Tristhal Yatra: Day4 @ Gaya– Part 2

RK’s notes reminds me that the car was a Bollero, not a Qualis…  Bollero is a nice road-warrior… great ride for long distances… You hardly feel the stress at all…

Combining my notes and RK’s:

“We drove on to the Math where began the gruelling and yet highly moving Gaya shraddham.  It began with the sankalpam, the highlight being the excellent priest who explained things wherever required with intense emotion.  The greatest part of this shraddham is how all encompassing it is with remembrance, prayers and offerings to not only the three generations (which is the limit of the normal ritual) but all our relatives and friends who are no more and even unrelated people who served us for long, pets and all those who have no one to do all this for them.  As the ritual proceeds, one’s mind is filled with a deep sense of expansion and gratitude for all those who enriched our life by their presence.

As part of the marathon ritual, after the sankalpam, we went to the Vishnu Paadam Temple…. An ancient place of worship… Whover knows how old it is? From time immemorial, pious devotees from all over India have been coming to this place, to offer pindams (rice oblations) their ancestors…

Here’s a picture of this most holy temple…

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First we performed elaborate Tarpana at a hall in the temple. Around noon, we entered the sanctum-sanctorum, where in a circular well sort of pit, there is the most holy Vishnu-pada, the engraving of the feet of Lord Vishnu… Pindam after pindam we offered here, to each and every departed jiva, who had touched our lives… What can one say about the emotions of the moment…

Thereafter, we proceed towards the Phalguni river, a dry river. A guide told us some interesting legend about the river…

Apparently, Sri Rama, Lakshmana and Sita had come to Gaya for doing shraaddha. Rama and Lakshmana left Sita here, and left to collect the items needed for the rituals. While they were away, Dasaratha, the departed father of Rama, suddenly manifested and expressed to Sita that he was extremely hungry.  While she tried to make him wait till Rama returned, he insisted that his hunger could not wait any more. So, she made pindams out of sand and offered them to Dasharatha.  She did so with five witnesses — the Tulsi plant, Phalguni river, a Gayaval priest, a cow and the Akshaya Vata (the holy imperishable Banyan tree).  Dasaratha was satisfied with this offering and disappeared  before Rama returned. When Rama returned Sita related all that had happened to him. As he did not seem to believe her, she called upon the five witnesses. Four of them lied when asked to confirm this to Lord Rama.. She cursed them — so in Gaya, the Tulsi is devoid of fragrance, the Phalguni is dry, the Gayaval priest can never be satisified, and the cow is worshipped only from behind.

The Akshaya Vata alone spoke the truth and was given the great blessing of being an intrinsic and essential part of the Gaya shraddham, and vested with the power to bless devotees with whatever they seek when it is approached at the end of the shraddham.

After the Vishnu pada temple, we returned to the Mutt, where ‘homam’, Shraaddha accompanied by the fire-rites, was done. Gruelling ceremonies… And remember, no food can be had until all ceremony is complete… After this shraadham, food and dana was given to Gayavali priests, a couple of whom were young boys…

Next stop, the Akshaya Vata.. We had to drive down to another temple, where upon going up to the first floor, we come across an open terrace, where we see this most ancient, spreading, magnificent tree… The Akshaya Vata…

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It went off well, concluding in the most moving ritual below the massive canopy of the Akshaya Vata.  Here, the person performing tarpana has to offer only one pindam for every departed individual, except in the case of one’s departed mother, for whom 16 pindams have to be offered.  My co-pilgrim had lost his parents when he was a small child. Perhaps he has no memory of them. The priest explained everything with great feeling especially about the 16 pindams offered to the mother and why each pindam was offered — for all the pain and sacrifice she willingly underwent during pregnancy, delivery, feeding and raising the infant — it was truly heartrending, and I could see that my co-pilgrim had tears in his eyes.

Then we again offered pindams for all — friends, relatives, any one who touched our lives, pets and above all, for the great influences in our life who were no more. Then, they ask you to renounce one vegetable, a fruit, and a leaf from your diet… That is great fun, for it is so difficult to take a spot decision on that!

This Akshaya Vata is believed to be the very tree whose leaf carried the baby Krishna, during the deluge at the end of creation… Baby Krishna, lying on a leaf, floating on the ocean of cosmic consciousness… (Recall the picture of baby Krishna, sucking his toe, lying on a banyan leaf… What a visual!)

The ritual concluded with offerings and prayers at the base of the holy tree….

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So much peace… such silence…

With this grand finale, the Gaya shraddham came to a glorious end and the traditional ‘dandam’ in Kasi, ‘mundam’ in Prayag and ‘pindam’ in Gaya was done in a single trip which is supposed to be very special.  Throughout, our hearts were filled with gratitude for the One who made all this possible.

We had our lunch around 4.30 PM and we returned to Kasi for the night.

**** To be concluded ****

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