Shradh: The Door to Heaven for the Deceased

Shradh Paksha or pitru paksha is a 15 lunar days period when Hindus pay homage to their ancestors, especially through food offerings. This year, Shradh is observed from 13 September 2019 to 28 September 2019.


Why is Shradh performed?

According to Garuda Purana, thirteen days after the death, the soul starts its journey for Yamapuri and it takes seventeen days to reach there.

The soul travels through Yamapuri for another eleven months and only in twelfth month it reaches to the court of Yamaraj. During the period of eleven months it has no access to the food and the water. It is believed that Pindadan and Tarpan done by the son and family members satisfy the hunger and the thirst of the soul during its journey till it reaches the court of the Yamaraj.

Hence, Shradh rituals are considered very important during first year of the death.


Basic Information on Shraddha rituals

Shraddha rituals consist of following main activities –

Pindadan is the offering of rice, cow’s milk, ghee, sugar and honey in form of Pinda (rounded heap of the offering) to the ancestors. Pindadan should be done with whole-heartedness, devotion, sentiments and respect to the deceased soul to fulfil it.

Tarpan is the offering of the water mixed with black sesame (til), Barley (jau), Kusha grass and white flours. It is believed that ancestors are appeased by the process of Tarpan.

Feeding the Brahmin is must to complete the Shraddha ritual. Offering to the crows are also made before food is offered to the Brahmin.


Why do we perform Pitru Paksha?

We perform Pitru Paksha Puja because:

  • It ensures that the ancestors go to heaven.
  • It is believed that the living members of the family won’t be in peace if the ancestors are not resting in peace. The family will keep facing some of the other problems.
  • It ensures that the ancestors rest in peace by clearing their sins.


What is the history of Pitru Paksha ritual?

According to mythology, the reason for performing Pitru Paksha relates to King Karna the son of the Sun God from Mahabharata. King Karna, was always deeply involved in charity and could never say no to anybody. After his death in the Mahabharat war, when he went to heaven, he was offered food made of gold.

He asked the Gods why such a great was offered food this way even after doing so much charity. He was told that this was because he only offered gold as a charity and not food. King Karna neither offered food and water to his ancestors nor the poor people.

Realizing his mistake, King Karna wanted to correct it. The Gods thus decided to let Karna return to Earth for 15 days to feed the poor. This helped him to get rid of the problem. This period is called Pitru or shradh.


Who can perform Pitru Paksha ritual?

The son of the dead ancestor performs the Pitru Paksha. If the person has no son, then any other male member can perform the puja. In cases where a person has more than one son, the eldest son performs the puja.


Where do we perform Pitru Karma?

One can perform the Puja in a lake beside their house. They can also perform this puja at the banks of a river. One can also visit Gaya or Varanasi to perform the puja.

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