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There are many illustrations about Gaya in the great epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata. Rama along with Sita and Lakshmana visited Gaya for offering Pinddaan to their father, Dasharatha. In Mahabharata, the place has been identified as Gayapuri.
As per the narration Gaya Mahatan in Vayupuran, the time when mankind was being created, Lord Brahma created demon named Gayasur who did deep meditation at Kolahal mountain, pleased with his devotion, Lord Vishnu asked him to seek one blessing, Gayasur decided that whoever comes in touch with him, angel or demon, insect, saint or sinner should find salvation and thus purified of all sins can then proceed to Vaikunth. It is said that Lord Vishnu dwells in Gaya in the form of Pitrudevata. A person who offers pind daan in Gaya is freed of all the three rins of Pitru, Devta and Guru and attains salvation along with his 7 generations.
Pind daan or post death rituals in Gaya are considered to be very sacred and obligatory to hindus. Many hindu scriptures describe about the importance of pind daan in Gaya for the liberation of loved ones and ancestors. Pind Pradaan done at Gaya is also considered a personal way to make offerings on foot prints of Lord Vishnu, thus ensuring the departed souls of ancestors rest in peace permanently. Pind Pradaan is done at Falgu River, Vishnu Pad Temple and Akshaya Vat. Pind Pradaan is also done at Pretshila hill. There is a special significance of Gaya Shradh during Pitrupaksha or the fortnight of ancestors. Pitrupaksha falls in ashwin month, krishna paksha of lunar calander. If a person offers pind daan and tarpan to his ancestors on this fortnight, his deceased parents along with the seven generations of his family are said to attain peace and moksha.
Shradh performed in Gaya is considered to be the most sacred of all. Once in a lifetime every hindu arrives in Gaya for Pind daan or post death ceremony. There are various types of Shradh conducted in Gaya like Ekodristi Shradh and Vrihad Shradh etc. There are various other pitrukaryas conducted in Gaya for Pitra Dosha Nivarana like Tripindi Shradh, Narayan Bali and Nag Bali Shradh.
The people come to Gaya not only in pitrupaksha, but all the year round in order to offer oblations to their deceased loved ones in the banks of River Falgu. The person who does the act of shradh in the banks of the river attains the higher rewards in life. The river Falgu flows in the eastern part of Gaya, however it does not flow out like other rivers, but its waters flow inside the earth, that’s why it is also called as Antah Salila. This river is considered as sacred as river Ganga.
The other places to visit in Gaya are Mangala Gauri Shrine, Pret Shila hill, Ramshila Hill and Brahmayoni Hill. Bodhi Tree at Bodh Gaya is the spot where Prince Siddhartha attained nirvana and became Lord Buddha.