Shraaddh at Gayaa
Story of Gayaasur;
A Jeev becomes a Pretaatmaa on its
death. After performing of Sa-Pindeekaran by his son, that Pretaatmaa becomes a
Pitri. The Pitri has to visit various planes like Swarg, Narak etc, and enjoy or
suffer as the case may be before reincarnating again as a Jeev. We are told that
it could take several hundreds of years before a Pitri reincarnates as another Jeev.
In fact nobody knows as when exactly a particular Jeev will reincarnate. In view of
this, a Pitri remains as a Pitri for a sufficiently long time. Shaastra ordain that
Shraaddh should be performed as long as one is alive. The obligation to perform
Shraaddh ends with the death of the Kartaa (doer). There is no provision in the Dharm
Shaastra exempting one from performing Pratyaabdik Shraaddh after performing Gayaa
Shraaadh. One can safely keep one week to perform Shraaddh at Gayaa.
Gayaa Shraaddh is considered
as equal to performing 60 Shraaddh as per books. After Gayaa Shraaddh, the
Pitri is released to Swarg from Pitri Lok and thus the status of Pitri
changes. When to perform Gayaa Shraaddh - normally as per our Puraan one
human year is one day of Pitri, that is why it is said that one should
perform one's Pitri's Shraaddh once a year. Though Tarpan is said to be
done for blessings, it may be done even daily. So we can perform Gayaa
Shraaddh even after 2nd Shraaddh of the dead person. Pitri is waiting for
Mukti. There is no clear instructions, when to perform Gayaa Shraaddh. In
the epics we have reference of Shree Raam performing Shraaddh at Gayaa and
the Paandav also. So this tradition has been followed from Tretaa Yug, through
Dwaapar Yug and now to Kali Yug too.
First clearance is taken from
Varun from Agni Teerth, by taking bath at Setu - Raameshwaram. No Tithi is
seen at Raameshwaram like at Gayaa. We call there all the Pitri related to
us from both father's and mother's sides. The sand taken from Setu is kept
safe. It has to be mingled in Trivenee with Mantra after Sankalp at Allahaabaad.
Here too after Sankalp again bath is taken, and then Shraaddh is performed.
At Trivenee too no Tithi is seen and the Sankalp is lengthy.
After mixing sand from Setu
to water from Trivenee is collected at the Sangam. This has to be safely
brought and after performing all Shraaddh at Kaashee and Gayaa, again we
have to go Raameshwaram. This Teerth has to be given to Vishwanaath
Temple, and Abhishek has to be performed. Part of the water, collected
from Trivenee, is sealed and kept in small copper pots in Poojaa room as
Gangaa Jal to be given to other elders. This water has special sanctity.
The water from Trivenee is an authority that the Shraaddh has been first
performed there and one has been permitted to continue it at Vaaraanasee
and Gayaa. Taking back to Raameshwaram and Abhishek at Vishwanaath ensure
the authority from Trivenee to carry out.
After performing Shraaddh at
Allahaabaad the people will be moving to Vaaraanase. One person after
performing Shraaddh at Raameshwaram, headed to his Vaaraanasee trip along
with a marriage party. In fact one should not do so, a separate journey
should be made for Shraaddh. Nothing should be clubbed with it.
One does not have to do all
these Shraaddh together in one stretch.
Preliminaries for Gayaa Shraaddh
Gayaa Shraaddh has to be performed by all sons with families together. Before
performing Gayaa Shraaddh, the performers have to perform preliminary Shraaddh
at Raameshwaram. At Raameshwaram the Sankalp and Shraaddh Mantra are different
from ordinary Shraaddh. Sankalp is very lengthy and done in the early morning.
After performing Sankalp, one takes bath at 22 Teerth there, first at Agni
Teerth-Setu Samudra and then in another 21 wells in the temple. Shraaddh is
performed with more number of Braahman representing Pitri of three generations
Instructions to Dharm Putra about Shraaddh
While Bheeshm laid up in Shar Shayyaa (bed of arrows) he gave suitable
instructions about Shraaddh to Dharm Putra. Of course today's Shraaddh
procedure vary very much from it. Later Dharm Putra and Bheem went and
performed Shraaddh at Gayaa. The place is called Dharm Aranaya.
