Intro: According to our rich culture and tradition we dedicate not one day but our entire life to our parents. Our duty towards them does not end with their death.The ritual of Shraddh provides us with an excellent mechanism to fulfill our duties and in turn repay our debts towards ancestors.
Children, these days we celebrate Valentine Day, Friendship Day, Rose Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day etc. Mostly these days are celebrated in the west. It is difficult to imagine that Mother’s Day or Father’s Day is celebrated just once a year. According to our rich culture and tradition we dedicate not one day but our entire life to our parents. Our duty towards them does not end with their death. We are indebted to them for whatever they have done for us. We also remember our ancestors and pay homage to them in the Pitra Paksha also called Shraddh.
Pitra Paksha or Mahalaya Paksha begins on Ashwin Krishna Pratipada and ends on Ashwin Amavasya according to the North Indian Hindi Calendar. The fortnight dedicated to dead ancestors start on Bhadrapad Krishna Padyami and ends on Bhadrapad Amavasya in Marathi, Gujarati, Kannada and Telugu Calendars.
It is called as Mahalaya because the word ‘Maha’ means great or big or large and ‘Laya’ means destruction. Mahalaya therefore means great destruction caused during the war between Deities and Demons wherein large number of Devatas and Rishis had died in the hands of Rakshasas during the period starting from Bhadrapada Bahula Paadyami to Amavasya. These Deities and Rishis are like our forefathers and it is befitting to worship such departed souls during this fortnight that coincides with Mahalaya. Hence, this fortnight has become very sacred and celestial for performing sacred rites to forefathers.
Shraddh basically means to remember our ancestors. People have so much greed that they are not willing to perform charity. That is why the ceremony of Shraddh was contrived so that they would spend some of their time and money to feed people in memory of their ancestors. Throughout the fourteen days of Shraddh, beginning with the full moon, families would take turn to feed the poor and the Brahmins. According to the theory of transmigration, even if the individual is to take another birth immediately after his death, the performance of Shraddh adds happiness in his new birth.
It is believed that offering oblations (tarpan) and donating food during these days would fetch salvation to the performer and his ancestors.
On all the fourteen days, offerings are made to the departed manes, including those whose names or manner of death are not known. On these days tarpan, shraddh and pinda daan are performed daily according to the procedures under the guidance of a priest. Although these rites are to be carried out daily in this fortnight, it is considered that to perform them on the last day i.e. on Mahalaya Amavasya or Sarva Pitru Amavasya is considered extremely important and highly sacred. Sarvapitri Amavasya (“all fathers’ new moon day”) is intended for all ancestors, irrespective of the lunar day they died. It is the most important day of the Pitru Paksha. Those who have missed performing Shraddh for any unavoidable reason can do so on this day. A Shraddh ritual performed on this day is considered as fruitful as one conducted in the holy city of Gaya, which is considered as a special place to perform these rites.
Persons who perform these rites observe certain basic disciplines or austerities like not having a shave, abstinence from pleasures etc. during this period. As these days are considered inauspicious for any new ventures, no new purchases or business commitments are undertaken. Feeding the priests and other invitee Brahmins with kheer or payasam during this period is considered to be highly pleasing to the pitrus or the manes.
Danveer Karna too performed Shraddh
It is believed that the departed souls will attain peace by the rituals and rites performed during Pitra Paksha and they will, in turn, give their blessings to the descendents who performed these ceremonies for their welfare and prosperity of their lineage. It is said that departed souls for whom these rituals are not performed wander aimlessly on the Earth. It is believed that performance of these rites to forefathers will work as a remedy for various mundane problems one may face day to day.
The word Shraddh conjures up an incorrect impression in the minds of the younger generation who belong to the modern scientific age. They see it as a case of unnecessary importance being given to a non-scientific and largely meaningless ritualistic procedure. Absence of Dharma education (which means ‘Righteousness from a spiritual perspective’) along with a lack of any inclination towards learning about spirituality, a high level of influence of foreign cultures and a continuous barrage of criticism with a strong underlying hatred for Hindu traditions and customs by unrighteous organisations, has caused this effect.
The spiritually potent mantras that are chanted during the rituals of Shraddh have the subtle power of providing momentum to the subtle bodies of deceased ancestors therefore they can progress to a higher sub-plane of existence after the ritual is performed.
Indian culture teaches us that we have to perform certain duties towards our parents and close relatives after their death, just as we serve them when they are alive as a part of obeying our Dharma. The ritual of Shraddh provides us with an excellent mechanism to fulfill our duties and in turn repay our debts towards ancestors. Our parents have taken the utmost care of us during our childhood. The ritual of Shraddh is necessary so that their journey after their death is full of comfort and devoid of any distress and that they acquire momentum, which allows them to progress to a higher sub-plane.
By performing the ritual of Shraddh, the ancestors’ souls slowly progress towards reaching God and Sages and by the virtue of combined support from Vasu, Rudra and Aditya (Vasu means aspirations, Rudra means dissolution and Aditya means radiance or action), one can provide momentum to the deceased father, grandfather and great grandfather and in turn acquire blessings from God.
Finally, shorn of all the rituals and myths, this is a fortnight of remembrances and thanks giving. It reminds all of us to be grateful to our forefathers on this day and to pray for them who have left this world. Even if our rational mind, soaked in scientific ideas, may not justify the rationale behind these ceremonies, it might still be a good idea to just remember our forefathers and silently pay our obeisance to them.
— Aniket Raja