The word ‘Shraddha’ has originated from the word ‘shraddha’ (Faith). It is impossible to repay all that our departed ancestors have done for us. The rite performed for them with complete faith is known as ‘Shraddha’.
Importance and need for shraddha
A. Repaying the debt unto ancestors is as important as repaying the debt unto God, Sages and society. It is the duty of the descendants to respect their ancestors, donate in their name and perform activities that will please them. As per the Scriptures, shraddha is a part of abiding by Dharma.
B. When conception takes place, the soul is supposed to take birth satisfactorily. Are aspects such as the entry of the individual into the womb, its growth, the happy state of the expectant mother and an easy delivery possible only by administering medicines ? For this, God’s grace is necessary. The grace of the energy which created the Universe is necessary. Ancestors are the protectors of the family lineage. Hence, intransient aspects such as the family’s traditions, shraddha are required to be followed scrupulously. If family traditions are not followed and defects caused by female and male departed ancestors increase, the lineage becomes non-existent. If family duties such as shraddha are followed appropriately, the purification of the lineage is certain.
C. In today’s times, people neither perform rites such as shraddha nor any spiritual practice the way they used to in earlier times; therefore, most people suffer from distress caused by the subtle bodies of dissatisfied ancestors. Only spiritually evolved individuals (Saints) can tell us if ancestors are causing distress to us or if the possibility of such distress exists. If it is not possible to get guidance from a spiritually evolved individual, the following problems can be assumed to have been caused by ancestors, such as, regular conflicts in the family, unable to get along with each other, unemployment, unable to save money, serious illness, inability to get married despite favourable conditions, marital discord, inability to conceive, repeated abortions, giving birth to a physically handicapped or a mentally retarded child and a family member getting addicted. Shraddha satisfies the ancestors, and in turn, they bless their descendants. It also provides momentum to ancestors who are entrapped in the Martyalok (Region of the dead). In effect, it eliminates the distress caused by ancestors.
D. How does shraddha protect from distress caused by ancestors ? : The energy generated through shraddha resembles the energy of the trigunas (The 3 basic components – Sattva, Raja and Tama) which the subtle body of the departed individual possesses. Therefore, the subtle body crosses Martyalok within a short time on being propelled by the energy generated through shraddha. A subtle body that has crossed Martyalok cannot re-enter the orbit of Earth’s environment to cause distress to an ordinary individual on Earth; hence, shraddha has utmost importance. Otherwise, the subtle bodies, which are trapped in the cycle of desires, can create obstacles in the spiritual practice of an individual and can prevent him from performing spiritual practice.
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. During Pitrupaksha, the Tiryak (Raja-Tama predominant, 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 Earth’s orbit.
Ancestors who come during the Pitrupaksha : 1. Father, grandfather, great-grandfather (Pitrutrayi); 2. Mother, grandmother, great-grandmother (Matru-trayi); 3. Step-mother; 4. Mother’s father, grandfather, great-grandfather (Matamaha-trayi); 5. Mother’s mother, grandmother, great-grandmother; 6. Wife; 7. Sons; 8. Daughters; 9. Uncles; 10. Maternal uncle; 11. Brothers; 12. Father’s sisters;
13. Mother’s sisters; 14. Sisters; 15. Father-in-law; 16. Other relatives; 17. Guru (if there is a Guru-disciple relationship); 18. Disciple (if there is a Guru-disciple relationship). A list of all such names along with their gotras (Lineage) should be maintained in every family. It will be useful while performing a Mahalaya shraddha.
(For complete information on Shraddha, read Sanatan’s Text – ‘Importance of Shraddha and its underlying science’)