As per Hindu belief, the body is destructible but soul is eternal. It can neither be created nor can be destroyed. Lord Krishna in Bhagwat Gita clearly states, “The soul is unborn, eternal, ever existing and primeval.” it is believed that Pitra Paksha rites liberate a soul from the vicious circle of life and death and helps it in attaining salvation. The Shraddha during Pitra Paksha involves oblations to three preceding generations by taking their names and also by taking name of the family tree or Gotra.
These rites are performed by current generation to repay the debts of ancestors. It is said that ancestors (Pitrs), gods (Devas) and ghosts (Pretas) when propitiated- bestow health, wealth, wisdom, longevity and eventually salvation to the native.
Legends associated with Pitr Paksh
As per Hindu mythology, a zone called Pitr loka exists between earth and heaven. All the departed souls or Pitrs dwell at this place. This zone is governed by Lord Yamraj or god of death. In this zone the soul serves out its karmic correction sentences. Here Pitras are not able to get relief from the sensory demands and conditions of the body such as hunger, thirst, heat, cold, fatigue, pain etc. They are waiting to be liberated from their condition so that they can once again get a material body through which they may create positive karma to progress towards their freedom from the karma syndrome.
In search of relief, they are attracted to living entities on the earth planet that are their descendants from previous and current lifetimes and are karmic debtors to them. The ancestors are fed once a day (once in 24 hours) according to their time zone. This is equivalent to every 12 months on the earth plane. This once-a-year period is recognized as the ‘Shradh’ period.
The Pitra Paksh starts with Sun entering the zodiac sign Virgo. At advent of this Paksh the departed souls or forefathers leave the Yamaloka and descend to earth to acknowledge the rites performed by their descendants and remain here till Sun-Moon conjunction happens in Sign Virgo.
It is believed, that during this period Lord Ganesha’s withdraw certain energies from the planetary surface transferring it to the core of the earth thus permitting the Pitras to approach their descendants very closely. In this context taking note of Symbolic representation of Lord Ganesha, his belly represents the whole cosmos, the seven realms above and below. Further seven oceans are inside Ganesha’s cosmic belly. These are held together by the cosmic energy (kundalini) symbolized by the huge snake around him. The snake that runs round his waist represents energy in all forms.
The ‘Ganesha-Visarjan’ Ananta Chaturdashi is an acknowledgment of this event.
As per another legend, Daanveer Karn (supposedly brother-akin to Pandavas) did numerous charity of jewels, currency, land etc during his life span. When he died and ascended to Pitra loka, he received all that he gave in form of charity in multiples.
But, he didn’t obtain meal in view of the reality that he did not give food-charity. He starved for days and eventually requested “Yamraj” to find an opportunity to create for this deficiency. Yamraj granted him 14 days return to earth and do the needful charity. These 14 days had been used by Karn to provide numerous meal-charities. When he again returned again, there was plenty of meal obtainable to him.
Difficulties one May face –if Shradh is not performed
As per classics if Shradh is performed with whole devotion, the ancestors bless the native with comforts of life. It is imperative for person to perform Shradh to safeguard oneself and preceding generations from Pitr Dosha. If Pitra dosha is present in chart native himself and his family members may encounter various problems like-Inability to get married, Marital concerns, infertility, problems in begetting child, loss of Job and finances, critical health concerns etc.
Rituals of Shradh
The rituals of Shraddha are generally performed by an eldest son or an eldest male member of the family.
While performing Shradh, one should pay special attention to three things – piety, control over anger and avoiding hastiness. Meditation, mantra repetition and prayer are done for the peace and attainment of salvation by departed soul.
Bhramins are offered food, new clothes, sweets, fruits and dakshina, for it is believed that whatever is given to the Brahmins reaches the departed souls.
In addition one can also do Mahadaan. The Mahadaan offerings give relief to the ancestor, person get freed from curse of Pitra Dosha or did not face hardships on account of cursed by pitras. In additional this bestows positive luck to descendants. The Blessings by Pitra’s can greatly help the individual to progress in life and his/her problems are reduced to a Great extent. The items of Mahadaan consists of Ganga Jal , Mustard Oil , Ghee , Rice ,Wheat , Salt , Sugar, Chana, Kali Urad Dal, Umbrella, Shoes/socks or chappals, Steel utensils-5 (glass,plate,spoon,katori,lota), Blanket, White cloth-dhoti+gamcha, Towel, Fruits, Mithai, Coconut, Banana, Cooked food-mathi/sag/poori halwa, Dals (dry-5), Vegetables- 5, Milk , Yogurt , Bangles/suhaag things or janau , Comb, Mehndi ,Nav Ratan , Gold, Silver , Jaun , Kale Til, Supari/Paan , Lavang, Ilaichi , Dhoop/aggarbatti (incense stick)
Things to be avoided during Pitr Paksh
During the period of Shraadh, usually people avoid buying or wearing new clothes, hair-cut shall also be avoided.
Auspicious activities like marriage, settling marriage, any kind of birth ceremony etc. are prohibited during this period
Abstain from Non Veg food, Hard Drinks and Products containing Tobacco.
Avoid eating as Guests at others place. it is said that during the shradh while eating at another’s home the host’s Pitr get transferred to the guest, and then the guest takes on an unwanted Pitr with him/her and eventually fall in ‘salt-debt’. this is only removed by an balancing act or Remedial Puja’s
It is believed that if shraadh is performed with whole devotion, ancestors feel satiated and they bless the person with wealth, children, knowledge, joys, pleasures and a total life.
Objectives of performing Shraddha
Providing momentum to the deceased ancestors present in the Pitru region so that they can progress to a higher sub-plane of existence, through the means of Shraddha.
Satisfying wishes and desires of the souls of the deceased ancestors from ones’ family who are trapped in the negative regions due to unfulfilled desires and providing momentum for their further progress.
Importance and need of performing Shraddha
Repaying the debt to ancestors is as important as repaying the debt to God, Sages and the society. It is the duty of descendants to respect their ancestors, make donations in their name and to undertake activities that will please them. Performing Shraddha is a part of obeying Dharma, as per science of Dharma.
Ancestors’ soul becomes satisfied only after receiving pinda and water from their son. In relation to this, following is a verse in the holy text Mahabharat that describes ‘who qualifies to be called as son’ :
Benefits of performing Shraddha
The ritual of Shraddha is sacrificial fire performed for deceased ancestors and it is sacred, beneficial bestows blessings for conceiving a baby boy. The benefits derived after performing the ritual of Shraddha are mentioned in Smrutichandrika and other holy texts.
If the ritual of Shraddha is performed on the day of an eclipse, the host derives benefit similar to the one obtained after donating a piece of land to someone.
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