Pitra Paksha, also known as Pitru Paksha, is a sacred 16-day period that includes Purnima Shraadh, Mahalaya Amavasya, and either Sarvapitru Amavasya or Mahalaya Amavasya. During this time, Hindus perform Shraadh ceremonies to honour their ancestors.
When does Pitru Paksha fall?
According to the Amavasya calendar used in the south and the Purnima calendar used in the north, Pitru Paksha falls in the month of Bhadrapada and Ashwin, respectively. Although the nomenclature differs between North and South India, the days of Pitru Paksha and Shraadh ceremonies align. In most cases, Pitru Paksha begins on the day of the full moon (Purnima) or shortly after it. It's a time for Hindus to perform puja, observe Shraadh rites, and engage in daan activities to offer prayers to their deceased ancestors.
The Significance of Pitru Paksha:
In Hindu tradition, equal importance is placed on living one's life in the material world (mrityuloka) as on preparing for the afterlife. Attaining moksha, or liberation, is the ultimate goal of human life. When a person passes away, the anyeshti karma (funeral rites) frees the body, allowing the soul (atma) to continue its journey.
Pitrus are the departed ancestors, eagerly awaiting pind-daan offerings from their descendants to quench their thirst and satisfy their hunger. A total of 96 days are allocated for this purpose to appease the Pitrus.
The Mahalaya Paksha or Pitru Paksha holds immense significance as the ideal period for offering shraadh and pind-daan to the ancestors. It is believed that action carries the essence of shraadh when performed with shraddha, signifying trust and devotion.
As Pitrus from the pitruloka assemble on bhuloka (earth) to receive offerings from their offspring, this period is known as Mahalaya Paksha. Lord Yama, the deity of death, designates Pitru Paksha as a time when the Pitrus can visit their earthly descendants and other relatives.
Pitru Paksha Customs:
During Pitru Paksha, joyous celebrations such as weddings, Grah Pravesh ceremonies, homa, and similar gatherings should be avoided, as this period is exclusively dedicated to honouring the Pitrus.
Certain foods, including meat, onions, and garlic, are to be abstained from during Pitru Paksha. The Shastras also recommend that men refrain from shaving during this period. Adhering to these rules and completing the ancestors' puja will earn their blessings, enhancing one's spiritual merit.
In addition to reciting the Shraddha mantra for the Pitru...
In addition to reciting the Shraddha mantra for the Pitrus, one should also engage in other spiritual practices, such as Pitru tarpan, mantra Japa, giving daan, and taking a dip in holy rivers. According to the Nirnaya Sindhu Grantham, composed in the 16th century CE by Mahamahopadhyaya Kamala Kara Bhatta, these actions performed during Pitru Paksha bestow immense virtue upon the practitioner.
Pitru Paksha's Crucial Days:
While it is essential to perform Shradh rites throughout the entire Pitru Paksha cycle, certain days are particularly significant. The first of these is known as Maha Bharani, occurring on the day when the Bharani nakshatra appears before Pitru Paksha. Lord Yama is associated with the Bharani nakshatra. Other important dates include Saptami, Trayodashi, and Madhya Ashtami/Ashtami.
Sarv pitru Amavasya:
Sarv pitru Amavasya is a crucial day during Pitru Paksha. According to Drikpanchang, if someone cannot perform Shradh on all Tithis, conducting a single Shraddha on this day suffices to appease all deceased family members. This Tithi is also suitable for conducting Shraddhas for ancestors whose death dates are unknown or lost. Bhadrapada Purnima Shraddha, although one day before Pitru Paksha, is not a part of this period. Pitru Paksha typically commences the day after Bhadrapada Purnima Shraddha. When Pitru puja is performed during Pitru Paksha, it not only appeases the departed ancestors but also brings their blessings in the form of good health, prosperity, and progress.
Pitra Paksha serves as a sacred bridge between the living and the departed, fostering a deeper connection with one's roots and the profound wisdom of Hindu traditions. It is a time when past and present converge, offering spiritual growth, healing, and the continuation of ancestral blessings. By honouring and remembering their ancestors, individuals ensure the harmony and prosperity of their present and future generations.
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