GAYA, INDIA, October 9, 2012 (zeenews.india.com): Children as young as six are chanting Vedic hymns at the famous Vishnupad temple here thanks to the acute shortage of traditional Hindu priests in this ancient Bihar city that is also known for its close links to Buddhism and Jainism.
Kunal Gurda (6) and Satyam Kumar Gupt (8) are among dozens of children conducting pind daan, or the religious rites seeking salvation for the dead from the cycle of rebirth, at the temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Both Satyam and Kunal are sons of Hindu priests at Vishnupad, known as Gaywal Pandas, who perform the traditional pind daan ritual at the temple. The ritual is performed during the 15-day Pitrapaksh period which is currently under way.
According to Manohar Singh, a retired government official, the number of qualified priests has dwindled here over the years. Ganesh Lal Hall, a priest, agreed. "With more than 300,000 devotees coming here to perform pind daan, our numbers have not grown up with time. It is a serious situation for us," he said. The pind daan ritual is performed on the banks of the sacred Falgu river. According to Hindu belief, the soul wanders after death until pind daan is performed.