Last Updated: 9/22/2012 12:16:15 PM
By Kavita Srivastava
Pitru Paksha is one of the most important festivals of Hindus. Pitru Paksha falls on the dark fortnight of Ashvina i.e. September-October as per the English calendar. Pitru Paksha is also known as Mahalaya Paksh. It is a divine occasion to perform rituals for the deceased ancestors to keep their souls obliged for years. Pitru Pakshaa is performed for the departed immediate relatives usually up to preceding three generations. In other words these rituals are performed by the descendants of departed relative in order to keep their soul at rest.
Pitru Paksha 2012 starts on Monday 30 September and lasts until 15 October.
Pitru Paksh is the occasion to repay debt to our departed ancestors by satisfying their souls by performing rituals. There is a notion in the Hindu society that the dead ones would alive amongst us and to keep their souls obliged a ritual called “Shraddh” is performed. It is believed that Yamaraja, the Lord of death allows the souls to come down to the earth and receive offers from their descendants. This practice is made to the dead termed as “pitris” as per Hindu religion. The last day of this period, the new moon day, is considered as the most important day in the year for performing obsequies and rites.
Pitra Paksha is performed from the 1st day of the Ashwin month and goes up to the following New Moon (Amavasya) day. Each of these 15 days is dedicated to the Shraddh of those ancestors who had met eternity on that particular day.
As per the Hindu mythology and beliefs, there are three debts on every human being namely, Devarina (Debt to the gods), Rishirina (Debt to the Guru) and Petranina (Debt to the forefathers). In order to overcome these debts this Pitru Paksha is observed by Hindus.
Hindus have designated certain places which are meant for this divine purpose namely Gaya, Varanasi, Haridwar and some other holy places like Badrinath also has been accorded much greater significance. Most people prefer to perform Shraddh at their homes but performing Shradh at holy places is more efficient rather performing it in your house.
Generally Shraddha is performed by the eldest son of the family or sometimes by the elder male member of the family who in honor of the dead offers oblations followed by giving part of food to the cows and crows. Hindus observe this Pitru Paksha by taking bath thrice, with partial fasting, etc. Brahmins are fed and gifts are offered to the poor. After the Shraddha is performed, it is said the deceased attains a position among the Petris or Divine Fathers in their blissful abode called Pitri-loka. Shradhh is generally performed by a son and is considered to be more efficacious. The one who performs the rituals remains on fasting until the entire process of Pitru Paksha is completed and only after the whole family takes the food as Prasada.
Rituals of Shraddha are performed for one's grandfather, father on the paternal side and the mother etc on the maternal side.
According to the renowned epic Mahabharat, Karn, who is fondly remembered as “Daanveer Karn”. During his lifetime he made lots of donations to needy people like form of jewels, money, land etc. When Karn died and goes up to paradise, he got all that he gave in form of charity in multiples. But, he didn’t get food as during his lifetime he never gave food as charity. He was surprised as he starved for days and finally asked the “Yamraj” if he could get a chance to make for this deficit.
Yamraj granted him a period of 14 days to go back to the earth and make for it, Karn made a lot of food charity in the given 14 days. When he returned back to the heaven, there was plenty of food for him.
Thus, in Hindus it is considered very auspicious and imperative to donate food as Shraadh to poor and needy ones, as aforementioned legend describes the significance of whatever donated is supposed to reach directly to one’s ancestors, during the shraadh and especially on the day of new moon it is believed that the soul of the dead ones, who are permitted by Yamaraj visits the earth and receive these resources from their decedents.
The sons performing the rites of Pitru Paksha are free of any Pitr dosh and are eligible for Pitr lok. The entire ritual of Pitru Paksha lasts for a fortnight.
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