Gaya Sraaddham


Gaya is significant to Hindus from the point of view of salvation to the souls of ancestors (a ritual called pinda daan). According to Ramayana, when Lord Rama came to Gaya along with Sita for pitrupaksha (or to perform pindadanam), Sita cursed the Falgu River following some disobedience on the part of the river. The mythology states that on account of this curse, Falgu River lost its water, and the river is simply a vast stretch of sand dunes. At the same time Sita blessed a banyan tree to be immortal. This tree is known as Akshyavat. Akshyavat is combination of two words Akshaya (which never decay) and Vat (Banyan tree). This is the reason we utter Akshaya Vata chayayam Gaya Sraaddham Karishye during the Sraddha ceremony.Once a year banyan trees shed leaves, but this particular tree never sheds its leaves which keeps it green even in times of drought.

For Buddhists, Gaya is an important pilgrimage place because it was at Brahmayoni hill that Buddha preached the Fire Sermon (Adittapariyaya Sutta) to a thousand former fire-worshipping ascetics, who all became enlightened while listening to this discourse. At that time, the hill was called Gayasisa.

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3 Responses to Gaya Sraaddham

  1. Can you please cite the relevant slokhams in Ayodhyla kandam/Aranya kandam which mention Rama’s journey to Gaya? He performed the rites for his father on the banks of Ganga when Bharata reached there to inform Rama of the news. From there Rama crossed the Ganga and went to Bharadwaj’s Ashram in Prayag and from then on crossed Yamuna to Dandakaranyam in a westerly direction finally arriving at Panchavati near the origin of Godavari river. Gaya is 200 miles southeast of Prayag. Why would Rama go easterly for 200 miles to Gaya if it is not on his path to Dandakaranyam and ultimately Panchavati? In his period Gaya was not a holy place, I understand. Pl provide some evidence for Rama’s journey to Gaya.

    • Sethuraman Subramanian says:

      A slight correction on the first comment above. Rama performed the last rites for his dead father at the banks of Mandakini (not Ganga). Bharata meets Rama at Citrakutam which is south of Ganga and Yamuna.

  2. Sethuraman Subramanian says:

    >>According to Ramayana, when Lord Rama came to Gaya along with Sita for pitrupaksha (or to perform pindadanam)<<

    I do not see this in Ramayanam. Bharata meets Rama at Citrakutam on the banks of the river Mandakini. After learning Dasharata's death from Bharata, Rama performs obsequies for his father on the banks of the river Mandakini in Citrakutam valley which is south of the river Yamuna. Rama while trying to convince Bharata to return to Ayodhya to rule as Dasharata promised Kaikeyi, tells Bharatha about the King by name Gaya who performed sacrifice at Gaya (the place) in honor of his ancestors and according to Gaya a "putra" is one who delivers his ancestors from dangers (such as hell), "Put" means hell (narakam) and putra is one who saves his ancestors from going to hell. There is no further mention of offering pindam at Gaya. Rama perhaps mentions Gaya just to reinforce in Bharata that he should obey his father's desire (to be the king of Ayodhya per Kaikeyi's boon). Rama did not go to Gaya to offer pindadanam. This concept of pindadanam at Gaya was concocted by priests at Gaya (which is not even on the banks of Ganga).

    I am quoting below the relevant slokams from Ayodhya Kandam, (sargam 107, slokams 11-14) where Rama talks about Gaya (but not Pindadanam)

    shruuyate hi puraa taata shrutir giitaa yashasvinii |
    gayena yajamaanena gayeShu eva pitR^iR^in prati || 2-107-11
    11. taata= my dear brother!; puraa= formerly; yashasvinaa= by an illustrious king; gayena= named Gaya; yajamaanena= while performing a sacrifice; gayeSvena= in a place called Gaya; pitR^iin prati= in honour of his ancestors; shrutiH= a verse; giitaa= was changed; shruuyate hi= and indeed heard (as follows)
    "My dear brother! Formerly, an illustrious king named Gaya, while perfoming a sacrifice in a place called Gaya in honour of his ancestors, chanted the following verse:
    Verse Locator
    pum naamnaa narakaad yasmaat pitaram traayate sutaH |
    tasmaat putra iti proktaH pitR^iR^in yat paati vaa sutaH || 2-107-12
    12. yasmaat= since; sutaH= a son; traayate= delivers; pitaram= his father; narakaat= from a place of torment; punnaamaH= called 'Put'; tasmaat= for that reason; protaH= (he) is named; pitra iti= as "Putra"; yaH= he who; paati= delivers; pitR^iin= his ancestors; sarvataH= from all (dangers).
    "Since a son delivers his father from a place of torment (hell) called 'Put', he is named as 'Putra'- 'he who delivers his ancestors from all dangers'"
    Verse Locator
    eShTavyaa bahavaH putraa guNavanto bahu shrutaaH |
    teShaam vai samavetaanaam api kashcid gayaam vrajet || 2-107-13
    13. bahavaH= many; yuNavantaH= viruous; bahushrutaaH= and very learned; putraH= sons; eSTavyaaH= are to be desired; teSaam= In them; kashchidapi= at lease one; samavetaanaam= who is intimately related; vrajet= may go; gayaam= to Gaya (to perform a sacrifice)
    "To have many virtuous and learned sons is to be desired, since one, atleast among them, who is intimately connected will ocme to Gaya to perform a sacrifice."
    Verse Locator
    evam raaja R^iShayaH sarve pratiitaa raaja nandana |
    tasmaat traahi nara shreShTha pitaram narakaat prabho || 2-107-14
    14. raaja nandan= O, Prince!; sarve= all; raajarSayaH= the royal sages; pratiitaaH= the royal sages; pratiitaaH= are convinced; evam= in this narashreSTa= and the excellent among men!; tasmaat= for that reason; traahi= save; pitaram= our father; narakaat= from hell.
    "O, prince! This is the conviction of all the royal sages. O, the efficient and the excellent of men! Therefore, save our father from hell.

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