The dark fortnight of Ashvina (September-October) is known as Pitra Paksha or Mahalaya Paksha. This is an occasion to perform writes for the departed ancestors to keep their souls indebted for years. Pitra Paksha is performed for the departed immediate relatives usually up to 3 preceding generations.
Pitra Paksha is performed from the 1st day / tithi of the Ashwin month and goes up to the following New Moon (Amavasya) day. Each of these 15 days is dedicated to the Sraddha of those ancestors who had met eternity on that particular day/tithi.
Pitra paksha is the occasion to repay debt to our departed ancestors by satisfying their souls by performing rites. For this purpose "Shraddha" is performed with a belief that the dead ones would alive amongst us. Yamaraja, the Lord of death allows the souls to come down to the earth and receive offers from their descendants. This practice is made to the dead "Pitra". The last day of this period, the new moon day, is considered as the most important day in the year for performing obsequies and rites.
One of the very important personalities of Mahabharata, Karn (supposedly brother-like to Pandavas) who is fondly remembered as "Daanveer Karn" made lots of charity in form of jewels, money, land etc. When he died and ascended to heaven, he got all that he gave in form of charity in multiples.
But, he didn't get food as he did not give food-charity. He starved for days and finally asked the "Yamraj" if he could get a chance to make for this deficiency. Yamraj allowed him and granted a period of 14 days to go back to the earth and make for it. These 14 days were used by Karan to give numerous food-charities.
When he finally returned back to the heaven, there was plenty of food available to him.
Thus, in Hindus it is considered very auspicious to donate food in form of Shraadh to poor, as whatever donated is supposed to reach directly to one's ancestors. During these days and especially on the day of new moon it is believed that the soul of the dead ones (Atmas), are permitted by Yamaraj to reach earth and receive the benefits of these rites from their children.
According to Lord Krishna "The soul never dies", it only transforms from one external form (body) to another, Thus it is believed that in whatever form our ancestors exist, the charity during this time surely reaches them.
The sons performing the rites of Pitra- Paksha are free of any Pitra-dosh and are eligible for Pitra-lok. It lasts for a fortnight and the day to perform the rituals depend on the Tithi, calculated according to the Hindu
Vedic Astrology prescribes many remedies for all the problems from simple to complex and cheapest to costly. There are many ways available to nullify the effects of Pitra Dosh. Some of the ways are described below.
It is believed that satisfying our ancestors and forefathers, we can have their blessings for peaceful and happy life. For the peace of the souls of our ancestors it is advices to perform SHRADDH. Shraadh is the ritual and ceremony performed for the departed souls of our ancestors. According to ancient texts, the Shraadh is performed during dark fortnight (Krishna Paksh) in the month of Ashwin (September & October) which reaches to the ancestors immediately and their souls will rest in peace. On the last day of the fortnight, i.e. Amavasya oblations are offered to all those dead ancestors who's Tithi (Date according to Hindu calendar) of dead is not known.
Hindu Puranas are full of details about Shraadh, especially Bramha Puran, Garud Puran,
Agni Puran and Matsya Puran. Lord Yama himself explained the importance of Shraadh performed during Pitra Paksh. All the sinful deeds committed by the ancestors are cleansed by the Shraadh, and all the ancestors bless those performing the Shraadh rituals.
The customs and the rituals performed during Pitra Paksha vary regionally. Some people fast on that day, and some do not shave for the fortnight. Some performs Puja and some offer food to the crows. According to Hindu mythology, crows represents forefathers, therefore crows are offered food in these days. On each day of the fortnight oblations of water and PINDs or balls of rice and meal are offered to the dead relatives by the surviving relatives. This process is also called PIND DAAN.
Pind Daan is generally done in the Pitra Kshetra (Area). According to Puran Pitra kshetra have been divided into five parts out of these Bodhigaya as Shira kshetra, Vaitarni as Nabhi kshetra, Pithapur as padaar kshetra, Siddhpur as Matru kshetra and Badrinath as Brahma-kapali kshetra. Thus, all these five-pitru tirtha are various organs of one body.
