Jyotishacharya Shastri Pundit Roshan Singh
Taking care of your roots
Pitar Paksha will be observed by Hindus from September 29th September to 14 October both dates inclusive this year. Water oblations will commence as from the morning of the 29th of September and end in the morning of the 14th October. It is an observance that should be carried out for the full 16 days with full sraddha (faith) love and devotion. The period is known as Shraad which is derived from the word Shraddha which means faith. Take care of the roots and naturally you will enjoy the fruit of your actions.
It is the sixteen lunar day period which is dedicated to our ancestors and forefathers. It commences on poornima (full moon day) of Bhadrapada (September) and ends on Amavasya (no moon day) of Ashwini month in Shukla Paksh (waxing moon period). During this period people pay homage to their pitar or ancestors as Pitra Paksh refers to the fortnight of ancestors when offerings of food and water is offered in great reverence to the Supreme Lord and the remnants known as prashad is offered to their ancestors.
It is a very auspicious time of the year when normal poojas and ceremonies – mundane activities of doing something new such as purchasing a car or home or getting married is set aside and focus is placed at the Lotus feet of the Lord to liberate the souls of their ancestors. Do remember that daily worship of chanting the holy names of the Lord, reading from Bhagavad-gita or Srimad Bhagavatam, Tulsi Pooja, Guru Pooja, Aarti and making offerings of all the food that you partake etc should not be stopped during this period. At no time do we stop praying to the Lord. During the 15 days we intensify our worship to the Supreme Personality of Godhead Lord Vishnu and seek his blessings to deliver our ancestors from the bodies that they might have acquired after their death and deliver them back home.
At times some people are of the misconception that if someone passes away in ones home that pooja should not be done for one year. The purpose of human life is never to forget the Lord for even a moment. It is largely through our forgetful nature of the Lord that we have taken birth on this planet to redevelop our lost connection with Him. The practise of stopping pooja, not attending spiritual gatherings, hearing Katha etc is adharmic and takes us further away from the Lord. Krishna makes it very clear in the Bhagavad-gita that we should remember Him all the time.
Man-mana bhava mad-bhakto
Mad-yaji mam namaskuru
Mam evaisyasi yuktvaivam
Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, become My devotee, offer obeisances to Me and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me.
During the observance of Pitar Paksha all offerings, pooja, archan, vandana etc are made to the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the remnants of these offerings known as prashad (mercy) is then offered to the ancestors. This is a clear indication that even during Pitar Paksha one never forgets the Lord. When an individual passes away on the day of the funeral pooja is done, the Anthyesti sanskaar (funeral rites) involves a hawan that is done at the crematorium, the ten and thirteen day ceremony and the 6 month and one year ceremony pooja is done and offerings are made to Lord Vishnu which is a clear indication that pooja continues during these ceremonies.
The first day of Pitra Paksh is Poornima Shraadh when offerings are made to the maternal and paternal grandparents. On the rest of the days know as Pratipada, Dwitiya, Tritiya, Caturthi, Panchami, Shasthi, Saptami, Ashtami, Navami, Dashami, Ekadashi, Dwadashi Trayodashi, Chaturdasi & finally Sarva Pitra Amavasa – poojas and offerings are made according to the Tithi or phase of the moon when the person had died. It is therefore important for one to consult with a bone fide astrologer to determine the tithi of the departed so as to enable one to make the offerings on the correct day during pitar paksha so as to maximise on the benefit that the soul can derive to pave his way back home, back to Godhead and never return to this mundane world of suffering again.
For those person that are not aware of the tithi on which the soul left the world they can make their offerings on the last day of pitar paksha known as Sarvapitra Moksha Amavasya but attempt to consult with an astrologer to determine the correct Tithi for future offerings.
In the Bhagavad-gita which was spoken by God Himself it is stated :
saṅkaro narakāyaiva kula-ghnānāṁ kulasya ca patanti pitaro hy eṣāṁ lupta-piṇḍodaka-kriyāḥ
Word for word:
saṅkaraḥ — such unwanted children; narakāya — make for hellish life; eva — certainly; kula–ghnānām — for those who are killers of the family; kulasya — for the family; ca — also; patanti — fall down; pitaraḥ — forefathers; hi — certainly; eṣām — of them; lupta — stopped; piṇḍa — of offerings of food; udaka — and water; kriyāḥ — performances.
