Pind daan can be performed at any time of year, but the 18-day period preceding Navratri is seen to be exceptionally fortunate. Every year, an estimated 10 to 15 lakh pilgrims visit Gaya during Pitrapaksha to conduct pind daan. The main deity in Pitripaksha is Nayagna Devi (also known as Bhavani Devi), while other important deities include Radha and Krishna.
The first day of Pitripaksha is called Ashada Pitri and marks the end of Hindu month Ashad. The next 18 days are considered very auspicious and beneficial for performing religious activities.
Pitri Paksha begins on the morning of the 19th day, when Shiva performs his night vigil. It ends on the 6th day of Chaitra, which is known as Shiva Jayanti.
During this period it is believed that all types of sins will be destroyed if one performs Puja regularly with faith and hope. So, pind daan is highly recommended during this period.
Pitri Paksha is observed by visiting all these places of worship and donating money or food as prayers for clearing off past sins.
People perform pind daan to get rid of their previous sins and also to secure good luck for the future. It is also done as a token of respect to the ancestors.
According to Hindu holy texts, Lord Rama paid a visit to Gaya Ji around 12 lakh years ago during the Treta Yuga to present pind daan to his father Dasaratha. Gaya holds the Pitru Paksha Mela (ceremony) for pind daan every year for 18 days during the monsoon season (September-October). The dates vary from year to year but are usually between the 15th and 30th of the month.
Pind daan is the practice of donating money or gifts to poor people who may not be one's relatives but are still in need. It is believed that by donating money, one can make sure that they get happiness and abundance in their life. This tradition is followed especially during religious festivals when many people come together to pray for their loved ones back home.
People from all over India come to Gaya to take part in this festival. They travel long distances just to offer prayers for their families back home. The city fills up with pilgrims, and hotels and restaurants experience a rush of business.
In 2015, the annual pilgrimage drew more than 1000 riders on two main chariots representing Rama and Sita. The event was held over several days with participants coming from different parts of the world. Japan's character Sake set off the first chariot while Spain's flamenco dancer Eva Franco started the second car.
The Pind Daan procedure at Gaya BSS will appoint a priest to 3 to 4 persons. Once this is completed, everyone who want to participate in pind daan must pay the appropriate cost. The priest will then ask for the name of your original ancestral home. If it is not known or if you don't know it, he will tell you what village they come from. Then he will ask for the name of the next village and so on until you reach the final village where you will be asked to leave a donation for the temple.
There are three ways to proceed with pind daan: payment by cash, bank account or credit card. If you have gold or silver items you would like to donate they can also be taken to the temple.
The priest will instruct you on how much money to give per person and everything will be done in public. When the priest has finished his instructions, people will start giving donations. It is important to follow him so that he has time to visit each table and pray for the departed souls.
After the pind daan ceremony is over, the priest will write down all the names of the deceased people present at the ceremony. They will be given sampoorna (flowering) rice which is an indication of respect during funeral services.