christian religion also, a principal commandment is “Thou shalt not kill.” Nevertheless, Christians violate this rule; they are very expert in killing and in opening slaughterhouses. In our Krishna consciousness movement, our first provision is that no one should be allowed to eat any kind of flesh. It does not matter whether it is cows’ flesh or goats’ flesh, but we especially stress the prohibition against cows’ flesh because according to sastra the cow is our mother. (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Sri Chaitanya Charitamrta Adi-lila 17:154. text and purport).
"According to the Vedic social system, as soon as one takes birth he becomes indebted to so many persons. We are indebted to the rishis, or great sages, because we derive knowledge from their transcendental writings, such as the Srimad-Bhagavatam, compiled by Srila Vyasadeva. The authors of the scripture know past, present, and future, and we are urged to take advantage of such invaluable knowledge. Thus we are indebted to the sages.
We are also indebted to the demigods, for they manage the affairs of the universe, supplying it with every essential - sunshine from the sun-god, Surya; moonshine from the moon-god, Candra; air from Vayu; and so on. Each element is controlled by a particular demigod.
We are also indebted to ordinary living entities from whom we take service. For example, we take milk from the cow. According to Vedic understanding, the cow is considered one of our mothers because we drink her milk, just as at birth we drink our mother’s milk. The Srimad-Bhagavatam lists seven mothers: our own mother, the wife of our teacher or spiritual master, the wife of a brahmana, the wife of the king, the nurse, the cow, and the earth. We are indebted to all seven of these mothers, and also to our father, brothers, friends, relatives, and forefathers."(A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Second Chance book - chapter 17 "The Moment of Truth")
"Similarly, this Bhagavad-gita is the essence of all Vedic literature, just like milk is the essence of the blood. Blood... The milk is nothing, but it is cow’s blood transformed. Just like mother’s milk. The mother’s milk, wherefrom it comes? It comes from the blood, but transformed in such a way that it becomes nutritious to the child, tasteful to the child. Similarly, cow’s milk also, a most nutritious and valuable food. So it is compared that this Bhagavad-gita is the milk of the cow of Vedic literature. And the milkman is Krishna Himself. And the drinker of the milk is..., we are, Arjuna, through Arjuna. So these things are there." (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. 3rd June 1968. Bhagavad Gita lecture. Montreal.)
"Personified dharma, he’s inquiring from the cow. He’s addressing cow, amba. Amba means mother. So cow is our mother. Why mother? Because from practical point of view, we drink milk. So how mother... How cow is not mother? She’s mother. We are taking her milk. There are seven mothers according to Vedic civilization:
atma-mata guroh patni
dhenur dhatri tatha prithvi
saptaita matarah smritah
Real mother, from whose womb we have come to this world, real mother, atma-mata. Then guroh patni, wife of the teacher or spiritual master, guroh patni. Brahmani, the wife of a brahmana. Atma-mata guroh patni brahmani raja-patnika, and the wife of the king, or the queen. She’s also mother. Dhenu, the cow. Cow is also mother. And dhatri means nurse. Nurse is also mother. Tatha prithvi, and the earth, the earth is also our mother. That we say in country, in the country which we take birth, we say desa-matrika. In Sanskrit it is called desa-matrika. That is also mother. Mother land, mother language. So this... So many mothers we have got, out of which, cow is also mother. Therefore she’s addressed as amba. Amba means mother. Still in Gujarat province, they call amba. And in U.P., United States, er, United Province, in India, they also call amba, or in a broken language they call amma. Still... That is from very long time, mother is... Amba-devi. There is a... From Amba-devi, there is a big temple of Mother Durga, Kali, in Bombay. So this Amba-devi was pronounced by the Englishmens as Bamba-devi, and from Bamba-devi it has come to “Bombay.” Actually, there is a big temple of Amba in Bombay. From that name, instead of Amba, they have become Bamba. Just like from Sindhu, they have called, they have designated the inhabitants of Sindhu-desa as “Hindu.” The Muhammadans, they pronounce s as h. So from “Sindhu,” it has come to “Hindu.” Otherwise, this “Hindu” name is not mentioned in any Vedic literature. It is given by the... This name is given by the other foreigners. Especially the Arabian countries, they used to call this nation, Bharata-varsha...
Actually, Hindu is not a religion. Hindu is a name given by the foreigners. The religion is, of India, varnasrama-dharma, following the institution of four varnas and four asramas. That is varn... Or sanatana-dharma. Sanatana-dharma means eternal, eternal religion. Religion of human being is one. That is called sanatana. A living entity is described as sanatana. Mamaivamso jiva-bhuto jiva-loke sanatanah. In the Bhagavad-gita you’ll find sanatanah, and Krishna is also addressed in the Eleventh Chapter as sanatanas tvam. And there is another place, or spiritual world, which is also called sanatana. In the Bhagavad-gita you’ll find, paras tasmat tu bhavo ’nyo ’vyakto ’vyaktat sanatanah. So this sanatana term is very important. The living entity is sanatana and God is sanatana and the spiritual world is sanatana, and the process by which your lost relationship with God established and you go back to home back to Godhead, that is called sanatana-dharma. Sanatana-dharma. That is our eternal relationship with God." (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. 15th January 1974. Srimad Bhagavatam lecture SB 1:16:19. Hawaii).