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Pitru Paksha: Homage To Ancestors How-To Ritual

The South African Hindu Maha Sabha has issued a notice to the community saying that Pitra Paksha/Pitru Paksha commences on 2 September and not 3rd September 2020. This religious event by Hindus is where rituals of Tarpan (Tarpanam) and Shradh are observed to pay homage to the dead. It is also performed appease ancestors and to help these departed souls to attain Moksha. The Jewish community remember their loved ones when they observe Passover while Christians devote a full month during November to the dead and Muslims pay homage on Shab-e-Barat. The Buddhists and the Parsis have ceremonies to honour their ancestors, practically majority of religious communities have a ritual that honours their dead.

When does Pitru Paksha start?

According to SA Hindu Maha Sabha’s post, “Pratipada starts at 7:21 am on 2 September 2020. Aparahna Kaal, the last watch of the day, is from 1:04 pm to 3:21 pm on 2 September 2020. The Pratipada thithi transition during Aparahna Kaal; therefore, 2 September fulfils requirements for commencement of Pitru Paksha. The first day of Pitra Shraadh is inclusive of Purnima, which is present until 7:21 am on 2 September 2020. Therefore, the first water oblation should be done on 2 September 2020 and not on 3 September 2020. The last day of Pitra Paksha is 17 September 2020. The last water oblation should be given on the morning of 17 September 2020.”

This period of Pitru Paksha is deemed highly inauspicious for engagement or marriage ceremonies, grihapravesh (house warming ceremony), mundan (head tonsuring ceremony of a child) etc.

How to perform the Pitru Paksha prayer rituals at home

The rituals of Shradh and Tarpanam are normally conducted in the presence of a priest, due to the lockdown you can perform it at home.

Pandit Shamboo Shankar, a renowned priest of Jaipur says “worshipping your lineage of ancestors commences with the father and mother and includes grandfather, grandmother, great-grandfather and great-grandmother back to as many generations as one can recollect. For the unknown ancestors, Rookha or Seedha (raw) food is offered in a thali that includes wheat flour, rice, kheer (milk pudding) and sabzi (vegetables).

Samagri for performing the Tarpanam and Shradh

  • Asanam (seat)
  • Pancha Patra (copper, brass or silver)
  • Black sesame seeds
  • Akshat
  • Kusha grass
  • Pavitram (Kusha grass ring) 

For Pind Daan Water, cooked rice and black sesame seeds

Tapanam and Shradh rituals

  • Rise early, take a bath.
  • Then do Sandhyavandanam followed by Madhyanam wearing a dhoti and angavastra.
  • Then, take a bath once again. Wear a fresh dhoti and angavastra and sit facing the East.
  • Use brass, copper or silver pancha patra to perform the rituals. Do not use plastic, steel, iron or glass.
  • Begin the rituals by doing the Achaman (take water from the pancha patra and put it on your palm and drink it.)
  • Then do Angavandanam (worship the deities by touching the various parts of the body like ears, nose, eyes, neck, shoulders etc).
  • Do the Ganapati Dhyanam (invoke Lord Ganesha to seek his blessings)
  • Perform the Pranayamam.
  • Then do Sankalpam.
  • Avahanam – Offer water 
  • Asanam – Offer seat
  • Then chant the Rik Mantras.
  • Pray to the previous three generations of your family who are no more. Apologise for the mistakes that you may have committed in the past and seek their blessings.
  • Brahma Yagya – Pay obeisance to the great sages (rishi munis and the learned men of the past).
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