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WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF PITRIPAKSHA AND MAHALAYA AMAVASYA ?


The dark fortnight of the month of Asvayuja is known as the Pitripaksha or the fortnight of the month specially sanctified for offering oblations to the departed ancestors. And the last day, the day of the new moon, is considered as the most important day in the year for performing obsequies and like rites. Now, ordinarily, the orthodox Hindus offer oblation of water — Tarpana-Arghya — to the departed every new-moon day. The prescribed rites are also performed every year on the anniversary of the day of death. This is the Sraaddha ceremony. What, then, is the special import of these observances particularly during the Asvayuja Krishna Paksha? The reason is that such ceremonies done during this fortnight have a very special effect. The offerings reach the Pitris immediately and directly, due to a boon from Lord Yama. The occasion for the boon arose as follows: ORIGIN OF THE PITRIPAKSHA 1-A Story from the Mahabharata---- The renowned hero of the Mahabharata, Danavira Kama, when he left the mortal coil, ascended to the higher worlds and reached the region of the heroes. There, the fruit of his extraordinary charity while upon earth came to him multiplied thousandfold, but it came to him in the form of immense piles of gold and silver. Karna had done limitless charity of wealth, but had neglected to do Anna-Dana. Thus he found himself in the midst of wealth and plenty, but with no food to appease him. He prayed to Lord Yama. The Great Ruler responded to Karna' s prayer and granted him a respite for fourteen days to return to the earth-plane once again and make up for his former neglect. Karna came down from the Mrityu Loka, and for fourteen days, he fed the Brahmins and the poor, and made offerings of water, etc. He performed the prescribed rites also on the last day. On his return once again to the higher world, the effect of Karna's observances during this fortnight removed all his wants there. The time of this occurrence was the dark fortnight of Asvayuja. What is Pitru Paksha?--- These sixteen days when king Karna was on Earth were called the pitru paksha. These days are considered very inauspicious and even today no new activity or a good task is done on these days. The Hindus offer prayers and food to the ancestors in this time. This ensures that the pitru dosha is done away with. It also ensures that the entire family is blessed. The pitru paksha is followed only by the male members of the family. 2-Due to the grace of Lord Yama, it came to be so ordained that such rites done at this particulai" period acquired the following unique merits. Offerings made at this time reached all depaited souls, whether they were kins directly in the line of the offerer or not. 3-Even those who died without progeny received these oblations given on this Pitripaksha Amavasya day. All those who had failed to do deeds of charity and Anna-Dana and were thus denied these comforts in the Pitri Loka, benefited by these ceremonies. 4-Those deceased whose date of death is not known and whose annual Sraaddha cannot be done, they also get these oblations of Pitripaksha. 5-Souls whose life was cut off by violent, accidental or unnatural death and to whom, therefore, offerings cannot reach in the ordinary course, to them, too, the Pitripaksha offerings reach directly. A 6-ll these the boon of Lord Yama made possible from the time the great Karna performed the Asvayuja-Paksha rites. 7-The Hindus now observe this Paksha with great faith, with strict regulation, taking bath thrice, with partial fasting, etc. On the newmoon day, Sarvapitri Amavasya, the full rites are done and plenty of charity given.

PROPITIATION OF DEPARTED SPIRITS----- 1-The day of Mahalaya Amavasya is a day of great significance and importance to all Hindus. 2-It is the annual festival for propitiating (regain the favour of (a god, spirit,) by doing something that pleases them) the spirits of our ancestors, with devout prayers for peace. 3-The Hindu Itihasas say, that on the Mahalaya Amavasya, there is a conjunction of the sun and the moon and that the sun enters the sign Virgo (Kanya). On this day, the depailed manes, i.e., our ancestors, leave their abode in the world of Yama and come down to the world of mortals and occupy the houses of their descendants. 4-The fortnight preceding the new moon is specially consecrated for the propitiation of such departed spirits. The ceremonies performed in honour of the manes or ancestors during each day of this fortnight are considered to be equal to those performed at Gaya. The principle in all such rites is the worship of the departed souls and the satisfaction of their wishes so that they might be in peace during the rest of the year. 5-Why Please Ancestors?----- You may ask why you should please the ancestors or whether there is life after death? If they are dead then why should we bother about them? Well when your ancestors are not resting in peace you too will not be able to be in peace. You will often face some problem or the other. There will be disputes in the family. Women will not be able to bear children. The family members will be meeting with unforeseen accidents and the list will just go on.When the ancestors are resting in peace you can see that your home and family will be prospering. Just because the ancestors are dead we should not forget them. They should be prayed to and offered food and water. S SIGNIFICANCE IN MODERN DAY---- With relevance to changing society and the modern age as well,,, for those who have faith, the above should be more than enough reason to follow pitru paksha. But for others there are reasons too, some of them being outlined as follows:---- 1. The society is becoming extremely materialistic and things like giving something to someone without a reasons, like food and clothing are getting scarce. Hence the celebration of pitru paksha should act to somehow awaken these habits in people. 2. Even if you do not think that the people who have left for their heavenly abode do not need anything, still the actual things you are offering are to the poor and the needy so in a way you are helping them out. 3. It is always good to remain connected with the past and the ancestors and not completely forget them. This time at least acts as a special fortnight where you can do so and try and learn something about your ancestors and possibly draw a leaf from the book of their lives. 4. Apart from the ancestors who have departed, this also symbolizes taking care of the elders which is very important in modern day society where the aged people are not getting proper care and get isolated. 5-Scientists say that human beings and their ancestors have existed on this planet for 20 million years. That is a lot of time. All these hundreds of thousands of generations that lived on this planet before us have given us something or the other. The language that we speak, the way we sit, our clothes, our buildings – almost everything that we know today has come to us from generations before us. 6-We have taken all the things that we have today for granted. But without the generations that came before us, firstly we would not exist here; secondly, without their contribution we would not have all the things that we have today. So instead of taking them for granted, today is a day when we express our gratitude to all of them. It is done as a ritual to pay homage to one’s dead parents, but is actually an expression of gratitude for all those generations of ancestors who lived before us. 7-During this time, in the Indian subcontinent, new crops would have just begun to bear yield. So their first produce is offered to the ancestors as a mark of respect and thankfulness, by way of pinda.

So we do urge that you celebrate pitru paksha for at least one of the reasons mentioned above. We hope that by reading this article you will be able to understand better what pitru paksha is........SHIVOHAM.....