Mahalaya Paksha tithi or Shraddha in Pitru Paksha - 45 most essential facts!!

Mahalaya Shraddha in

Hindu Shastras say that  Pitru (ancestors) worship is to be done first before  worshiping  gods or goddesses as the former takes precedence over the latter in the matter of paying respect to all-pervading almighty.  So worship of ''Deivam'' comes next only to the worship of our ancestors who are responsible for the progeny.

The sacred period of Pitru Paksha, as per the Hindu tradition, culminating in Mahalaya Amavasya, has notable  significance. It is a time when  ancestors, are revered and respected by  offerings  them food and prayers  to honour their souls. However, In this this season of honoring our forefathers, there is a growing necessity to   extend this gesture to all living irrespective of caste and status.  Mahalaya Amavasya is around the corner, and let us   extend the act of  charity to the needy  a way that will make us feel the presence of divinity  in the midst of our shared humanity

According to the Hindu calendar, Pitru Paksha or Shradh is a 15-day period that begins following the Purnima Tithi of Shukla Paksha in the month of Bhadrapada or the Tamil month of Purattasi. The belief has been that  our deceased ancestors will  never fail to pay a visit to their descendants on this day to bless them and be with them in their household. Amavasya (when the Moon is not visible) is the most appropriate day to do Shraddha (Sraddha) for our ancestors. Shraddha includes  rituals, tharpanam,  prayers and offerings done to honor the pitrus. Usually performed on their death anniversaries, Shraddha is also performed collectively for 'Pitru' /'Pitr' which consists of paternal and maternal ancestors, kith and kin as well as loved ones during Pitru Paksha.

In modern times because of time constraints and preoccupation with jobs and other mundane duties, Pitru worship  is observed only  for one day - preferably the last day of the 15 lunar day preceding Mahalaya Amavasya  in the Tamil month of Purattasi.  During this period, pitrus are supposed to visit their homes and bless the young generations who are the torch bearers of family's heritage  and legacy.  Mahalaya Amavasya is  more auspicious one than Aadi or Thai Amavasya to perform tarpanam.

the act of Tarpan during Pitru Paksha,www.

the act of Tarpan during Pitru Paksha,
Above image: Paying homage to the ancestors, India -Mahalaya paksha............................. 

Shraddha ends on the Amavasya Tithi of Krishna Paksha. During this period, the Hindus pay obeisance to the departed souls of their ancestors. Pitru Paksha is marked by the rituals of Shraddha and a restricted lifestyle. It is believed that during this period the rituals of Shraddha helped the ancestors  attain moksha or salvation

In west Bengal  it is observed as Mahalaya and marks the commencement of Durga puja celebrations. It symbolizes the annual  visit of goddess Durga to the earth to bless the devotees who repose immense trust in her. In Telangana  Mahalaya marks the beginning of Bathukamma festival, a popular one.

The following are the essential facts of pitru tarpan or ritual  to be done annually to make up the missed out ritual: 

01. There are three kinds of Pitrus: 01.  Pitru Vargam- Pitrus on the side of father (fraternal), 02. Mathru Vargam - on the side of mother (maternal) and 03. Karunika Vargam -  father's brother, uncle and others . Tharpanam is done in memory of them.  

02. People who do shraddha should not have haircut or shave a day before thithi. 

03. Must shun oil bath  and chewing paan (betel leaves). Must  sleep alone and not with the wife.  

04. Tharpanam means to satisfy and the performer must understand the meaning of mantras  and perform the ritual accordingly;  perfect concentration and dedication are needed when chanting mantras. 

05. Pitru rituals done on Devadasi (12th day) Trayodasi (13th day) will bring in  some good benefits/results. 

06. Honoring departed  ancestors is part of Indian culture and such rituals related to Pitrus  will improve the family's welfare and prosperity, besides longevity of the family members.

07. Tharpanam done in the temple tanks, seashores or banks of the river will never fail to give the  observer peace of mind and self-contentment. 

08. Tarpan or shraddha rituals are meant for those ptrus who died on the chaturdashi or Amavasya or purnima tithi.  Normally observed by the eldest male in the family, after head bath and morning ablution, the ritual is done in the presence of a learned purohit sitting while facing east or north direction.

09. Mantras related to pitrus  are chanted to invoke blessing from the ancestors - both  maternal or fraternal sides mentioning Gotras.  In Brahmin houses special food is prepared and offered to the  pundits first and the finally members parke of food later.

pitru tharpanam,

10. The belief has been that   the observer of  rituals  receives blessing from the demigod of  death yama; hence the members of the family are protected from black magic and evil forces.   Sarvapitra Moksha Amavasya  is the  most suitable day to  hold pitru worship to make up the missed thithi. Performing pitru karyam means it removes Pitru  dosha; apart  pitrus get salvation - eternal peace at the lotus feet of the God. 

11. People who trust in soul (Aatma) refer to their forefathers as Pitrus  and honor them annually by doing tithi or sraddha. While a large section of people may believe in  soul, similarly equal number of them may not believe in soul or reincarnation. 

