Shraddha – Pitrupaksha (Mahalaya Shraddha to Sarvapitri Amavasya [10th to 25th September])

Perform Shraddha in ritualistic way

The term ‘shraddha’ (Special rites for the departed ancestors) conjures up an incorrect impression, one of unscientific ritualistic act in the minds of the younger generation. This is due to the absence of any formal education on Dharma (Righteousness), indifference towards Spirituality, the influence of western culture, anti-Dharma organisations targeting traditions and customs in Hindu Dharma with a continuous barrage of hate-filled criticism.

People who lack faith in ritualistic worship, shraddha, and consider social service superior, have very naive views. They say that instead of performing shraddha for the ancestors, they would rather donate food to the poor or provide help to schools. This is as absurd as saying, ‘Instead of performing surgery to treat a particular disease, we will donate food to the poor or provide help to schools’. Since the spiritually potent mantras recited during the shraddha rites have the subtle power of providing momentum to the subtle bodies of ancestors, they can progress to a higher subtle region of existence after the rites have been performed. This reveals the folly in such views. Sanatan’s Text on this subject aims at removing the veil of ignorance and blind-faith of those who have such thinking, so that they develop a spiritual perspective towards the shraddha rites in Hindu Dharma. Indian culture says that just as we serve our parents and close relatives when they are alive, we have certain duties unto them after their death too. The shraddha rites are an excellent opportunity to fulfil these duties and repay our debts unto the ancestors. The shraddha rites are necessary so that the journey of our parents (after death) becomes comfortable and without any distress, and they attain sadgati.

If shraddha is not performed, desires of the ancestors remain unfulfilled. Negative energies very easily control such desire-riddled ancestors, and then, enslave them. They use the ancestors to cause distress to their own family members. By performing shraddha, we get relieved from the distress caused by the ancestors, and our life on earth becomes comfortable. If shraddha is performed on a particular day, tithi (Date as per the Hindu Lunar Almanac), then some specific benefit can also be obtained. Sanatan’s Texts elucidate the importance and benefits of shraddha. We reproduce some portions here.

1. Information on the word ‘shraddha’

A. Origin and meaning : The word ‘shraddha’ has originated from ‘shraddha’ (meaning, faith). It is impossible to repay all that our departed forefathers have done for us. The rite performed for them with complete faith is known as shraddha.

B. Definition : Definition of shraddha as given in the Brahmapurana (A Holy text, one of the 18 Puranas) is as follows :
‘A religious rite performed after pronounc-ing the place, time and appropriate venue during which the offerings made with complete faith to the Brahmans as representatives of the ancestors is known as shraddha’.

C. Synonyms : Shraddhatva pinda, Pitru-puja, Pitru-Yajna.

D. Shraddha is not mere remembrance of the ancestors with a sense of gratitude, but a religious rite to be performed.

2. History of shraddha rites

A. The first propounder of the shraddha rites is Sage Atri, the son of Deity Brahma. Sage Atri narrated to His descendant Nimi the shraddha rites laid down by Deity Brahma. Subsequently, they became traditional conducts and continue to be even today.

B. Manu was the first to perform shraddha rites. Hence, He is also called Shraddhadeva, the Originator of shraddha; He has been accorded the respect given to Deities, but He is not a Deity.

C. After Shriram, Janaki and Lakshman were banished to the forests, Bharat went to meet them, and told them about their father’s demise. Thereafter, Shriram performed the shraddha rites for His departed father. There is a mention to this effect in the Holy Scripture Ramayan.

3. Pitrupaksha (Mahalayapaksha)

A. Importance

1. The dark fortnight in the Hindu lunar month of Bhadrapad is known as ‘Pitrupaksha’. This fortnight is very dear to the ancestors. If Mahalaya shraddha is performed for the ancestors during this fortnight, they remain satisfied throughout the year.

2. Gargeya (Shraddhakalpalata, Page 97) says : ‘How can a householder who enrages his ancestors (by not performing shraddha during the period when the sun is in the Zodiac sign of Virgo), earn money or be gifted with a male child, etc. ? Additionally, Pitrulok is vacant till the sun moves from the Zodiac signs of Virgo and Libra into the Zodiac sign of Scorpio’.

Pitrulok remaining vacant implies that in this period, all of them come close to their descendants to bless them, and if shraddha is not performed, they curse them and return. Hence, it is important to perform shraddha during this period. (If the father or other relatives have died on Pournima, their shraddha should be performed on the day of Bharani Asterism, Ashtami, Dwadashi or Amavasya.

3. During Pitrupaksha, the Tiryak (Raja-Tama predominant waves that cause distress) and Yama waves are predominant. Performing shraddha in the Pitrupaksha makes it easier for the departed ancestors, who are connected with the Raja-Tama predominant sheaths, to come into the orbit of earth’s environment. Therefore, it is more beneficial to perform the rituals advised in Hindu Dharma during the specific period. – A Scholar (Through the medium of Shrichitshakti [Mrs] Anjali Gadgil, 12.8.2005, 6.02 p.m.)

4. Why should shraddha be performed during Pitrupaksha even after performing yearly shraddha ? : The yearly shraddha helps the respective subtle body acquire momentum, thus, assisting in the repayment of debts of respective individuals at the vyashti (Individual) level. This vyashti sadhana (Individual spiritual practice that benefits only the seeker performing it) is only a vyashti worship assigned by Hindu Dharma for repayment of debts at the personal level. On the other hand, repayment of debt of the departed ancestors at the samashti (For the sake of society) level on the occasion of Pitrupaksha, is a part of samashti worship. The vyashti debt teaches us to remain dutiful towards the respective subtle body, whereas, the samashti debt comprehensively repays the give-and-take account at an expansive level at the same time.

We perform shraddha of the departed ancestors from the previous 1-2 generations that have a close relationship with us, because, we have a direct, obligatory give-and-take account with them. Since the departed ancestors from these generations have more attachment-related thoughts when compared with other generations, their bond is much stronger. Hence, it is essential to perform yearly shraddha individually (for each of them) to sever these bonds. In comparison, the bonds we have with the departed ancestors from the earlier generations are less intense. Hence, it is desirable to perform the ritual of Pitrupaksha collectively for them. Therefore, performing the rites of yearly shraddha as well as Pitrupaksha are essential.

– A Scholar (Through the medium of Shrichitshakti [Mrs] Anjali Gadgil, 12.11.2005, 4.09 p.m.)

By performing shraddha, we get relieved from the distress caused by our ancestors, and our life becomes comfortable !