Sunday, January 8, 2012

Shraddha

Shraddha

What is the importance of the ritual of Shraddha?

1. Importance

The ritual of Shraddha not only repays debts towards deceased ancestors, but also makes it easy to repay debts towards God and Sages. Sages are considered to be hot tempered in comparison to God and due to this nature they could curse one and thus entrap the embodied soul. However as debts towards ancestors need to be repaid by actions, it becomes simple and easy to repay these debts through the ritual of Shraddha. Therefore, in order to be able to repay other debts in a good manner, it is necessary that everyone relies upon debts towards ancestors that acts as link between God and Sages, satisfy them by performing these rituals and try to embark upon the progress towards attaining final liberation. By performing the ritual of Shraddha, with the help of the ancestors’ souls one can slowly progress towards reaching God and Sages and by the virtue of combined support from Vasu, Rudra andAditya (Vasu means aspirations, Rudra means dissolution and Aditya means radiance or action), one can provide momentum to the deceased father, grandfather and great grandfather and in turn acquire blessings from God.

2. Enabling one to break bonds with others and liberate oneself

The term ‘Shraddha’ is completely linked with Maya (The Great Illusion) and Brahman (the Creator) through the bond of debts that need to be repaid. When the threads of the give and take relationship that binds us, dissolve, then at that time the embodied soul gets liberated and only then it can acquire momentum to progress towards attaining Final liberation. Therefore through the ritual of Shraddha one can get rid of the bonding with others and get liberated in this birth itself under observer stance of the followers of Lord Vishnu.

3. H. H. Doctor grants an opportunity of being relieved of the give and take relationships with one’s ancestors through the medium of this book

Shraddha is one of the important rituals that is required to be performed, as advised by the Hindu religion. The guiding rule laid down by Dharma is that the liberation obtained by performing the rituals of Shraddha is itself the real thought (result). By following this rule of Dharma, H.H. Doctor (Dr. Jayant Balaji Athavale) has provided an opportunity to the mankind to get rid of the desire oriented give and take relations with our ancestors by the means of the book ‘Shraddha’, through His resolve.

- One scholar from the subtle world (through the medium of Mrs. Anjali Gadgil)

4. Young Generation and Shraddha (Preface of book)

The word ‘Shraddha’ conjures up an incorrect impression in the minds of the younger generation who belong to the modern scientific age. They see it as a case of unnecessary importance being given to a non-scientific and largely meaningless ritualistic procedure. Absence of Dharma education (which means ‘Righteousness from a spiritual perspective’) along with a lack of any inclination towards learning about spirituality, a high level of influence of foreign cultures and a continuous barrage of  criticism with a strong underlying hatred for Hindu traditions and customs by unrighteous organizations, has caused this effect.

People, who lack faith in ritualistic worship or Shraddha and consider social service superior, have very naïve views. They feel that instead of performing Shraddha for deceased ancestors, they would rather donate food to the poor or provide help to schools. Of course, many of these people do not act upon their own views by actually put them into practice. In addition they are also unaware that doing this is as ludicrous as saying, ‘Instead of performing surgery to treat a particular disease, we will donate food to the poor or provide help to the schools’.

The spiritually potent mantras that are chanted during the ritual of Shraddha have the subtle power of providing momentum to the subtle bodies of deceased ancestors therefore they can progress to a higher sub-plane of existence after the ritual is performed. In view of this one can easily see the folly in maintaining the uninformed views mentioned above. Therefore the aim of this book is to eliminate the blindfold of ignorance that such people have and to change their thinking so they may develop a positive and spiritual view towards the sacred ritual of Shraddhawhich is prescribed by the Hindu religion.

Indian culture teaches us that we have to perform certain duties towards our parents and close relatives after their death, just as we serve them when they are alive as a part of obeying our Dharma. The ritual of Shraddha provides us with an excellent mechanism to fulfill our duties and in turn repay our debts towards ancestors. Our parents have taken the utmost care of us during our childhood. The ritual of Shraddha is necessary so that their journey after their death is full of comfort and devoid of any distress and that they acquire momentum, which allows them to progress to a higher sub-plane. If Shraddha is not performed, the desires of the deceased ancestors remain unfulfilled. The negative energies make easy victims of such desire riddled ancestors souls and then make them their slaves. In all likelihood, they then use them to cause distress to their own family members. By performing Shraddha, one gets relieved from the distress caused by the ancestors’ souls thereby enabling oneself to lead a comfortable life on earth.

If one performs Shraddha on a particular day, date (as per the Hindu calendar) as per the position of the stars (nakshatra), then apart from one’s duty towards ancestors getting fulfilled, some specific benefit can also be derived. The importance and benefits of performing Shraddha have been elaborated through such various aspects in this book.

5. Scope of The Article Series

This book (this aticles series) also includes valuable information on various types of Shraddha like Nandi, Mahalay, Bharani and Tripindi, who should perform this ritual, the time and place for performing Shraddha, what should one do if appropriate priests are not available to perform the ritual, necessary food articles to be cooked for the ritual, do’s and don’ts for person performing Shraddha and the one consuming the food of Shraddha, process for performingShraddha, method for offering food to ancestors and God, ways and means to remove obstacles faced while performing Shraddha etc. This book also clarifies general doubts like how does the food offered to the priests actually reach the ancestors, what is the science behind the crow touching the pinda etc.

6. Prayer

We pray at Shri Guru’s Holy Feet that by studying this book may everyone attain a pure intellect to conserve the cultural wealth imparted to us by our great Sages in the form of ‘Shraddha’ and let Shraddha be performed with faith and the spiritual progress of ancestors and oneself be achieved.

What are three historically established phases of Shraddha?

1. Information related to the term 'Shraddha'

A. Meaning and Scope

The term 'Shraddha' has originated from 'Shraddhaa' (faith). It is impossible to repay the various favors, which our deceased forefathers have done for us. The ritual performed for them with complete faith is known as Shraddha.

B: Definition

The definition of Shraddha as given in the 'Shraddha' chapter within the Brahmapuran Holy text is as follows:

देशे काले च पात्रे च श्रद्धया विधिना च यत् ।
पितृनुद्दिश्य विप्रेभ्यो दत्तं श्राद्धमुदाहृत् ।। - ब्रह्मपुराण

Meaning: The offerings (food etc.) made to the brahmins (priests) with the intension being received by the deceased ancestors, after taking into account the aptness of country, time period and place and with complete faith and abiding by all the rules is known as Shraddha.

C: Associated words

Shraddhattva Pinda, Pitru Puja (ritualistic worship of deceased ancestors), Pitru Yagna (sacrificial fires performed for deceased ancestors)

2. 'Shraddha' means not just 'remembering ancestors with a sense of gratitude', but is also a ritual to be performed.

3. Historical details of the ritual of Shraddha

A. The original concept of performing the ritual of Shraddha was concieved by Sage Atri, the son of Lord Brahma. Sage Atri narrated the ritual of Shraddha as laid down by Lord Brahma to Nimi from his lineage. This established ritual has continued even today.

B. Manu was the first one to perform the ritual of Shraddha. Hence he is called the deity of Shraddha (2).

C. After Lord Ram, Goddess Sita and Lakshman left for their stay in forest, Bharat met them in the forest and apprised them about the death of their father. The epic Ramayana has a mention that Lord Rama later performed the ritual of Shraddha for His deceased father at an appropriate time.

4. Three historically established phases of Shraddha and its nature in the current era

A. Agnoukaran

During the era of Rugveda, deceased ancestors were worshipped by offering Samidha (a kind of wooden stick) andPinda (a rice bowl) to the sacrificial fire.

B. Pindadaan (worship of Pinda)

The process for Pindadaan is mentioned in the holy scripts of Yajurveda, Bramhane, Shrout and Gruhya sutra. The ritual of Pindadaan was put into practice during the period of Guhya sutra.

The information regarding the time period when the worship of Pinda started is documented in the holy textMahabharata (Shantiparva 12.3.345) – God Varaha, incarnation of Lord Vishnu, introduced Shraddha to the entire world. He created three Pindas from His molar tooth and placed it on a Darbha (dried grass twig) towards the southern direction. Lord Varaha advised 'Let the 3 Pindas be considered as a representation of the father, grandfather and great grandfather' and then He vanished after performing the ritualistic worship of the Pindas using sesame seeds in a scientific manner. Thus began the worship of Pinda for deceased ancestors as per the guidance of LordVaraha.

