The ultimate goal of human life is to search for salvation. Lord Krishna also says in the Gita, this body is mortal but the soul is eternal. It has to reach the Lord to get salvation and Gaya is the place that paves a possible way for it.

Gaya finds mention in the great epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. In the Mahabharata, the place has been identified as Gayapuri. In Vayupuran, there is a narration titled ‘Gaya Mahatam’: “When creating mankind, Brahma created a demon named Gayasur. The demon went atop the Kolahal mountain and offered great penance to Lord Vishnu. Pleased with Gayasur, Lord Vishnu asked him to seek one blessing. So, Gayasur requested that whoever came in touch with him, be it an angel or a demon, an insect, a sinner, a saint or a sage, or an evil spirit should find salvation after having been purified of all sins. From that day everyone who came in touch with him found salvation and proceeded to vaikunth (abode of Lord Vishnu).” Later on Lord Vishnu killed Gayasur by using the pressure of his foot over him and forming the ‘Gaya Keshetra’ the most pious land on earth. This incident transformed Gayasur into the series of rocky hills that make up the landscape of the Gaya city.

It is believed that this place has been blessed by purification powers. After his death many people have flocked to Gaya to perform ‘shraddha’ sacrifices on his body to absolve the sins of their ancestors.

As gods and goddesses had promised to live on Gayasur's body after he died, the hilltop protuberances of Gaya are surmounted by temples to various gods and deities. These hilltop temples at Rama Shila, Mangla Gauri, Shringa Sthan and Brahmayoni are part of the pilgrimage circuit.

Over its history dating millennia, the word ‘asur’ got deleted and the name Gaya remained in currency.

Gaya is significant to Hindus from the point of view of salvation to the souls of ancestors (a ritual called pindadanam). It is believed that it was Lord Brahma who first performed the ‘pind daan’ ceremony in Gaya. Since then this tradition has continued.

Hindus traditionally come here to perform ‘pind daan’ to honour their parents or ancestors and people also perform the final rites of their departed family members to free them from the agonies of hell and send them to heaven.

But what exactly is ‘pind daan’ and its significance? According to Hindu belief after death, souls still remain in this materialistic world. They cannot detach themselves from this world and the affinity for the materialistic world prevents them to go for the extreme and ultimate departure.  And 'pinda daan' is a way to give those souls an ultimate relief and pave the way for their departure to the ultimate world of peace.

It is believed that to free a departed soul from this earth his family members have to do the Gaya shraddha for him after the yearly shraddha .And if the Gaya shraddha is not done after the yearly shraddha of any person then the soul of the person does not get peace. It curses the family members and creates different types of difficulties for them. This is known as Pitra Dosh. So, according to Hindu mythology, any person of a family especially the son has to perform Gaya shraddha or pind daan in Gaya for Pitra Dosh Nivaran.

Some people believe that ‘pind daan’ is required only if someone dies an unnatural death (due to accident, suicide, murder). Because an unnatural death restricts a soul to go to the super-natural world and for this he or she comes to this materialistic world. But this is a wrong conception. This ritual should be done for every dead. People need to perform Gaya shraddha or pind daan in Gaya for the salvation of their ancestors and to send their ancestors under the foot of lord Vishnu.
Pindas are offered in a personalised way on your behalf on the foot print of Lord Vishnu, on Akshya Bot and beside the River Falgu maintaining proper Hindu religious customs so that the departed soul of the dead persons rest in peace permanently.

According to Ramayana, when Lord Rama came to Gaya along with Sita for pitrupaksha (or to perform pindadanam), Sita cursed the Falgu River following some disobedience on the part of the river. The mythology states that on account of this curse, Falgu River lost its water, and the river is simply a vast stretch of sand dunes. Since that period, the practice of pind daan started in Gaya and still continues. Thus Gaya is called the soul of holy place (as written in Vedpuran).  Besides Rama, other mythological personalities who visited Gaya for the pind daan purpose are Raja Yudhistra, Bhisma Pitamaha, Marichi(Brahma’s son) and others.
Apart from mythological reasons, Gaya in Bihar is famous for a rich cultural heritage as well. The city of Gaya looks beautiful for its architectural excellence.
Gaya is the sacred place where Lord Buddha preached his doctrines of love & peace. Huge number of pilgrims and tourists come to this ‘city of salvation’ in search of peace for their ancestors.

