Gaya – Bodh Gaya Carrying out ancestors’ rites at Gaya

Tamil people from Srilanka go to India very frequently. Most of the time their journey concludes with visits to famous temples and tourist spots of Tamilnadu. Quite some extend their trips up to Thiruppathy, Puttaparthy and Kalakasthy; religious places in Andrapradesh. Still others make it up to Shridi in Maharastra (Mumbai) and places in north India like Taj mahal, Banaras and the lot. There is however one important Shestra called Gaya which Tamil people do not consider or rather are not aware of, but Sinhala pilgrims come in groups, regularly. Gaya is a revered Holy place. Pilgrims call it “Bodh gaya”. Lord Buddha attained enlightenment, meditating under a sacred Bodhi tree in Gaya; Bodhi fig tree has the botanical name Ficus religiosa. In Sinhala Bodhi means ‘enlightenment’. That spot is used as a shrine right from the time of Buddha. There, now exists an ancient brick Mahabodhi temple, a Bodhi tree which is a direct descendant of the original tree and which is always with green leaves and a stupa to mark the shrine. The Sinhala people go for the Tharshan of these holy symbols of Lord Buddha. Outside the temple complex many establishments bear the name of Mahabodhi. Mahabodhi ITI, Mahabodhi Industries are two prominent places among them. These name boards show the influence the Bodh Gaya has, on the surrounding.

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All Buddhist structures together occupy about 12 acres, with perhaps the Bo- tree with the encircled decorations and the temple structure, forming the important portions. There is also a massive Buddha Statue which catches the eye from afar. There are many Buddha related places outside the Bod-Gaya proper. The Dungeswari cave temple is a noteworthy one. Lord Buddha meditated here before going to Bod-Gaya. This temple is a revered place for religious people of the whole Hindustan.

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The Buddhist area is rather small in comparison with the whole sanctified place. The reality is that the rest of Gaya or rather greater Gaya, as it includes the sites around the Bodh Gaya, is a sacred place for worshipping and carrying out Hindu rights and a revered place for Jains. Though Gaya is a great place and a land of salvation for Hindus, it is not well known in south India as well as in other countries. But at any time, we get quite a number of north Indian Hindu pilgrims coming and carrying out holy rites, mainly for their ancestors, in Gaya. That area is so vast we can see them congregated in numbers at different spots at one and the same time, paying their respects to their deceased ancestors. However those pilgrims do not fail to include the Buddhist portion in their visit. Some include a salutation at the Buddha temple structure as part of their ritual process.
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‘Gaya is the second biggest city in the state of Bihar, in North India. It is a sacred place for Hindus, Jains and Buddhists. It is said that one should go to Gaya at least once in his life time to alleviate the sufferings of their ancestors’ souls. A ritual carried out in Gaya comforts the ancestors’ soul from the continued bindings with their wrong deeds. The deceased’s souls are said yearn anxiously for one of their progeny to visit Gaya and piously perform rituals appeasing the divine powers. These rituals have to be carried out with a virtuous mindset with the help of a well versed and disciplined priest.
Hindu literatures say that there are four ways for ordinary people to attain ‘liberation’. (1) Realizing the glory of the almighty. (2) Carrying out rites for their ancestors in Gaya. (3) Giving up their life in the midst of cows or in a cow shack. And (4) Living in a place of sanctity. So pilgrimage to Gaya and giving respects to your ancestors by carrying out your Pithir duty is one gratifying deed that strengthens the liberation of your soul.
As per the Hindu belief, pind daan(carrying out Pithir) is mandatory Karma to attain peace, good health, and prosperity in life
The procedure of Pind Daan or Pithir at Gaya’
Pinth is food in circular form. It conveys that soul is contained within. After Pooja procedures it is sent to earth by dissolving in water, which is the main constituent of the physical body.
There is a body that arranges the rituals. It is called the B.S.S(Bharat Sevashram Sangha). One can approach this to get the ritual done systematically and without delay. The BSS normally arranges a priest for 3-4 persons. It carries a cost. Those who can afford can get a single priest for their ritual. Those who cannot afford can get into a group of 10. Besides reciting of slogans calling upon divine powers, a commute is arranged that takes you round the bank of the River Falgu (பல்குனி ஆறு), a tributary of the Gangese where Lord Rama and his wife rested for some time, Vishnupad temple where Lord Vishnu killed Gayasurand Akshaya vat, the immortal banyan tree that was blessed by Sita.

In Gaya one can carry out rites for ancestors at any place by the river.
• BSS will assign a priest for 3 to 4 persons. They will direct people who can’t afford to pay much to points where there is absolute minimal cost. En masse ritual directed by one or two priests….
• Thereafter, the priest will ask the name of your original ancestral place. …
• The priest will then arrange the commute that will take you to and from the three important sites, the bank of River Falgu, Vishnupad Temple and the Akshaya Vat, an immortal banyan tree.
These days the Falgu river is almost dried up during summer. Anywhere along the river, rites can be carried out even if you find only little pools of water. In the north there is a water spot ‘Uththaramaasanam’. Dips in it taken and ‘Darpana’ (a kind of water credit) is done to ancestors and dine powers. Then in southerly water spot ‘Thadshinamaanasam’ dips are taken. Then a prayer is carried out to invoke the support of the Sun God. Tonsure to have a bare head is also done here. A little to the north of this place there is a holy pond called Kangaanam. Water from that is used for washing the tonsured head. After Uththaramaasanam there is bathing in the Naagarjuna river. This completes the homage to the ancestors. The ‘pledge’ taken at the start is wound up by bathing in the Falgu river again followed by Tharshan of lord Kathaathar. Then there are your own Karma rites. This includes bathing in Mathanga theertha and pramakoopam and Tharsham of the holy fig tree inside the Mahabhodi Temple.
Though most people try to do all the rites in a single take, it will be more orderly and a gratifying deed, if all the rites are carried out in a course of 5-7 days.
• First day bathing in Uththaramaasanam
• Second day at Thadshinamaanasam
• Third day at Prammasaras
• Fourth day in the Falgu river and dedicating Pinth to your father, grandfather and great-grandfather. For liberation from earthly bonds special poojas and offerings to divine powers are done.
• Fifth day after a holy dip manthras of worship of Lord Janarththana are recited and it is followed by tharshan of Vdaveshwarrar under north holy Virushha (tree).
• Then bathing in the Maha nathi and reciting of the ‘Gayaththri manthra’
• Bath in river Vaitharani, solemn prayers to Janarthanan and offer ‘pind’ to ownself.
One should go around the expanse of Gaya visiting and getting Tharshans of all holy places there. Among these the Vishnupad temple, which needs to be visited more than once during the rituals, the Dungeshwari cave temple with its set of Buddha statues and the Yama temple are special places. The pilgrimage to Gaya can be ceremoniously and devoutly concluded by offering ‘Annathana’, the giving of food to a gathering of Poor, pilgrims and Sathus.