Shree Raam and Seetaa Perform Shraaddh at Gayaa
There is also a Seetaa Kund at Gayaa. In Uttar Raamaayan it is told that Shree Raam
with Seetaa and Lakshman performed Shraaddh at Gayaa for Dasharath.
Seetaa Curses Falgu River and Blesses Akshaya Vat
Falgu River is at Gayaa and Akshaya Vat is the tree under which we ask
for the Pitri's satisfaction on our actions for their liberation. If the
representative of Pitri there say a NO, then we have to repeat the
entire process again. We also undertake an oath to discard three items
from then onwards as a part of our getting rid of attachment. So after
performing Shraaddh at Gayaa not only our Pitri get liberation but we too
get a control on attachment. We are expected to say "No" to three
items, which we most like. Now a days it has become a routine. Most say No
to three things they do not like much, but however "NO" is necessary
There is knee-deep water in
the river at Gayaa here and there, though apparently, there is water
upstream as well as downstream. It is clear that there is water under the
ground, because, even as one digs into the ground with one's fingers,
water appears. This is apparently because of a curse on the river. The
story goes that once Raam, along with his brothers and Seetaa, came to
Gayaa to perform the sacred rites for his father, Dasharath. (Uttar Kaand
of Raamaayan says it is after Pattaabhishekam). When the brothers were
bathing in the river, Seetaa was sitting on the banks, playing with the
sand away from them.
Suddenly, Pitri of Dasharath
appeared out of the sand, and asked for the Pind, saying he was hungry.
Seetaa requested the Pitri to wait till his sons returned, so that she
could give him the traditional Pinda of rice and Til. But the Pitri
refused to wait, asking her to give him Pind made of the sand in her
hand. Having no other option, she gave him the Pind he desired with five
witnesses (1) the Akshaya Vat, (2) the Falgunee River, (3) a cow,
(4) a Tulasee plant and (5) a Braahman standing nearby. After taking sand
Pind the Pitri of Dasharath disappeared. By the time Shree Raam returned
and started the rituals on the bank of the river. Performing Shraaddh on
the bank of the river is called TEERTH Shraaddh. In those days apparently,
the Pitri in human form would arrive in person to collect their share, and
when Dasharath did not appear, and they wondered why it is so. Seetaa then
told them what had happened, but Raam could not believe that his father would
accept Pind made of sand. Seetaa then mentioned of her witnesses, and asked
them to tell Raam the truth. Except Akshaya Vat, none of them was ready to
tell the truth to Shree Raam. All the others lied, trying to take Raam's side.
In her anger, Seetaa cursed
all of them as follows: -
(1)The Falguni River, because of lying henceforth would have no water at Gayaa
(2) The Cow who lied would no longer be worshipped from the front as all
others are, but she would be worshipped only by her backside
(3) There would be no more Tulasee plants at Gayaa since Tulsee had lied
(4) The Gayaa Braahman would never be satisfied since the Braahman had
lied. They would always be hungry and crave more and more.
She then blessed the Akshaya
Vat, which told the truth saying that all who came to Gayaa would perform
the Pind Daan at the Akshaya Vat too. So members can now understand the
greatness of this Akshaya Vat. It means the Vat Vriksh will have no Kshaya.
In fact those who offered Pind at Akshaya Vat know it is a medium tree -
some thing like Maarkandeya.
Variation of the Above Legend
Though in substance both are same, still there is another variation of the
story. On those days Shraaddh items were procured on the same day morning
the day Shraaddh was to be performed. Shree Raam and Lakshman left for
procuring things. But they did not return on time and the Muhoort was coming
near, so Seetaa started performing Shraaddh. From Hom Kund, Dasharath's hand
came up and received Pind and left. Seetaa kept the witnesses as told above.
Later Shree Raam came procuring things with Lakshman. Seetaa said she conducted
Shraaddh since the Muhoort was going away. He asked "Did father come?"
Seetaa said "Yes." He did not believe in Seetaa, so He started
performing Shraaddh. Pitri of Dasharath appeared from the Heaven and told Raam
that he was full due to the Pind offered by Seetaa and now he would take Pind
offered by him next year only.
[This legend is quoted for
the authority of the women for performing Shraaddh. Secondly, Shraaddh
has to be performed on the prescribed time.]
