Suresh Narayan never met Michael Jackson nor is he a die-hard fan but that did not stop him from offering pinda daan or a Hindu ritual seeking salvation for the king of pop's soul in Bihar's holy town of Gaya.
"On Sunday I offered pinda daan for the salvation of Michael Jackson as a tribute to him," Narayan told IANS over telephone on Monday.
He said the rituals were conducted by Hindu priest Swami Raghavachary. "I offered 'tarpan', a ritual, in the river Falgu for salvation of Michael Jackson's soul," he said.
Narayan, who is in his late 40s and lives in Gaya town, has been organising the ritual irrespective of the dead person's caste or religion for several years.
"I have been conducting the rituals for the last eight years for the salvation of people with whom I do not have any relation, irrespective of caste, religion or creed," he said.
The small-time businessman turned social activist, who pays for the ritual out of his own pocket, believes it is his way of doing service to humanity.
Thousands of Hindus from across India and abroad throng Gaya at this time during the 15-day Pitrapaksh period to offer pinda daan for their ancestors on the banks of the Falgu river.
According to Hindu belief, a person's soul wanders after death until pinda daan is performed. In Gaya, the ritual is performed at the famed Vishnupad temple by the descendants of the dead and is conducted by priests called Gaywal-pandas.
In the past, Narayan has offered pinda daan for people who died in the terror attacks in Mumbai, New Delhi, Hyderabad as well as victims of the Samjhauta Express blasts, He has also offered prayers for those killed in the 2004 tsunami, the Gujarat earthquake of 2001, the terrorist attack on Akshardham Temple in 2002 and the 9/11 terror attacks in the US.
He has also performed the ritual for US-based astronaut Kalpana Chawla, who died when space shuttle Columbia burnt up, for shehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan and Mother Teresa.
Legend has it that Lord Ram and his wife Sita performed this religious rite for his father Dasharath.
Pinda daan is traditionally offered by Hindus, but historical records available with priests show that some Muslims also performed the ritual in the past.
According to official sources in the Gaya district administration, over 300,000 Hindu devotees have come to perform pinda daan in the first eight days of the fortnight.
District authorities said they expect 400,000 devotees to arrive in Gaya to perform pinda daan during pitrapaksh.