Patna: Unlike many youth of his age, Chandan Kumar Singh in Bihar's Gaya town, has decided to follow his father's path of selfless service to offer 'pindadan' a Hindu ritual seeking salvation for the dead for hundreds of people he never knew or met.
Chandan Singh's father Suresh Narayan used to performed pindadan for strangers till last year and after his death, the son chose to carry on his work.
"I am doing it to follow my father's path of selfless service for humanity. It is continuation of a tradition started by him," Chandan Singh told IANS on the telephone.
Like his father, Chandan Singh, a young and energetic man, performed pindadan for hundreds of people killed in flood-ravaged Jammu and Kashmir, typhoon Haiyan in Philipines, cyclone Phailin in India, the engineering students drowned in the Beas river in Himachal Pradesh, the 45 children burnt alive in their school bus at Mehboobnagar in Andhra Pradesh and hundreds of children who died due to encephalitis in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
Chandan Singh also offered pindan for American journalist James Folay and Steven Sotlot, who were killed by IS terrorists in Iraq. He also did so for veteran actress Zohra Sahgal, writer Khuswant Singh, Bollywood actor Pran, well-known author U.R. Anandmurti and many others.
Chandan Singh recalled that before his father died, he promised he would continue his unique practice.
"Thousands of Hindu devotes visit Gaya during the fortnight-long 'pitrapaksha' mela to perform pindadan for one's blood relative, but my father started a rare thing to perform it for others, neither relatives nor friends," he said.
His father had performed pindadan ritual irrespective of the dead person's caste, religion or creed for nearly 12 years. A small-time businessman-turned-social activist who paid for the ritual out of his own pocket, he believed it was his way of serving humanity.
Chandan Singh said his father performed the ritual for US Kalpana Chawla who died when space shuttle Columbia burnt up on re-entry, for shehnai maestro Bismillah Khan, artist M.F. Hussain, Mother Teresa and pop star Michael Jackson and US astronaut Neil Armstrong and the victims of the 9/11 terror attack, the Samjhauta Express explosions, the 26/11 Mumbai blast, 2004 tsunami, the 2001 Gujarat earthquake and the 2002 terrorist attack on the Akshardham Temple.
Thousands of Hindus from across India and abroad throng Gaya during pitrapaksh when pindadan is offered at the famous Vishnupad temple on the banks of the river Falgu and conducted by priests known as Gaywal-pandas. Hindus believe that the soul wanders after death until pindadan is performed.
This year more than 300,000 Hindu devotees have come to Gaya town to perform pindan, an official said. The festival concluded Tuesday.
Pindadan is traditionally offered by Hindus, but historical records available with priests show that even some Muslims performed the ritual in the past. Legend has it that Lord Rama performed this rite for his father Dasarath.