My note - Pitri appearing
after death in human form has been reported in Mahaabhaarat also. After the war,
Gaandhaaree and Kuntee wanted to see all the dead. They told Ved Vyaas Jee. One
day early morning he took all to Gangaa banks. Standing there Ved Vyaas Jee called
many dead. They appeared before them till such time Kuntee and Gaandhaaree desired
and then they all disappeared in Gangaa.
We have learnt about Bodhi Gayaa where Buddha gained Gyaan, but we perform Shraaddh
at Gayaa itself. Bodhi Gayaa is about 12 kms away from Gayaa. Gayaa is in Bihaar
state. Although roads are not good to go there but if one prefers to travel by road
one can travel by car. Passenger trains speed like express train, with more stops.
The trains takes about 7 hours to each. Accommodation can be arranged in guesthouses
at Vaaraanasee. Local trips at Gayaa are in the auto.
Once there was an Asura by name Gaya.
He did penance and pleased Vishnu. Since Asur are more mentioned in Raamaayan, the Asur
would have performed the penance in Tretaa Yug. He wanted the Var that whosoever will come
to Gayaa and touch his feet, he will not be in the clutches of Yam. They will go to Swarg
(Heaven). So after a while Yam Lok had become practically empty and Swarg got over crowded.
Devtaa approached Vishnu. He studied the situation. He came to Gayaa and asked the body of
Gayaasur to perform it. Gayaasur pleasingly agreed to Vishnu on the condition that the place
should be known by his name hence the name Gayaa and he should get Mukti. Gayaasur also asked
that people should be allowed to perform the sacred rites (Pind Daan) not only for their
ancestors, but for anyone in the family, distant relatives, friends and foes, non-Hindu, pets,
unclaimed bodies - in short, for any dead human being or creature they could think of at Gayaa.
This remains the only place where Pind Daan is carried out in this manner. As the Yagya started
his body began to shiver. So all Devtaa stood on him. Vishnu keeping his legs on him performed
Yagya. Hence Vishnu Pad.
Shraadh at Phalgu River, Gayaa
At Gayaa first one performs Shraadh on the banks of Phalgu River in the
morning by about 7 AM. This is after a Sankalp different from the normal,
a bath at Phalgu taking water in a bucket and a Teerth Shraadh by offering
Pind. Some six Pind are offered to Pitru Varg and Maatri Varg. Havishya
is prepared by women. It is partially used for the Pind. The remaining Havishya
is taken carefully to Vishnu Pad Temple where it is made into Pind. Havishya
is prepared in Math Chattee. After preparing the Pind one has to go in the
Vishnu Pad Temple. There Pandit starts a 2nd Sankalp. This is very lengthy
as the Pandit explains the meaning of the Sankalp Mantra and difference in the
Specialty of Pind Offerings at Vishnu Pad Temple
Although the procedures vary during Gayaa Shraaadh. Everybody knows that
Shraadh can be performed without any reference to Tithi at Raameshwaram,
Allaahaabaad and at Vaaraanasee. Number of Braahman represent Pitri also
varies. The same happens here in Gayaa too. The variations make the
Shraaadh different, because it is for Mukti of the departed souls. At
Vishnu Pad Temple one can give details about the release of our Pitri,
known and unknown Pitri, dear and near (irrespective of religion), animals
and birds which one liked and got dead etc - everyone for whom one wishes
to offer Pind. It is notable that one can offer Pind to other religion
people also at Gayaa. The number of Pind at Gayaa for mother alone (if
deceased) is 16. If mother is alive, the Pind offered are 48 only. Out of
this 16, 10 are for the pain his mother went under to carry the child and
six for generations. The Pind are finally put in a big pit. It is believed
that Gayaasur lives there.
