September 15, 2014

Gaya Vishnupada Temple

Site Name: Vishnupada Temple
Site Type: Temple
Location:  Gaya, Bihar state, India
Highlights: One of the most important temples across India; the site is popular among Hindus for shrad ritual
Nearest Railway Station: Gaya
Nearest Airport: Patna
How to reach: Well connected by road and rail
Hotel: A lot of options ranging from star hotels to low cost guest houses/ashrams
Restaurants: Not many good restaurants; only vegetarian options

Gaya is an ancient and popular city located in Bihar state of India. It has a temple dedicated to Vishnupada. Unlike other temples, where the deity is worshipped, the deity's footsteps are worshipped in this temple. The footsteps of Lord Vishnu are worshipped and hence it is called as Vishnupada temple. 

The temple is located on the banks of the river Falgu. This is supposed to be a holy river which is not in a good condition today. 

In the sanctum sanctorum, the 40 cm long footprint of Lord Vishnu is imprinted in solid rock. The sanctum is in octagonal shape and faces towards the east direction. Its tower rises upto 100 feet. 

Inside the temple complex there is a banyan tree called Akshayabat where the shrad rituals take place. (The shrad rituals are done by those who lost their parents; it is believed that this ritual would ensure that their souls rest peacefully.) 

Although the original temple is supposed to be as old as the great epic Ramayana (as Ram and Sita visited the place), the present structure was built in the 18th century CE by the Queen of Indore, Ahilya Bai Holkar. 

As per the legend, there was a demon named Gayasura. He got the boon to provide salvation (moksha) to anyone who sees him. To prevent immoral people from attaining salvation thus easily, Lord Vishnu placed his right foot on his head and sent him under the surface of earth. Vishnu's footprint remained on the surface that is seen in the temple even today. As the Asura pleaded for food, Vishnu blessed him with a boon that someone would offer him food everyday. By doing that, their forefathers' souls would reach heaven. 

Happy travelling.

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