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Shraaddh at Gayaa
See  also    Story of Gayaasur;     Shraaddh

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 and Vishwedev.

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 to say.

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.

About Gayaa
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.

Gaya Puraan
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 offerings also.

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.

Tripti Dakshinaa
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.

The End
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 the Kaalsootra."
"I offer this obsequious cake for the elevation of those spirits in the astral plane."
"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

Differing Views
--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.



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Created by Sushma Gupta on 8/9/09
Updated on 06/10/12