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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Mahalaya Paksha/ Pitr Paksha 2014

Pitr Paksha (Mahaalaya Pakshaa ) is about to begin from September 9/10, 2014.

Schedule of Mahalaya Paksha austerities for different places on the earth:

a) For those living in U.S., Canada, and other countries of American continent, Countries in Africa, Europe, and Middle-east, it is to be observed from September 9, 2014.

b) For those living in countries to the East of Persian Gulf - including India, the pitru paksha austerities must be observed from September 10, 2014.

It is a powerful period for propitiation of manes(ancestors). Pitrus are said to Grace the households of their descendants with Divine Permission from the other Planes of Existence and are waiting to Bless any descendant who is willing to Honour them in whatever little way they can.

Austerities during Pitr Paksha (applicable to those who have lost atleast one parent) include:

1) Not eating non-veg (in case of non-vegetarians).

2) Not eating onion, garlic, outside food, processed foods,drumstick, etc (for pure vegetarians).

3) If possible avoiding shaving for the entire fortnight till Mahalaya Amavasai; obviously it may not be possible for everyone due to current secular life restrictions (like office policy requiring an executive placed in a cutting-edge responsibility to be clean shaved). Even in these cases, shaving should be avoided at least on the thithis of one's ancestors (father/ mother).

4) Performing obsequies (shradh) on the thithi of the ancestor's death to the extent possible or at least offering "anna dhaanam"(offering food) to poor persons/ priests as per one's convenience.(On this day, you should not shave as already stated)

5) Abstaining from carnal intercourse with members of opposite gender during the fortnight as a mark of respect to Pitrs.

6) Doing recitals like Garuda Puraanam (depicting passage of asoul), Nachiketa story from Upanishads (where Yama Gitaa is there -it contains Lord Yamaa's elucidation of the journey of a soul which was first revealed to the devoted Nachiketaa), Pitru sthothra and Gangaa Avatarana chapter from Shrimad Vaalmiiki Raamaayan. These recitals are stated to grant satisfaction of Pitrs and thereby ensure their blessings upon us. In fact these recitals can be done even by those who have parents alive! (The other rituals like tarpanam should not be observed by those who have parents living). These are auspicious and do not come under the category of shraardha - but at the same time have the potency to give peace and happiness to the souls of ancestors of one's dynasty when they are recited. Those who cannot recite them personally may organize such recitals in honour of their ancestors with the help of vedic/ puranic experts.

Some important days during the pitru paksha
The following are auspicious days to perform shraardha to pitrus - irrespective of the thithi of their demise.
Those who cannot observe the ritual procedures/ restrictions outlined above through the pitru paksha may at least observe the ritual guidelines on these auspicious days in honour of their pitrus.

1) Mahaa Bharani - This falls on 13th Sep 2014.

2) Madhyaashtami - This is to be observed on 16th September 2014.

3) Mahaalaya Amaavasya - This should be observed on September 23, 2014 throughout the world except those living in countries to the east of India (Myanmar, Eastern parts of China, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji) who must observe this on September 24, 2014.  Even in India, there are some traditions where they observe it on September 24, 2014 since Amavasya continues to operate for some time before Noon on September 24, 2014.  But, ideally it should be observed on September 23, 2014.

Some controversial issues regarding the observance of pitru paksha rituals/ shraardham and dharma shastraic clarification for the same
1) There are many persons who feel that Mahaalaya paksha rituals need not be done in honour of step mother (called Sapatnii maataa - by shaastraas); doing it for just one's mother and father is enough. There are some who feel that only the eldest son of the second wife of one's father needs to do the shraardha if the first wife of the father died without issues.

Clarification: Though the eldest son is the first Adhikaari for rituals, when property has been divided among the brothers or when they have started living apart from each other as separate families, shraardha and other pitru rituals need to be done by each brother individually. The same holds true for honoring the Sapatnii maataa (Step mother who has died without issues also). Just think....will that Honourable Mother have taken care of just the eldest son and left the other sons in the lurch if she had been alive and the biological mother had been dead? Please use this logic for your clarity in this regard. Just as the step-mother cannot ignore the other children (nor should she!), the children also should not be partial towards performing rituals in Her Honour for Her Soul - especially if she had died without issues. This applies more sternly in cases where the eldest brother of the family is not alive. Unfortunately many families do this mistake of leaving the poor step-mother (the first wife of one's father who died without issues) after the eldest brother is dead. As long as at least one brother is alive, the sapatnii maataa should be honoured during pitru paksha on the day when you do the shraardha of your father (you can invoke one Brahman priest to represent the step-mother's lineage just as you do for your own mother's lineage). Please note that this guideline does not apply in cases where the other woman has voluntarily left one's father (say divorce), or has been indicted by a dharma parishad for undesirable behaviour and hence denied karma benefits in accordance with dharma shastraic principles after giving ample opportunity to exonerate herself. In cases where the father has done an injustice to another woman (who is no more) and has married one's mother, the son who performs rituals in honour of that wronged woman (father's first wife - who is deemed one's saptnii maataa) redeems himself from that dosha. A righteous son should try to do what he can to set right the wrongs done by his deceased parents - as and when he comes to know of that possibility. Though each person is answerable to his/ her own karma and sins, family doshas do arise out of adharmic activities of one's ancestors and these doshas do affect the family for many generations to come (usually seen as Stree saapa in the horoscope of many members of a family). Such doshas are cleared when that wronged soul is honoured appropriately in consultation with dharma shastraic experts in this regard.