Bodhigaya Kshetra is very famous, ancient and holy pilgrim for dedicating Pind Daan for ancestors and forefathers. That is situated on the bank of Falgu river in Bihar state.
Nabhigaya Kshetra is situated at Jajpur village on the bank of Vaitarni river in Orissa state. It is also known as Nabhi Kshetra. Vaitarni river is famous in Puran wherein it is mentioned that after death one has to cross Vaitarni river and the person who have perform good deeds during his life time can only cross the river very easily. But by performing Pitra Tarpan Puja here, one can make his forefather cross this river.
Padgaya Kshetra is situated at Pithapur at Tamil Nadu state on the Madra-valter railway line. It is situated near Raj Mahendri station.Siddhpur is known as Matru Gaya Kshetra is situated in Mahesana district of Gujarat state. Bhagavan Parshuram performed Pind Daan of his mother in Siddhpur. On the bank of Bindu Sarovar, Pind Daan and Shraddh ceremony are performed.
Tarpan during Pitra-Paksha.
In the memory of their ancestors Hindus offer religious offerings of water called Tarpan during Pitra-Paksha. These offerings are made to the Gods, Rishis, Devas, and especially to one's ancestors. "Tarpan" is offered during all 15 days in Pitra-Paksha. As this rite is very religious and has specific significance thus, there is a fixed manner to offer Tarpan, which as follows:
Y In a dish of half filled water add some milk, sugar, honey, a few grains of barley, a few drops of
ghee, and flowers petals.
Y Now face east and keep 3 pieces of Kush grass across both palms forming a cup and offer this
water in the dish - NOT on the ground - in the name of as many deities as possible.
Y Then face north and offer water in the name of the Rishis
Y Then face south and now add till (Sesame seeds) into the water and offer this in the name of the
Y Only after all offerings have been completed then the dish of water is dropped on a plant.
Y This can be repeated as many days as one desires in the 15 days.
Y Gifts and clothes are then distributed to the Brahmin, as a part of the Shraadh ceremony.
10 Donations during Pitra Paksha
Donation of following 10 articles during 'Pitra Paksha' comes under 'Mahadaan'. Ancestors get pleased if these articles are offered and donated by the person doing Shradhakarma.
1. Donate cow (Gow Daan) - The first and foremost article among the ten 'Mahadaan' in Pitra Paksha
2. Donate Land (Bhumi Daan)- If 'Shradhkarta' can afford to donate land then he should donate a small
piece of land to a needy poor person. If it is not possible then he should take a small lump of clay,
keep it in a thali. Take Sanklap and donate it to a Brahmin along with 'Dakshina'.
3. Donate Seasame (Til Daan)- Black Seasame seeds are considered auspicious for donation in Pitra
4. Donate Gold (Swarn Daan)- If one cannot afford gold for donation, then Dakshina should be donated
to a Brahmin.
5. Donate Ghee (Ghrit Daan)- Ghee made of Cow milk should be donated in a vessel.
6. Donate Clothes (Vastra Daan)- Two main clothes and two under clothes which are not torn and used
one, better if the clothes are new should be donated to a Brahmin.
7. Donate Cereals (Dhaany Daan)- Wheat, Rice and other cereals should be donated after taking a
8. Donate Jaggery (Gud Daan)- Donation of jaggery in Pitrapaksha is also auspicious.
9. Donate Silver (Rajat Daan)- Ancestors bless their successors if they donate Silver in Pitra Paksha.
10. Donate Salt (Lavan) - Ancestors get satisfied if salt is donated in Pitrapaksha.
After offering food and donation to Brahmin, recite this mantra and pray to Lord Vishnu three times for the completion of 'Shradhakarma'.
"OM NAMAHA BHAGWATE VASUDEVAYA NAMAHA"