C. Offering food to priests (Brahmins)

During the post Gruhya sutra and Shruti-Smruti period, offering food to priests (Brahmins) was considered mandatory and became an important part of the ritual of Shraddha.

D. All the three phases together

In the current era, all the three phases mentioned above are included within the 'Parvan' Shraddha. The science ofDharma prescribes that householders should perform the ritual of Shraddha as their duty.

When should the Shraddha be performed?

1. In general appropriate dates for performing shraddha

Normally, no moon night, 12 sankrants in a year, solar-lunar eclipses, Yugadhi and Manvadi dates, Ardhodayadi parva, date of death, arrival of Shrotriya priests (Brahmins) etc dates are considered appropriate for performingshraddha.

2. Hindu Dharma does not give any chance to anyone to say that the shraddha was not performed due to non-feasibility in a particular period!

· Normally every year Shraddha should be performed on the date of death of the person (as per the Hindu calendar and not as per the English calendar.) If the date is not known and only the month is known, then in that case the shraddha can be performed on the no moon night of that month.

· If both, the date as well as the month is unknown then the shraddha can be performed on the no moon night of the Hindu calendar month of Magh or Margashirsha.

· If the definite date of death is not known then the shraddha can be performed on the date when the news of the death was received.

· Shraddha for deceased ancestors’ souls should be performed everyday and it can be achieved just by offering water (tarpan) to them.

· If it is impossible to perform Shraddha daily, then Darsha Shraddha should be performed. This fulfills the requirement of doing the Shraddha daily. Darsha means no moon night. Therefore Darsha Shraddha is the one, which is performed on the no moon night of every month.

· If it is not possible to perform Darsha Shraddha every month, one should at least perform it on the no moon night of Hindu calendar months of Chaitra, Bhadrapad and Ashwin months.

· If it is not possible even to perform Darsha Shraddha on no moon nights of Chaitra, Bhadrapad and Ashwin, then at least the ritual of Mahalaya should be performed in the Pitru fortnight of the month of Bhadrapad. If this too is impossible thenShraddha should be performed on the no moon night of the month of Bhadrapad (sarva pitri amavasya) (11)

(Hindu Dharma has kept so many provisions to act in a righteous manner. In spite of this, Hindus do not perform Shraddha and other rituals. Then who will help such Hindus? – Compiler.)

3. Appropriate time of the day

If the day is divided into 5 parts, then the fourth part is called the ‘Aparanha’ period. This period is most appropriate for performing shraddha.

(Reasons for ‘Aparanha’ period and no moon night being the most appropriate time for performing shraddha are described under the point 7 in volume 2).

4. Special dates for performing Shraddha and the benefits derived after performing shraddha for deceased ancestors’ souls on these dates

4.1 Kalpadi date (tithi): Lord Brahma’s day is considered as the day of origin. This is also called as Kalpadi tithi. The 1st and 5th day of Chaitra, 3rd day of Vaishakh, 7th day of Kartik, 9th day of Margashirsha, 13th day of Magh, 3rd day of Falgun (all days from the bright fortnight) indicate the start of the era (kalpa). As per the science, ifshraddha is performed on these dates, the deceased ancestors’ souls get satisfied.

4.2 Akshayya Trutiya (3rd day within the bright fortnight of Vaishakh): Akshayya Trutiya indicates the start of the Kruta era. The benefits derived by performing rituals like Shraddha, Tarpan for deceased ancestors’ souls and donations on this date is everlasting. Therefore one should at least perform Apinda Shraddha or Tarpan for their deceased ancestors’ souls.

The holy texts of Puranas say that, on the day of Akshayya Trutiya one should donate uncooked food (aamanna), a water pot, a fan made of mint grass, an umbrella, footwear etc with the intension of offering them to the deceased ancestors’ souls. It is mentioned in Garud Puran that, once the donations are made with the intention of offering them to deceased ancestors’ souls on this day, the messengers of Lord Yama do not cause distress to the ancestors’ souls.

यमदूता महारौद्राः करालाः कृष्णपि्ङःगलाः ।
न पीडयंति दाक्षिण्याद्वस्त्रा भरणदानतः ।।

Meaning: When clothes and ornaments are donated, the dark, brown eyed, cruel messengers of Lord Yama having sharp and long teeth do not cause distress to the deceased ancestors’ souls.

4.3 Pitru fortnight (Pitrupaksha) (Mahalaypaksha)

4.3.1 Importance

1. The dark fortnight in the Hindu calendar month of Bhadrapad is called as ‘Pitrupaksha’. This fortnight is very dear to the deceased ancestors’ souls. If Mahalay Shraddha is performed for the deceased ancestors’ souls during this fortnight, they remain satisfied for the entire year.

2. श्राद्धं कन्यागते भानौ यो न कुर्याद् गृहाश्रमी ।
धनं पुत्राः कुततस्य पितृकोपाग्निपीडनात् ।।
यावच्च कन्यातुलयोः क्रमादास्ते दिवाकरः ।
शून्यं प्रेतपुरं तावद् यावद् वृश्चिकदर्शनम् ।।
- Mahabharat

Meaning: The householder who does not perform shraddha during the period when the Sun is in the Virgo sign, how will he earn money and be gifted with a baby boy as he would have enraged the deceased ancestors’ souls? Additionally, the abode for deceased ancestors’ souls remains vacant till the Sun moves from Virgo and Libra sign to the Scorpio sign.  The abode for deceased ancestors’ souls remaining vacant during this period implies that the deceased ancestors’ souls come closer to their descendants for blessing them and if Shraddha is not performed, they give curse to their descendants and return. Due to this it is important to perform Shraddha during this period.

4.3.2 The deceased ancestors that arrive at the occasion of Mahalay Shraddha

1. Father, grandfather, great grandfather (Pitrutrayi)

10. Maternal uncle

2. Mother, grandmother and great grandmother (matrutrayi)

11. Brother

3. Step mother

12. Father’s sisters

4. Mother’s father, grandfather and great grandmother (matamahatrayi)

13. Mother’s sisters

5. Mother’s mother, grandmother and great grandmother

14. Sisters

6. Wife

15. Father-in-law

7. Sons

16. Other relatives

8. Daughters

17. Guru (if the Guru-disciple relationship exists)

9. Paternal cousins

18. Disciple (if the Guru-disciple relationship exists)

What are the presiding deities and results of Shraddha?

1. Presiding deities of Shraddha

1.1 Pururav-Aardrav and Dhurilochan

Pururav-Aardrav and Dhurilochan are deities of ancestors’ souls. They are referenced in the ritual of Shraddha.

1.2. Vasu-Rudra-Aditya

1.‘Shraddha is associated with the benevolent deities Vasu, Rudra and Aditya of the ancestors’ souls. The mantras chanted during the Shraddha and the rites performed enables one to connect to these deities.’ (6) 

2. The deceased person for whom the ritual of Shraddha is being performed, is considered as a follower of Vasu, his parents are considered as followers of Rudra and his grand parents are considered as followers of Aditya. Therefore during Shraddha, the names of father, grandfather and great grandfather (or mother, grandmother and great grandmother) are pronounced as representatives of Vasu-Rudra-Aditya respectively.

2. Types of Shraddha

2.1 Main and commonly known type

Matsya Puran mentions 'नित्यं नैमित्तिकं काम्यं त्रिविध श्राद्ध मुख्यते ।', meaning, primarily there are three types ofShraddha - one performed daily, periodically and with purpose (Kamya). In addition to these, Yamasmruti definesNandi Shraddha and Parvan Shraddha as additional main types.

2.1.1 Daily Shraddha

The ritual of Shraddha performed daily is known as Daily Shraddha. This Shraddha can be performed just by offering water or sesame seeds to deceased ancestors.

2.1.2 Periodic Shraddha

The shraddha performed for deceased ancestors with a single objective and other such types fall under periodic Shraddha.

2.1.3 Purpose oriented (Kamya) Shraddha

Shraddha performed for achieving a specific objective is termed as purpose oriented (Kamya)Shraddha.

