It is not uncommon for this man in Bihar to offer 'pindadan' -- a
Hindu service seeking salvation for the dead -- for hundreds of
people he never knew or met. Doing it for one's blood relative is
ritual; doing it for strangers is rare indeed.
Suresh Narayan, who is in his early 60s and lives in Gaya town,
100 km from state capital Patna, offered 'pindadan' for earthquake
victims in Sikkim and other parts of the country.
That is not all.
In the last 10 days, he has offered 'pindadan' for victims of the
bomb blasts in New Delhi and Norway's capital Oslo, the Kalka mail
accident near Kanpur, the tsunami in Japan and floods in other
parts of the world.
Suresh also offered 'pindadan' for painter M.F. Husain, Hindustani
classical singer Bhimsen Joshi, writer Kanhaiya Lal Nandan,
journalist J. Dey and Pakistani TV reporter Syed Salim Sajjad.
"I have been performing the ritual irrespective of the dead
person's caste, religion or creed for the last 10 years because it
gives me peace and I feel that it is my social duty to contribute
something for peace," Suresh told IANS over the phone.
The small-time businessman-turned-social activist, who pays for
the ritual out of his own pocket, believes it is his way of
Thousands of Hindus from across India and abroad throng Gaya
during 'Pitrapaksh' -- 15 moonless days of the Hindu month of
Ashwini -- when 'pindadan' is offered on the banks of the river
Falgu. This year it is from Sep 13 to 27.
Hindus believe that the soul wanders after death until 'pindadan'
In Gaya, it is done by the descendants of the dead at the famous
Vishnupad temple, conducted by priests known as Gaywal-pandas.
Legend has it that Lord Rama performed this rite for his father
Victims of the Samjhauta Express explosions, Mumbai blasts, 2004
tsunami, Gujarat earthquake of 2001, terrorist attack on the
Akshardham Temple in 2002 and 9/11 terror attacks in the US are
all included in Suresh's selfless act.
He goes beyond victims for whom he has no face.
He has also performed the ritual for US-based astronaut Kalpana
Chawla, who died when space shuttle Columbia crashed, for shehnai
maestro Bismillah Khan, Mother Teresa and pop star Michael Jackson
-- even though the last three were not Hindus.
Pindadan is traditionally offered by Hindus, but historical
records available with priests show that even some Muslims
performed the ritual in the past.
(Imran Khan can be
contacted at email@example.com)