Gaya is 151 km from Patna, the capital of Bihar, in eastern Bharat. It is an important tirth for performing Shraadh – paying homage to the departed ancestors. In the Vayu Puran it is said that all ancestors reside here. If their descendants just touch the water of river Falgu, the ancestors attain moksha.
An interesting katha is related to this tirth. A demon (asur) named Gayasur performed tapas here and obtained a boon that any good or sinful person whom he touched went to Swarg (heaven). This worried Yam Raja, king of hell. He pleaded to the devas and Vishnu that sinners should go only to narak (hell). Vishnu explained this to Gayasur. The asur then aked, “O Prabhu! Then how shall I serve you”? Vishnu replied shrewdly, “Your tapas has purified your body. Now we wish to perform a yagna on it. So donate your body.” The demon gifted his body. The yagna began. However since his head kept moving, the devas placed a dharmashila (rock) on it. It still moved! Therefore Vishnu Himself sat on the rock. This pleased Vishnu; who granted Gayasur a boon, He requested a benevolent boon, “O Prabhu! As long as the sun and moon shine, may the devas sit on me like this. May this place become a great tirth. Whoever offers alms or performs pious deeds here, should receive punya more than at any other place. Let countless ancestors attain moksha here. Vishnu granted the boon and Gayatirth’s glory increased.
Other important sacred spots here are: Ramshila, Premshila, Vaitarni and Bageshwari.
Seven miles from Gaya there is another tirth known as Bodhigaya, which has a beautiful mandir of Bhagwan Buddha. It was built by Emperor Ashok, who became a Buddhist. It is known as Mahabodhi Mandir. Behind it there was the Bodhi tree under which Buddha meditated and attained enlightenment, known as Bodhi (knowledge). The original Bodhi tree no longer exists. Instead there grows a pipal tree which devotees regard as Bodhivruksh. Under this tree there is a stone sculpted with Buddha’s holy feet. This is the most important tirth for Buddhists, who come here from all over the world.