From the point of view of deriving fruitful result, if the Shraddha is performed on a specific day, date (as per Hindu calendar) and taking into consideration the position of stars (nakshatra), then the desired result is achieved. The details are given below:

1. Day and the derived result of the Shraddha

2. Date (as per Hindu calendar) and the derived result of the Shraddha

Date of performingShraddha

Result derived from the Shraddha

First day in Hindu Lunar fortnight

Gaining a good fowl and being able to give birth to a healthy baby boy.

Second day in Hindu Lunar fortnight

Conceiving a baby girl.

Third day in Hindu Lunar fortnight

Acquiring a horse, acquiring fame

Fourth day in Hindu Lunar fortnight

Acquiring a lot of inferior animals

Fifth day in Hindu Lunar fortnight

Having a lot of good looking male children

Sixth day in Hindu Lunar fortnight

Conceiving bright male child, getting success in gambling.

Seventh day in Hindu Lunar fortnight

Acquiring a farm or land

Eighth day in Hindu Lunar fortnight

Obtaining success in business

Ninth day in Hindu Lunar fortnight

Acquiring animals like horses

Tenth day in Hindu Lunar fortnight

Expansion of cattle, acquiring animals with two humps

Eleventh day in Hindu Lunar fortnight

Acquiring utensils, clothes and a scholar male child.

Twelfth day in Hindu Lunar fortnight

Acquiring gold, silver etc.

Thirteenth day in Hindu Lunar fortnight

Gaining superiority within the community

Fourteenth day in Hindu Lunar fortnight

The persons, who have died due to the stroke of a weapon or on a battlefield, get momentum to attain a higher sub-plane. Gaining good citizens.

Full moon / no moon night

Fulfillment of all wishes

Note 1: Except full moon night, all other dates that belong to the dark fortnight and corresponding dates in dark fortnight of the month of Bhadrapad, bestow special benefit.

1. Bhimashtami Shraddha: If one is not able to conceive or is facing problems of abortion, then for the well being of the fetus, Shraddha is performed or offering of water is made to Bhishmacharya, on the eighth day of the bright fortnight (Bhimashtami) in the Hindu calendar month of Magh.

3. Position of stars and the derived result of the Shraddha

Position of star while performing Shraddha

Result derived from the Shraddha

Kruttika

Acquiring a heavenly abode for oneself and ones son.

Rohini

Conceiving male child

Mruga

Acquiring radiance of Brahman (Brahmatej)

Aardra

Providing momentum to the soul of an evildoer, action transformed into supernatural power.

Punarvasu

Obtaining wealth or land

Pushya

Improvement in strength

Ashlesha

Conceiving a male child with brave character, fulfillment of a wish

Magha

Gaining superiority within the community, a long married life

Purva

Good luck, conceiving a male child, elimination of sin

Uttara

Good luck, conceiving a male child, elimination of sin

Hasta

Fulfillment of a wish, gaining superiority within the community

Chitra

Conceiving a handsome male child, conceiving ample male children

Swati

Earning profit in business, earning success.

Vishakha

Conceiving ample male children, acquiring gold

Anuradha

Acquiring a kingdom (attaining position of minister etc), acquiring friends

Jyeshtha

Acquiring superiority, authority, wealth and self-confidence, acquiring a kingdom

Mula

Obtaining good health, acquiring a farm or land

Purvashadha

Achieving good fame, successful journey up to the sea limit

Uttarashada

Getting relieved from grievances, fulfillment of all wishes, achieving good hearing ability

Shravan

Achieving best progress in subtle plane, superiority

Ghanishtha

Acquiring kingdom (attaining position of minister etc), fulfillment of all wishes

Shavataraka

Achieving supernatural powers in medical practice, acquiring metal other than gold and silver.

Purvabhadrapada

Acquiring a flock of sheep or lamb, acquiring metal other than gold and silver.

Uttarabhadrapada

Acquiring cattle, acquiring sanctified and good premises

Revati

Acquiring utensils and clothes, acquiring cattle

Ashwini

Acquiring horses

Bharni

Acquiring a long life

Note 1: When an evildoer dies and Shraddha is performed for him at the time of Aadra star, for imparting momentum to its soul, the desired benefit can be derived.

Special note: In the table given in point 2 and 3, multiple benefits are indicated for a single date or star position. These are specified based on references obtained from different books.

2.1.4 Nandi Shraddha

The ritual of Shraddha performed during the start of any joyous ceremony and performance of any of the 16 religious rites, and recitation of specific mantras for success of the ceremony is called NandiShraddha. In this ritual Satyavasu (or kratudaksha) are the vishve deities and the father-grandfather-great grandfather, mother-grandmother (mother’s mother) - great grandmother (mother’s grandmother) and mother- grandmother (mother’s mother-in-law)-great grandmother (mother-in-law of mother’s mother-in-law) are invoked.

1. Karmanga Shraddha: This Shraddha is performed during the religious ritual of Garbhadhan.

2. Vruddhi Shraddha: Shraddha performed at the time of birth of a baby.

2.1.5 Parvan Shraddha

The Pindapitruyagna (sacrificial fires related to deceased ancestors) mentioned in the Shrout lineage is to be performed by a Sagnik (one who performs the ritual of Agnihotra). Alternative to this is the Parvan Shraddha mentioned in the Gruhya sutras. Once the deceased ancestors get listed as Parvans, then this shraddha is performed for them. (Detailed information on Parvan is presented under the heading ‘Terminology of Shraddha’ and in point ‘3 B’ of volume 2.) Ekparvan (single Parvan), dviparvan (doubleParvan), triparvan (triple Parvan) are the three varieties of this shraddha. Mahalay Shraddha and Tirtha Shraddha are the types of Parvan Shraddha.

1. Mahalay Shraddha (fortnightly): It is a Parvan Shraddha performed starting from the eleventh day of dark fortnight of Bhadrapad (Hindu calendar month) till the no moon night.

2. Tirtha Shraddha: The ritual of shraddha performed at Holy places like Prayag or at the banks of a sacred river is termed as Tirtha Shraddha. While performing Tirtha Shraddha, all the Parvans of Mahalay are invoked.

2.2. Other types

Apart from the main types mentioned above there are 96 types of Shraddha namely, 12 no moon nights, 4 eras, 14manvantars, 12 sankrants, 12 vaidhruti, 12 vyatipat, 15 mahalays, 5 first, 5 ashtak and 5 anvashtake. (Detailed information about these is present in the books related to science of Dharma.)

Brief information about few of the other types of Shraddha

2.2.1. Goshthi Shraddha

The Shraddha performed by the group of priests (Brahmins) and scholars at a holy place with the intention that, ‘Deceased ancestors’ souls should get satisfied and let happiness and prosperity preside’, or while discussing the topic of Shraddha, if one gets inspired all of a sudden and performsShraddha, then such Shraddha is termed as Goshthi Shraddha.

2.2.2 Shuddhi Shraddha

Offering food to priests (Brahmins) for acquiring purity is called as Shuddhi Shraddha. This is the ‘undergoing of punishment’ part of Shraddha.

2.3.3 Pushti Shraddha

Shraddha performed for increasing physical strength and prosperity is called as Pushti Shraddha.

2.2.4 Ghruta Shraddha (Yatra Shraddha)

Shraddha performed using ghee (clarified butter), in remembrance of deceased ancestors, before embarking on a journey to holy places with the objective of completing the journey without any obstacles is called Ghruta Shraddha.

2.2.5 Dadhi Shraddha

Shraddha performed after returning from a journey to holy places is termed as Dadhi Shraddha.

2.2.6. Ashtaka Shraddha

Shraddha performed on 8th day of the bright fortnight of the Hindu calendar mont. Ashtaka means the 8th day of bright fortnight of any Hindu calendar month. During the era of Vedas, the Ashtaka Shraddha used to be performed specifically on the 8th day of bright fortnight of Margashirsha, Poush, Magh and Falgun months. It was a practice to offer vegetables, meat, bondas, sesame seeds, honey, rice kheer, fruits and underground vegetables to deceased ancestors. Vishvedev, Fire (Agni), Sun, Prajapati, Ratri, Stars (nakshatra), season (rutu) etc. were considered as deities of Shraddha.

