Pitru Paksha – Some important facts

Dr (Pundit) Roshan Singh

Hindus are bound by their Dharma, to pray for the souls of their ancestors. It’s a debt they must pay to stay happy. During Pitru Paksha or Shraadh, a  16-lunar-day period in the Hindu calendar which starts this year on September 10 and ends of the 25 people offer prayers, food and water to their ancestors.

Hindus believe that the departed wander in a realm between heaven and earth (‘Pitru Lok’). Here, they are restless and still attached to worldliness (‘Maya’). The prayers and ritual offerings during Pitru Paksha free the souls and help them transition towards ‘Brahmaloka’ or heaven.


The Lord explains in the Bhagavad Gita that one who remembers Him at the time of their death does not die but leaves his body and returns back home, back to Godhead and dwells with Him forever in eternal bliss and happiness. He never ever returns to this material world of suffering. The Lord who is our real and original father will be present at the time of you leaving your body and personally escort you back home.


On the otherhand one who thinks about his earthly possessions, wife or husband or children returns to this planet of suffering and takes on a human form once again. He will acquire a body of his choice depending upon whatever he has done in his previous life. Every thought, word or action is accumulated at every moment of ones life and manifests as a singular thought at the time of ones death. He returns to this material world once again and reaps the fruits of his karma (past doings).  It is for this reason a child is born at a certain time, in a particular place to a particular set of parents and enjoys a particular lifestyle which is predetermined and cannot be changed in anyway.


Sleep and being in a coma is regarded as being in the mode of ignorance. One who dies in sleep or in a coma falls down and takes birth in anyone of the 8 400 000 species of life and acquires a body exactly according to the accumulated karma.


Remember your ancestors with rituals

Consult a Hindu priest or a family elder to learn the special rituals. Foods offered consist of rice, black sesame seeds and barley flour balls (Pindaas) along with water.

Help those less fortunate

It’s believed that during Pitru Paksha, feeding and caring for anyone in need generates good karma that helps bring peace to the departed. What a great way to do your part!

Teach your children well

While you explain the significance of Pitru Paksha to your children, tell them that a good Hindu is respectful and loving to their parents, grandparents and elders. Remind your children that there are blessings in obedience.


​This is an inauspicious period

​This 16-day period is considered an unfavorable time to start a new venture, get married, buy a house or a car but normal daily worship, chanting, reading from the scriptures continues as usual.

Offer as a way to receive

​Those who don’t offer food and water to their ancestors during Pitru Paksha will receive none in their afterlife.

It washes away sins

​Pitru Paksha is also the time a Hindu can wash off the sins inherited from his ancestors by performing the rituals and making offerings. (Pitru Dosha)

Feeding crows — a good omen

​A crow eating the offerings is considered a good sign because crows are believed to be representatives of the God of Death, Yama. We do not have many crows in our environment so we can feed other birds during this time.

​It was performed only by men

​Traditionally, Pitru Paksha was performed only by men, particularly sons, but times have changed. In families where there are no sons, daughters can perform the rituals instead. It does not make sense that the females can prepare the food offerings and they cannot participate in the pooja.


Hindus believe it grants peace to their ancestors

According to the holy writings of the Gita and the Vedas, offerings made to the departed during Pitru Paksha bring peace to their souls and helps them reach their divine destination.

It reaffirms the Hindu faith in an afterlife

Death is not the end — it merely punctuates the cycle of birth and rebirths and Pitru Paksha marks the end of one’s physical body. For the soul, what follows is a journey determined by each person’s individual karma, which was earned during their lifetime.

It connects past and present generations

The Hindus believe that there are strong karmic ties between previous, current and future unborn generations. We are indebted to our ancestors. When we honour them by praying for their souls, we earn their blessings.

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