Pitru or Pitra Paksh is a fifteen-day period during which rituals are performed for the deceased ancestors. It is also known as Shraaddh. It is believed that if Shraaddh is performed according to the rules, the departed souls attain peace.
It is said in Hindu religion that whatever you donate during Pitra Paksh period in the name of ancestors is received by them. This way, our ancestors remain satisfied and peaceful in Pitra Lok (nether region where souls are believed to live) and give their blessings.
If someone doesn’t know or forgets to perform the rituals on the date of Shraaddh of their ancestors, they can perform the rituals on Pitra Amavasya. It is considered to be an auspicious day to perform Shraaddh ceremonies. It is believed that on this day, ancestors visit their homes with the desire of pind-daan (a shraaddh ritual) and if someone doesn’t perform it, they return to Pitra Lok unhappy.
Pitru Paksh is observed for fifteen days during the months of Bhadrapad and Ashwin(September- October), as per Hindu calendar. It starts on the full moon day, which begins after the Ganapati festival. Shraaddh ends on the new moon day. Pitra Amavasya is the last day of Shraaddh or Pitra Paksha. It is also known as Mahalaya or Visarjani Amavasya in some regions.
According to popular legend the ritual of Shraaddh was envisioned by Sage Atri, son of Lord Brahma. Sage Atri was the one who narrated the ritual, as laid down by Lord Brahma to Nimi, one of his lineages. This ceremony is continued by people till today. Manu was the first person to perform this ritual so he is known as the deity of Shraaddha.
However, there is another popular legend explained in the epic Ramayana. When Lord Ram, Goddess Sita and Lakshman were staying in the forest, Bharat, Ram’s younger brother, came to meet them there and informed them about the death of their father. It is mentioned in the Ramayana that Lord Ram later performed all the rituals related to Shraaddh, for his deceased father.
Rituals and Observations
In order to perform Shraaddh ceremony, usually a priest is invited for meal. Those who were related to the deceased person should not be invited for the meal. Some people prefer performing rituals such as Pind-Daan in the presence of a priest. However, some people donate food to the poor and seek blessings of their ancestors. Since offering food and water to a hungry and thirsty person is considered to be the greatest daan (offering or service) one can do, it holds very high place in Hindu religion. One should chant the prayer of “Shree Gurudev Dutta” 15 times after the completion of the rituals. Pitra Amavasya marks the end of Shraaddh or Pitru Paksh soon after which Navratra (a festival of nine nights) begins..
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