Monday, July 7, 2014

Gaya Yatra

Before I detail our trip to achieve the intent of the above topic, I would like to explain about the subject.

For all Vaishnavites it is an essential duty to visit Gaya (Near Budh Gaya, Bihar ) to carry out Shrardham to our non living parents and elders. It is believed that the souls of our parents and elders whose names are included in this Shrardham reach their heavenly positions. Apart from Vaishnavites all others irrespective of their cast can perform shrardham here.

Every 'Aathma' will be awaiting their one son atleast to come to Gaya to perform this Shardham. Lord Rama did his duty for his father Dasaratha in this place only.

The story behind this is: There was a 'Rakshasa by name Gaya' who was giving trouble to people. By his 'parakkramam' even 'Devas' were in trouble. They all approached Lord Vishnu to eradicate him from Boologam. As per his advice they approached Gaya and asked for his help to perform 'Pitru Homam' on his body. They informed him that by doing this he would get eternal importance. He provided place on his body and when the 'homam' was made he could not bear the heat and tried to get up. Lord Vishnu kept his right foot on his chest and pressed him down. He understood that he was going to die and requested Lord for 3 boons. 1. All people who touch this soil and perform shrardham should get Moksha. People for whom shrardham is done and those who perform shrardham. 2. This place is to be named after him as 'Gaya'. 3. If any day there is no dead body to cremate here in this place, he should get his life back. God gave all the three boons and it is told that at least one body is available for cremation in this place every day.

There is one more story about this place. Ram and Seetha when came here for doing shrardham for Dasaratha, Rama went to make arrangements. Since sun set was approaching Sita herself did pindams with the sand from this place and the souls of all elders appeared before Seetha and took the pindams. She kept three witnesses for her action so that Sri Rama will believe her. They are Palguni river, one brahman and Akshayavada - banyan tree. When Rama came back and sat for performing shrardham Seetha informed and he called for the witnesses. Except Akshayavada others failed to confirm and Seetha praised the banyan tree and told that people when do shrardham under the tree would get Moksha and all the sins they had done so far would go away. She gave 'Saba' to the river that there will be no water except on rainy days and to brahman that they would get things only by begging and whatever they get they would not get satisfaction.

Myself, my wife, my immediate elder brother and his wife joined together in Gaya to perform this Shrardham. We chose to do this duty on Amavasa day in June 2014 i.e., on 26th June, Thursday.

We went to Patna by Indigo flight. The flight took off Bangalore at 6.30am on 25th, reached Kolkata at 9.20am. We were inside the flight awaiting other passengers who go to Patna from Kolkata. It took off Kolkata at 9.45am and reached Patna at 10.25am.

We came out immediately since we had only hand luggage. Within the airport Bihar Tourism is having their office who arranges Taxis for all local and nearby trips. We booked a taxi for 3 days since we had to catch the return flight on 27th evening in Patna only. We opted for this since they charge to and fro charges for arranging even a drop to Gaya. This drop would cost us Rs 2900 whereas keeping the car with us for 3 days with a kilometer coverage for 600 kms. would cost us Rs 7870. Hence we opted to book the car ( Ford Fiesta  A/c ) for 3 days. The driver was Mr.Mahroof Alam and he was very good and safe driver.

We started our journey to Gaya in car at abut 11.30am and reached Gaya at 3 pm. On the way we could not get any good food as lunch. We had our idly vada breakfast in Bangalore Airport and so we wanted to have a good lunch. One good hotel in Patna offered lunch only after 12 noon and we preferred to start instead of waiting for lunch time. So we had to compromise with Katchodi, Batti on the way from a village restaurant. Since we lived for about 3 years in Nagaur, Rajasthan, this type of food was not new to us.
We managed our lunch like this.

The trip arranging agency M/s. Sri Maruthi Travels, Perambur, Chennai is run by our relative Mr. V.Srinivasan and he had nicely arranged a stay for the entire group ( approximately about 30 ) in a place called Vishnu Bhavan. Since the rooms are just enough, we preferred to stay in a lodge where we could have air conditioned rooms with better facilities including internet. We stayed at Skyline Hotel near railway station and since we had car at our disposal there was no problem of reaching any place in time. We arranged two rooms one for us and one for my brother family who reached Gaya at about 10.30pm by train from Kolkata. His flight from Coimbatore to Kolkata was rescheduled and with much difficulty they reached Kolkata through Chennai.

We had telephonic talk with Mr.Srinivasan and as per his advice we had to go by 8.30am on 26th to Vishnu Bhavan to join others. We had our 'Madi' clothes from Bangalore only and so after taking bath we wore those dresses ( Men - Panjakatcham and Women- Madisar saree) and reached Vishnu Bhavan at 8.30 am.
He offered coffee to all 'karthas' but we did not have anything. We wanted to finish everything and then only eat.

At 9 am we all were asked to assemble in Sri Rama temple, near Palguni river where suitable arrangements were regularly made for carrying out this Shrardham. The Pandit was well versed having such groups regularly and made us to sit in rows suitably. There were couples who lost both father and mother, some have living mother, some did not have their wifes, some did for their husbands when they did not have children. We did for our mother and father both.

We were given 'sombu kolathram' , pavithram and a bundle of 'tharpam' for performing shrardham. All ladies were given hot cooked rice in a small mud cup sprinkled with 'black ellu' (black thill) and they were asked to make 17 pindams with the first lot of rice. They also were asked to make 64 pindams with such rice given as second lot.