Archaeological museum, Vishnupad temple, Brahmajuni Hill, Bodhi tree, Mangla Gauri and many more religious spots draw a huge number of tourists.

Vishnupad Temple

Vishnupad Templem, located in the central part of the old town is believed to have been built over the footprints of Lord Vishnu. Inside the temple, the 40 cm long `footprint' of Vishnu is imprinted in solid rock and surrounded by a silver plated basin. Lord vishnu's right foot print is embedded on the stone called ‘Dhrama Shiela'. This Shikhara style temple was constructed in 1787, by Queen Ahilya Bai of Indore, on the banks of the river Falgu. Non-Hindus are not allowed to enter the temple. Vishnupad Temple is situated at the centre part of Gaya with a gold flag and gold dome.

Bodh Gaya

Documented history of Gaya dates back to the birth of Gautam Buddha. About 15 km from Gaya town is Bodh Gaya, the place where Gautam Buddha got enlightenment. This center of knowledge further flourished under the rule of dynasties like the Mauryans who ruled from Patliputra (modern Patna) and covered the area beyond the boundaries of the Indian subcontinent. During this period, Gaya was a part of the Magadh region.
Bodhi tree
The Bodhi tree was a large and very old specimen of the Sacred Fig, located at the Mahabodhi Temple at Bodh Gaya. Sitting under a banyan tree, now known as the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, he vowed never to arise until he had found the ‘Truth’. This tree is a frequent destination for pilgrims, being the most important of the four holy sites for Buddhists. In religious iconography, the Bodhi tree is easily recognizable from its heart-shaped leaves, which are usually prominently displayed.

Mangla Gauri

The Mangla Gauri shrine is marked by two rounded stones that symbolise the breasts of the mythological Sati, the first wife of Lord Shiva. It is a very old and sacred temple which is located in the Chand Chaura area of Gaya town.

Falgu River

Falgu River lost its water due to Sita’s curse. However, water can always be found all the year by digging the dry sandy riverbed. That’s why it is called “Antah Saliya”.

Akshay Bata

Akshay Bata is the last important place where pind dan is done. Pind Dan starts from Falgu River and ends at Akshay Bata. Akshay Bata received a boon by Sita that it can never die.

Prethshilla Hill

The Pretshila Hill, situated to the north-west of Gaya is a sacred place for the Hindu pilgrims where 'pindas' are offered by the devotees in large numbers to their ancestors. ‘Pretshila Hill’ means hill of ghosts and is sacred to Yama, the Hindu god of hell. This is one of the sacred places of pilgrimage. On the top of the hill there is a small temple dedicated to Yama. At the foot of the hill is a tank called Ramkund in which it is believed that Lord Ram himself bathed before offering 'pinda' to his ancestors.

Ramshila Hill

Another hill called Ramshila is situated in Gaya. There is an old temple situated on the top of the hill called Rameshwara or Pataleshwara or Mahadev temple. In front of the temple is a pavilion where Pindas are offered.    

Brahmayoni Hill

Brahmayoni, situated to the south of Gaya is the highest hill (793-ft) in Gaya. It offers a good view of the city from the top. It is named after a natural fissure on its top, which is believed to represent the female energy or yoni of God Brahma. Few believe that by crawling through the split or fissure one can escape rebirth.

Durgeshwari Temple

Durgeshwari Temple or Sujata Sthan has holy significance as it tells about an important incident in Lord Buddha's life. It is believed that Lord Buddha accepted food from a condemned woman, Sujata and attained enlightenment. The temple is established to give a tribute to the holy woman.

Barabar Caves

Barabar Caves are amongst the earliest Buddhist rock cut caves. The caves were initially constructed during the reign of Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century and additions were made later on. The Barabar Caves basically comprise three types of caves – Nagarjuna caves, caves of the five Pandavas and the Hut caves. The first one is the largest and portrays Jataka tales. The second one, as per its name, served as the residence of the five Pandava brothers during their exile. The Hut Caves, again, as per their name, are shaped like huts, three sides have stone walls while the rest is open.

The holy land of Gaya is not only sacred for Hindus but also for Buddhists. The land takes everyone to the journey of eternity.

JPN