Pitru Paksha is a period of 16 days when the “Pitru Lok” or the world of ancestors passes very closely from the earth. It is the closest on “Savrapitri Amavasya”. The 16 days from Bhadrapad Purnima to Ashwin Amavasya is observed as pitru paksha and in 2013 pitru paksha has started from 19th september 2013 to 4th october 2013 which is the day of Sarvapitri amavasya. Pitru paksha is also called as Kanagat in North India.
According to Hindu beliefs the pitru lokk comes very close to the earth and the souls of our pitras or ancestors visit us. The ceremonies and tarpana performed during this period is popularly known as shraddh, it is done for their well-being and to receive their blessings. There is a belief that whatever we donate is received by them and we get their blessings as they become contented and happy. The food that we donate or feed and the pinda daan that we do is believed to reach them and pinda daan releases their soul from bondage or gives them gati. For instance, if an ancestor is born with Dev yoni then accordingly the brahmins or priests are fed on their date of death. This food is then believed to reach the soul of ancestors in the form of amrit. Likewise, if the ancestors belongs to a gandharva lok then the food reaches them in the form of a prasad, in sarpa yoni is it received in the form of air, flesh if the soul belongs to Rakshasa yoni, blood in pret yoni, in the form of food when in manushya yoni and so on.
The performance of a shraddh by a son during pitru paksha is regarded as compulsory in hindus to ensure the soul of ancestor goes to heaven. In this context, the “Garuda puran” says that there is no salvation for a man without a son. The scriptures preach that a householder should propitiate ancestors along with gods, demons and guests. “Markandeya Purana” says that if the ancestors are content with the shraddh, they will bestow health, wealth, knowledge and longevity and ultimately heaven and salvation to the performer.
The rituals such as tarpana, pinda daan, donations performed during this time for peace of our dead ancestors is called as shraddh. Those who do not have time to perform shraddh on the death tithi of their ancestors can perform pitri tarpana or shraddh during the 16 days of pitru paksha. These 16 days are completed dedicated to our pitras. Feeding of food and water to animals can also give you the blessings of your pitras as they may have gone in any yoni after their death and might come to you in any form.
Reasons for Performing shraddh
According to our hindu Scriptures the Pitru lokk passes closely to the earth during pitru paksha and hence our pitras descend to the earth to acknowledge the rites and rituals performed by their descendents. They become contented and happy to see their descendents remembering them and offering them food and bless us. Our scriptures say that the shraddh of pitru paksha involves oblations to our 3 preceding generations by taking their names along with the names of family tree.
The 3 generations of every family consists of father, grandfather and forefather and it is believed that they are considered to be equivalent to 3 devas. Father is worshipped as Vasudeva, Grandfather as Lord Shiva and forefather as Aditya deva. These 3 souls represent the other ancestors of family as well.It is believed that the soul of the Pitra enters into the body of the descendant performing the tarpan, receives the food and go back after giving his blessings to all the family members.
This if you want to have prosperity and well-being of your family, you should perform last rites of your ancestors and shraddh properly. The performance of rites on the day of Sarvapitri amavasya or the mahalaya amavasya can compensate a forgotten or a neglected annual shraddh ceremony which should ideally coincide with the death anniversary of the deceased ancestor as Sarvapitri amavasya is for all ancestors irrespective of the lunar day they died.
Those who want to perform the pitra tarpana by self can find the Shraddh or tarpana manual here.