Significance of Pitrapaksh in Hinduism.
Sanatan Dharma, is one of the oldest existing religion in the world, and yet more than a religion; it is a philosophy of life which is followed as per the way of life described in the sacred scriptures of the Vedas and the Puranas. Amongst the rituals and rites in Sanatan Dharma; more popularly also known as the Hindu culture, there are rituals for every phase of Soul’s journey from prior to its birth as a human being and onwards to its integration with the Divine Supreme.
The theory of Moksha (salvation) and re-incarnation are explained in details in such sacred texts; along with explanation on rituals that can help in expiating one’s negative karmas and sins so as to achieve oneness with the Divine Supreme as a culmination of one’s final journey.
According to the Sanatan way of life, a Soul’s journey to attain Moksha continues even after it leaves the physical body. Offerings and rituals as prescribed in the sacred texts when performed by the offspring/s helps in the Soul’s final integration to the Divine Source.
Pitrapaksh is one such period in Hindu lunar calendar which dedicates 15 days to its ancestors. “Pitra” means ancestors and “paksh” means period or a fortnight phase of lunar month. In Hindu lunar calendar, Pitrapaksh starts from the month of first day of Krishna Paksh of Ashwani to Amavasya of the same month.
This period is also called as “Mahalaya paksh” or the period of Salvation of the Soul. These days are considered as appropriate days to perform post death rites like shraddh, tarpan, charity etc. This is a period when Hindus pay homage to their ancestors by offering them food and water.
Text References from Purana’s :
According to the Garud Purana, it is believed that during this time, the Pitra’s (ancestors) who live in “Pitra-loka” take a journey back to the earth and visit their offsprings for cleansing their sins and for expiating their karmas. Any offspring who offers food and does Tarpan ( libation of water) for his ancestors especially for three generations before them, helps their ancestors by providing them enough strength for moving on to their further journey for salvation. During these entire period of 15 days, all the Pitras are remembered and prayed for so that attain final liberation from this cycle of birth and deaths.
The details on Pitrapaksh have been mentioned in various ancient texts especially the Garud Puran, the Agni Puran, the Matsya Puran, The Vayu Puran etc.
According to the legend, Kunti Putra Karna, the hero of Mahabharata could not get any food on his onward journey after he left his physical body. He was offered gold and silver but no food. It is said that since he only donated gold and silver to people but never had a chance to donate food to anyone, he was not offered food on his soul journey. Karna, then prayed to Lord Yama (Lord of Death) for quenching his thirst and hunger. Happy with his prayers Lord Yama granted him 15 days to go back to the earth and do the needful.
On his journey back to the earth, Karna, then donated a lot of food and water during these fifteen days. Looking at his dedication to donate everything he had, Lord Yama also ordained that any one who offers food and water for the departed souls during this period shall be instrumental in expiating their negative karmas and any such acts shall benefit all the departed souls whether they are related or not to the performer.
Apart from offerings made to one’s ancestors, one should also make offerings for Bhishma pitamah. Since Bhishma Pitamah was a Brahmachari( Bachelor) , on his death he got a boon from Lord Krishna that offerings made by any living being for their ancestors shall be accepted by the Divine Supreme Lord only when the offerings were also made to Bhishm Pitamah.
Although, the Shraddhs followed on these fifteen days are of utmost importance, they are not constrained to only these 15 days in the lunar calendar. There are a number of other Shraddhs too which are performed throughout the year ; like the Naimishik sharaddh, Nitya Shraddh, Kramya shraddh, Daivik Shraddh, Vriddhi shraddh, sapind shraddh etc to name a few are performed for ancestors throughout the year.
Samvatsar shraddh is performed on the lunar tithi (date based on lunar calendar) when the ancestor has died. If lunar dates of the deceased person is not known than these 15 days of Ashwin Krishna paksha are assigned for the shraddha.
Another important date during these pitrapaksh periods is the “Mahalaya Amavasya” or the last day of the shraddh which is a no moon day too. Mahalaya also means great destruction, which is a signification of the deaths of many a Rishi’s and Devas during the churning of the sacred sea for the sacred nectar. On this Amavasya, one should perform puja for all the deceased whose lunar dates of their departing the body are not known. On this date shraddh can be performed for anyone.
