Considered the most important place in Bharat to do Pinda Daan for Pitrus, Gaya has a well documented history, in the Mahabharata, Ramayana and the Puranas.
There are many stories associated with Gaya, one such story is that there was once an Asura Gayasura who got a boon from Vishnu that he would be the most sacred of all the Kshetras.
Very soon havoc reigned and a plan was concocted where under the guise of Brahma Deva doing a Yagya on top of his body (since it had become the holiest of Kshetras) he was subdued.
Curiously, the position where the various Devas sat on him to subdue him form the basis of the Vastu Purusha Mandala which is used in Vastu according to some Vastu practitioners.
Where Lord Vishnu came down and stepped on him is where the Vishnupad temple and the rock with Vishnu’s Pada (footprint) is in Gaya.
This temple and the rock where Bhagawan Vishnu’s footprint is imprinted, is a place all sadhakas must go to experience the tremendous shakti it contains. It will jolt you like lightning.
According to the Mahabharata, one who stays in Gaya for a month, purifies his bloodline for up to 7 generations.
Also, one who offers Pinda Daan to the Immortal Akshayavat tree there ensures that his Pitrus never run out of food from 10 previous generations to 10 future generations.
In the Ramayana, there is an episode where Rama , Lakshmana and Sita came to Gaya so that Rama could perform the Pinda Daan rituals for his father King Dasaratha.
As Rama and Lakshmana went to collect the items for the Pinda Daan, they were delayed and Dasaratha appeared before Ma Sita and asked for his offerings.
Having no choice Ma Sita performed the rituals herself at the Phalgu River shore using substitutes (sand or clay) and this satisfied Dasharatha.
When Rama and Lakshmana returned, Sita informed them on what happened. But fearing Rama, of the 5 witnesses who saw what happened, only the Akshayavat Tree told the truth.
Sita then cursed the other 4, that Phalgu River would no longer hold water, that the cow will no longer hold Lakshmi at the front but at the back, that the Tulsi plant would no longer grow in Gaya and that the priests in Gaya will always be found wanting more and never be satisfied.
The Akshayavat Tree was given prominence over all others in Gaya and blessed by Ma Sita.
The place where Ma Sita gave Pinda Daan to Dasharatha is Sita Kund and one of the important places to visit while at Gaya, the others being the Vishnu Pad temple, Akshayavat Tree, Phalgu River and Pret Shila.
That Bodhgaya (where Buddha attained Enlightenment) and Mangala Gauri Shaktipeeth, one of the 18 Maha Shaktipeeths, are also in the vicinity speaks of the sanctity of Gaya.