Original Article in Kannada By : Dr. Nagaraj Gundappa
English Translation By : Smt. Padmini
The 15 days of the waning phase of the lunar month of Bhadrapada is called Pitru Paksha and religious people of Maharshi Samskrithi perform rituals related to the Pitru Devathas. In this context, it will be interesting to know who are Pitru Devatas, why this period is called Pitru Paksha and why is it important to observe these rituals.
In the lunar calendar system of the Rishis, a lunar month of 30 days is sub-divided into two, each half known as a ‘Paksha’ (fortnight) based on the waxing (brightening) and waning (fading) of moon. The 15 day period starting on the day after a new moon (Amavaasya) and ending in full moon (Poornima) is known as “Shukla Paksha” (waxing phase) and the period starting on the day after full moon and ending in new moon is known as “Krishna Paksha” (waning phase). Pitrus’ are worshipped during Krishna Paksha of Bhadrapada month. The new moon day of the Bhadrapada month is a special day known as Mahalaya Amavaasya.
Why is this specific 15 day period known as Pitru Paksha and why is it so important ? There are two reasons – first, it is one among the Pancha maha yajnas and second, this specific period in a year is important.
First, what are Pancha Maha Yajnas?
In the Maharshi Samskruthi, there are many ways of worshipping Bhagawan and they can broadly be classified as direct and indirect. In the indirect method of worshipping, the channels through which Bhagawan’s grace reaches us are worshipped thus indirectly pleasing Bhagawan as a consequence. Pancha Maha Yajna literally means five great homages and ought to be performed daily by every human being, more specifically by Grihasthas. What are these five great Yajnas? They are Deva yajna (worship of Devathas ), Pitru yajna (worship of ancestors ), Rshi yajna (worship of Sages), Manushya yagnya (homage to fellow humans), Bhoota yagnya (homage to birds and animals). To lead a fruitful life, every person needs nurturing and cooperation from various sources, throughout life and this nurturing reaches a person through Bhagawan's grace. An infant sucks milk from its mother’s breasts based on its own urge, with no one having to teach. Similarly it learns to see, walk and talk on its own. This natural tendency of the child responsible for its survival and growth is a grace of Bhagawan. While listening to people around can aid in a child’s development of speech, the process of learning is driven from inside. These natural tendencies and urges are created inside a person through powers called Devathas, who are channels that bring Bhagawan’s grace to us throughout life. Generalising, all our activities involving sense organs and mind are happening based on some inner urge created by Devathas, the powers residing inside us and expressing gratitude to the Devathas in multiple forms is called the Deva Yajna.
While a person’s inner functioning happens through the grace of Devathas, other inner and outer nurturing happens through Pitru Devatas. Every child is born and nurtured through parents and parenthood is bestowed to the parents by the grace of Pitru Devatas residing inside them. Thus Pitru Devatas nurture a person indirectly in the form of power residing inside and directly through living parents. Expressing gratitude to the parents, ancestors and the Pitru Devatas is called the Pitru yajna. Thirdly, every person needs to develop a self awareness and worldly knowledge to lead a successful life and Rshis are responsible for bestowing this knowledge to us. Expressing gratitude to the Rishis is Brahma yajna. Fourthly, co-operation of fellow human beings plays a key role in a persons’s normal life. For instance, our basic survival need, namely food involves hard work of so many categories of people. The farmer who tills the land, the equipment manufacturer who manufactures the farming equipments, the person who supplies seeds and fertilisers, the labourers
harvest the crop, those who refine the crop to bring it to edible form,
the merchants who bring it to our door step, those who cook the raw
material, the manufacturers and suppliers of the utensils and heating
devices and so many others play a role in each ounce of food that we
consume. So is the case with our dwelling, clothes, education,
entertainment, earning etc. with everything
having an underlying chain of people whose effort plays a role.Thus
expressing gratitude to fellow human beings is the fourth form
of Yajna and this is done through offering food to at least one person
outside family, typically a guest (Athithi - one who comes uninvited).
This fourth form is called Manushya yajna. In a like manner birds and
animals too contribute to our welfare in many ways. Offering food to
birds and animals in the surrounding is called Bhoota Yajna and is the fifth form.
Thus the rituals performed in the Pitru Paksha are important because
they are a form of Pitru yajna, one of the five great Yajnas ought to be
performed by every person.
Having seen as to why the worship of Pitrus are important, what deserves our attention next is the importance of the timing.
Different times of day and days of the year support different tendencies in us and aid a specific type of activity. For instance, day time induces activity while night time induces sleep and twilight period induces a meditative tendency. Accordingly, if we keep our worldly activities during day time, sleep during night and meditation or other forms of divine worship during dawn and twilight, our effectiveness will be maximum. In a similar manner, the Rishis have identified that on some specific days in a year, the grace of specific Devatas flow abundantly. Such days are named after the deity whose grace flows abundantly that day such as Rama navami, Ganesha chaturthi, Krishna ashtami etc. These days are called Parva or festivals and it is advisable to spend time for a special worship of these deities during these festivals. In this manner, the Rishis have identified that the grace of the Pitrus flow abundantly during the Pitru Paksha and the entire fortnight is dedicated to the worship of Pitrus. Thus the name Pitru paksha. The Pitru deities shower their special blessings and Pitru yajna fetches great rewards when performed during this 15 day interval.
How is Pitru yagnya performed? What is the significance of observing it in Pitru paksha?
Respecting and taking good care of parents when they are alive and performing their annual ceremony as well as offering TarpaNa (ablution, an offering of black sesame seeds and water), on specific days is called Pitru yajna. The annual ceremony (Shraaddhaa) of the departed person, is performed on the same Tithi (lunar phase in that specific month) every year, while TarpaNa is offered every month, on every Amavaasya and Sankramana ( a solar event – representing movement of sun from one zodiac constellation to the next) days. It is imperative for people of all varna and class to observe these rituals of Shraaddha and Tarpana in the manner prescribed to them by the Rishis. Shraaddhaa and Tarpana when performed during Pitru paksha acquires special significance. Some people perform Shradhdha every day during the Pitru paksha, while those who can’t afford to do it every day perform the special Shradhdha and TarpaNa on any one day during the 15 day period and offer food.
How is Mahalaya TarpaNa special?
While on every Amavaasya day, TarpaNa is offered only to 3 generations of maternal and paternal ancestors, on the Mahalaya Amavaasya day, TarpaNa is offerred to a large set of people who have departed. Those who receive TarpaNa during this period are called ‘KaaruNya Pitrus’ and their list includes relatives, teachers, best friends besides our own fore fathers. Thus, Pitru Paksha is a great occasion to serve a vast number of people in their after life and hence take steps towards our own salvation too! Pranams to the Rishis who responsible for installing this practice in our Samskrithi and to Sriranga Mahaguru and his elder disciples because of whose grace, we are today comprehending and practicing these rituals.
Note: The Kannada version of this article can be viewed at AYVM blogs
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