WHAT TO DO DURING SHRADDH PERIOD:
These fifteen days are a period of austerity for the person who offers food and water for their departed ones. Starting from the first day ie the pratipada tithi, one should take bath in the morning, wear a Kusha Grass ring and facing southwards should offer water along with black sesame seeds and rice grains in it , to all the ancestors especially the ones who have died on the pratipada tithi of any paksh.
One should also offer kush ( a kind of grass considered sacred in Hinduism), rice, flowers, black sesame seeds, sandalwood paste , barley to the ancestors along with water. One can also make food in the name of the ancestors and feed it to a cow, a dog, an ant and a Brahmin on their name.
It is believed that it relieves the hunger and thirst of the departed soul and helps them on their onward journey for salvation. By doing this; in return the performer is also blessed by the ancestors and their karmas are expiated too. Since the offspring is praying for the peace of the departed soul/s, the ancestors in return bless them with peace, happiness, success, wealth and good health in return.
WHAT TO AVOID DURING SHRADDH PERIOD :
During Pitrapaksh, no auspicious things are performed; new beginnings of any kinds are prohibited. Marriage, engagements, entering a new house or buying a new property are all also prohibited during this period. Some also observe penance by turning vegetarian, not shaving their beard or by not cutting their hair and also abstaining away from any vices.
DIFFERENT DAYS OF SHRADDH AND THEIR SIGNIFICANCE:
Pitrapaksh Shraddh is also known as Sarva Pitru Moksha Shraddhas and the best and the most auspicious times to perform the rituals are the Kutup Muhurat, Rohina & Aprahana time.
During these 15 days of shraddh , one performs Shraddh for the deceased on the Tithi ( Day) the person has died based on the lunar calendar irrespective of whether it was Krishna Paksha or Shukla Paksha time period. It is the Tithi that is of utmost significance. If one is not aware of the tithi then one should perform Shraddh for the person on the last day i.e. on Mahalaya Sarvpitru sharaddh day. Shraddh for the person who has died on a purnima tithe is also done on Mahalaya Sarvpitru Moksha Shraddh day .
The first day of Pitrapaksha is also dedicated to one’s maternal side. One can offer prayers and all the other offerings on their name along with all the deceased in the family who have died on the pratipada tithi especially Nana and Nana i.e. maternal Grand parents.
Mahabharni Shraddh is generally observed during chaturthi (4th day) or panchami tithi (5th day) and is an important day for performing rituals as Lord Yama rules this Nakshatra (constellation). In 2019 Mahabharni Shraddh falls on the Chaturthi Tithi ie on the 18th of Sep.
The Navami Shraddh or the 9th day of the Shraddh is significant as on this day offerings for all the female deceased members in the family can be made.
Similarly on the Dashmi tithi ( 10th Day) shraddh for all the male members can be performed.
Dwadashi Tithi is suitable for doing shraddh for all the ancestors who have taken Sanyas or have renunciated the world before their death. This is also known as Sanyasi Shraddh .
Ekadashi Tithi : The Shraddh is done for all people who have taken Sanyas or renunciated the world and do not necessarily have to be your blood relative.
Trayodasi shraddh ( 13th Day) is specially performed for all the deceased children.
Chaturdashi shraddh is performed for all the deceased who have died sudden deaths like road accidents, suicide or died due to a weapon etc..
The 15th day or No Moon day is SarvaPitra Moksha Shraddha. It is also the time when one can perform offerings for all the childless ancestors, unknown ancestors. If one does not know the lunar date of their ancestors then on this Mahalaya Amavasya or “SarvPitra Moksha Amavasya”, offerings for all the deceased both male and female can be made together.
MUHURAT FOR SHRADDH PERFORMANCE :
Shraddh period starts from 13th September and continues till 28th September in 2019. Shraddh rituals are done during the mId afternoon period and is over before the Aparahna muhurat .
The best time to perform the rituals on the Sarvpitra Moksha Amavasya is from 11:48 am – 3:45 pm.
If you have been suffering from Pitra Dosha then this is an excellent time to expiate it by means of performing rites for the peace and happiness of all your ancestors . This helps in expiating the effects of Pitru Dosa reflected in one’s horoscope.
Do not forget, that this is a beautiful time for paying obeisance to one’s forefathers, remembering them with love and doing charitable deeds on their names. Meditating daily and sending them healing energies helps in cleansing their karmas and also helps in elevating them in the path of their salvation.Tags: ashwini, astrologer, mahalaya amavasya, nandita pandey, sarvpitru amavasya, shraddh, shraddh dates, shraddh dates 2019, tarot
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