While on His parikrama around Vraja Mandala, Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu arrived at Govardhana Hill, but refused to climb the sacred hill to visit the Gopala Temple situated on top of the hill. This was because according to Lord Chaitanya’s spiritual vision, Govardhana Hill was non-different from Lord Krishna Himself, and therefore He refused to place His feet on the hill. Even though the Vedic scriptures confirm that Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was an incarnation of Lord Krishna, He appeared in the form of an ordinary human being and behaved just like any other humble Vaishnava devotee of Lord Krishna. During His life-time, Lord Chaitanya strictly observed all the rules and regulations of sadhana-bhakti and set the highest standards of devotional service for all future generations of devotees to follow. Even to this day, the followers of Lord Chaitanya who are known as Gaudiya Vaishnavas do not step on Govardhana Hill remembering Lord Chaitanya’s own example.
While performing parikrama of Govardhana Hill, Lord Chaitanya had darshana of Lord Harideva where He danced in ecstasy for hours. After leaving the temple of Harideva, He began to think about Lord Gopala, the deity found by Shrila Madhavendra Puri, the celebrated guru of His own guru Shrila Ishvara Puri. Lord Chaitanya began lamenting that because the temple of Lord Gopala was on top of Govardhana Hill, He would never be able to have darshana of the deity, because He had decided not to set His foot on the sacred hill. The next day, continuing with His parikrama, Lord Chaitanya arrived at Govinda-kunda where He took His bath. At that moment, news arrived that the deity of Lord Gopala had been moved to the village of Ganthuli Grama for safety, due to a rumor of an imminent attack by a rampaging horde of Mohammedan Turk soldiers out on a looting spree. Upon hearing this incredible news, Lord Chaitanya felt great ecstasy and immediately left for Ganthuli Grama to have darshana of Lord Gopala. After arriving at Ganthuli and seeing the extra-ordinary beauty of Lord Gopala, Lord Chaitanya entered into a state of transcendental bliss and while incessantly chanting the holy names of the Lord, He began dancing in great ecstasy. The deity of Lord Gopala remained at Ganthuli Grama for three days and Lord Chaitanya also remained there, totally immersed in the mood of ecstatic love.
According to the Chaitanya-charitamrta, the threat of an attack by Turks was a transcendental trick performed by Lord Gopala, as a pretext for giving darshana to Lord Chaitanya at Ganthuli. It has also been said by others, that Lord Gopala actually desired to have darshana of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the incarnation of divine love and the embodiment of ‘Radha-bhava’. This celebrated deity of Shrila Madhavendra Puri was very famous for His many extra-ordinary pastimes and there are innumerable stories where the deity interacted directly with His devotees. A few years after giving darshana to Lord Chaitanya, Lord Gopala made a similar arrangement when He gave darshana to Lord Chaitanya’s most senior disciples, Rupa and Sanatana Goswamis at Mathura, where the deity had been taken for safety on the pretext of another imminent attack. When all the deities of the Gaudiya Goswamis were moved to Rajasthan for safety during the despotic rule of the tyrant Aurangzeb, the deity of Lord Gopala was moved to Nathadwara under the patronage of the king of Udaipura. The deity is still residing there even today and is presently known as Lord Shri Nathaji.
The tradition amongst Gaudiya Vaishnavas of not setting foot on Govardhana Hill has been adhered to by all Gaudiya acharyas including the Six Goswamis. It was only on the direct order of Lord Gopala that Shrila Madhavandra Puri stepped on the sacred hill, because Lord Gopala wanted to be installed on the top of Govardhana Hill and asked Madhavendra to install Him there and also build a temple. This means that the pujaris serving the deity had to climb Govardhana Hill every day to perform the seva-puja. Therefore, a large Govardhanashila was installed at the base of the sacred hill at Yatipura known as the dandavata-shila, and the pujaris would circumambulate this shila seven times while paying dandavatapranams, and this was equal to performing dandavata-parikrama around the entire Govardhana Hill, and by this they would free themselves from any aparadha.
-Adapted from Vraja Mandala Parikrama by Sri Rajasekhara Dasa Brahmachari.