2.2.7. Daivik Shraddha

Shraddha performed with the objective of obtaining the grace of God is termed as Daivik Shraddha.

2.2.8. Hiranya Shraddha

This Shraddha is performed without offering food and only by offering money (dakshina) to the priests (Brahmins). If food is in scarcity, then gold, equivalent to four times the cost of the food grains, should be offered.

2.2.9. Hasta Shraddha

Shraddha performed by offering food to the priests (Brahmins) designated for Shraddha. If cooked food is not available then the Shraddha is performed by offering money or dry food grains. (7)

2.2.10. Aatma Shraddha

Those people who do not have children or whose children are atheists, they should perform Shraddhafor themselves when they are alive. The rites for such Shraddha are explained in the science of spirituality.

Even though various types of Shraddha are mentioned above, based on the calendar days, theShraddha performed for a dead person from the first day to the eleventh day, monthly shraddha,Sapindikaran Shraddha, Shraddha performed on one-year completion, Shraddha performed every year from the second year and Mahalay Shraddha are the only ones that are commonly practiced.

What is the method of performing Tarpan and Pitru tarpan?

1. Terminology of Shraddha

A. Pitar: When a human being dies, its subtle body gets freed from the dead body after performing the ritual ofShraddha and it gets position in the subtle plane meant for souls of dead persons. At that moment it assumes the designation of Pitar.

B. Parvan: After performing Sapindikaran Shraddha (Shraddha performed one day prior to one-year completion after the death of the person is called Sapindikaran Shraddha), the soul that has assumed the designation of Pitar now joins other Pitars and then gets further categorised as Parvan. Also, it gains authority so as to allow its descendants to perform Parvan Shraddha for it.

(Detailed information on Pitar and Parvan is under point 3 B in volume 2)

C. Pitrutrayi (Trio in Pitars): Generally son of the dead person has authority to perform Shraddha for the dead person. In his absence, other options are explored. The terminology of Shraddha has been prepared assuming the son as being the person who performs the shraddha. Therefore the soul of dead person for whom the Shraddha is being performed, is invoked as ‘father’ (father of the son performing Shraddha). One generation before, i.e. the father of dead person is referenced as ‘Pitamaha’ (grandfather of the son performing Shraddha). The grandfather of the dead person is referred to as ‘Prapitamaha’ (great grandfather of the son performing Shraddha). The earlier generations than these are not counted in trios of Pitars (Pitrutrayi), because it is assumed that they are liberated.

D. Jivatpitruk: When there is a male person whose father is alive, then such a person does not have authority to perform Shraddha. But he has right to perform Shraddha for his mother and grandfather (mother’s father). Also, generally, he even does not have the right to perform rituals of Narayannagbali,Ttripindi etc; however if these rituals are performed with the objective of conceiving a child, then the jivatpitruk can do so. In order to perform ‘Apasavya’, ajivatpitruk can only hold the thread in the thumb of the left hand and cannot hold it completely in his left hand.

E. Three ways of wearing the thread (janve) are Savya, Apasavya and Nivit: The thread should always be worn on the left shoulder. This style of wearing the thread is known as ‘savya’. When it is worn on the right shoulder it is known as ‘Apasavya’. When worn as a necklace, it is known as ‘Nivit’.

F. Offering ‘kshan’: During the ritual of shraddha, the deity and the deceased ancestors’ soul are invited by offering grass twigs (darbha) to them. This is called the offering ‘kshan’.

G. Pishangi: Rangoli drawn using ash and with chanting of mantras, around the meal plate arranged for the priest (Brahmin) is called as pishangi. (Offering food to priest (Brahmin) is considered as an important part of Shraddha.Rangoli is drawn in a clockwise direction (similar to circumambulation) around the food offering plate arranged for the deity and in the reverse direction around the plate arranged for the ancestors’ soul. Pishangi is one of the aspects of the ritual of shraddha. Nowadays, Pishangi is drawn only in case of offering of Pinda (Pinda daan). However,Pishangi should be drawn during all types of shraddha.

H. Vikir: During Shraddha, after finishing offering of Pinda (Pinda daan) and worship of Pinda, ‘Savya’ is performed and a morsel of rice is kept in front of the plate with the food offering arranged for the deity. This is termed as Vikir.

I: Prakir: After performing Vikir, ‘Apasavya’ is done and a morsel of rice is kept in front of the plate which has the meal arranged for deceased ancestors’ soul. This is called as Prakir.

J: Ucchista Pinda: After performing Prakir, pinda is kept for the ones who have died by getting burnt in a fire or due to partial burning or for the dead fetus, near the plate of food arranged for the deceased ancestors’ soul or close to other offerings of pinda.

K: Shraddha Sampat: If two shraddhas occur on the same date (as per Hindu calendar) then it is termed asShraddha Sampat.

2. Tarpan and Pitru tarpan

2.1 Tarpan

1. Significance and meaning: Trup’ means satisfying others. The word ‘Tarpan’ has been formed from the root word ‘Trup’. Offering water to God, Sages, ancestors’ soul and human beings and satisfying them through it is calledtarpan.

2. Objective: The objective of performing tarpan is that God, deceased ancestors’ souls etc whose names are pronounced while performing Tarpan, should bestow happiness on us.

3. Types: Brahmayadnyang (performed during sacrificial fires), snanang (performed daily after bath), shraddhang(performed during Shraddha) are the various types of Tarpans that are part of the various rituals and should be performed during the respective occasions.

4. Method of performing Tarpan

· Bodhayan has mentioned that ‘Tarpan should be performed at the riverside’. While performing Tarpan at the riverside, one should stand in the river so that the water level touches the belly button or one should performtarpan by sitting on the banks of the river.

· Tarpan for God and Sages should be performed by facing East and that for deceased ancestors’ souls it should be performed by facing South.

· As per science, tarpan for God should be performed after doing ‘Savya’, that for Sages should be performed after doing ‘Nivit’ and for deceased ancestors’ souls after doing ‘Apasavya’.

· A dried grass twig (darbha) is necessary for performing tarpan. Tarpan for God is performed from the tip of thedarbha, tarpan for Sages should be performed by folding the darbha in the middle, and tarpan for deceased ancestors’ souls should be performed from the tip and root of the two darbhas.

· Offering of water (tarpan) to deities should be done using the finger tips, while offering of water to Sages should be done from the base of the little finger and the third finger and that to the deceased ancestors’ souls should be done through the mid of the thumb and the first finger of the hand.

· Tarpan should be performed taking one handful (anjali) of water for each deity, two handful of water for Sages and three handful of water for deceased ancestors’ souls. In case of matrutrayi (mother-grandmother and great grandmother) three handful of water should be used and for other females ancestors’ souls one handful of water should be used for tarpan.(8)

(Original meaning of word ‘anjali’ is handful (‘onjal’). In this context, however, ‘giving one handful (anjali) of water fortarpan’ is to indicate that the tarpan should be given only once – compiler)

2.2. Pitru tarpan

1. Meaning: Offering of water to deceased ancestors’ souls (pitar) is called as Pitru tarpan. A Jivatpitruk is not allowed to perform Pitrutarpan.

2. Why should it be done? Apart from expectation of Pinda and offering of food to priests (Brahmins) from its descendants, the deceased ancestors’ souls also expect offering of water (udak) from them.

3. Importance: By performing tarpan, the deceased ancestors’ souls not only get satisfied and leave us, but they also bestow long life, radiance, superior intellect (brahmavarchaswa), wealth, success and foodstuff (ability to digest the food consumed) on the host performing the tarpan and satisfies him too.

4. Pitrutirtha: When should it be done?

· Tarpan for God, Sages and deceased ancestors’ souls should be performed regularly (daily). The daily ritual of tarpan should be accomplished in the early morning after having bath. If it is not possible to performShraddha for deceased ancestors’ souls daily, then one should at least perform tarpan.

· Pitru tarpan should be performed on the day following the day on which Parvan Shraddha is performed.

5. Tarpan of sesame seeds (tila tarpan): Sesame seeds should be used in the ritual of Pitru tarpan. Sesame seeds are available in two varieties, black and white. Black sesame seeds should be used for Shraddha. If sesame seeds are not available then gold or silver should be used.

· Tila tarpan means offering sesame seeds mixed in water to the deceased ancestors’ souls.

