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Sunday, May 22, 2016


The custom of pind daan dates back to the time when the Vedas were written. The pinda daan is performed after the death of a person. The word pind means a body. The word daan denotes charity or giving. Therefore, pind daan means giving charity to the body of the deceased. This means that if the deceased is in a distressed or hellish condition, and in a place where they are paying for their sinful activities and may be thirsty or hungry, the pind daan ceremony helps to alleviate the distress of the deceased. Depending upon circumstances, the son or another person performs pind daan.
When a person dies, the soul leaves the body. To end the relationship between the soul and the body, the body is consigned to flames where it is converted into ashes. These ashes are consigned to a holy river like the Ganga. Thereby, nothing remains of the physical body, but the soul waits for a new body. It is said that it may take ten days for the deceased to enter a new situation. On the 11th and 12th day the food is offered to the deceased through the shraddha ceremony to be eaten. It is believed that on the 13th day the messengers of death usher the deceased into Yamaloka, the abode of Yama. When the last rites are performed with devotion, the deceased enters Yamaloka happily, after which he may be given a pleasant or uplifting situation. To Hindus this is important. Therefore, the food (pind daan) that is offered is accepted by the deceased through the scent of smell, not that it is actually or physically eaten. The scent of smell and sound, and the transfer of emotions can still be felt by the deceased from those who remain on the physical plane. Thus, the pind daan and the shraddha ceremony are utilized to serve this purpose.
It is explained in the Yoga Vashistha, (3/55/27): At this stage the soul is aware that the old body is dead and that it is through the pind daan of the son or brethren that a new body has been created and relieved of any distress. This experience is conveyed through feelings and sentiments. The physical rites are only symbolic. These sentiments embrace the deceased.
On receiving pind daan the soul or deceased feels happy and content, and after giving blessings proceeds to Yamaloka in an improved situation. A son who does not offer pind daan to the deceased can be cursed in retaliation.
It is believed that it was Brahma who first performed the pind daan ceremony in Gaya. Since then this tradition has continued. Offering pind daan during the dark fortnight of Ashvin is of special significance. Symbolically, a pind is a round ball made of a mixture of wheat and rice flour with some sesame seeds mixed along with some milk and honey. Seven balls are made out of 100 grams of flour. Of these, one is offered to the deceased and the rest to others as desired.
In the Vayu Purana, according to 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 Vishnu. Pleased with Gayasur, 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 liberation after having been purified of all sins. From that day everyone who came in touch with him found liberation and proceeded to Vaikuntha (abode of Vishnu).
The Kurma Purana (34/7-8) also explains: All forefathers appreciate a pilgrimage to Gaya by their successors. Once the pind daan is performed in Gaya, one achieves liberation. One becomes free of rebirth. If one visits Gaya even once and offers pind daan to the forefathers, they become free from hell and other dreadful destinations and achieve salvation.
The Kurma Purana also explains that whoever goes to Gaya for pind daan is blessed and seven generations from the paternal and maternal side are benefited along with the personal self who achieves liberation.
Only a son or another male relative is authorized to offer pind daan. However, in 1985, the Brahmins of Mithila authorized women relatives also to offer pind daan. It is said that once Sita too offered pind daan after the death of Dasaratha, Lord Rama’s father and Her father-in-law.
This story is that when Rama, Lakshman and Sita reached the banks of the Phalgu River in Gaya to offer pind daan. Rama and Lakshman left Sita there so that they could collect the necessary items for pind daan. When they were away, there was a celestial call saying that the auspicious time for pind daan was passing away, and that Sita should proceed with pind daan.
Considering the situation, Sita proceeded to do pind daan with cows, Phalgu River, Ketaki flowers, and fire as witnesses. She personally chanted mantras offering balls made of river sand to Dasaratha. When Rama and Lakshman returned, Sita told them about what had happened. Rama and Lakshman found it hard to believe. When Sita asked witnesses to testify about what she had said, none besides the Vat tree did so.
Sita was enraged. She cursed the cows that they would eat impure things. She cursed the river Phalgu that it would be dry on the top and water would flow beneath the waterline. She cursed the Ketaki flower that it would never be used for auspicious occasions. She cursed the fire that whatever came in contact with it would be destroyed. Yet, She blessed the Vat tree that it would remain evergreen. And now we can see that the Phalgu River dries up almost completely during the winter or dry season, and only flows easily in the rainy season. And in this age of Kali-yuga, we can see in India that wandering cows eat whatever they can in order to survive, even refuse and plastic. And certainly fire burns anything that comes in touch with it. These are some of the ways Sita’s curse can be recognized.

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