Significance of Hindus praying for souls of departed ancestors during Pitru Paksha



The rituals and customs in Hinduism reflect warmth, love, and makes one feel an affinity towards the culture and people. Every Hindu ritual holds a great meaning and offer moral values and life lessons. Since childhood, it plants a seed of respect towards the ones around and the ones who left for their heavenly abode. The rituals which were established more than 4000 years ago are still rooted deep and are being practiced in the same way as they were back them. Today, through this blog we are going to delve deep into understanding ‘why Hindus offer prayers for the souls of their departed ancestors’. 33

About Pitru Paksha

The word Pitru Paksha is made by co-joining two words, where Pitru literally translates to ancestors and Paksha refers to fortnight or a lunar phase occurring in the lunar month of Hindu calendar.  Pitru Paksha generally falls in the month of Bhadrapada and Ashwin and is highly observed across cultures with different names. Pitru Paksha is known as Sorah Shraddha, Pitri Pokkho, Apara Paksha, Kanagat, and Jitiya. This year the Pitru Paksha falls on the 20th of September 2021 and will end on the 6th of October 2021. The period of Pitru Paksha spans for a period of 16 days.

During the period of Pitru Paksha, the Hindus pay homage and show respect to the deceased ancestors by performing Shradh puja and many other rituals. The rituals of Pitru Paksha are vast and are performed with pure emotion to offer peace to the souls of the ancestors. Let us look at the significance of Hindus praying for souls of departed ancestors during Pitru Paksha. 

Why do Hindus pray for the souls of the departed ancestors during Pitru Paksha?

According to an ancient Hindu belief, the soul of the departed family members and ancestors are still attached to their worldly life. Which is why, if there are any wishes or unfinished work which is undone by the deceased on this plane, it makes the souls restless. These souls wander between Heaven and Earth. The place between Heaven and Earth is known to be ruled by Lord Yamaraj (God of Death). It is said that the souls of our past three generations wander in the world ruled by Yamaraj. In this realm the souls of our departed ancestors feel the pain of hunger, thirst and face other hardships. But it is not physically possible for them or for us to cross over each other’s worlds and help each other, isn’t it? This is why, the rules of Pitru paksha is performed to liberate the souls from this plane and allow them to transit happily towards heaven. Moreover, the restless souls of our ancestors can create a lot of obstacles in our lives which is also known as Pitru Dosha. Thus, in order to live a healthy, happy life and to liberate the souls of our beloved departed ancestors, we pray for the souls of the departed ancestors during Pitru Paksha.

How is Pitru Paksha observed

A day prior to Pitru Paksha all the needed samagri (ingrediants) for cooking food and which is used for performing puja is collected.  On this day people perform the ritual of Shraddh which comprises of offering food, water and prayers to the departed ancestors. During the period of Pitru Paksha the Moon is in Waning phase. During, the 16 days of Pitru Paksha, the river ghats are full of people and sages. These people are seen performing the ritual of Shraddh and are guided by the sages. In the metropolitan cities of India, people offer prayers to the photographs of the deceased and remember them. Food items which the departed family members and ancestors loved while they were living are prepared, a puja ceremony in the name of the departed soul is performed. Once this is done, small amount of every food item which has been prepared is served on a banana leaf and is placed in front of the photograph of the deceased and offered prayers. Then this leaf full of food items is either kept on the terrace or on a higher place for crows and for other birds to eat. Some people offer food filled plate to the cows and dogs as well. It is believed that feeding birds and animals is an act of ‘Punya’ (merit for performing good deeds) which pleases our ancestors and it helps them to transit ahead on their journey to heaven with ease and without facing any obstacles. Taking a dip in the Holy rivers during Pitru Paksha and donating food to the needy or to the saints also appeases the ancestors and they shower their blessing upon you.

Pitru Paksha is considered as one of the most significant periods as during these 16 days our ancestors visit Earth in subtle form called as Sukshma Deham. These souls can see us and are known to be around us. When we perform the Pitru Paksha puja, these souls become happy and bless us abundantly. Some of these departed souls are so powerful that they that have the power to uplift our overall life. Thus, it is important to keep our Vastu clean during Pitru Paksha and perform the rituals of Shraddh by chanting mantras and by offering food and water in the name of the deceased family member and ancestors.