We were asked to spread the 'tharpam' in five rows. Father, grandfather, greatgrand father - first line, mother,grandmother, greatgrand mother - 2nd line (both father side), Mother side grand father, great grand father, father of great grand father - 3rd line, their female side - 4th line and the last being kept for 'Karunya souls, i.e., souls who are our nearby relative, friends and known and unknowns.

From the first 17 we were asked to pronounce mantras for each soul starting from first line and to keep one pindam for each and thus would consume 15. Sixteenth one was asked to be kept along with first line on the top by pronouncing certain mantras and the seventeenth one was kept to pour 'ellu jalam' ( Prokshithal )

Then we were asked to pay our namaskaras by 'Abhivadayam' and we were asked to give the pindams to Cow in nearby Sri Rama Temple. The cow took the pindams eagerly from the first few 'Karthas'. I was the first one to give and it took it fully.

Then we came back and sat down in our respective places and started again. Now out of 64 pindams we were asked to keep 16 pindams only for our mother. Since mother suffered lot of inconveniences from the day of conceiving us until bringing us up to a level, this special treatment for mother is essential. The Pandit explains for each pindam through slogas about the difficulty our mother faced in bringing us to this world.

After this we were asked to keep one pindam each for all our relatives and dear ones. Every one had a list of names and thus we completed all 64 pindams in this way.

The Pandit then asked us take all the pindams and go and submit at the 'Vishnu Padam' which was nearby the temple. Vishnu Padam is believed to be the place where Lord Vishnu kept his right foot on the chest of 'Rakshasa Gaya'. Vishnu Padam is encircled with Silver boundries with suitable depth to contain pindams from atleast 100-200 persons and a set of people work continuously to take them out after submission.

After performing this we came back to our positions to do homam as we do in regular shrardhams we do at home. We were asked to take some soft drinks before we performed homam. It was about 1 pm at that time. We were asked to go to Vishnu Bhavan, where the crew started in the morning. There we awaited 'Brahmanas' to whom we donated dhoties and served food. Each 'kartha' was allotted two 'brahmana' and we cleansed their feet with water and made them to sit and served food. One with 'Upaveedam - our poonal to right as usual' and one with 'Prachinaveedam - our poonal to the left'.

Once this was over, we gave 'Dakshanai' to the respective 'brahmanas' and then we were to go to one place called 'Akshaya vada' to perform 'shrardam' as we did in the morning. This place was about 4km away and we went there by our car, while others came by autorickshaws.

Our Pandit was watiting there for us and we were again given pindams and one small vada and some curry made out of 'vazhaikkai'. Here again we did for all the three sets of ancestors from father and mother side.

This 'Akshayavada' is the ancient 'Alamaram' which was there since starting of all yugas. It is believed that at the end of each 'yuga' Lord Krishna protects this tree from destruction and thus it witnessed 'Satya, Thretha, Dhuwapara and Kaliyug'. It is believed that if anyone who does shrardham here in Akshayavada is said to have completed his duties towards reaching his demised parents and elders to heavenly positions. All the sins so far done would be completely nullified. Any 'Pithru dosha' will get eradicated, if one completes shrardham here.

It was informed to us that there are about 100 families who live only in Gaya and none of their family members will go out for a living from this place. All the marriages are done within these families only. We need to take one of them to be a witness to our performing shrardham in Gaya and hence one family who was always there with us since morning was entrused to confirm his witness. He confirmed each of us that the shrardham was performed properly by us all our elders leave for 'Moksha' by our act. He also confirmed that he and his people are happy and they totally witness our rituals today and confirm the completeness of the duties.

While we donated 'dhana' to the 'brahman' we were asked to leave one fruit, one vegetable and one leaf which we will never use in our life hereafter. This also is a requirement and we left Sapota fruit, Kothavaraikkai and Poovarasa leaf. The Pandit suggested to leave the leaf of Banyan tree. But we being very much attached to Lord Krishna left Poovarasa leaf.

After this we all went around the 'Big Banyan tree' and prayed God. Lord Krishna is portrayed there as 'Aalilai Krishna'. When we came back to Vishnu Bhavan it was 4pm and this was as per our schedule. We all took our lunch (!) there. Even though we lost our hunger due to the delayed timing the food preparation was quite good and we all enjoyed it. It is a perfect 'Shrardha samayal'.

We thanked Mr.Srinivasan for all his help and left for our staying place in Hotel Skyline. We had a very small rest ( for about half an hour ) and left to see 'Budh Gaya' where Prince Buddha got 'Gyanam'. Since we were very tired we did not spend much time. We went by car and had darshan of the ancient tree and saw 80 feet high buddha statue nearby. Came back to hotel to have full rest.

My brother had to catch his train to Kolkata at 4 am on 27th. Our car driver dropped them in railway station. We woke up late since our flight to Kolkata from Patna was at 6.30 pm only. We had a bath, took break fast in 'Annapoorna' restaurant nearby before leaving for Patna. Annapoorna is not the one what we see in South but it is different. But we had very good pooris with mixed vegetable curry which was good enough.

We reached Patna Airport at 3.30 pm. Since we had lot of time just spent in the lobby and entered the security check at 4.45 pm. By the grace of God and our parents everything went on well and we reached Bangalore via Kolkata at 10.30 pm. Since we had already arranged taxi we reached our home in Electronics city at 12 midnight.

Thus our GAYA TRIP was a memorable one and very much satisfactory since we had done our prime duty to demised souls.