2) Some think that if the annual shraardh is done properly, Mahaalaya paksha (pitru paksha) shraardha/ tarpanam need not be done!

Clarification: If you get double-increment will you say "I already got one; so please ignore me for this increment!" No one does that. Yet, when it comes to accumulating spiritual merit, we often tend to say "I have done that and so I need not do this." This attitude of excusing ourserlves from dharmic duties should be overcome consciously. Rather, we should think that the Mahaalaya paksha is a God -Given opportunity for us to honour our pitrs yet again. In fact, Mahaayalaya Paksha shraardh is mandatory, and there is no way out of it, and the benefits accruing out of Mahaalaya paksha shraardha/ tarpanam are actually more than what can accrue out of annual shraardha. The pitru paksha observance gladens our pitrus and we should not miss it for any reason. If we are unable to offer the shraardha/ tarpan on the thithi of our father, we should at least do it on the other special days like Mahaa Bharani, Madhyaashtami, or Mahaalaya Amaavasya (any one of these days). We should not miss it giving any excuse - because no such excuse exists!

3) There are some who think that if Gaya Shraardha has been done, there is no need for Mahaalaya paksha shraardha/ tarpanam.

Clarification: Gaya Shraardha is definitely a wonderful ritual for satisfaction of pitrs. But, having done that is no excuse for exempting oneself from Mahaalaya paksha tarpanam/ shraardha and annual shraardha. These should be continued as long as one is alive (or at least till one is healthy enough to carry on the rituals). Only those who are bed-ridden are exempt this due to obvious reasons! It is a sin to skip these rituals in mistaken sense of having attained a level where these are not necessary - no human being living an ordinary life is exempt these karmas. Even great rishis who were highly spiritually evolved and avatars like Shri Raama, Shri Krishna, have observed these, and obviously we are not above all of them in our spiritual standing! Only sanyaasins are exempt these because they don't have karmaa adhikaara (ritual right to perform a karma). Everyone else who has karmaadhikaara (due to death of one's parents) should observe this - even if they have done the Gaya Shraardha and Akshaya vata pinda daan.

4) Only those who have lost their parents can do any ritual to satisfy pitru devatas..

Clarification:  Shraardhas in Honour of pitrus and tarpanam in their Honour are the only activities that are restricted by the above taboo.

Activities like offering greens to cows in memory of deceased ancestors of the family, recital of Raamaayana chapter to ensure peace to the soul of deceased ancestors,  performing annadhaanam (donation of food to needy) in honour of deceased ancestors, and recital/ arranging recital of Pitru sthothra are austerities that anyone can do in honour of pitrus.


I hope these clarifications help our members to get this matter in the right perspective.

As usual we are planning recitals in which members of our site may participate as part-sponsors:

a) For recital of Ganga Avatarana chapter and Pitru sthothra for peace of ancestors  on Mahalaya Amavasya day OR Maha Bharani day, OR Madhyaashtami day  - Rs.600 (rupees six hundred only).  This can be availed by those who don't remember the thithi of their ancestors.

b) If you wish to have the recitals done on all the three main days - i.e. Mahalaya Amavasya, Maha Bharani, AND Madhyaashtami days, the recommended offering is : Rs.1500 (rupees one thousand five hundred only).

C) For recital of Pitru sthothra and Ganga Avatarana sargam on the thithi of your pitrus, the recommended offering is Rs.1200 (rupees one thousand two hundred only).

d) For recital of Ganga Avatarana chapter, and Pitru sthothra on ALL DAYS OF PITRU PAKSHA - Rs.9000/- (rupees nine thousand only).

Those who want to offer special recitals for pitru trupti (satisfaction of deceased ancestors) as above may send mail to : to know the modalities of remittance for the same.

May our members observe these dharmic guidelines in connection with Mahaalaya paksha (Pitr paksha) and become recipients of the Grace of pitrus - our Benevolent Ancestors who have the capacity to shield us from the dangers of existence and improve our luck with their Blessings.

Blessed be.


Radhika001 said...

Pranam Panditji,

I would like to know about pitr paksh rituals for a widow to perform for her husband. My inlaws have done the shraddh rituals for my husband as my son is a minor.

Going forward, Pls advise on rituals I should be doing and at what point should my son do the rituals. Many thanks for your advise.
Best Regards,

Radhika001 said...

Pranam Panditji,

I would like to know about rituals to be done by a widow for her husband. My father inlaw did the shraddh rituals for my husband as my son is a minor.

I would like to request your advice on rituals to be done by me going forward and at what age should my son be doing the same.

Thanks and Best regards,

Pandit R. DAKSHINA MOORTHI said...

Dear Smt. Radhika:

A widow might just be present at the place where the shraddh is being done, and observe vratam on that day (like avoiding ritually impure foods, avoiding rice items at night and subsisting on fruits/ light food items at night), and praying for the peace of the deceased spouse.

Your son can begin doing the shraddh as soon as he is old enough to chant mantras properly and he is given upanayana deeksha (Yajnopaveeth). Your in-laws can guide the child in the performance and you can be present at the place. Shraddh mantras should be heard by you preferably whenever feasible.

Hope this helps.

Blessed be.

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