An increase of unwanted population certainly causes hellish life both for the family and for those who destroy the family tradition. The ancestors of such corrupt families fall down, because the performances for offering them food and water are entirely stopped.
According to the rules and regulations of fruitive activities, there is a need to offer periodical food and water to the forefathers of the family. This offering is performed by worship of Viṣṇu, because eating the remnants of food offered to Viṣṇu can deliver one from all kinds of sinful reactions. Sometimes the forefathers may be suffering from various types of sinful reactions, and sometimes some of them cannot even acquire a gross material body and are forced to remain in subtle bodies as ghosts. Thus, when remnants of prasādam food are offered to forefathers by descendants, the forefathers are released from ghostly or other kinds of miserable life. Such help rendered to forefathers is a family tradition, and those who are not in devotional life are required to perform such rituals. One who is engaged in the devotional life is not required to perform such actions. Simply by performing devotional service, one can deliver hundreds and thousands of forefathers from all kinds of misery. It is stated in the Bhāgavatam (11.5.41):
devarṣi-bhūtāpta-nṛṇāṁ pitṝṇāṁ na kiṅkaro nāyam ṛṇī ca rājan sarvātmanā yaḥ śaraṇaṁ śaraṇyaṁ gato mukundaṁ parihṛtya kartam
“Anyone who has taken shelter of the lotus feet of Mukunda, the giver of liberation, giving up all kinds of obligation, and has taken to the path in all seriousness, owes neither duties nor obligations to the demigods, sages, general living entities, family members, humankind or forefathers.” Such obligations are automatically fulﬁlled by performance of devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
When there is increase of unwanted population, a hellish situation is created both for the family and for those who destroy the family tradition. In such corrupt families, there is no offering of oblations of food and water to the ancestors.
The procedure of making offerings of food to the ancestors should be observed as follows :
Members of the family should rise early in the morning and prepare for worship of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Krsna.
Chant the holy names of the Lord on Japa Mala beads
Do pooja and Aarti
Read from the holy scriptures
Purify the kitchen with cow urine or a mixture of haldi water or ganga jal.
Apply a dot of chandan (sandal wood paste) to the stove.
Decorate the stove with flowers and keep a lota of water close to the stove.
Pray and invite the Lord to appear as Agnidev who is the devouring agent for and on behalf of Lord Vishnu.
Prepare the food in a very devotional mood while singing or chanting the maha mantra. If this is not possible then play a CD of the maha mantra.
Do not wear shoes when cooking
Have your head and mouth covered if possible
The entire family should be involved in the preparation and cooking process as this is not only the duty of the ladies.
When the food is cooked it should be dished out in the best tray and in nice bowls that you set aside for pooja purposes.
This should be taken to the alter
The bhoga (food) is then offered to the Lord by ringing a bell and calling for Him to accept your offerings.
Bow down and take the blessings of the Lord while requesting Him to partake to the food offerings. Leave the prayer room.
Return to your pooja room after about 10 minutes and take away the offering which has now become prashad (mercy)
The offering of alcohol, cigarettes and meat is not permissible. Those that do this will incur bad karma in their lives bearing in mind that this is a holy day, the food is being offer to Lord Vishnu and tamasic food should not be offered nor taken on this day.
Out of this offering you may then take some of this maha prashad and place it on a banana leaf. This should be offered to your ancestors by placing it in front of their picture (if you have one). This should be left there for about 10 minutes. This offerings is then left outside under a tree or in the garden for the lower species of life of enjoy. In this manner the souls of the ancestors get liberation and the lower species of life make spiritual advancement and acquire human forms in their next life. There is no need when taking the food to be left outside to be done ceremoniously.
DAAN and CHARITY
It is very important to distribute food, clothing and make donations to the poor and needy during this period.
Do not feed the fed by making this period feel like a party when organising the shraad pooja in your home but keep and maintain the mood of spirituality when cooking, making offerings and even partaking the prashad.