Pitru Paksh (पितृ पक्ष), when we are one with our ancestors
Yesterday, my author friend – Edward J from LA called to tell me about an Author’s Conclave in LA at the year-end and was just checking on me about my book. (Life-An Existential Cocktail). During the conversation, he mentioned “Ganpati Celebrations” in Mumbai, I was pleasantly surprised at that. He mentioned that he has friends from Mumbai in LA, and now I was not surprised.
Edward further asked me, “Which festival next?” I replied, “Not really a festival but now we have Pitru Paksha coming up for the next 16 days.” This made him curious and he wanted to know about this period in detail. As an author, Edward is a keen observer and curious soul.
I told him, “During this time, Hindus pay tribute to their ancestors for the repose of their souls. Pitru Paksha holds a special significance in Hinduism. In Pitru Paksha or Shradh Paksha, Pind Daan, Tarpan, and Shradh is performed for the peace of departed souls.”
Elaborating further, I added, “PitruPaksha (Sanskrit: पितृ पक्ष, Pitṛ pakṣa; lit. “fortnight of the ancestors”) is a 16–lunar day period in the Hindu calendar when Hindus pay homage to their ancestors (Pitrs), especially through food offerings. The period is also known as Pitri Paksha/Pitr-Paksha, Pitri Pokkho, Sorah Shraddha (“sixteen shraddhas”), Kanagat, Jitiya, Mahalaya, Apara Paksha and akhadpak, Pitru Pandharavda or pitru paksh.
I am not sure, how much did he understand what I told him, but he had many more questions about this period, which is unique to Hinduism.
I present here in this article what all transpired during our conversation.
There is a certain ethos we follow, which ascertains our continuance as the civilization of the world. Pitru Paksha is one of those, which begins on the Pratipada (first day of the fortnight) ending with the no moon day known as Sarvapitri Amavasya, Pitri Amavasya, Peddala Amavasya, Mahalaya Amavasya. The end of Pitru Paksha and the beginning of Matri Paksha is named Mahalaya.
Pitru Paksha is considered by Hindus to be inauspicious, given the death rite performed during the ceremony, known as Shraddha or Tarpana. It is not considered appropriate to buy new things, start a new business or undertake any social celebration like marriage, etc. Oftentimes, we have also heard that we shouldn’t buy anything prominent, including a house or a vehicle, during Pitru Paksha. This doesn’t in any way mean that Pitru Paksha is bad, a time to remain mournful and not perform any good actions.
This ritual about Pitru Paksha has been framed by our ancestors so that we can forge a cosmic connection with our ancestors and stay in their remembrance. The purpose is to divert our attention from the attractions of the material world and connect ourselves with the subtle realm, the plane belonging to our ancestors. These 16 days of Pitru Paksha have been fixed so that we may spend some time for our ancestors, with dedication and reverence. This way we see that it is not an inauspicious period, but a way to live in the divine presence of our ancestors.
We Hindus believe that Shraddha of ancestors performed during this period grants peace and salvation (moksha) to our ancestors, which makes it a festival of celebration, contrary to the popular belief.
This has been mentioned in the holy writings of the Gita and the Vedas, which say, offerings made to the departed during Pitru Paksha bring peace to their souls and helps them reach their divine destination. Thus, making it a cause of happiness for the current generation.
Hence, the current generation repays their debt to their ancestors in the Pitru Paksha. This debt is considered of utmost importance along with a person’s debt to his gurus and his parents. The period to repay the debt of not only our immediate ancestors and their ancestors and their ancestors but of all those from whom the human race descended. We should be grateful to all of them who nurtured our forefathers with love and affection.
Performance of shraddh is a gateway of obeisance for the current generation. Hence, it is considered compulsory by Hindus, to ensure that the soul of the ancestor goes to heaven.
The scriptures preach that a householder should propitiate ancestors (Pitris), along with the gods (devas), elements (bhutas), and guests. The scripture Markandeya Purana says that if the ancestors are content with the shraddhas, they will bestow health, wealth, knowledge, and longevity, and ultimately heaven and salvation (moksha) upon the performer.
Suppose, one doesn’t know the right tithi of his forefathers to perform shraddha, he can do so on the last day – Sarvapitri Amavasya. Rites performed on this day can also compensate for a forgotten or neglected annual Shraddha ceremony, which should ideally coincide with the death anniversary of the deceased. According to Sharma, the ceremony is central to the concept of lineages. Shraddha involves oblations to three preceding generations – by reciting their names-as well as to the lineage ancestor (gotra). A person thus gets to know the names of six generations (three preceding generations, his own, and two succeeding generations -his sons and grandsons) in his life, reaffirming lineage ties.
I hope author Edward Johnson got replies to all his questions on Pitru Paksha.
Information courtesy: Wikipaedia