Pitru Paksha: Honouring Your Ancestors
Pitru Paksha or Pitri Paksha literally means the “fortnight of the ancestors.” It is a two week period in the Hindu calendar when people pay homage to their departed forefathers and seek their blessings. According to Hindu belief, during this fortnight the departed spirits leave Pitru–loka, the realm between heaven and earth, and come to reside in their descendants’ homes. Therefore, this fortnight is a good time for performing death rites and puja to please the departed ones.
Pitru Paksha generally falls in the second fortnight of the Hindu month of Bhadrapad and follows immediately after the Ganpati festival. It starts with the full moon day, Purnima, in Bhadrapad and ends on the new moon day called Sarvapitri Amavasya, Pitru Amavasya, Mahalaya Amavasya or simply Mahalaya.
Pitru Paksha in 2016
This year, Pitru Paksha begins from September 16 until September 30. The Poornima Shraddh falls on September 16, the Pratipada Shraddh falls the next day on September 17 and so on. The last day of Pitru Paksha known as Sarva Pitru Amavasya falls on September 30. It is the universal day when anyone in the family can perform Shraddh for the departed soul.
What is the significance of Pitru Paksha?
According to Hindu tradition, a Shraddh ceremony during the Pitru Paksh fortnight is mandatory to ensure that the soul of one’s ancestors ascends to heaven. The Garuda Purana states that a householder must propitiate his ancestors along with the gods and the guests. If the forefathers are satisfied with the shraddh offerings, they will go to the higher realms, blessing the performer of the shraddh with health, wealth and knowledge in the process.
The Pitru Paksha period highlights the blood ties between one's ancestors and the present generation and their next unborn generation. During this fortnight, the present generation repays their debt to their forefathers. This debt (Pitra Rin) in Hindu tradition is considered of utmost importance, along with a person's debt to his gurus and his parents. Performance of ceremonies during this time keeps the connection between the generations alive and ensures the continuity of one’s family lineage.
So significant is this fortnight that if one hasn’t performed a shraddh ceremony on the death anniversary of the deceased, observance of Sarvapitri Amavasya rites and honouring the deceased soul during this time will compensate for any previous neglect.
According to a legend, when the soul of the great warrior Karna reached heaven, he did not get food to eat, but only gold and jewels. When he asked the reason for this deprivation, he was told that since he had not donated any food on earth, but only gold, all he was getting in return for his good deeds was gold. Karna maintained that he had not known who his ancestors were and therefore, he had not performed any ceremonies on earth for them. To compensate for this neglect, Karna was allowed to come back to earth for a fortnight so that he could perform shraddh for his ancestors. This period was Pitru Paksha.
The blessings and wellbeing of one’s ancestors is important if one is to enjoy health, wealth, knowledge and happiness in this lifetime. However, in case the ancestors are themselves suffering and have not ascended to their rightful place after death, the weight of their suffering will be borne by their descendants in the present generation. This is called Pitra Dosh.
Pitrukshetras in India
According to the Purans there are five Pitrukshetra in India, each region representing a specific organ of the human body. These are Bodhigaya as Shirakshetra, Vaitarni as Nabhi kshetra, Pithapur as Padarkshetra, Siddhpur as Matrukshetra and Badrinath as Brahmakapali kshetra.
Bodhygaya Kshetra is an ancient and holy pilgrimage spot where Pind dan is given for one’s ancestors and forefathers. The holy site is situated on the bank of Falgu river in Bihar.
Nabhigaya Kshetra is situated at Jajpur village on the banks of Vaitarni river in Orissa. It is also known as Nabhi Kshetra. Vaitarni river is famous in the Puran, wherein it is stated that one has to cross the Vaitarni after death and only a person who has performed good deeds in his life time can cross the river easily. By performing Pitrutarpan Puja here, one can help his forefathers get across this river. Padgaya Kshetra is situated at Pithapur at Andra Pradesh state on the Madra-valter railway line. It is situated near Rajah Mundry station.
Siddhpur is known as Matrugaya Kshetra is situated in Mahesana district of Gujarat state. According to the legend, Bhagavan Parshuram had performed Pind daan for his mother on this spot. Hence, pilgrims from all over India flock to Siddhpur for performing Pindadan and Shradh ceremony on the banks of Bindu Sarovar. Learned Brahmins trained in performing this Puja are available in Siddhpur. Near Badrinath in Himalaya, a stone known as rahmakapali has been unearthed, wherein Pinda daan dedication and Shradh Puja is performed.
If there is Pitra Dosh in your horoscope, and due to this your family isn’t growing or is facing constant problems, you can perform Narayan Bali Puja on the bank of Narmada river at Chanod tirtha. This is situated near Dabhoi in Baroda district of Gujarat. This Kshetra is famous for Pitrutarpan Puja and dedication to ancestors. Learned priests provide the facilities to pilgrims coming here from over India. People also come here to perform Uttarkriya.
And lastly, Trayambakeshwar temple in Nashik is another important site where Pitra Dosha Nivaran Pujas can be performed.
Pitra Paksha: Do’s and Don’ts
This is the time of the year to connect with God, your departed ones and for seeking Divine grace. It is an excellent time for meditation, mantra, chanting and prayer.
Since this fortnight is reserved for performing shradh rites and remembering the departed ones, do not schedule any auspicious events during this time. No marriages, major celebrations or long distance travel is undertaken during Pitru Paksha with the exception of pilgrimage to holy places.
In general, people abstain from non-vegetarian food and alcohol during this fortnight, out of respect for the beloved ancestors.
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