· Tila tarpan (as a part of Shraddha) should be offered to the same number of ancestors’ souls for whom the shraddha has been performed.

· Tila tarpan is performed before Darsha shraddha and in case of annual shraddha; tila tarpan is performed on the following day of the shraddha. In case of any other shraddha, tila tarpan is performed just after performing the shraddha.

· Tila tarpan is not performed during Nandi Shraddha, Sapindi Shraddha etc. (9)

6. Importance of performing tila tarpan

· Sesame seeds are the favorites of deceased ancestors’ souls.

· By usage of sesame seeds, the demons do not obstruct the ritual of Shraddha.

  • On the day of Shraddha, sesame seeds should be sprinkled all over the house, sesame seeds mixed in water should be given to the invited priests (Brahmins) and sesame seeds should be donated. - Jaiminiya Ghruya sutra (2.1), Boudhayan Dharmasutra (2.8.8) and Boudhayan Ghruya sutra.

When can females perform Shraddha?

1. Importance of performing Shraddha by oneself

‘Ideally, the host should perform the ritual of Shraddha by himself. However, since we do not know how to perform it, we get it done through the priest (Brahmin). Nowadays, it has become difficult to get priests for performing Shraddha. As a solution to this, one can procure the holy texts that describe the ritual and learn it by heart. This text is in Sanskrit. Akin to learning other languages, one should also try and learn Sanskrit, which is considered to be God’s language. Also, it is easy to learn Sanskrit.

(Although the point mentioned above is correct, considering the complexity in pronouncing certain Sanskrit words and limitation to understand the rites mentioned in the science, it may not be possible for everyone to perform the ritual as prescribed, by themselves. In such cases one can get the ritual performed through priests and if they are not available, then the ritual can be performed with the help of knowledgeable people in society. One should remember that making the ritual of shraddha is more important - Compiler).

2. Hindu Dharma that does not give any cause for excuse for not performing shraddha due to the absence of a particular person!

Son (including the one whose threading ceremony has not been done), daughter, grandson, great grandson, wife, daughter’s son (if he is one of the heirs), real brother, nephew, cousin’s son, father, mother, daughter-in-law, son of elderly and younger sisters, maternal uncle, anyone in the seven generations and from the same lineage (sapinda), anyone after the seven generations and belonging to the same family domain (samanodak), disciple, priests (upadhyay), friend, son-in-law of the deceased person can perform Shraddha in that order.

In case of a joint family, the eldest and earning male person should perform Shraddha. In case of the unit family, everyone should perform shraddha independently. (9)

Hindu Dharma has made arrangement so that for each and every dead person the shraddha can be performed so as to give momentum to that person to progress to a higher sub-plane. Holy text Dharma Sindhu mentions that, ‘If a particular dead person does not have any relative or a close person, then it is the duty of the king to performShraddha for that person’.

(In spite of numerous avenues being available, Hindus do not perform shraddha. Then, who will help such Hindus? - Compiler)

3. Performance of Shraddha by females

1. In point 2 it is mentioned that the daughter, wife, mother and daughter-in-law of the deceased person have the authority to perform Shraddha. In spite of this, in the current era, the priests who conduct Shraddha deny their consent for females to perform Shraddha. This could be because in the earlier days the thread ceremony was  performed for females, and in current era, this practice has been discontinued in all classes. Therefore, in accordance to that, even performing of Shraddha has been disallowed for females. In emergency conditions, however, if no one is available for performing Shraddha, then it is better for it to be performed by females instead of not performing it at all.

2. The female performing shraddha should place a clean cotton cloth on her shoulder while performing ‘Savya-Apasavya

Brahman Bhojan, Agnoukaran & Pindapujan Ritual

1. Preparation for serving the meal at the time of shraddha

The brahmin invited for the place of the deceased ancestors (pitars) in the ritual is seated facing the north. He is called the pitar-brahman. The brahmin invited for the place of Deity in the ritual is seated facing the east. He is calleddev-brahman. A small square is marked with water on the ground in front of the Dev-brahman from the northwest to the northeast and the banana leaf is placed on it to offer the meal to him. A circle is marked on the ground with water in front of the pitar-brahman in the same way. Thereafter the meal is served on leaves to the Family Deity, Deities worshipped traditionally in the house, cow, for pindbhojan etc. A sheath of Holy ash (bhasma) is drawn around the leaf to prevent negative energies from creating obstacles in the meal.

The three main aspects of the ritual of shraddha are:

· Offering oblation in the fire (Agnoukaran). In the Rugved period, pitrupuja was performed by offering the pindaas oblation in the sacrificial fire.

· Offering meal to the brahmins (Brahman-bhojan)

· Pindpujan, that is, offering the pinda.

2. Ritual of Agnoukaran in the Mahalaya shraddha

In agnoukaran ritual, ghee is first smeared on the leaves to purify them. The person performing shraddha sits in front of the pitar-brahman, places cooked rice on a small leaf, and puts ghee on it. This heap of rice is parted in two with the help of a darbha. Fire in the form of darbha is installed on the hand. After making two parts of the rice, the person performing shraddha picks up some rice from the center of the rice on the north side in his right hand. He smears it with ghee by his left hand and places it in the hand of the pitar-brahman. This action means, oblation topitars in the form of Soma, that is, Deity and to fire.

A rule laid down by the Vedas is, The entire world is in the form of fire (Agni) and Soma. In the agnoukaran ritual, by offering oblation of rice in the form of Soma Principle in the fire which is in the form of darbha, the pitars get the essence of food.

3. Serving meal to the brahmins in the Mahalaya shraddha

For this meal, food items are served on a banana leaf in a specific manner. The person performing the shraddha sits in front of the Dev-brahman by placing his folded right knee on the ground and offers the leaf to Vishvedev. Then by holding the right hand of the Dev-brahman, meal is offered to Vishvedev. A prayer is made, ‘Let this food be partaken’ and also, ‘Let the fruit of offering food close to Vishnupad at Gaya ji be acquired.

In the ritual of shraddha, reference to Gaya ji appears many times. The place, Gaya ji is charged with subtle, inferior desire vibrations. Hence, shraddha performed there is more fruitful.

· The banana leaf is offered to the pitars by placing the bent left knee on the ground in front of the pitar-brahman.

· The food is offered by holding the hand of the pitar-brahman in a reverse manner.

· Now the person performing the shraddha says, ‘I have offered you the meal considering you in place of mypitars of this particular lineage (gotra). Please partake it. Let me acquire the fruit similar to food offered at Gaya.

· Now both the brahmans offer pranahuti.

· Shlokas should be recited during the meal of brahmans (brahman bhojan).

· After the meal is over, the person performing the shraddha stands up and asks, ‘Are you satiated?’

· Brahmans express their agreement. The person performing the shraddha asks, ‘What should be done with the remaining food?’ Brahmins say, ‘Let the family members have it as Holy sacrament (prasad).’

The Moon channel gets activated by sitting with the right knee on the ground. Hence, the person performing theshraddha can easily receive the frequencies of Deities. The Sun channel gets activated by sitting with the left knee on the ground. Sun channel is associated with raja guna. It becomes easier to invoke the pitars with the help of thisraja guna. In a way, brahman bhojan is an oblation given in the fire present in the stomachs of the pitars and Deities.

4. How are the pitars in various forms of existence satisfied by the food offered in the ritual of the shraddha ?

For the nourishment of the physical body, gross food is necessary. Deceased ancestors do not have the sheath of the physical body (annamaya-kosh) but have the mental sheath (manomaya-kosh) containing desires. Stomach getting full and becoming satiated are two different things. As per the Science of Spirituality, getting satisfied is associated with the subtle body. The necessary subtle essence of food is carried to the deceased ancestors, in the form of Divine nectar if they are in Deity form of existence, as edibles if they are in the celestial being form of existence and as meat if they are in the form of demons.

5. If a person (Jiva) is already reborn, what is the use of taking his name?

To give the portion offered to the deceased ancestors in the shraddha to the particular subtle body is the responsibility of the Deities of Pitruloka. The mental sheath, that is, the baggage of previous birth accompanies a person. The action addressed to this baggage definitely reaches there. If without any reason we suddenly feel satiated on some day, we can surmise that somewhere our son from the previous birth has performed our shraddha.

