Pitru Paksha - 2014

Pitru Paksha 2014

This year Pitru Paksha begins on Monday, September 08, 2014 and ends on Tuesday, September 23, 2014. 




* In Hinduism, Pitru Paksha (literally "fortnight of the ancestors") is a 16–lunar day period when Hindus pay homage to their ancestors (Pitras), especially through food offerings.
 

* Pitru Paksh literally means "fortnight of the ancestors".

* Shraadh is performed every year on the anniversary of the death of the person as per the Panchang or during the dark fortnight called Pitri Paksha.

* Tarpan and Shraddh are performed on all Amavasi or no moon days. But the most important period to perform Shradh is the Pitru Paksha period during the Krishna Paksha fortnight in Ashwin month (September – October). 


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Below are the Pitru Paksha 2014 dates :-

08     September     (Monday)      Purnima Shraddha
10     September     (Wednesday)   Dwitiya Shraddha
11     September     (Thursday)     Tritiya Shraddha
12     September     (Friday)         Chaturthi Shraddha
13     September     (Saturday)     Panchami Shraddha
14     September     (Sunday)       Shashthi Shraddha
15     September     (Monday)      Saptami Shraddha
16     September     (Tuesday)       Ashtami Shraddha
17     September     (Wednesday)  Navami Shraddha
18     September     (Thursday)     Dashami Shraddha
19     September     (Friday)         Ekadashi Shraddha
20     September     (Saturday)     Dwadashi Shraddha
21     September     (Sunday)       Magha Shraddha , Trayodashi Shraddha
22     September     (Monday)     Chaturdashi Shraddha
23     September     (Tuesday)     Sarva Pitru Amavasya


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Apart from the immediate rituals after a death, there are also annual rituals like :--

*  Pitru Paksh Shraddh in North India and East India, 

*  Aadi Amavasai in Tamil Nadu,
* Karikadaka Vavu Bali in Kerala and
* Amavasi rituals in other places.

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Importance of Pitru Paksh period

 Pitru Paksha Shraddh – Annual Rituals to Dead Ancestors

Shraddh or Shradh offered during Pitru Paksh (dark fortnight or Krishna Paksha) in the month of Ashwin (September – October) is of great importance in Hindu religion. Shraddh is the ceremonies and rituals performed for the departed souls of dead ancestors. It is believed that the souls will attain peace by the Shraddh rituals performed during the fortnight.

According to Hindu mythology, the Shraddh performed on Ashwin Pitru Paksha reaches the ancestors immediately and their souls will rest in peace. Hindu Puranas are full of details about Shraddh, especially Agni Purana, Garuda Purana and Matysa Purana. It is Yama, the god of death in Hindu mythology, who explained the importance of Shraddh performed on Pitru Paksha.

Pitru Paksha is considered by Hindus to be inauspicious, given the death rite performed during the ceremony, known as Shraddha or tarpan.

* In Southern and Western India, it falls in the Hindu lunar month of Bhadrapada (September–October), beginning with the full moon day (Purnima) that occurs immediately after the Ganesh festival and ending with the new moon day known as Sarvapitri amavasya, Mahalaya amavasya or simply Mahalaya.

* In North India and Nepal, this period corresponds to the dark fortnight of the month Ashvin, instead of Bhadrapada.

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According to Matysa Puran :-
 
* Agni, Vasus and Rudras act as intermediaries during Pitru Paksha Shraddh and take the rituals and food offered to ancestors. The ancestors bless those performing the ritual.

* The Shraddh or rituals performed during this period benefits all the dead ancestors. It is believed by Hindus that all the sinful acts committed by the dead will be cleansed by the shraddh. Those departed souls who do not receive Shraddh are said to wander aimlessly on Earth.

* Pitru Paksha Shraddh is also offered by people to ancestors whose death dates they have forgotten ;to relatives who had no children and who met with violent death like accidents or murder.
 

