Om Vishnupad 108 Tridandi Swami Sri Srimat Bhakti Sravan Tirtha Goswami Maharaj ki Jai !!

Every month, the new-moon day is considered auspicious for the remembrance and worship of dead departed forefathers and offerings are made to them and in their name. Mahalaya Amavasya, the new moon day during the dark fortnight of the month of Ashwin (September-October), is the mother of all Amavasyas. It is on this day that sacred offerings and obsequies are offered to the souls of departed ancestors.

Nowadays a short 20 minute version of the ceremony is done—offering black sesame seeds and water as oblation to departed souls. This oblation is offered to father, grandfather and great grandfather - 3 levels. Then to mother, grandmother and great grandmother—3 levels.


Similarly this is done to mother's side of the family also. If one of these persons is still alive, their name is skipped and the corresponding earlier generation person is offered oblation.

Then a final oblation is offered to those anonymous souls who died and have nobody in their lineage to offer oblations. These oblations are believed to give birth to good children without mental or physical challenges (so say the prayers in this function).

According to the Vedic scriptures an individual is born with three debts. The debt to God is called ‘Dev-rin.’ The debt to the sages and saints is called ‘Rishi-rin.’ The third debt to one's parents and ancestors is called ‘Pitri-rin.’ These three debts are like three mortgages on one's life, but not liabilities. It is an attempt by Hindu scriptures to create an awareness of one's duties and responsibilities in terms of the continuum of existance. According to the Vedic belief system, the souls of three preceding generations of one's ancestors reside in Pitru–loka, the realm of Manes, between heaven and earth. This realm is governed by Yama, the god of death, who takes the soul of a dying person from earth to Pitru–loka.

When a person of the next generation dies, the first generation shifts to heaven and so Shraddha offerings are not given. Thus, only the three generations in Pitru–loka are given Shraddha rites.

According to Hindu calender, at the beginning of Pitru Paksha, the sun enters the zodiac sign of Virgo (Kanya). Coinciding with this moment, it is believed that the spirits leave Pitru–loka and go to reside in their descendants' homes for a month until the sun enters the next zodiac—Scorpio (Vrichchhika)—and there is a full moon. Hindus are expected to propitiate the ancestors in the first half, during the dark fortnight.

The last day of this period, the new moon day, called Mahalaya Amavasya, is considered as the most important day in the year for performing obsequies and rites. During these fifteen days, auspicious ceremonies such as marriage or other functions do not take place.

Anna Daan Maha Daan

Due to the grace of the Yama, it has been ordained that offerings made during this period benefitall the departed souls, whether they are connected to you or not. The manes return to their abode on the evening of Deepavali. The story why the Pitru Paksha is marked by daan and charity is narrated in the Mahabharata.

When Daanveer Karna died in the epic Mahabharata war, his soul moved to heaven, where he was offered gold and jewels as food. Karna had done limitless charity in terms of wealth, but had neglected to do Anna-Dana. Hence he found wealth and luxuries, but with no food to appease his hunger. Lord Yama then told Karna that he had donated gold all his life, but hadnever offered food to his ancestors during Shraaddh.

Hence to make amends and because Karna was a great soul, he was permitted to return to earth for a fifteen day period during the dark fortnight of Ashwin, so that he could perform Shraaddh and donate food and water.

It is believed that in these 15 days the souls of our ancestors visit the earth, moving around us and if we fail to remember them or do not make any offerings to them, they return to Pitru Loka unsatisfied and unhappy that we do nothing for them.

The fifteen days of Pitru Paksha consists of 15 Tithis. They are Pratipat, Dvitiya, Tritiya, Chaturthi, Panchami, Shashti, Ashtami, Navami, Dasami, Ekadasi, Dvadasi, Trayodasi, Chaturdashi, and the New Moon day (Sarvapitru Amavasya).

From a spiritual perspective, the human being is made up of five sheaths or subtle bodies. The first is

  • Annamaya-kosha, the gross physical body made up of flesh, bones and blood and visible to us
  • The second is Praanamaya-kosha – the subtle body comprising the five vital energies (Panchaprana) providing energy to the whole body.
  • The third is the Manomaya-kosha – This is the seat of emotions and desires – the mental body
  • The fourth is Vigyanamaya-kosha – This is the seat of the intellect
  • The fifth is Anandamaya-kosha – This is the seat of the Soul (Atma).

The Annamaya-kosha is gross while the other four sheaths are subtle. After death, a Jiva’s Annamaya-kosha and Pranamaya-kosha do not remain, but Manomaya-kosha, Vigyanamaya-kosha and Anandamaya-kosha still remain as appurtenances to the soul.

After death the astral body comprising the three sheaths constantly makes efforts for attaining its unfulfilled desires. Seeking in this way, the Jiva goes to various subtle regions (lokas) as per the latent impressions in its astral mind.

Despite going from one place to another, the Jiva still has intense attachment to his previous place and people. Many a time while going from one place to another, this Jiva goes astray and keeps searching for something. The process of getting entangled in desires after death is described as hurdles in the further progress of the liberation of the soul. Due to this, the responsibility of liberating the person from this process of getting entangled in desires rests with the deceased person’s family members.

Some actions are expected to be performed by the relatives for an embodied soul (Jiva) to progress spiritually even after death. These are:

  • Helping the embodied soul (Jiva) during his lifetime to not get trapped in desires.
  • Satiating the desires of the embodied soul (Jiva).
  • Awakening the Jiva to move ahead in his spiritual journey.

This is mainly achieved by doing the various shraddhas after the death of a person. Subtle bodies of the embodied souls (Jivas) do not perform spiritual practice. Hence, by performing rituals like shraddha, they are ‘encouraged’ in a sense to go further on the basis of external energy.

The bondage of desires around the subtle body of the Jiva reduces by doing shraddha. The subtle body is given momentum through the energy of mantra-shakti in the shraddha rituals.

According to Hindu mythology, every individual who wants to perform Pitru Tarpan, should do it on the same day on which their ancestor died which will fall within any one of these fifteen days. However, Sarvapitri amavasya ("all fathers' new moon day") is intended for all ancestors, irrespective of the lunar day on which they died. It is the most important day of the Pitru Paksha. Those who have forgotten to perform shraddha can do so on this day. This year the date for this falls on Monday 15th of October.

Durga Navaratri

In Bengal, Assam and Orissa Mahalaya ushers in the 10 day festival of Durga Puja. It is only from the day of Mahalaya that the preparations for the Durga Puja reach the final stage. On this day, the eyes of the Mother Goddess are drawn on the deities.

On the dawn of Mahalaya, in the homes in Bengal and now the whole country, the immortal verses of the Chandipath the holy book of "Chandi" in the recorded voice of late Birendra Krishna Bhadra, over radio has become synonymous with the start of Durga Puja.

The Chandipath is aired by All India Radio in the programme Mahisasura Mardini, narrating the incarnation of Goddess Durga and her fight with Mahishasura.



Jai Gurudeva !

Jai Sri Radhey !