6. The Pindapujan of Mahalaya Shraddha

The Pindapujan has been mentioned in the Yajurveda, Brahman, Shrutis and the Gruhya Scriptures. According to Mahabharat, Varahadeva, the incarnation of Sri Vishnu, gave complete information about shraddha to the world. He took out three pindas from His molar tooth and kept in the south direction on a darbha. Proclaiming that ‘these threepindas should be considered as the forms of the father, grandfather and great grandfather’, He performed ritualistic worship of the pindas with sesame seeds.

The remaining portion of the rice meant for Agnaukaran is added along with Tilodak, black sesame seeds, curd, honey and ghee to the rice. Four big pindas and other small pindas are made as per requirement. The big pindasshould be of the size of a Bel fruit. The venue is purified with the Tilodak and darbha is spread on it. Darbha is purified. While placing every pinda, the person performing the shraddha says, ‘I am offering the pinda in the name of so-and-so relative of so-and-so name in the form of Vasu or Rudra or Aditya of so-and-so lineage, that is, gotra. It is my faith that I am offering the pinda in Gaya.'

After offering a pinda for those about whom one has definite information, a Dharmapinda is offered. This Dharmapindais given to the deceased ancestors who are in the Hell region of Asipatravan and Kumbhipak, those whose family lineage has ended and others. Kajal is made by mixing ghee with burnt darbha. The deceased ancestors in the form the pinda are offered kajal, a thread of wool, a flower, a Tulasi leaf, maize, incense, lamp etc. They are then offered Holy sacrament (naivedya), water for drinking, washing hands and cleaning the mouth and a betel leaf for mouth freshness. Now the person performing the shraddha stands, offers barley and black sesame seeds and says, “O my deceased ancestors! I Pray for food and strength for my family and that all should progress. O deceased ancestors! Grace us with wellbeing.’ Thereafter the Pitru-brahman is given Tilodak and the Dev-brahmin Yavodak and water is released on the pinda.

Tilodak is offered on a special pinda made for those deceased ancestors who had died by burning in fire or who died in the womb. The person performing the shraddha asks, ‘Are the Vishvedev appeased ?’ ‘Are the deceased ancestors appeased ?’ After saying, ‘Let all the Deities be appeased and the karma of shraddha be done as per the Scriptures’, the person performing the shraddha pays obeisance. The priests say, ‘'Let the desire of the person performing the shraddha be fulfilled by the grace of Deities and the deceased ancestors’'. Thereafter, the other members of the family pay obeisance to the pindas.

After this, the person performing the Shraddha remembers the seven places that bestow Final Liberation; Ayodhya, Mathura, Gaya, Kashi, Avantika, Dwaraka and Jagannathapuri and places the pindas in a big vessel.

The person performing the shraddha pays obeisance after the conclusion of the ritual. The pindas are immersed in clean flowing water before sunset. Food is served on a leaf outside the house for the crow. In the ritual of tarpan, firsttarpan is done for the Vishvedev and thereafter for the deceased ancestors. The person performing the shraddhasays, ‘I am offering water, I am offering water, I am offering water in the name of so-and-so relative of so-and-so name in the form of Vasu or Rudra or Aditya of so-and-so lineage, that is, gotra.’ Thereafter for the sake of those born in the family lineage (gotra) who had no sons, a corner of a cloth is dipped in the Tilodak, the cloth is squeezed and water is released.

Subtle experience of the subtle at the time of the pindapujan in a ritual of shraddha: Some pindas are placed at the center of the darbha. Four Dharmapindas are placed in the four corners. Red rays are emitting from thedharmapindas, a symbol of dharmashakti. Yellow spirals of Chaitanya are seen around the pindas of pitars.

7. Options available if one is unable to perform the ritual

If a person is unable to perform this ritual, many options are open to him. If brahmin is not available for brahman bhojan, darbha is used. If performing the ritual is not possible, then merely reciting the ritual with faith is also useful. The person can choose any option. The main objective in clarifying all this is that shraddha must be performed inpitru-paksha. The importance of faith in the ritual of shraddha has been explained in Brahmapurana as:

तस्‍माच्‍छ्राद्धं नरो भवत्‍या
शाकैरपि यथाविधि
कुर्वीत श्रद्ध्‌या तस्‍य
कुले कश्‍चिन्‍न सीदति ।।

Meaning: If a person performs shraddha using mere grass but with faith and devotion, then nobody in his family becomes unhappy.

When should the Shraddha be performed?

1. In general appropriate dates for performing shraddha

Normally, no moon night, 12 sankrants in a year, solar-lunar eclipses, Yugadhi and Manvadi dates, Ardhodayadi parva, date of death, arrival of Shrotriya priests (Brahmins) etc dates are considered appropriate for performingshraddha.

2. Hindu Dharma does not give any chance to anyone to say that the shraddha was not performed due to non-feasibility in a particular period!

· Normally every year Shraddha should be performed on the date of death of the person (as per the Hindu calendar and not as per the English calendar.) If the date is not known and only the month is known, then in that case the shraddha can be performed on the no moon night of that month.

· If both, the date as well as the month is unknown then the shraddha can be performed on the no moon night of the Hindu calendar month of Magh or Margashirsha.

· If the definite date of death is not known then the shraddha can be performed on the date when the news of the death was received.

· Shraddha for deceased ancestors’ souls should be performed everyday and it can be achieved just by offering water (tarpan) to them.

· If it is impossible to perform Shraddha daily, then Darsha Shraddha should be performed. This fulfills the requirement of doing the Shraddha daily. Darsha means no moon night. Therefore Darsha Shraddha is the one, which is performed on the no moon night of every month.

· If it is not possible to perform Darsha Shraddha every month, one should at least perform it on the no moon night of Hindu calendar months of Chaitra, Bhadrapad and Ashwin months.

· If it is not possible even to perform Darsha Shraddha on no moon nights of Chaitra, Bhadrapad and Ashwin, then at least the ritual of Mahalaya should be performed in the Pitru fortnight of the month of Bhadrapad. If this too is impossible thenShraddha should be performed on the no moon night of the month of Bhadrapad (sarva pitri amavasya) (11)

(Hindu Dharma has kept so many provisions to act in a righteous manner. In spite of this, Hindus do not perform Shraddha and other rituals. Then who will help such Hindus? – Compiler.)

3. Appropriate time of the day

If the day is divided into 5 parts, then the fourth part is called the ‘Aparanha’ period. This period is most appropriate for performing shraddha.

(Reasons for ‘Aparanha’ period and no moon night being the most appropriate time for performing shraddha are described under the point 7 in volume 2).

4. Special dates for performing Shraddha and the benefits derived after performing shraddha for deceased ancestors’ souls on these dates

4.1 Kalpadi date (tithi): Lord Brahma’s day is considered as the day of origin. This is also called as Kalpadi tithi. The 1st and 5th day of Chaitra, 3rd day of Vaishakh, 7th day of Kartik, 9th day of Margashirsha, 13th day of Magh, 3rd day of Falgun (all days from the bright fortnight) indicate the start of the era (kalpa). As per the science, ifshraddha is performed on these dates, the deceased ancestors’ souls get satisfied.

4.2 Akshayya Trutiya (3rd day within the bright fortnight of Vaishakh): Akshayya Trutiya indicates the start of the Kruta era. The benefits derived by performing rituals like Shraddha, Tarpan for deceased ancestors’ souls and donations on this date is everlasting. Therefore one should at least perform Apinda Shraddha or Tarpan for their deceased ancestors’ souls.

The holy texts of Puranas say that, on the day of Akshayya Trutiya one should donate uncooked food (aamanna), a water pot, a fan made of mint grass, an umbrella, footwear etc with the intension of offering them to the deceased ancestors’ souls. It is mentioned in Garud Puran that, once the donations are made with the intention of offering them to deceased ancestors’ souls on this day, the messengers of Lord Yama do not cause distress to the ancestors’ souls.

यमदूता महारौद्राः करालाः कृष्णपि्ङःगलाः ।
न पीडयंति दाक्षिण्याद्वस्त्रा भरणदानतः ।।

Meaning: When clothes and ornaments are donated, the dark, brown eyed, cruel messengers of Lord Yama having sharp and long teeth do not cause distress to the deceased ancestors’ souls.

