Have you ever heard of a temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu’s feet? Yes, you read that right – feet! The Vishnupad Temple in Gaya, Bihar, India is believed to be built upon the site where Vishnu defeated a demon named Gayasura by pinning him underground with his foot. And guess what? The temple features a 40-cm footprint of Lord Vishnu himself incised into a block of basalt. It’s like standing in the presence of a divine podiatrist!
But wait, there’s more! The temple is also the center for Shraddha rites in Gaya, making it a sacred destination for spiritual seekers. The Brahma Kalpit Brahmins, also known as Gayawal Brahmins or Gayawal Tirth Purohit or Pandas of Gaya, are the traditional priests of the temple from ancient times. And to top it all off, a devotee named Gayapal Panda Bal Govind Sen donated a 50-kilo gold flag that now sits atop the temple.
Legend has it that after Lord Vishnu pinned Gayasura underground, the demon begged for food. And being the generous god he is, Vishnu granted Gayasura a boon that whoever offers him food every day will attain salvation. So every day, people from different parts of India come to the temple to pray for their departed loved ones and feed Gayasura.
The temple is built of large gray granite blocks jointed with iron clamps, and its pyramidal tower rises up to 100 feet. The tower has sloping sides with alternately indented and plain sections, creating a series of peaks joined at the top. Inside the temple, you’ll find a silver-coated hexagon railing called Garv ghiri, also known as pahal. And don’t forget the immortal banyan tree Akshayavat, where the final rituals for the dead take place.
All in all, the Vishnupad Temple is a must-see destination for anyone visiting Gaya. It’s a place where history, legend, and divinity intersect in the most unexpected ways. So put on your walking shoes and get ready to bow down to Lord Vishnu’s feet – just don’t forget to bring food for Gayasura!