Bihar’s Gaya is known as the ‘Moksh Ki Dharti’ where souls are said to get their ultimate salvation. Home to many temples, this pure land hosts an annual Pitru Paksha Mela on the banks of River Falgu. Held in September for 16 days, this fair welcomes pilgrims from all corners of the country who visit here for offering Pinda to their Ancestors. This fair is also known as Sola Sraddha, Jitiya, Pitru Pakkha, and Malaya Paksha in various parts of India. According to Bihar Tourism Department estimates, some 5,00,000 to 75,00,000 pilgrims arrive in Gaya during the Pitru Paksha Mela every year.
In this fair, the believers of Hinduism from nationwide come to worship their ancestors as part of the Shraddha or Tarpan ritual. The gayalis, descendants of the Magga Brahmans perform the Shraddha ceremony. This mandatory Hindu ritual includes taking a dip in a river, worshipping ancestors, etc are performed in order to bring salvation to the souls of the loved ones who left for heavenly abode. According to Hindu mythology, the last three generations of a person reside in Pitru Loka. It is also believed that the souls of the ancestors don’t achieve salvation and keep wandering until Pitru Puja is performed for them. In the early Dharmasastras, Vishnu provides a list of over 50 tirthas but it proclaims that dead ancestors pray to God for a son who would offer pinda (lymph of rice) to them at Gaya.
The tradition traces its history to the time of Buddha, who is believed to have performed the first pindan here. Turning the pages of history, we come across the Puranic legend that ascribes Gaya as one of the holiest spots of the world. The Asura, named Gaya, became so powerful that the gods felt threatened and thus thought of eliminating him. As a precondition to his death, the Asura demanded that he should be buried in the holiest spot of the world and thus this spot was named Gaya. The annual event is organised with the ‘Vishnupad Temple’, having the footprints of Lord Vishnu, at its centre.
How to Reach Gaya? – The best way to reach Gaya is by bus. You can easily find buses to Gaya from Delhi and Lucknow and other places in UP and Bihar on redBus. From Patna Airport (PAT) as well, one can take a bus to Buddh Gaya which takes 2h 4m and costs ₹500 – ₹650. Alternatively, you can train, which costs ₹600 – ₹1,400 and takes 2h 9m. A Cab/Taxi may also be preferred easily.