4.3 Pitru fortnight (Pitrupaksha) (Mahalaypaksha)

4.3.1 Importance

1. The dark fortnight in the Hindu calendar month of Bhadrapad is called as ‘Pitrupaksha’. This fortnight is very dear to the deceased ancestors’ souls. If Mahalay Shraddha is performed for the deceased ancestors’ souls during this fortnight, they remain satisfied for the entire year.

2. श्राद्धं कन्यागते भानौ यो न कुर्याद् गृहाश्रमी ।
धनं पुत्राः कुततस्य पितृकोपाग्निपीडनात् ।।
यावच्च कन्यातुलयोः क्रमादास्ते दिवाकरः ।
शून्यं प्रेतपुरं तावद् यावद् वृश्चिकदर्शनम् ।।
- Mahabharat

Meaning: The householder who does not perform shraddha during the period when the Sun is in the Virgo sign, how will he earn money and be gifted with a baby boy as he would have enraged the deceased ancestors’ souls? Additionally, the abode for deceased ancestors’ souls remains vacant till the Sun moves from Virgo and Libra sign to the Scorpio sign.  The abode for deceased ancestors’ souls remaining vacant during this period implies that the deceased ancestors’ souls come closer to their descendants for blessing them and if Shraddha is not performed, they give curse to their descendants and return. Due to this it is important to perform Shraddha during this period.

4.3.2 The deceased ancestors that arrive at the occasion of Mahalay Shraddha

1. Father, grandfather, great grandfather (Pitrutrayi)

10. Maternal uncle

2. Mother, grandmother and great grandmother (matrutrayi)

11. Brother

3. Step mother

12. Father’s sisters

4. Mother’s father, grandfather and great grandmother (matamahatrayi)

13. Mother’s sisters

5. Mother’s mother, grandmother and great grandmother

14. Sisters

6. Wife

15. Father-in-law

7. Sons

16. Other relatives

8. Daughters

17. Guru (if the Guru-disciple relationship exists)

9. Paternal cousins

18. Disciple (if the Guru-disciple relationship exists)

Preparation and the method of Mahalay Shraddha

1. Deities of Shraddha

Our deceased ancestors could be in various forms of being and they need food according to that form of being. Except in the Earth region, food is unavailable in any other subtle region. In the ritual of Mahalaya Shraddha, Vasu, Rudra and Aditya are the presiding Deities of the deceased ancestors. Vasu means desire, Rudra means dissolution and Aditya means Absolute Fire Principle and action. With the combination of the three, the father, grandfather and great grandfather respectively can be liberated.

The mission associated with the presiding Deities of the departed ancestors

Presiding Deity of
the departed ancestors

Associated mission

Vasu

Desire

Rudra

Dissolution

Aditya

Action

During the ritual of Shraddha the Vishvedevs called Pururav-Ardrav and Dhurilochan are also invoked. Vishvedev means the ‘group of Deities which represents the Deities during a sacrificial fire’.

2. When should one perform Mahalaya Shraddha during the Pitrupaksha?

The Mahalay Shraddha is performed on the tithi of the death of the father of the person doing Shraddha during the Pitrupaksha. If the tithi is not known, perform the Shraddha on the no moon day (Amavasya) of the month ofBhadrapad according to the Shaka Samvat and according to Vikram Samvat on the Amavasya of the month ofAshwin.

3. Preparation for the ritual of Mahalaya Shraddha

The person performing the Shraddha and the person invited for the meal to be offered to brahmin should not take meals and avoid physical relations with a woman on the previous night of the day of Shraddha. As far as possible theShraddha should be performed on the ground floor of the residence. The venue of the Shraddha ritual should be clean.

3.1 Substances required for the Mahalaya Shraddha

First collect the list of substances required for the Mahalaya Shraddha from the ritual booklets or the priest invited for the ritual. As far as possible collect all the instruments one day in advance. The substances essential for this ritual other than the normal substances required for a ritualistic worship are – barley, black sesame seeds, maize and basil leaves. Nowadays, two priests are invited for the ritual. One priest sits facing the north which is the place of the ancestors. The other priest sits facing the east which is the place of Gods. The person performing the Shraddha sits facing the south-east. One more place is made for the priest narrating the ritual.

3.2 Preparation for the person performing Shraddha

Due to various incidents taking place during daily life a black covering is created on our body. From the viewpoint of gaining benefits from the ritual, some religious actions are done before commencing the ritual of Shraddha like wearing the Holy thread, applying the Holy ash, partaking of the five substances, that is, panchagavya, sipping of water, that is, achaman etc.

3.3 Religious actions to be performed before the main ritual

It is essential for the person performing the Shraddha to perform some important religious actions before the actual ritual of Shraddha.

· The person performing the Shraddha should wear a white dhoti and an upavastra for the ritual.

· He should commence the ritual with sipping of water, that is, achaman.

· After this, he should apply Holy ash on the various parts of the body.

· Thereafter he should hold darbha, that is, a specific type of grass in hand and on various parts of the body.

· Now he should make a ritualistic narration to God about the time period and the time of the ritual.

· After this he should make a resolve for the ritual. In Mahalaya he should make a resolve for the Vishvedev called Dhurilochan.

· After this he should make apasavya, that is, hold the Holy thread on the right shoulder and make a resolve for the ancestors.

In this, the person performing the Shraddha says, “I am performing the Shraddha of my father, grandfather and great grandfather who are in the form of Vasu, Rudra and Aditya who are born in so-and-so lineage”. In addition to the three paternal ancestors, in Mahalaya Shraddha a resolve is made for the three maternal ancestors, that is, mother, her father and grandfather as also grandmother and great grand mother, wife, sons on whom the sanskar of Holy thread was performed, daughters, paternal uncles, maternal uncles, brothers, paternal aunts, maternal aunts, sister, father-in-law, mother-in-law, Guru, the one who imparts knowledge, guide and those who are born in the same lineage but have no closer relatives in the world, who are dead.

· After this, invoke the Holy rivers of Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati etc. and prepare Yavodak, that is, the water mixed with sandalwood paste, flower, Basil leaf, that is, Tulasi, coins, a betel nut and darbha.

· Similarly prepare Tilodak, that is, the water mixed with black sesame seeds and maize and charge it by reciting mantras.

· Now he should purify himself by sprinkling the charged water first on himself and thereafter purify the venue of the ritual.

Spiritual importance of ‘Tilodak’: There is charged Tilodak in the copper vessel. Due to it, the momentum of the subtle deceased ancestor-frequencies is increased. Due to this momentum, a whirlpool charged with attraction-energy is created. The subtle body is attracted towards the whirlpool.

To make the Karmakanda of Shraddha ritual successful, the person performing the Shraddha (host) and the venue of the Shraddha are purified with the charged Tilodak. The various religious rituals in Hindu Dharma are spiritual experiments in themselves. Science originated from the science of Spirituality. Hence, this same process happens in science too.

3.4 The welcome of the priest and Annaprokshan

The host of the Shraddha holds in hand a spoon, water pot, darbha and sesame seeds and does circumambulation around the priest. He pays obeisance by prostrating on the ground in the south-east direction. Then placing the Holy thread on the right shoulder he says, “We will keep aside anger, observe celibacy even at the mental level and perform the Shraddha”.

The host says, ‘Let me get the authority today to perform the Shraddha of my father and grandfather’. Thereafter he hands over the darbha to the God-priest. This action is called ‘giving kshan’. Then he gives kshan to the Pitru-priest. Now, in front of the God-priest, the darbha of Yavodak is moved in this manner and a line is drawn with barley. In front of the Pitru-priest, the Tilodak is used first and then black sesame seeds are used. Now circumambulation is done in reverse direction around oneself, that is, from his right to left and the sesame seeds are showered in the eight directions. Then one goes in the kitchen and the charged water is sprinkled on the food. By showering of sesame seeds in the four directions by the host, round circles of frequencies of deceased ancestors are created in the premise. The subtle bodies of the deceased ancestors situated in the premise are attracted to these circles. By doing this ritual the premise gets the form of the region of Pitar.

