Tuesday, September 27, 2016



The fifteen days of the waning moon in the month of Bhadrapada as per the lunar calendar is called “ Mahalaya Paksha”. This period is also called as “Pitru Paksha”. It is in this period that all our ancestors and forefathers are remembered and offered ‘tharpanam’ to satisfy their souls. The ‘ amavasya’ or the new moon of the period is  as considered very sacred and called as 'Sarva Pitru amavasya’ when you can offer tharpanam to all our forefathers and ancestors. The autumnal equinox falls in this period as the Sun transits from the northern to the southern

According to the legend, souls of the three preceding generations reside in ‘Pitru Loka’- the land of the disembodied souls of ancestors, between heaven and earth. Yama,the God of death and the ruler of that place takes the soul of the dying person from earth to 'pitru loka’. Only three generations of Pitrus are offered ‘ Sraddha’ rites. This period coincides with the entry of Sun into the 'Thula’ sign of the zodiac. It is believed that the Pitrus leave their abode in ‘Pitru Loka' and come down to reside in their descendants’ home for a month until the Sun enters the next sign of the zodiac Scorpio. All Hindus are expected to propitiate their ancestors and Pitrus during this Mahalaya Paksha without fail. Times have changed and today people have lost faith in performing funeral rites to their own parents and kith and kin.They have also forgotten to offer tharpanam to the three generations of forefathers every month on the New moon day! All such people can and should perform tharpanam during this special period to absolve themselves of the sin they have committed!

It is strongly believed among the Hindus that the souls of ancestors can never get salvation till their descendants offer the funeral rites and tharpanam. The eldest son of the family is the one authorized to perform funeral rites and tharpanam. A person without a son has no salvation say the Sasthras. “aputrasya gatir nasti”! The Garuda Purana and the Markandeya Purana affirm that if the Pitrus are satisfied, they bestow health, wealth and prosperity to their descendants and salvation to the performer! Most of the maladies that families suffer from can be traced to the nonperformance of these funeral rites and tharpanam! But these can be compensated during the fortnight of the Mahalaya Paksha. This period emphasizes the fact that ancestors,current generation and future generations are connected through blood! Our debt to them and parents and gurus is of utmost importance and has to be repaid properly with faith and devotion!

In the Bhagavad-Gita Lord Krishna points out to Arjuna the importance of Karma Yoga. Man cannot live even for a second without karma or action. He has to offer his gratitude through sacrifices. One of those sacrifices is ‘Pitru Yagna’ where he satisfies his parents and ancestors by offering tharpanam to them! We are indebted to the Devas, Pitrus, human beings,and even to the other creatures like animals, birds and insects. So we must clear our debt to them in one way or other. Our indebtedness to mother,however,can never be cleared!

There is an interesting story about the great warrior Karna of the Mahabharatha emphasizing the significance of offering tarpanam to  forefathers. When Karna’s soul was in heaven, he was offered gold and jewels for food. Surprised at this strange offering, Karna asked Indra why he was not given real food. Indra replied that Karna gave gold and jewels only for gifts and charity but no real food! Karna told Indra in reply that he had no information about his ancestors at that time. It is said that Karna was asked to come down to earth for fifteen days and perform  ‘Sraddha’. He came back to earth and offered tharpanams to his ancestors! This period coincides with  Mahalaya Paksha at the end of the month Bhadrapada! During this Paksha one can offer tharpanam to any deceased kith and kin like brother, sister, uncle, aunt, father in law, mother in law, cousin and even friend!  Let us not forget our parents and ancestors and invite their ire! Let us pay our deep debt of gratitude to them for the grace and prosperity bestowed on us!

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