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He seeks salvation for faceless hundreds

Sunday September 25, 2011 11:27:42 AM, Imran Khan, IANS

Patna: 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 serving humanity.

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' is performed.

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 Dasarath.

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






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