| Bangalore resident Kusum Prasad performs pinddaan in Gaya on Thursday. Picture by Suman |
Kusum Prasad, a corporate consultant in Bangalore, came to Gaya to offer pinddaan. She performed the ritual at Panchmukhi Hanuman temple on the Vishnupad temple premises on Wednesday.
A male prerogative for centuries, women like Kusum and others have stormed the male ritualistic bastion by performing the ceremony.
“After I came to know that pinddaan would ensure salvation for my ancestors’ souls, I decided to perform the rituals. My husband is busy with work and could not come here. I performed pinddaan of my father, my father-in-law, mother-in-law, elder sister and brother. When I was 18 years, my brother expired. Since then my parents brought me up as a son. My elder sister did not marry owing to responsibilities in the family. Thus, it is my responsibility to perform pinddaan of my ancestors,” Kusum said.
Divya Rana from Bilaspur in Chhattisgarh, who works as a manager in a Chennai bank, too, performed the pinddaan of her parents on Sunday. Her parents were killed in a road accident around a year ago.
Gayapal Panda Samaj senior member Mahesh Guput said: “Since the Pitripaksh Mela started, I have led at least six women to perform pinddaan. There has been a change in the mindset of people in the past decade. Earlier, not many women performed the ritual. During the past three years, the number has grown. It is not against sanatan (tradition) dharma. Perhaps, it is an increase in the faith that women, too, are performing pinddaan.”
“In Hinduism, there are two schools of law — Dayabhag and Mitakshara. Dayabhag is followed in the northeast region, while Mitakshara is followed in the remaining parts of India. Both schools allow women to perform pinddaan. However, a major hurdle is the gotra (genus) of the women, which is changed according to that of their husbands after marriage. When a married woman performs pinddaan of her parents, the ritual is done according to her gotra before marriage. If she performs the rituals of her in-laws, it is done according to her post-marriage gotra,” said Ashish Shashtri, a priest.
Another priest, Swami Raghwacharya ji Maharaj of Ramanuj Mutt, too, agrees that women can perform pinddaan. He, however, said the shashtras restrict the right to widows who have no son. “Pinddaan by women is becoming a trend,” he added.
For 17 days every year during the Pitripaksh Mela, the neighbourhood of the Vishnupad Temple in Gaya becomes a “mini-India”.
Lakhs of pilgrims from different communities, diverse economic background and speaking different languages turn up to take part in the Pitrapaksha Mela.
This year, Assembly Speaker Uday Narayan Chaudhary inaugurated the Pitripaksh Mela on the premises of Vishnupad Temple on September 18 amid chanting of Vedic hymns and blowing of conch by Swami Raghwacharya.