Gaya Srardham

'Gaya'. According to the legend, there was once an Asura named Gayasuran, who was a great devotee of Vishnu. When the Devas couldn’t bear the trouble he caused any more, they went to Vishnu and asked for a way out. Vishnu approached Gayasuran and told him that He wanted to perform a special yagna, and wanted a special place to perform it. Gayasuran offered his heart, and Vishnu accepted. The yagna began, and soon, the fumes and the heat became unbearable, and Gayasuran started succumbing to it. Vishnu asked him for his final wish, and Gayasuran asked that the place he died would be immortalized by his name, and hence the name ‘Gaya’.

Second, he asked that people should be allowed to perform the sacred rites (Pinda pradaanam) not only for their ancestors, but for anyone- family, distant relatives, friends and foes, non-Hindus, pets, unclaimed bodies- in short, for any dead human/creature they could think of. This remains the only place where Pinda pradaanam is carried out in this manner.

in a normal Shrraddham , 6 pindams are made (two for each generations which are no more); in a Teertha Shrraddham , as at Kashi, Allahabad, Rameswaram, etc., 16 pindams are offered, including all ancestors on both parents side; in the Gaya Shrraddham, 64 pindams are offered, of which 16 are for the mother alone, since she carries her child for 9 whole months within her body, 16 for the ancestors, and 16 for all others as I have mentioned earlier.

Of course, all this is a matter of faith and belief, but what is there in life if we don’t have faith? Anyway, once Vishnu granted his wishes, he stepped on him with his foot, leaving a footprint at this holy place, and granting liberation to Gayasuran. It is this footprint which is worshipped as the Vishnu Padam.

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