The fortnight-long Pitrapaksh period during which Hindus consider it auspicious to offer 'pindadan', or religious service seeking salvation for the dead from the cycle of rebirth, began in Bihar's Gaya town on Monday.
The pindadan sees thousands of Hindus from across India and even abroad gather in this town, about 100 km from state capital Patna. It started amid tight security as it came close on the heels of the Delhi serial terror blasts that killed 21 people.
However, this time fewer people are expected to come because of the fear created by floods in northern Bihar, though Gaya is in the central part of the state.
Pindadan is traditionally offered on the banks of the Falgu river in Gaya. The 15 days of the waning moon during the Hindu month of Ashwin are known as Pitrapaksh.
According to Hindu belief, the soul wanders after death until pindadan is performed. “The soul keeps wandering till this ritual is performed by male descendants of the dead,” priest Murari Lal said.
It is mandatory for Hindu devotees offering pindadan to shave their heads and take a holy dip and head for the Baitarni pond. However, some rituals are conducted in the Falgu river nearby.
The prayers are performed at the famous Vishnupad temple named after Hindu god Vishnu. Priests, known as Gaywal-pandas, conduct the ritual. The festival was officially inaugurated on Sunday by assembly Speaker Uday Narayan Choudhary at the temple.
Legend has it that Lord Rama and his wife Sita performed this religious rite for his father, King Dasharath.