Historically, Gaya has been considered as one of the holiest cities for Hindus. Its religious importance becomes more important during the occasion of Pitrapaksha. During Pitrapaksha every Hindu is duty bound to worship their ancestors. Hindus, on this occasion, perform Shraddha ritual and do Pinda Daan. This is believed to bring salvation to the departed soul. Gayalis who are considered the descendents of Magga Brahmin perform Vedic Shraddha ceremony.
History of the Pinda Daan ceremony goes back to the times of Lord Buddha. It is believed that he had performed first Pinda Daan at Gaya. Some Brahmin Purans too tell us about the origin of Pinda Daan in Gaya. According to one Puran, Gaya - a demon had become so strong that even Gods started feeling insecure about him. Now Gods wanted to kill him but he wished to die in the holy city of Gaya.
According to another belief and Dharmasastras, Vishnu provides a list of over 50 tirthas but he proclaims that dead ancestors pray to God for a son who would offer pinda (lymph of rice) to them at Gaya. Pitra Paksha is performed for the departed immediate relatives usually up to three preceding generations. Turning the pages of earlier history, one comes across the Puranic legend where it has been accepted that Gaya is the holiest place for Hindus. The Pitrapaksha Mela in Gaya is held in the month of September when people from all over flock to this place to offer Pinda Daan to their ancestors. The last day of this period, the new moon day is most important day in the year for performing obsequies and rites.
A Hindu performs Pitra Paksha from the 1st day / tithi of the Ashwin month to the following New Moon (Amavasya) day. Each of these 15 days is dedicated to the Shraddha of those ancestors who had met eternity on that particular day/tithi. Pitrapaksha is the occasion to repay debt to our departed ancestors by satisfying their souls by performing rites. Hindus believe that in Pitrpaksha, Yamaraja, the Lord of death allows the souls to come down to the earth and receive offers from their descendants.