Homage To Ancestors-Pitru Paksha Shraddh/Shradh Mahina
September 26, 2007
Shradh is a ritual performed for the people who have passed away so that their souls rest in peace and they attain Moksha or salvation. It is performed every year on the anniversary of the death of the person as per the Hindu calendar.
Mahalaya shradh is performed during a fortnight called as the “Pitru paksha” in the month of Ashwin of the Hindu Vikram Samvat. This Mahalay Shradh is very dear to the ancestors souls because the time is such that it reaches them immediately.
Shradh is performed for three generations of Pitris – the father, the grand-father and the great grand-father, or to all Pitris. There are many rules and regulations that need to be followed. These rituals take place for sixteen days. This should be done under the guidance of a priest so that all the rituals are done in accordance to the Shastras and no souls get offended or left out. Instead all should be pleased and bless the person performing this ritual. All priests or pandits do not perform shradh rituals. So finding the right person to provide guidance is important. It is common practice for the male members of the family to partake in this activity but in case there are none then women too can participate.
Performance of Shradh and Tarpan (Libations of water) relieves the hunger and thirst of the departed soul during its journey to the Pitri Loka. 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 Shradh is a part of obeying Dharma (Path of Righteousness).
Shradh rituals can performed at three different occassions in a year. The date on which the person has departed, during this Pitru Paksha time or at the time of any auspicious occassions like marriage or celebration of a child’s birth. Performing such rituals before the actual marriage ceremony, indicates a sign of respect to the ancestors and to seek their blessings.
The most ausipicous ghat where people go to perform shradh is in the city of Ujjain, on the banks of the river Shipra. Here Lord Ram had performed the last rites of his father and since then, this place is known as “Ram Ghat.” If people are not able to go there, then Gaya is another significant place where this ritual is performed.
During this period, people do not invest money or purchase house, cars or get married. All auspicious activities are kept on hold as this month is only dedicated to the departed souls. Some people believe that the departed are present at different levels in the sky after their death.
At the time of shradh month, those in middle levels who haven’t received liberation hover around to derive some benefits. Some even say that during this time, the gods are asleep and they do not provide anything to these souls. In hunger and thirst these souls come down searching for their family members to provide them some nourishment.
Many families firmly believe in this and prepare food items, sweets and arrange for assorted foods that their departed family members enjoyed when they were alive. Though the departed ancestors cannot eat like normal beings as they do not have a body, they enjoy these foods with their sense of smell and vision.
The satisfaction that these souls get seeing that they are remembered and provided with their favorite delicacies, turn into blessings. Such blessings are indeed counted at the time of marriage, conception and birth of children. Their blessings provide the new generation freedom from physical and mental disabilities and abnormalities.
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