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Hindus participate in many different religious and spiritual practices throughout their lives. Hinduism is different from other religions because even after death there are certain rituals which must be performed.
During Pitru Paksha, which lasts two weeks, families get together and perform rituals to help their dead ancestors. Hindu families help their ancestors to find peace in later life and live in the cycle of rebirth by performing the following traditional rites.
Pitru Paksha, also known as Shraddha, is much more than just not eating meat, not shopping, not going to parties and all the other bad things that come with it. Let`s take you on a quick journey of traditions and customs to help you understand what it is and why it is a chance to thank your ancestors, who loved you so much.
The Karta is a family member who takes care of the most important parts of Shraddha. Most of the time, the eldest son or daughter is chosen to be the doer. Usually, the ritual is performed by the son, but if the son is not, then on behalf of the father of the family any male relative can act as the doer.
An exception to this rule is the mother-mother, which is a specific day of observance of 15 days. On this day, the ritual can be performed by a woman in the family, usually the eldest daughter.
Any member of the family who will perform Shraddha deeds should take a bath first. When they perform rituals or make offerings to ancestors or priests, they are also expected to wear special clothes.
Pure baths and traditional clothes show respect for the ancestors and any priests present there, and they ensure that the offerings are pure.
A Brahmin is a kind of priest, spiritual teacher or guardian of education in Hinduism. The Indian caste system, called Varna, places them in the highest class.
Hindus offer food and drink to Brahmins during Pitru Paksha to show respect and seek their blessings. As stated above, the Karta could invite the Brahmin to his house for food, ceremony, gift and hospitality.
Pind Daan, or “ceremony after death,” is another ceremony that takes place during Pitru Paksha. Pind Daan is a very important part of Hindu death rituals, and one must be performed when one dies.
Hindus believe that after death the soul of a person can live in the material world. This is the ritual of Pindadan. A soul cannot find peace if it is attached to things and people.
For the Pindadan ritual, family members (usually a son or daughter of the departed) offer sesame seeds along with rice and water to the ancestors. This gift shows how much the family wants the soul to attain salvation, leaving the material world. So, Pindadan is a way to say goodbye for good.
Most Hindus perform Pindadan when someone dies and is cremated, but they can also do it on Pitru Paksha holiday.
Worship of gods
After giving Pind Daan, the Karta usually worships the gods Vishnu (protector) and Yama in a ritual (the god of death and the king of ancestors).
For this ritual the doer places the cooked food on the roof of the house or other building. If the crow comes and feeds, it is believed that the gods have accepted the gift.
On this occasion, people also feed cows and dogs.
Sarvapitra Amavasya is performed when the karta calls the names of all the ancestors who have died in the previous three generations. Thus, the person performing the ritual knows the names of six generations – three before him and three after him.
It is an important part of Pitru Paksha as it helps people stay connected to their families and ancestors.
One of the most important parts of Pitru Paksha for Hindus is Tarpan, which means “water donation. ”
For the Tarpan ritual, people and families give water to the gods, who are called sages, and their ancestors who have died. Water is considered a superior charity or offering, and it is very worthwhile.
Food and drink
Part of the Pitru Paksha is making such food and drink that the deceased person liked while alive. The family also makes other food offerings that are part of the Hindu custom.
Most of the time, doers make these traditional dishes in silver or copper utensils or wok. Then he serves them on banana leaves or other dry leaves. Traditional Pitru Paksha foods include kheer (sweet rice and milk), sweet wheat or cereal porridge, lentils, guar beans, rice and pumpkin. The family eats only after eating a cow, a dog, the Brahmin priests who are there, and a crow, who is the messenger of the gods.
Apart from these procedures mentioned above, one should avoid certain things while performing Pitru Paksha rites. For example, during Pitru Paksha, one should not eat non-vegetarian food, one should not cut hair and eat tamsik food like garlic, onion etc. Any auspicious work like starting a new project or attempting or buying a new house or vehicle should also be avoided during this phase.
Importance of Shraddha
Performing Shraddha, or following the rites and traditions of Pitru Paksha, is much more than just celebrating a holiday. Hindus believe that performing the correct death rites correctly is the only way to help their ancestors attain peace (moksha) after death.
Also, if a family performs the Shraddha rite correctly, the ancestors can bless them which will help them to do good in the coming years.
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