Do you know why we offer food and water to our departed family members and ancestors during the period of Pitru Paksha? Offering food and water is said to calm the restless souls of our departed ancestors and it also proves to be beneficial for us as we live and even after life. Let us learn about the legend of Pitru Paksha

Legend of Pitru Paksha                                                                              

According to the famous legend of Pitru paksha, When Karna passed away his soul transited to Heaven. During his stay in Heaven, Karna was offered a lot of gold, flowers and precious jewels but he was not given any food to eat or any water to drink. This left Karna very hungry and thirsty. Upset with this treatment, Karna’s soul went up to Lord Indra and asked why was he not given food to eat. Lord Indra looked at Karna’s soul and said Karna, you have always offered pure gold, flowers and precious gemstones to your departed ancestors but you never offered any food to them. Karna replied by saying that he did not know who his ancestors were so he did not give food offering. After listening to Karna, Indra gave him a time period of 16 days to rectify his mistake. Karna understood his mistake and performed a Shradh during this period by offering food and water in the memory of his departed ancestors. 

This is the reason we make food offerings to animals and birds in order to calm the restless souls so that their journey to heaven is smooth. Now that we learnt about the legend of Pitru Paksha let us understand the ill effects caused if an individual is suffering from Pitru Dosha in the natal chart

Adverse Effects of Pitru Dosha 

  • Pitru Dosha creates obstacles in one’s personal and professional life
  • It causes losses in any undertaken work and business
  • It causes tensions, depression and stress
  • It leads to financial loss and invites ‘Daridrya’(poverty)
  • It makes one physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually weak 
  • It attracts illnesses and makes one suffer from various diseases
  • Results in creating tensions between a married couple and snatches away peace
  • People who are unmarried and who have Pitru Dosha in their natal chart do not get married easily as it becomes difficult for them to find their potential partner.
  • Makes one unsuccessful
  • Creates a sad and lethargic atmosphere at home 
  • It makes one of the family members ill for a prolonged period of time
  • Can destroy the career of a person
  • Makes life undesirable and miserable.

There are many other ill effects, a person suffering from Pitru Paksha faces hence, it is advised to perform Tarpan or Shraddh for all the 16 days during Pitru Paksha. 

Similarly, when our ancestors bless us, our life becomes blissful and we tend to grow and attain success in all the arenas of life. Let us look at the benefits we get by performing the Pitru Paksha Pujas with a pure heart

  • Offers peace in life
  • Removes obstacles from life
  • Creates harmonious relation between married couples
  • Fills the house with positivity 
  • Opens doors for new opportunities
  • Wards off evil energies and negative energies
  • Helps in attaining financial stability
  • Helps to ward off diseases and illnesses
  • Offers peace and calms the wavering mind
  • Offers clear vision
  • Helps to spread Chaitanya in the house
  • Boosts confidence and gives strength to face any situation
  • Helps to lead a healthy life
  • Makes the immune strong and keeps diseases at bay

There are many other benefits one receives by the blessings of the ancestors. Due to certain reason if you are not able to perform Shraddh or Tarpan during the period of Pitru Paksha then you can perform the rituals of Tarpan or Shraddh during the period of Bharni Nakshatra.

Now that we know the significance of Pitru Paksha and the ill effects caused by Pitru Dosha, let us learn about the things we must not do while performing the Shraddh

  • One must not offer meat as a food offering during Shraddh
  • Avoid eating meat and consuming alcohol during Pitru Paksha
  • The food prepared to offer to the ancestors must not be served in plastic, steel, copper or any other metal. You must make sure that the food offering must always be done either on an earthen plate or the food shall be serves on fresh banana leaf
  • Unlike other puja services, the Shraddh pujas are different and, in these pujas, ringing of the bell is not allowed
  • Do not be rude or ill treat your elders
  • Do not offer stale food as an offering
  • Do not indulge in activities which are unethical
  • Do not perform the Shraddh rituals just for name’s sake
  • During the period of Pitru Paksha do not keep your house unclean
  • Do not hold any grudges or plan evil against someone

Thus, make sure that you perform the Shraddh puja and offer prayers to the departed souls with a pure heart. Also, observing fast or partial fast for 16 days and praying for the liberation of the departed soul of the departed ancestors is said to offer a range of benefits. Thus, the Pitru Paksha is an important phase that spans for a period of 16 days which allows the souls of our ancestors to cross over to our plane and watch over us. It is the best time for us to remember and pay homage to our departed ancestors. Every year, through the period of Pitru Paksha we get a change to wash away our sins, do charity and pray selflessly for the liberation of the souls of the ancestors. In simple words, offering prayers to the ancestors on Pitru Paksha helps them to go to heaven peacefully and they in return bless us in all walks of life.

Pitru Paksha truly showcases that the bond of love and togetherness never fades and even after death, it showcases the concern we feel for our ancestors and gives us a message that we must always perform selfless acts and always do good deeds.  

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