Mahalaya Paksha (SHRAADH) Begins
Mahalaya Paksha or Shraaddh is also popularly known as Pitr Paksha. Shraaddh signifies performing various rituals for the souls of our deceased ancestors. It is a 16-lunar day period during which our ancestors are remembered so that they can attain Nirvana and peace.
In 2015, the Mahalaya Paksha or Shraaddh will start on 09th September and end on 24th September.
According to the Hindu mythology, it is believed that departed souls of our ancestors reside in the Pitr or Pitra Lok (a sphere between heaven and earth). It is believed that our ancestors visit earth during Pitr Paksha. If we donate anything during these days, it is received lovingly by our ancestors and they bless us with their love.
Mahalaya Paksha or Shraadh begins on the Poornima (full moon day) of Bhadrapad month, immediately after Ganesha festival, and ends after fifteen days on Amavasya (new moon day). This Amavasya is also called Mahalaya Amavasya or Sarvapitri Amavasya. In North India, this period corresponds to the dark fortnight of Ashwin month.
According to the Hindu mythology and scriptures, it is believed that the souls of three previous generations of one’s forefathers reside in Pitr Loka. This is a realm that is ruled by Yama (God of death). He is believed to be responsible for taking the soul of a dying person from Earth to Pitr Loka.
As explained in the epic The Mahabharata, when legendary Karna died, his soul was taken to heaven. There he was offered gold as food. But Karna wanted real food to satisfy his hunger so he asked Lord Indra (Rain God) to provide him with real food. Indra told Karna that all his life he donated only gold as offering to his ancestors but never food or water. To this Karna replied that he was unaware about his ancestor’s presence so he never donated food. To recompense, he was allowed to return to earth for a 16-day period to perform Shraaddh rituals and donate food and water.
Rituals and Observations
Shraadh Paksha is believed to be inauspicious by all Hindus across all over the country. Hindus do not begin any auspicious work such as new business, married life during these sixteen days. Mahalaya or Pitru Paksha is a period that involves the concept of Pinda-daan, which is an offering to one’s ancestors with Pindas that includes sesame seeds, grass and water. The significance of this day is to pay homage to one’s ancestors.
On Shraaddh, people offer food to Brahmins (priests) considering them representative of their ancestors and seek their blessings.
Mahalaya Amavasya, the last day of Shraaddh Paksha, is of great importance in Bengal. There, it marks the beginning of Durga Puja festivities. It is believed that Goddess Durga descended to Earth on this very day. On Mahalaya, Bengali people recite hymns early morning to invoke Goddess Durga.
You may also visit https://astrodevam.com/festivals-of-india-pitra-paksh-shraaddh-paksha-kanaagat.html for additional information regarding this period.
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