Friday, September 19, 2008

Shradhs or Pitru Paksha

A shradh is a Hindu ritual performed by the living for the benefit of the soul (aatma) of relatives who have passed away. It is believed that by performing a shradh one seeks and receives the blessings of our pitr or ancestors and also prays and gives daan (by performing a yagna) for the peace and happiness of the pitr and the souls of those pitr who have taken rebirth on this earth.

Shradhs are performed every year on the shradh day of the dead person which is calculated as per the Hindu calendar or tithi or panchang. It is calculated on the basis of the death day of the deceased and falls within the period of Pitru Paksh which comes every year between Ganapati visarjan time in Mumbai and Navratri during the ashwin month of the Hindu Calender.

Shradh is usually performed for three generations of Pitrs - the father, the grand-father and the great grand-father, or for upto 7 generations of Pitrs or for all Pitrs. A havan or yagna is performed under the guidance of a priest whereby oblations are made/proferred into the fire while praying for the ell being and blessings of our pitr. Brahmins are fed sattvic /vaishno food.Sattvic/Vaishno food is also offered to a cow and a crow and to poor people. At my home the havan is always followed by a meal consisting of Puri's, rasevaley aloo,cholay and sooj ka halwa.

Shradhs are also considered by many to be inauspicious to start new projects or for purchasing new assets re.g. a house or car or new jewelery or make investments or for marriages or new business deals or transactions.

This year Pitru Paksh begins after Poornima on 15th September, 2008 and ends with the last shradh called Mahalaya Shradh or Sarvapitru Shradh on 29th september, 2008. On the last shradh tithi shradh may be done for all pitru.

A separate type of Shradh is also performed soon after the death of a person.

To ensure that the soul does not remain in a subtle body hovering on this earth planet, but will attain a comfortable body for enjoyment on pitr loka, offerings are made to the departed person and the pitrs. During the asauca period daily offerings of sesame and water, and pinda (rice mixed with sesame, ghee and honey) are given to the departed person. On the eleventh day (for a close relative of a brahmana) the house is purified, eleven brahmanas are fed and offerings are made to the deceased. Beginning on that day, for the first year, monthly sraddha ceremonies should be held. As well, in the sixth and twelfth month additional sraddhas should be conducted. Then every year, on the tithi of the decease, annual sraddhas should be conducted.

From the Mahabharata, Anusasana Parva,
Section LXXXIV + Sec.XCII

Bhishma said: When my father Santanu of great energy departed from this world, I proceeded to Gangadwara for performing his Shraaddh. My mother, Jahnavi, coming there, rendered great help. Having with a concentrated mind performed all preliminary rites as laid down in the scriptures, I set myself to duly offer the obsequial cake.

Reflecting then, by the light of the scriptures, the conviction soon came upon me that the ordinance does occur in the Vedas that the cake should not be presented into the hand of him whose Shraaddh is performed. The Pitris do not come in their visible forms for taking the cake.

On the other hand, the ordinance provides that it should be presented on the blades of Kusa grass spread on the earth for the purpose. What I did was perfectly consistent with the scriptural ordinance.

In making offerings at Shraaddhs a share is first offered to the deity of fire(Agni). If a portion of the offerings be first made to the deity of fire at a Shraaddh, Rakshasas of regenerate origin cannot then do any injury to such a Shraaddh. Beholding the deity of fire at a Shraaddh Rakshasas fly away from it.

The ritual of Shraaddh is that the cake should first be offered to the deceased father. Next, one should be offered to the grandfather. Next should one be offered to the great-grandfather. Even this is the ordinance in respect of the Shraaddh. Over every cake that is offered, the offerer should with concentrated attention utter the Savitri Mantra. This other Mantra also should be uttered, viz., unto Soma who is fond of the Pitris.

A woman that has become impure in consequence of the advent of her season, or one whose ears have been cut off, should not be allowed to remain where a Shraaddh is being performed. Nor should a woman (for cooking the rice to be offered in the Shraaddh) be brought from a Gotra other than that of the person who is performing the Shraaddh.

While crossing a river, one should offer oblations of water unto one's Pitris, naming them all. One should next offer such oblations of water to one's deceased friends or relatives. From them that cross a river on boats, the Pitris expect oblations of water. Those that know this always offer oblations of water with concentrated attention unto the Pitris. Every fortnight, on the day of the new moon, one should make offerings unto one's deceased ancestors. growth, longevity, energy, and prosperity become all attainable through devotion to the Pitris.

Even this is the high ritual in respect of the Shraaddh. Through Shraaddhs performed on earth the deceased members of ones race become freed from a position of misery. I have thus, O prince of Kuru's race, expounded to thee agreeably with the scriptures, the ordinances in respect of Shraaddhs.

1 comment:

photographerno1 said...

nice post I am connecting your post link to my Pitru Visarjan pictures shot this morning posted at Flickr..
Firoze Shakir