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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Pitru Paksha (Mahaalaya Paksha) 2016

 Pitr Paksha (Mahaalaya Pakshaa ) is to be observed from September 16 to September 30th this year (2016) throughout the world except those living in Australia, New Zealand, and other Far East countries who must observe this till October 1, 2016.

Please note that for those living in India,  September 16th is Pournima thithi and this needs to be observed ONLY IF you have an ancestor who died on Pournami thithi (so Poornima shraardh of Mahalaya Paksha is to be done for that soul on Sep 16th). Others may begin observing the austerities from Sep 17th - which is the Pratipat thithi....

For those living in USA, Canada, and other countries to the West of Atlantic, the Mahalaya paksha austerities must begin from Sep 16th itself (for them, both Poornima and Pratipata shrardh must be observed on Sep 16th).

If there is any confusion regarding interpreting this info., please get in touch with reputed vedic pandits in your region.

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 September 20, 2016

The significance of this is that Bharani is the star ruled by Yama - the Lord of Death, and observing austerities in Honour of deceased ancestors on Mahaa Bharani day (the Bharani nakshatra falling during Pitru paksha) can give relief from Naraka experiences to ancestors who might be enduring that karmic difficulty [Relief to ancestor's souls directly manifests as peace and prosperity in family; Universe has been designed in such a way that when you help a karmically suffering soul - especially of an ancestor - you get rewards from the Universe in the process].

2) Madhyaashtami - This is to be observed on September 23, 2016

3) Mahaalaya Amaavasya - This should be observed on Sept 30, 2016 throughout the world except that it is to be observed on Oct 1, 2016 by those living in Australia, New Zeland, and Fiji.

Those who have ancestors who might have taken sanyaasa and then died, Sanyastha Mahaalayam may be done on Sep 29, 2016 invoking the Grace of such a soul (technically a sanyaasi has cut the karmic bonds and so karmas for a sanyaasi must be done differently and not with the attitude we do the sharaardham of a grihasta, this sanyaastha Mahaalayam must be done like a yati samaaradhana though tarpanam, etc. might be done by the descendant ).  So, those who observe sanyastha mahaalayam may do it like an aaraadhana - remembering the Yati lineage in which the ancestor got sanyaasa, remember other Saints who inspired the ancestor to take sanyaasa, etc. and invoke Blessings of those liberated souls.

Those who want to offer special recitals for pitru trupti (satisfaction of deceased ancestors) might get in touch with me through my (please write "Pitru paksha recital request" in the subject line).

The suggested offerings are as below:

Ganga Avatarana sarga recital and Pithru sthothra recital on one day : US$25 (US Dollars twenty five only).

For the above recitals on all the days of the pitru paksha : US$300 (US Dollars three hundred only).

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. In fact, if one's father or other main kartas are not enthusiastic in performing pitru related rituals and there is consequent pitru saapa indicated in charts, descendants of such families, if they are believers must take measures to please pitrus by their own austerities or by arranging suitable recitals for peace of their ancestors.

5) QUESTION: We have pitru dosha in the family but my parents won't do shrardha or any austerity in this regard.

Solution: You may offer greens/ grass to cows; you may organize recital of Ramayana chapters (especially Ganga Avatarana sarga, Samkshepa Ramayana, etc.); you may recite or organize recital of Yama Gita; you may recite Pitru sthothra, or organize recital of it.

Apart from that, you may do simple things like reciting Raama Naama japam and offering arghyam praying that this should give trupti to ancestral souls.


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.


Gopalakrishnan Vaidyanathan said...

If one is unable to do Mahalaya Tarpan, what is the alternative?

Pandit R. DAKSHINA MOORTHI said...

Dear Shri. Gopalakrishnan:

Except very old persons who have been laid low due to nature's assault on the system, EVERYONE ELSE CAN do Mahalaya Paksham tarpanam - even if they are travelling or abroad. The tarpanam in its simplest form, won't take much time, and so there is no question of anyone not being able to do the tarpan. Maybe, a shrardham with priests may be difficult under some circumstances - in which case, you may do Aavaahanam of your pitrus on dharbha grass, and offer your tila tarpanam on those per guidelines.....and keep a portion of money as "dakshina" in Honour of pitrus which can be used for charitable purposes (this is a aapad dharma to be followed if you can't get good priests to officiate the shrardham).

We should not seek excuse for certain basic things in life - and must understand that certain duties are "mandatory." We should follow them even at the risk of having to sacrifice other things in life. Doing shrardham/ tarpanam to pitrus is such a mandatory thing....we must make it possible for us to do it.

In the worst case scenario, where we are REALLY unable to do Mahalaya Paksha (i.e. we are unable to even stand or hold water in hands due to severe physical debility), remembering pitrus with Faith itself would invoke their Grace on us (provided we have done the pitru karmas with Faith and with devotion all our lives till old age makes it impossible for us to do it in an elaborate manner).

Leaving tarpanam citing ritual impurity of one's life style is like "compounding an offence" - the first offence being living a life-style that is anathema to karmic observances, and the compounded offence is where a mandatory karma is left citing the first offence as excuse:) [I don't mean any insult to the person who raised this query but am making a general observance as I have heard people citing this excuse of "maadi can't be observed and so I don't do any karmas!"].

If there are other specific situations that really prevent you from performing the Mahalaya Tarpan, you should cite the specific situation that prevents you from doing it, and then a dharmic answer can be given for that after evaluating the situation objectively; maybe this can be discussed with a trusted family priest.

But, what I have observed in most instances is that people cite feeble excuses for "not being able to do tarpanam/ shrardham." So, if we make up our mind, we CAN do the tarpan - and this holds true for the vast majority of us. It is all a question of getting the priorities in life in the best order.

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