If you pay homage to your ancestors every year, then you will surely be aware of Pitru Paksha. It is a ritual in which Hindus all over the country offer food, also called Pind Daan. In 2023, Pitru Paksha started on 29 September, Friday and will end on 14 October 2023, Saturday.
Devotees all over India visit Varanasi during this period to perform Pisach Mochan Kund. It is a ritual that devotees perform and then leave for Gaya in Bihar to pay homage to their ancestors.
As per mythology, Pishach Mochan Kund was present even before the Ganga descended on Earth, it is a place where for hundreds of years, people have been providing Pind Daan to their ancestors.
Pitru Paksha, known in English as the fortnight of the paternal ancestors, is a 16-lunar day period in the Hindu calendar. Ancestors are called Pitrs in Hindi.
The food offerings provided to the ancestors were usually cooked in silver or copper vessels and mainly kept on a banana leaf or cups created of dried leaves.
Men who perform the Shraadh rituals are expected to take a purifying bath before and then wear a dhoti. Men wear a ring of darbha or grass. Then the ancestors are gathered to reside in the ring.
Men usually perform the shradh rituals bare-chested because the position of the sacred thread worn by them has to be changed many times during the rituals.
People from all over India gather at Haridwar to pray for the salvation of their departed ancestors. In the Puranas, there is a special emphasis on performing Shraddh in the Narayani Shila Temple of Haridwar and that’s why devotees from faraway places visit the temple to do these rituals.
In simple terms, Pitru Paksha is a way to share thankfulness with your ancestors and pray for their salvation. People consider performing the rituals at Narayani Shila Temple in Haridwar, Gaya, Uttarakhand, Bihar, and Badrinath as special.
It is said that three generations of deceased ancestors live in an in-between realm called Pitrilok. Thus, during Pitru Paksha when their loved ones wish for their salvation, they are freed by Yamaraj i.e. the God of Death. It is during these 16 days that priests or Brahmins perform rituals such as Shraadh, Pind Daan, and Tarpan during this auspicious time.
Tarpan has to be performed by the eldest son of the departed soul. It is said that during Pitru Paksha, the deceased person visits Earth to get gifts, food, and water from their family members.
Crows are said to be the representatives of the souls of deceased family members or Yamraj. Thus, Pind Daan which has rice and sesame seeds is offered to the crows. During Pitru Paksha, feeding the poor and needy is also considered to be auspicious.
Animals are also fed during this time of the year. Having one meal a day and following celibacy are believed to be done during this period.
Usually, Hindus avoid any wedding or engagement, or housewarming functions during Pitru Paksha. Non-vegetarian foods, tobacco, and alcohol are also avoided. Iron utensils are avoided. Cutting of hair or shaving of beard is also not done during Pitru Paksha. People also do not indulge in buying any new property or luxury items during Pitru Paksha.