3.5 Invocation and worship of Vishvedev

Now the Holy thread is placed on the left shoulder and sitting in front of the God-priest a prayer is said, ‘O Vishvedev, the most powerful one ! Please come here and get this ritual done attentively. Now the Holy thread is placed on the right shoulder and sitting in front of the Pitru-priest a prayer is said. Then barley and darbha are placed below the God-priest and a seat is offered to Vishvedev. Two vessels for giving ‘arghya’ are kept in the front and Yavodak and barley are put in it. These vessels are charged with mantra. Now transferring the barley from left hand to right hand, he puts it on the body of the priest, from the feet to the head. The remaining barley he keeps on the ground and gives ‘arghya’ with the right hand. He performs worship with sandalwood paste, flowers, incense stick and a lamp.

3.6 Invocation and worship of the ancestors

· The host takes the Holy thread on his right shoulder and hands over the sandalwood, maize and a flower to the Pitru-priest. He waves incense stick in an anti-clockwise direction and performs arati with a lamp.

· The betel nut, darbha and sesame seeds are placed in the hands of the Pitru-priest and with this the rituals of this worship are complete.

· The host says, "If there is any mistake on my part in the worship, please forgive me."

· Water, flower and sesame seeds are put in the vessel kept in front of the Pitru-priest.

· Placing a hand on the vessel, it is charged with mantra.

· Now the sesame seeds are put on the body of the Pitru-priest right from the feet to the head.

· Now ‘arghya’ is offered to the deceased ancestors. After this the host stands in one place and does circumambulation around himself.

Why should every son perform ritual of Shraddha?

1. Objectives of performing Shraddha

A. Providing momentum to the deceased ancestors present in the Pitru region so that they can progress to a higher sub-plane of existence, through the means of Shraddha.

B. Satisfying wishes and desires of the souls of the deceased ancestors from ones' family who are trapped in the negative regions due to unfulfilled desires and providing momentum for their further progress.

C. Some deceased ancestors, due to their evil deeds, become ghosts and reside in hell instead of nether region. Through the medium of ritual of Shraddha, one can relieve them from being trapped in this form.

The process through which the above objectives are met through Shraddha is documented under the title 'Effects ofShraddha' in Volume 2.

2. Importance and need of performing Shraddha

A. Repaying the debt to ancestors is as important as repaying the debt to God, Sages and the society. It is the duty of descendants to respect their ancestors, make donations in their name and to undertake activities that will please them. Performing Shraddha is a part of obeying Dharma, as per science of Dharma.

B. Ancestors' soul becomes satisfied only after receiving pinda and water from their son. In relation to this, following is a verse in the holy text Mahabharat that describes 'who qualifies to be called as son':

पुन्नाम्नो नरकाद्यस्मात्पितरं त्रायते सुत: ।
तस्मात्पुत्र इति प्रोक्त: स्वयमेव स्वयंभुवा ।।
- Mahabharat 1.74.39

Meaning: The son protects his ancestors' souls from the Hell named 'Puta'. Therefore Lord Brahma himself has named him as 'Putra'.

As per the above verse, to enable the deceased ancestors to progress to a higher sub-plane, to relieve them from experiencing severe and everlasting distress and to initiate them to bestow grace on their descendants, every son should perform ritual of Shraddha. It is amply clear in the verse that the one who is believed to be a son, he should perform these duties.

C. देवपितृकार्याभ्यां न प्रमदितव्यम ।
- Taittiriya Upanishad 1.11

Meaning: One should not commit mistakes in any task performed towards God or ancestors' souls. One should not avoid these rituals.

D. Following verse, regarding people who do not perform Shraddha, in the holy text Gita is insightful

पतन्ति पितरो ह्येषां लुप्तपिन्डोदकक्रिया
- Shrimadbhagwatgita 1.42

Meaning: Due to the nonperformance of rituals like pinda shraddha and offering water to deceased ancestors etc, the ancestors of such people (who do not perform Shraddha) have to reside in the Hell region. This results in stagnation and no progress of the descendants.(?)

E. Sage Sumantu has said, 'श्राद्धात् परतरं नान्यत् श्रेयस्करम् उदाहृतम् ।', meaning that nothing is as superior as the ritual of Shraddha. Therefore, a person having a pure intellect to discriminate between right and wrong should never abstain from performing Shraddha.

F. Brahmavaivarta Puran says, 'Activities related to deceased ancestors are more important than those related to God'. Therefore every sacred ceremony begins with Nandi Shraddha.

G. Brahma Puran says, 'One who performs the ritual of Shraddha diligently and in accordance with ones financial state, he satisfies everyone right from Lord Brahma to the insignificant blade of grass.  No one in the family of the person performing Shraddha remains unhappy.' (4)

H. If soul of a deceased person wishes that 'someone should perform Shraddha for me' and if it does not get fulfilled from the expected descendant, then it becomes unhappy due to non-fulfillment of the desire. Such soul can transform into an evil spirit (a type of negative energy) and cause distress to its relatives for not performing the ritual of Shraddha.

At times, souls of deceased persons manifest in their relatives and they start talking. An example of this is mentioned below:

Once a spirit manifested in a person and then the person started leaping. H.H. Khshirsagar Maharaj from Ahmednagar started a conversation with him and asked, 'Who are you?' He answered, 'I am the father of this person'. Maharaj further asked him, 'What is purpose of your arrival?' The father's soul manifested in the person answered, 'He does not feed me. He does not perform Shraddha. I am starving.' (?)

I. At the time of death if a person feels, 'Shraddha is meaningless and nobody should perform Shraddha for me after my death' and later because of Shraddha having not been performed, after his death, he experiences that, 'I am trapped', even then he cannot convey this feeling to anyone. He could become unhappy because of his wish remaining unfulfilled. Taking this point into consideration, it is absolutely necessary to perform Shraddha for every deceased person.

J. By performing ritual of Shraddha for a deceased person, the give-and-take account that exists with that person gets fulfilled, e.g. if we owe something to a person and he dies before we could repay him, then by the virtue of performing Shraddha the loan can be repaid.

K. In the current age, people do not perform rituals like Shraddha or spiritual practice the way it used to be done earlier. Therefore most of the people experience distress due to unsatisfied ancestors' souls. Only spiritually evolved (saints) can tell us if we are suffering due to distress caused by ancestors' souls or if we might face such distress in the future. If it is not possible to take guidance from a spiritually evolved person, then the following problems can be assumed to be caused by ancestors' souls – regular clashes between the family members, unable to cope up any family member, unemployment, unable to save any money, serious illness, unable to get married in spite of all favorable conditions, unable to cope up with the partner after marriage, unable to conceive, abortion, giving birth to a physically or mentally handicapped baby and developing addictions.  By performing Shraddha one gets relieved from the distress caused by the deceased ancestors since the deceased ancestors get satisfied and if they are trapped in a particular region, they get momentum to progress to a higher sub-planes and in turn the descendents are able to obtain their blessings.

(Spiritual experiences related to 'Unsatisfied ancestors' souls causing distress to their family members and the effect getting nullified after performing Shraddha' and 'Obtaining assistance and blessings from deceased ancestors' souls' are given in point 19, along with the 'Importance of chanting the Name of Lord Datta, in a manner which is equivalent to performing the ritual of Shraddha, in reference to providing momentum to the ancestors' souls and to protect oneself from the distress caused by the unsatisfied ancestors' souls')

3. Benefits of performing Shraddha

A. The ritual of Shraddha is sacrificial fire performed for deceased ancestors and it is a sacred, beneficial bestows blessings for conceiving a baby boy. The benefits derived after performing the ritual of Shraddha are mentioned inSmrutichandrika and other holy texts in the form of a verse as follows:

आयु: पुत्रान् यश: स्वर्गं कीर्ति पुष्टिं बलं श्रिय: ।
पशून् सौख्यं धनं धान्यं प्राप्नुयात् पितृपूजनात् ।।

Meaning: One can conceive a baby boy and acquire a long life, success, heaven, fame, strength, wealth, animals, happiness, food, etc. by worshipping (performing Shraddha for) deceased ancestors.

B. If the ritual of Shraddha is performed on the day of an eclipse, the host derives benefit similar to the one obtained after donating a piece of land to someone. (5)

C. Refer to the items B, G and K within point 6. 'Importance and need of performing Shraddha' and point 9 A 3. 'Shraddha done for a purpose'

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