* Some people fast on the day.
 

* Some people observe specific customs like abstaining from non-vegetarian food during the fortnight and
 

* Some do not cut their hair or shave.

* The rituals are usually performed under the guidance of a learned person or priest.

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Different Names of Pitru Paksh 


Pitru Paksh / Pitra Paksh / Pitri Paksh / Pitri Pokkho / Shraddh / Tarpan / Tarpanam / Kanagat / Jitiya / Mahalaya Paksha / Apara Paksh or Shraddham are the various names used to describe the 16-lunar day period when Hinndus pay homage to their ancestors (Pitras).

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 Importance of Rituals Dedicated to the Dead in Hinduism :-
 

* Shraddh holds an important place in rituals associated with Hindu religion and it is performed without fail by most Hindus.

* Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita talks about the journey of the dead and about the importance of the rituals dedicated to them. Annual Shraddh is usually performed during the Dakshinayana period (July to December).

* Prashna Upanishad indicates that the rituals performed on the first Krishna Paksha Amavasi during Dakshinayana period directly reach the Dead.

* Shraddh should be performed with a pious mind. The person who performs the Shraddh should realize that for his birth, body, knowledge, wealth and sanskar he/she is indebted to the ancestors. All that is there was given by the ancestors. So the rituals performed is accepting this fact and is sort of thanksgiving.

* Both male and female relatives of the dead can perform the rituals.

* The rituals including the ‘pind dhan’ that are performed reach the dead ancestors through the rays of Surya (Sun.) It is said that a year of humans is a day for the dead and therefore the ancestors enjoy the fruits of the annual Shraddh throughout the year.

* Another belief is that the souls of dead remain in peace in Pitru Loka as a result of the rituals performed by their children or relatives. It is also said that the dead bless them for this and it helps the children and relatives to lead a good life on earth.
Equally important is feeding the poor on the day. Whenever rituals dedicated to the dead are performed, people distribute food and clothes among the poor.

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Special Shraddh

*The shraddh is performed on the specific lunar day during the Pitru Paksha, when the ancestor—usually a parent or paternal grandparent—died. 


* There are special days allotted for people who died in a particular manner or had a certain status in life :-

* Chaturthi Shraddh and Panchami Shraddh (the fourth and fifth lunar day respectively ) are allocated for people deceased in the past year. 


* Awidhawa Navami Shraddh (the ninth lunar day ) is for married women who died before their husband (Awidhwa). Widowers invite Brahmin women as guests for their wife's shraddh.


* Dwadashi Shraddh (the twelfth lunar day) is for children and ascetics who had renounced the worldly pleasures. 


* Ghaat Chaturdashi or Ghayal Chaturdashi (the fourteenth day) is reserved for those people killed by arms, in war or suffered a violent death.


* Mahalaya / Amavasi / Sarvapitri AmavasI Shraddh ("all fathers' new moon day") is intended for all ancestors, irrespective of the lunar day they died. It is the most important day of the Pitru Paksha.Those who have forgotten to perform shraddha can do so on this day. A shraddha ritual performed on this day is considered asfruitful as one conducted in the holy city of Gaya, which is seen as a special place to perform the rite, and hosts a fair during the Pitru Paksha period. 



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Significance of Mahalaya :-

 

* Mahalaya marks the formal beginning of the Durga Puja festival
* In Bengal, Mahalaya is the day when the goddess Durga is believed to have descended to Earth. Bengali people traditionally wake up early in the morning on Mahalaya to recite hymns from the Devi Mahatmyam (Chandi) scripture.
* Offerings to the ancestors are made in homes and at puja mandaps (temporary shrines). Matamaha ("Mother's father") or Dauhitra ("Daughter's son") also marks the first day of the month of Ashvin and beginning of the bright fortnight. It is assigned for the grandson of the deceased maternal grandfather.

