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Remembering the ancestors

During the 15-day lunar period of Pitru Paksha, which began on September 14 this year, Hindu families pay homage to their deceased loved ones by performing Shraddha rituals

RAMESH SAVAIKAR | NT NET WORK

The 15 lunar day period (dark fortnight) of Hindu month ‘Bhadrapada’ is called ‘Pitru Paksha’. During this period, Hindus pay homage to their ancestors, especially through praying and food offerings to priests.

‘Pitru Paksha’ begins with ‘Pratipada Tithi’ of dark fortnight of ‘Bhadrapada’ month and ends on ‘Amavasya’ ie the last day of lunar fortnight. ‘Mahalaya Amavasya’ is considered as the most significant day of ‘Pitru Paksha’, and is known as ‘Sarvapitri Amavasya’.

The religious rituals performed during ‘Pitru Paksha’ to remember the ancestors are called ‘Shraddha’. This year, the ‘Shraddha’ period began on September 14 and will concludes on September 28.

Hindus remember their ancestors by performing religious rituals under the guidance of priests who are offered food and ‘dakshina’ (donation). It is believed that certain rituals performed during Shraddha appease the souls of ancestors and bring happiness and prosperity at home.

 It is also a way for people to express their heartfelt gratitude and affection towards their late parents and other ancestors for having helped them to be what they are in life. They also pray for peace in life by satisfying the souls of their ancestors.

 According to the Hindu religious book Garuda Purana, after 13 days of death, the soul starts its journey for ‘Yamapuri’. It takes 17 days to reach there. The soul travels through ‘Yamapuri’ for another 11 months. It is only in the 12th month that it reaches the court of Yamaraj (the God of Death).

During the 11 month period, the soul has no access to water and food. It is believed that the ‘pindadaan’ (offering of rice) and ‘tarpan’ (offering of holy water through thumb) is done by family member to satisfy the thirsty and hungry soul during its journey till it reaches Yamaraja’s court. Hence Shraddha rituals are considered as very important during the first year of death.

There is a certain way of performing ‘Shraddha’. The family members who perform ‘Shraddha’ invite the priests home, perform ‘havan’ and offers rice to the departed soul. This is called ‘Pindapradan’.

The family washes the priests’ feet, serves them a variety of foods and treats them well. Fruits and clothes are offered to priests along with dakshina. The family members ensure that the priests who are invited are treated well.

Food is also offered to cows since they are believed to be like ancestors in Hinduism.

 In Goa, people of all Hindu communities perform ‘Shraddha’ rituals to pay homage to their ancestors for giving them happiness, peace, and prosperity.

Nowadays due to shortage of priests and modern lifestyle and thoughts, instead of performing ‘Shraddha’ rituals, people offer food and donation to children in orphanage homes, old age homes, or any social working saunstha so that their money is used by the needy for a genuine cause.

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