Pitru Paksha 2021

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In the Hindu calendar, Pitru Paksha, which in Sanskrit means fortnight of the ancestors, is an occasion where people will pay homage to their deceased ancestors through food offerings. The rituals include Shradh and Tarpanam to please their dead relatives. The Pitru Paksha starts after the Full Moon day, known as Purnima, Poonam, or Pournami in Bhadrapada.

Hindus pay their respects during a fortnight which is referred to as Pitru Paksha, during the Chaturmas period. It begins after the Full Moon day {Purnima Tithi} marking itself as the beginning of the waning phase of the Lunar cycle. The Pitru Paksha continues roughly till a 15 day period that is of great significance for many devotees.

The celebration of the Pitru Paksha dates back to the belief that unhappy souls of the deceased return to the Earth to see their family members. To ensure that the spirits attain liberation or Moksha, people quench their thirst and satisfy their hunger by performing the Pind Daan.

Pitru Paksha 2021 begins from September 20 and continues till October 6. The Pitru Paksha involves several traditions that vary from person to person, but the three essential components are as follows. The first activity includes Pindadan, where people bestow offering to their ancestors, and Pinda is rice balls made of goat’s milk, ghee, sugar, rice, honey and barley in some households. The second activity is offering burnt water with a tarp, kusha grass, barley, flour, and black sesame, followed by the last activity includes providing food to the Brahmins. During this period, reading an excerpt from the holy Shastra is also auspicious.

The Pitru Paksha is of great significance for people with Pitru Dosha or the curse of their ancestors, and the Shradha ritual where people offer food to the crows to please the dead ancestors.  In the Hindu context, crows are beings that represent dead due to their nature being scavengers.

If the crow accepts the food offered, the ancestors are pleased, and if the crow isn’t willing to take the offer, it concludes that the dead aren’t delighted.

Mahalaya marks the end of Pitru Paksha and the beginning of Devi Paksha. According to the Hindu Calendar, the Pitru Paksha 2021 starts from the full moon day of Shukla Paksha of Bhadrapada month. It ends at the Mahalaya Amavasya, the last day of the dark fortnight of Ashwin month.

The legend about Pitru Paksha dates back to the Mahabharata.  According to these legends, Karna died and went back to heaven on the 17th day of the Mahabharat war. After his death, he was offered jewels, gems and diamonds as food. Karna seemed surprised, so he went to Lord Indra to clarify why people gave him materialistic things he no longer needed. Lord Indra then told him that he donated jewels and precious diamonds in charity throughout his life, never offering food to his ancestors.

On hearing Lord Indra’s opinion, Karna repented and was determined to rectify his mistake. Seeing his guilt and determination, Karna received a chance for 15 days to visit the mortal world and offer shraaddh to his ancestors. He returned to Earth and provided water and food to his ancestors before returning to heaven again. From that day onwards, this period is the Pitru Paksha.

During the Pitru Paksha, devotees avoid eating non-vegetarian dishes and refrain from using onions and garlic in the household. The primary purpose of following these activities is to appease spirits and people who no longer exist in their physical form.

People offer their prayers and perform the rituals faithfully to ensure that the souls are free to ascend further from the cycle of birth, life and death.

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