Shraaddh at Gayaa with Braahman Bhojan
By the time the Pind offerings are over, it will be past 11 AM. Then the
Tripti Shraaddh is to be performed. This Shraaddh is with Braahman. Sometimes
4-5 groups sit together. The Mantra are clearly spelt, again giving their
details. Gayaa Braahman are invited for food. Normally, if 4 groups are there,
8 Braahman will come. They are regarded as Pitri and one has to feed them
(2 Braahman for each group) only. Whatever the curse of Seetaa, these Braahman
eat very little food - they will touch everything on the leaf. They finish
their meals in a maximum of ten minutes time. Most of the times they are all
rich business people of Gayaa, since they live in Gayaa they have to come. They
come on invitation without any hesitation after closing their shops temporarily
for Shraaddh. Even very young people of about 20 - 25 years also come there. It
seems, that since our Pitri getting Mukti, they do not feel hungry. [This is with
all of us, when we get better things, food is secondary to us]
Pind Offering at Akshaya Vat
After this Shraaddh, the Pind is offered at Akshaya Vat. Importance of
Akshaya Vat is explained by the Purohit there for about 10 minutes.
Gayaasur story is told. Finally the Purohit will call, and a person will
appear there after some time. The Shraaddh doer asks him whether the
procedures followed were OK for his liberation and he was happy? This
person is supposed to be the person liberated.
Although there are three or four groups, but only one person appears in
front of all the four groups. Each group has to ask him. If he says "not
satisfied", the entire procedure has to be repeated, although it happens
rarely. He is given Dakshinaa. It is called Tripti Dakshinaa. Tripti Dakshina
is simply accepted.
Leaving Three Favorite Things
Then one is asked to leave three things in future from life from then on.
One has to announce it then and there this to the Purohit. Till we live
one cannot use them even unknowingly. The items to be left are one type of
leaf, one vegetable and one fruit. Then a priest will ask for Braahman
feeding, one pays whatever is possible. Waiting for the closure of ceremonies,
before we go to our staying place for our food (Pitri Shesh) 50-100 poor
will be waiting to get some money, so one should keep some money to give
them too. Take some small denomination bills.
Purohit at Gayaa can clarify all doubts, such as "Can we perform Shraaddh
after this Gayaa Shraaddh since our Pitri have already expressed satisfaction. His
reply was "YES". After coming from Gayaa, the next day Dampatti Poojaa
is done at Vaaraanasee. This Dampatti Poojaa is an expression of happy concluding
of the Shraaddh.
Extracts from Garud Puraan
The ritual of offering Pind or offerings to the dead has been long associated with
Gayaa and has been mentioned in our scriptures. (Garud Puraan).
Said the God Brahmaa : "The
city of Gayaa is a sacred sanctuary. ...A man, by simply making a pilgrimage
to Gayaa, stands absolved from all debts by him to his forefathers."
"I offer these obsequious
cakes for the liberation of those spirits who has once been born in flesh
in the family of my father or mother. ...
"I offer this obsequious cake for the liberation of those spirits who have
been kept confined within the dark walls of the hells known as the Raurav and
"I offer this obsequious cake for the elevation of those spirits in the
"May the gods and Brahmaa and Eeshaan in particular, bear testimony to the
fact that I have come to Gayaa, and effected the liberation of my fathers
from the confines of the nether world."
Garud Puraan, 83-85
--It is written in Dharm Sankshepan Shaastra that the Pitri are still
waiting for liberation. What we did at Gayaa that form of his was
different. A Pitri can live in Pitri Lok only.
--At one place it is written that Swarg is not the Dev Lok. It is a different
world. Hence Pitri has not become a Devtaa, only his status has changed.
It is said that Aatmaa is Nir-gun,
Nir-aakaar and also has no feelings whatsoever. Then, why is it said that one
should pray for peace for the departed soul, when the soul is not at all
affected by anything. By this argument, there cannot any "Unsatisfied Soul -
Atript Aatmaa" and therefore one can say there cannot be any ghosts. In that
case why should we pray for peace for any Aatmaa?
There is no doubt that Aatma is
Paripoorn (Complete). When we are alive, there are 5 Kosh (coverings) to Aatm
Swaroop. When we die the the first covering, the Annamaya Kosh (gross body)
falls, but all Vaasanaa and the burden of Karm are carried with subtle body
after death. Then It goes through experiences of Heaven / Hell depending on the
Karm till It is time to get into another gross body (rebirth). What we mean by
Atript Aatmaa is actually the subtle body which still has the covering of
Manomaya Kosh (feelings), Vigyaanamaya (intellect or ego) and Aanandamaya Kosh
above Aatm Swaroop. Our prayers mitigate the suffering of this subtle body of
the departed soul. So praying and chanting for the departed soul does help.