Mythology Associated with Phalgu River
The city of Gaya and the Phalgu River are mentioned in the Hindu text called Ramayana. Here, it has been highlighted that the Phalgu River was once cursed by Sita (wife of Lord Rama), based on an incident. It is believed that due to this curse, the Phalgu turned into a vast stretch of sand dunes.
When Dasaratha, father of Lord Rama died, Rama along with his brothers and Sita came to Gaya to perform certain sacred rites. The brothers were taking bath in the river and Sita meanwhile was playing with the sand, sitting on the banks. At this time, Dasaratha emerged out of the sand. Since he was hungry he asked Sita for the traditional pind daan, comprising of rice and til. Sita requested Dasaratha to wait. She wanted Rama and his brothers to return and then offer him the pind. But Dasaratha was reluctant to wait. He then asked Sita to offer him pind made out of sand in her hand.
Sita was thus compelled to offer Dasaratha the pind. But she did so with five witnesses. These five witnesses were the Akshaya Vatam, the Falguni River, a Cow, a Tulsi plant and a Brahmin. Thus, post the offering of pind daan by Sita, Rama returned to begin the traditional offering of pind daan. Dasaratha was expected to appear in person to collect his share, which used to happen in those days. But Rama was left only to wonder, when his father did not come. Sita intimated Rama with the fact that the pind daan had already been executed by her. It was difficult for Rama to believe that his father could accept pind made out of sand, so Sita asked her witnesses to reveal the truth to Lord Rama.
Only Akshaya Vatam supported Sita and mentioned the truth. It was in an attempt to take Rama’s side that the rest of the witnesses chose to lie. Sita thus was infuriated and reacted by cursing the liars. Consequently, the Falguni River would no longer have water at Gaya. The cow would no longer be worshipped from the front as all others were. It would be worshipped only from the backside. Gaya would henceforth be devoid of Tulsi plants and the Gaya Brahmins would never be able to satisfy their hunger. Only Akshaya Vatam received the blessings of Sita. The pinda pradaanam would also be performed at Akshaya Vatam by all those who would come to Gaya for the said purpose.
Religious Importance of Phalgu River
The portion of the Phalgu River journeying Gaya is considered to be sacred by the Hindus. In the Gaya Mahatmya, which forms part of the Vayu Purana, it has been highlighted that the Phalgu is the embodiment of Lord Vishnu Himself. According to an old belief, this river initially flowed with milk. It should be the first holy site visited by a pilgrim and it is here that the pilgrim must make his first offering for the souls of his ancestors.
It is a Hindu belief that the soul after death is not completely free until pind daan. Pind daan is considered to be a religious service, which is performed for the dead for the attainment of his salvation or to release him from the cycle of rebirth. It is the fortnight-long pitra paksh period when the pind daan is offered. The 15 days of the waning moon during the Hindu month of Ashvin are known as the pitra paksh. Pitra paksh is the period chosen for the said purpose because it is considered to be auspicious. Phalgu River is pertinent to pind daan. It is on the banks of this river at Gaya that pind daan is traditionally offered. Hindu devotees will be evident with their heads shaved, which is a custom followed for offering pind daan. As a part of the pind daan process they also take a holy dip in the sacred river and proceed to the Baitarni pond. At the Vishnupad Mandir, the prayers are performed. Priests, known as Gaywal-pandas, conduct the ritual. Gaya therefore witnesses thousands of Hindus offering pind daan. The bed of Phalgu is visited by pilgrims, priests and hopeful cows.
Geography of Phalgu River
Globally, the source of Phalgu River can be pinpointed at coordinates 24 degrees 43 minutes 41seconds north and 85 degrees 00 minutes 47 seconds east. Similar to Lilajan and Mohana, the parent streams of Phalgu River, the River is prone to a natural disaster called floods. The monsoons are characterized by high floods in Phalgu River area. On a contrary, other seasons of the year are marked by the Phalgu, dwindling to a stream wandering through a wide expanse of sand.
Course of Phalgu River
The source of Phalgu River is some 3 kilometers (2 mi) below Bodh Gaya. More specifically, the Phalgu is formed by the confluence of the Lilajan (also called Niranjan or Nilanjan) and the Mohana. They are two large hill streams. They have a width of over 270 meters (300 yd) each. The Falgu is known to journey below its bed, in the form of sub-surface flows. The combined waters of both the streams flow towards the north. Past the town of Gaya, it assumes a width of over 820 meters (900 yd). It is in this place that the Phalgu passes by a high rocky bank on the steep sides of which are many paved stairs leading down to the river bed. The Vishnupad Mandir is situated high above with many minor shrines around it. The river then proceeds in a north-easterly direction for about 27 kilometers (17 mi). It is again called the Mohana opposite the Barabar hills. It divides into two branches which eventually flow into a branch of the Punpun.
The nearest airport to Phalgu River Ghats is Gaya Airport in Gaya. This airport is located at a distance of about 6 km from the Phalgu River Ghat. The nearest railway station to Phalgu River Ghats is Gaya Junction Train Station. This train station is located at a distance of about 2 km from the Phalgu River Ghats.
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