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Who and for whom

 
* Both male and female relatives of the dead can perform the rituals. Of course, the ladies should not perform during their periods.
* It is essential that Shraddha is performed by the son—usually the eldest—or male relative of the paternal branch of the family, limited to the preceding three generations.
* However, on Sarvapitri amavasya or matamaha, the daughter's son ( Dauhitra)can offer Shraddh for the maternal side of his family if a male heir is absent in his mother's family.
 
* Prior to performing the rite, the male should have experienced a sacred thread ceremony. 
* A Shraadh is actually performed for three generations of Pitris (the father, the grand-father and the great grand-father), or to all Pitris. Three cakes are offered to the father, grandfather and great grandfather. 
* Some castes only perform the shraddh for one generation.

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Food

* The food offerings made to the ancestors are usually cooked in silver or copper vessels and typically placed on a banana leaf or cups made of dried leaves.
* The food must include Kheer (a type of sweet rice and milk), lapsi (a sweet porridge made of wheat grains), rice, dal (lentils), the vegetable of spring bean (guar) and a yellow gourd (pumpkin).
* Non-vegetarian food and liquor should be strictly prohibited.

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Rites of shraddh


* The shraddh is  (preferably) performed only at noon.
 

* The shraddh is performed usually on the bank of a river (or) lake (or) at one's own house. 

* During the Shraadh offerings of round balls of rice, flour along with accompaniments of sacred grass, flowers is made, along with repetitions of mantras and texts from the Sam Veda. The entire ceremony is conducted at any sacred spot such as the margin of a river. A person who performs Shraadh is known as the "Karta" and he invites Brahmins on that day and performs a "Homa" as way of expressing his heartfelt gratitude and thanks to his parents and ancestors. The karta offers food to the Pitra by putting cooked rice and vegetable into the fire in very small quantities and also adding just a small piece of cooked vegetable. He serves and treats them with all hospitality and finally does "pinda Pradaana". The Brahmin priest helps the Karta to perform the ritual.





 * The male who performs the shraddha should take a purifying bath beforehand and is expected to wear a dhoti.
 

* He wears a ring of kush grass.
 

* Then the ancestors are invoked to reside in the ring.
 

* The shraddha is usually performed bare-chested, as the position of the sacred thread worn by him needs to be changed multiple times during the ceremony.
 

* The shraddha involves pinda-daan, which is an offering to the ancestors of pindas (cooked rice and barley flour balls mixed with ghee and black sesame seeds), accompanying the release of water from the hand.
 

* It is followed by the worship of Vishnu in form of the durba grass, a gold image or Shaligram stone and Yama. 

* In addition, to the main priest, two more brahmins are invited to the house during the ritual. Through mantras, one is nominated as the Pitra and the other as the guide; hence the karta is supposed to imagine they are his own father, grandfather and great grandfather and treat them as such with all respect. After the ritual is over, the Karta then gives "dakshina" to the priests and only after the consent of the priests, he and his family have the food. The karta also shows respect to the Brahmins, like giving a foot-wash and dress consisting of cotton dhoti.

* The food offering is then made, cooked especially for the ceremony on the roof.
 

* The offering is considered to be accepted if a crow arrives and devours the food; the bird is believed to be a messenger from Yama or the spirit of the ancestors.
 

* A cow, a crow and a dog are also fed, and Brahmin priests are also offered food.
 

* Once the Brahmins have eaten, the family members can begin lunch.





                                                    Tarpan

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Other practices


* Some families also conduct ritual recitals of scriptures such the Bhagavata Purana and the Bhagavad Gita.
* Others may be charitable and present gifts to the priests or pay them to recite prayers
for the ancestor's well-being.
* Some families may also make a pilgrimage to places like Varanasi and Gaya to perform Shraddh.

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1 comment:

  1. See also for related article at http://www.bigumbrella.co.in/culture/mahalaya-the-stepping-stone-of-durga-puja-ceremony-in-india/

    ReplyDelete