By Swami Harshananda
Akṣayavata literally means ‘the imperishable Banyan tree’.
Performing the śrāddha (obsequial ceremony) at Gayā (the famous place of pilgrimage in Bihar) is an ancient custom. One of the places where śrāddha can be performed in Gayā is the Akṣayavata, a huge, ancient Banyan tree. If piṇḍas (obsequial offering of rice balls) are offered under this tree to the departed ancestors, they are believed to enjoy its fruits eternally. Hence the word ‘aksaya’ (imperishable) is used to denote it being eternal for this Banyan tree.
The śrāddha at the Akṣayavata is to be performed on the northern side at its bottom. The two important aspects of this ritual is
- Honoring the brāhmaṇas who assist in the ceremony
- Bowing to the tree
One more Akṣayavata exists at Kāśī.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore