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.

4 Replies 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.

    1. 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. >>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'"
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    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."
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    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.

  3. Dear Sethuraman,

    Namaskaram. while we visit gaya khsthram – the kshethra mahathimyam in Brahmanda puranam and Skantha puranam illustrates these stuffs.

    Also in Goudiya sampradhayam, Sri chaithanya mahaprabhus yathra to gaya is parama sreshta yathra – and his swa anubhavam illustrates the reference of Rama as parabrahmam but taken a kriya of doing shrartham to dasaratha – at Gaya.

    Please ref the link

    Lord Ram after being established as the king of Ayodhya was advised to performed sraddha for his father Dasharatha at the holy place of Gaya. Lord Rama accompanied by Sita and brother Laxman came to Gaya. As per the instructions of the sage who was going to perform sraddha, Lord Ram & Laxman went out to fetch the necessary ingredients. As auspicious time for the sraddha was passing by & Lord Ram- Laxman were nowhere in sight, The sage asked sita devi to do the pinda dana herself. She was asked to make balls (instead of grains) of sand from the river phalguni (phalgu river).
    Sita devi’s performance of the pinda daan bore fruits when Dashrath Maharaj’s hand appeared from underground to accept the offerings made by her. Later when Ram & laxman arrived with the ingredients, sita informed them of the entire story. Lord Ram wanted some proof for this incident. Seeing a cow standing nearby , sita devi asked her to give witness . She also asked the river Phalguni & a Banyan tree to bear witness.
    When cow & the river did not gave witness, sita devi became upset & cursed both of them cow was cursed to have her mouth always unclean due to continuous drool of saliva. And river was cursed to be waterless on its river bed. (River phalguni thus became phalgu which also means False River)
    The banyan tree ,however, gave witness. Sita Devi became pleased & offered it the blessings of becoming immortal & never shred its leaves throughout the year.This tree is today called as Akshay Vat.(immortal banyan)

    While we go to Gaya , before the start of pinda prathan at the banks of Palguni – the khethra brahmins also expains the same narration and appreciate the necessity to do the tharpanam and pindaprathan as the first karma in the morning hours at the banks of Palguni river.

    Valmiki Ramayanam is the one that being referred in but the narration of Ramayanam is spread over in very many puranams and Rishi`s, Muni`s, thabhasvi`s, azhwar, acharya divya anuboothis. and further ulluvar ullathil Ulan kandai nannenje, which includes the recent Thiyagaraja ramayanam too.

    Also pl refer the below link contents:,_India

    Falgu River
    Pind Dan starts from Falgu River

    According to Ramayana, when Lord Rama came to Gaya along with Sita for pitripaksha (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

    However, water can always be found all the year by digging in the dry sandy riverbed. That’s why it is called “Antah Saliya”.

    The next legend concerns the Falguni (or Falgu) river. There is never much water in the river at Gaya, 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 ones fingers, water appears. This is apparently because of a curse on the river. The story goes that Rama, along with his brothers and Sita, came to Gaya to perform the sacred rites for his father, Dasaratha. When the brothers were bathing in the river, Sita was sitting on the banks, playing with the sand. Suddenly, Dasaratha appeared out of the sand, and asked for the Pindam, saying he was hungry. Sita asked him to wait till his sons returned, so that she could give him the traditional Pindam of rice and til. He refused to wait, asking her to give him pindams made of the sand in her hand. Having no other option, she gave him the Pindam he desired with five witnesses – the Akshaya Vatam, the Falguni River, a cow, a Tulsi plant and a Brahmin. Soon, Rama returned and started the rituals. In those days apparently, the ancestors would arrive in person to collect their share, and when Dasaratha did not appear, they wondered why. Sita then told them what had happened, but Rama could not believe that his father would accept pindams made of sand. Sita now mentioned her witnesses, and asked them to tell Rama the truth. Among the five, only the Akshaya Vatam took her side and told the truth, while the others lied, trying to take Rama’s side. In her anger, Sita cursed all of them thus: the Falguni river henceforth would have no water at Gaya; the Cow would no longer be worshipped from the front as all others are- only its backside would be worshipped; there would be no more Tulsi plants at Gaya and the Gaya Brahmins would never be satisfied, they would always be hungry and crave more and more. She then blessed the Akshaya Vatam saying that all who came to Gaya would perform the Pinda pradaanam at the Akshaya Vatam too.

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