Pitru Paksh Shradh , also known as Mahalaya Paksha is a sacred period in the Hindu lunar Calendar. This period will begin from 29th September 2023 and will end on 14th October 2023.It is a 16-day long period which holds major significance in the Hindu culture and is believed that during this very period, the gates of the realms of the ancestors are opened. This allows them to come back on Earth and bless their descendants.
This occurs during the waning phase of the moon in the Hindu lunar month of Bhadrapada which generally occurs in September. People come together to perform rituals and ceremonies to pay respects and honour to their departed loved ones and forefathers. In this blog, we will delve into the rituals and traditions surrounding Shrad.
In Hinduism, it is strongly believed that our forefathers play a vital role in taking care of family’s well-being even after their physical demise. They are thought to be the guiding spirits of their descendants. It is a period of gratitude, reaffirmation and reflection of the bonds that stands through the test of life and death.
One of the most prominent stories associated with Shradh is of Karna from Mahabharat. According to legend, when Kunti’s first child, Karna, passed away, he was taken to heaven and offered money and priceless gems. However, Karna told Indra that he preferred to have food and water rather than these priceless jewels. After hearing this, Indra told Karna that throughout his whole life, he had never provided food or water in the name of his forefathers and had only ever donated gold and jewels to those in need.
Karna responded by telling Indra that he had no idea who his forefathers were because he had been blessed by Surya deva, the god of light and day, to his mother. Then, for a period of 16 days, Karna was sent to earth to perform shradh for his forefathers and give food and water. This 16-day period has since been known as pitru paksha.
During Pitru Paksha. the sun moves from the southern to the northern hemisphere during this time, which occurs between Dakshinayana (the southern solstice) and Uttarayana (the northern solstice). The ancestors’ spirits are thought to be closer to the Earth plane during this shift.
The rituals practiced during this auspicious period include -Tarpan: People present their ancestors with water flavored with barley, black sesame seeds, and it involves the chanting of particular mantras. A further essential component of Pitru Shradh is the food offering of cooked meals and sweets to the souls who have passed away. During this time, the spirits of ancestors visit Earth and eat the food that is provided. These meals are typically served with prayers and devotion and kept in a specific location on a leaf or plate. Donations of clothing, food, and other necessities are regarded as virtues during this time. During this time, many individuals decide to make pilgrimage to certain locations and conduct rituals in honor of their ancestors. People often avoid auspicious activities during this time. People believe that it is unlucky to perform weddings, launch new businesses, or hold any other auspicious rituals during this period of Shrad.
This long-standing Hindu custom encourages a strong bond between the living and those who are deceased. It emphasizes the value of appreciating one’s forefathers for their contributions to the family’s prosperity and acknowledging one’s roots. Observing these rituals not only preserves cultural traditions but also acts as a reminder of the fundamental importance of family ties and the enduring connection between generations.