Pitru-paksha (Mahalaya-paksha – The dark fortnight in the Hindu almanac
month of Bhadrapad, when some rituals are performed for the ancestors)


1. The dark fortnight in the Hindu lunar month of Bhadrapad is termed as ‘Pitru-paksha’. This fortnight is very dear to the pitars (Departed ancestors). The shraddha (Special rituals performed for the departed ancestors) performed in Pitru-paksha is called Mahalaya shraddha. If Mahalaya shraddha is performed for the pitars during this fortnight, they remain satisfied throughout the year.

2. श्राद्धं कन्यागते भानौ यो न कुर्याद् गृहाश्रमी । धनं पुत्राः कुतस्तस्य पितृकोपाग्निपीडनात् ।।
यावच्च कन्यातुलयोः क्रमादास्ते दिवाकरः । शून्यं प्रेतपुरं तावद् यावद् वृश्चिकदर्शनम् ।।

Meaning : How can a householder who infuriates his pitars (by not performing shraddha during the period when the sun is in the zodiac sign of Virgo), earn money or be gifted with a male child etc. ? Additionally,the Pitrulok (Region where Pitars reside) is vacant till the sun moves from the zodiac signs of Virgo and Libra into the zodiac sign of Scorpio.

The Pitrulok remaining vacant implies that during this period, all of them come close to their descendants to bless them, and if shraddha is not performed, they become disappointed and return. Hence, it is important to perform shraddha during this period.

Pitars who arrive on the occasion of Mahalaya shraddha

1. Father, grandfather, great-grandfather

2. Mother, grandmother and
great-grandmother (Matrutrayi)

3. Step-mother

11. Brother

4. Mother’s father, grandfather and
great-grandmother (Matamahatrayi)

12. Father’s sisters

5. Mother’s mother, grandmother and

13. Mother’s sisters

6. Wife

14. Sisters

7. Sons

15. Father-in-law

8. Daughters

16. Other relatives

9. Uncles

17. Guru (if there is a Gurudisciple

10. Maternal uncle

18. Disciple (if there is a
Guru-disciple relationship)

A list of all such names along with their gotras (Lineage) shouldalways be maintained. It will be useful while performing a Mahalaya shraddha. (Such in-depth study has been carried out only by the Hindu Dharma ! – H. H. Dr Athavale)

Bharni shraddha

If shraddha is performed when the Bharni lunar asterism is in position during Pitru-paksha, it yields benefit equivalent to performing a shraddha at the Holy place of Gaya. As per the scriptures, Bharni shraddha should be performed after the annual shraddha. Sapindikarana shraddha is performed before the annual shraddha. If Bharni shraddha is performed after that, it helps the deceased to get released from the Preta-yoni (Species of the dead).This shraddha should be performed in every Pitru-paksha. As per the tradition that has become prevalent according to the times, the Sapindikarana shraddha is performed on the 12th day itself after the death of an individual. Therefore, according to some scholars of scriptures, it is acceptable if Bharni shraddha is performed duringthe Pitru-paksha of the same year.

Sarvapitri Amavasya [Last day of the Krushnnapaksha
(Dark fortnight) of Hindu lunar fortnight, the new-moon day]

This is the name given to the Amavasyain the Pitru-paksha (in the month of Bhadrapad). On this day, shraddha is performed for all the pitars in the family. Even if shraddha is not performed everyday during the year or on other tithis of Pitru-paksha,shraddha should compulsorily be performed on this day since it is the last day of the Pitru-paksha. The scriptures say that Amavasya is the appropriate tithi to perform shraddha; whereas, Amavasya of Pitru-paksha is the most appropriate tithi to perform shraddha.On this day, most families invite at least one Brahman for meals. To appease the pitars, on this day, fishermen, landlords, tribals and farmers offer pindas (Rice balls offered during the shraddha ritual) made from cooked rice or flour to their pitars, and invite people belonging to their community for a meal. In addition, it isa custom to offer food grains to the Brahmans.

Importance of chanting the Name of Deity Dattatreya during Pitru-paksha

Maximum chanting of ‘Shri Gurudev Datta’ during the Pitru-paksha helps the pitars gain momentum for their onward journey.(Importance of chanting Deity Dattatreya’s Name is akin to performing shraddha in the context of protection from distress caused bythe pitars and they gaining momentum for their onward journey.)

If somebody has expired in the family,
do not perform Mahalayashraddha during that year

When the father or mother die, their son need not perform Mahalaya shraddha in the first year;because, monthly shraddhas are already being performed for them. However, other members of the family, for example, paternal cousin or any other individual in the extended family who gets affected by the sutak (Impurities caused by the death of a family member), should perform Mahalaya shraddha for their own father or mother. However, if Mahalaya-paksha comes during the period of sutak, Mahalaya shraddha should not be performed; instead, it should be performed on the first Amavasya day after the sutak is over.

Reference : Sanatan’s Holy Text ‘Shraddha – Importance and the underlying science’

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