Pitru Paksha, alternatively spelled as Pitri Paksha or Pitr Paksha is dedicated to honoring and remembering ancestors through rituals of Shraddha and Tarpan. Spanning a duration of 16 lunar days, this period embodies a time of reflection, gratitude, and spiritual connection with one’s lineage.
In 2023 Pitru Paksha begins on the 28th of September and ends 13th of October.
For local timings download the align27 app.
The Essence of Pitru Paksha
Shraddha, a term derived from Sanskrit, encapsulates acts performed with utmost sincerity and faith. During Pitru Paksha, individuals pay homage to their ancestors, believed to reside in Pitru-Loka, a realm situated between heaven and earth, encompassing the souls of three preceding generations. It is a time to foster a deeper connection with one’s roots, seeking blessings that manifest in the form of health, wealth, knowledge, and longevity, potentially leading to moksha or salvation.
This period serves as a reminder of the debts we owe to our ancestors, emphasizing the importance of acknowledging and honoring their presence and influence in our lives. It is believed that during these 16 days, our ancestors descend to earth to shower their blessings upon us.
The Legend Behind Pitru Paksha
The origins of Pitru Paksha are rooted in the epic tale of Mahabharata, revolving around the legendary figure, Karna. Upon his death, Karna’s soul ascended to heaven, only to be offered gold and jewels as sustenance. Seeking real nourishment, Karna questioned Indra, the lord of heaven, about this peculiar offering. Indra revealed that while Karna had been generous with gold donations throughout his life, he had neglected to offer food to his ancestors during Shraddha.
Realizing his oversight, Karna was granted permission to return to earth for a 15-day period to perform Shraddha, offering food and water in memory of his ancestors. This period came to be known as Pitru Paksha. In some variations of the legend, the deity Yama replaces Indra.
Guidelines for Observing Pitru Paksha
Here are some do’s and don’ts to consider:
- Take time to reminisce about your ancestors, expressing gratitude and seeking their guidance in overcoming life’s challenges.
- Avoid engaging in conflicts or displaying anger, focusing instead on fostering a peaceful and respectful atmosphere to remember your ancestors.
- Engage in acts of charity, offering assistance to those less fortunate as a gesture that pleases the ancestors.
- Practice meditation to attain a sense of peace and to provide solace to both oneself and the ancestors.
- Abstain from consuming non-vegetarian food, opting for a light, sattvic, vegetarian diet to maintain purity during this period.
- Avoid embarking on new projects, focusing instead on spiritual practices and ancestral worship.
- Follow daily rituals as suggested on the align27 app, especially on significant days marked by specific moon transits or tithis.
- Perform tarpan for your ancestors on the tithi corresponding to their death anniversary, or on Mahalaya Amavasya if the exact date is unknown.
The Philosophy Behind Ancestral Worship
Profound and beautiful explanation from Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Water has two units of life, Fire has three units of life, Air has four units of life, Space has five units of life, Trees have six units of life, Animals have seven units of life, Human beings have eight units of life, and are known as Ashtavasu. Superhuman blossomed beings, who do extraordinary work, whether it be very good or very bad, have nine units of life.
Furthermore, humans can develop up to sixteen units of life. When we die we become more powerful in some way. We go between nine and ten units of life. This is strange but true. That is why ancestors are worshiped. The moment this body drops, the spirit has become free, without boundaries, and nothing can stop it. The spirit moves around freely. If it is bound in the body, you have only eight units of life but when you die, then you have access to the ninth and tenth units, so you gain much more access to the planet.
That is why ancestors have the capacity to bless you. They have more ‘life’ than you because their spirit is freed from the limited body. They have the power to know, cognize and bless you. You can feel their presence. So when you pray to them, they can grant you certain boons. They are able to bestow unto you to whatever extent they are powerful. Ancestral worship can be found in China, Latin American and many other countries.
In the Christian tradition, there is All Soul’s day, where you respect the souls and ask for their blessings.