12. Rituals related to departed forefathers - pitrus have been known long before the time of the Sangam period - more than 2500 years, according to records. Pitru worship every month is fixed by calculating  Tithi, Rasi, day, etc.  A year is divided into  Ayanam, Paruvam, month, Paksham (15 days), week, day, etc to perform prescribed rituals.

13. Mahalaya Amavasya  day is fixed by  calculating the the entry of the Sun in the Kanni Rasi in the SW direction. The fortnight period is  dedicated to the visit of pitrus.  Garuda, Vishnu and Varaha puranas emphasize  the ritual of tharpanam to propitiate our ancestors or forefathers during this particular time. God Vishnu  in his avatar as Krishna and Rama did pitru puja to honor departed souls of his  forefathers 

14. Please bear in mind our forefathers will never fail to bless us and help us surmount stressful situation even if you forget to honor them annually.  
15. The Hindu scriptures point out that tharpanam done every month on the Amavasya day  will benefit the family and  Mahalaya  Amavasya tarpan  and the associated ritual done with mantra will  have  positive effect on the observer and his family. Because on this particular auspicious day, sages, devas, munis and others visit the earth and bless people who engage themselves in Pitru Karyam

16. After tharpanam, observer must offer free food, vegetables, clothes, rice,  country sugar (vellam) bananas, a measure of sesame seeds, spinach like Agathi Keerai etc.,  and such humble charity has the capability to remove the sins committed knowingly or unknowingly.

17. People who  have no knowledge of the  death of their pitrus or their departed relatives, etc   can  offer worship to the Sun and prostate toward the south direction in their memory.  

18. Though the Shastras say that  a person must do tarpanam 96 times a year, which is impossible, one should do the ritual without fail on the mahalaya Amavasya day ( based on the death of the departed person)  which is more auspicious than Aadi and Thai Amavasya. 

19. Missed tithi or Shraddha must b made up later on the mahalaya Paksha day. The tharpanam must be done with devotion, concentration and commitments.

20. No oil bath or bath with perfumes  is recommended; nor can it be done in case of a death in the family or birth of a kid during the 15 day  period. 

21. Pitru tarpanam is to be performed under the guidance of a pundit in the bathing ghat of the temple tanks, or on the banks of the holy river.  Pinda offering and sprinkling  of sesame seed mixed water on the Darbha grass must me done while, chanting mantras and invoking first three generations of grandpa and grandma (Thatha and Patti) with gotra on both sides - fraternal and maternal.

22. When tharpanam is done near the water body outside home, upon return to the house,  adorn the photos of the forefathers with Thulasimala o Tulsi leaves, a favorite of God Mahavishnu.
For pitru karyam, Sunday is the most suitable one. If a performer has no wife or kid, he may choose a day after consulting a learned Pundit to conduct pitru tharpanam. 

23. Pitru tarpanam is different from regular shraddha which is fixed on a day based on the death of the ancestor. Special food is prepared in a traditional way and the thithi is  held with  3 purohits. After the ritual, they are fed first. Offering of Annam to the purohit  on the Vishnu elai (plantain  leaf) is part of the tradition.  Family members are allowed to partake food only after Pundits.  Darbha grass (please note:  Darbha  has rich medicinal properties and it is not an ordinary grass) Ellu (dil seeds) and pinda dhanam  (balls of boiled rice),are essential to invoke ancestors on both sides.  

24. Offering  new clothes, food,etc  to the elderly people is a good act of charity that will please the pitrus. 
25. Lots of people offer food to the Crows (supposedly pitrus) and place it on the SE or SW direction in their home and this will have positive effect in the family. Crows are chosen because they're social and  live together and never fail to connect with their groups. 
26. Mahalaya paksha ritual can remove pitru dosha  (curses). If the son or daughter never takes care his or her parents, though they may not curse their sibling, they may silently undergo mental agony. On this day with rituals, such pangs of agony will get negated. Likewise, this day is the most suitable one for those who died unnaturally (Akala Maranam).

27. Praying to Saneeswara  (Saturn) bhagavan on the mahalaya day by lighting oil (sesame oil)  in his shrine will please him and help us get past the most testing time in our lives.

28. No special pujas or homams are to be done in the month of tharpanam, particularly,  a few days before the day of tithi or tharpanam. Exception being regular pujas being done every day at home. 

29. Likewise,  no mangala karyam (joyous celebration) should be done in the month when tithis is observed. In the same month no sangalpam is to be done as part of homam or pujas or abhishekam in the temples, etc. this particular 15 day period is 'the time of mourning''

30. Gods Shiva and Vishnu are said to be not  pleased to accept the offerings from their devotees who never perform shraddha for their parents and failed in their duty to take care of them when they are healthwise down and weak. 

31. If a son never cared about his aging mother or father and send them to his sister's house  and  avoid his primary duty (as a son), he invites pitru dosham. The most selfish and disgusting act on the part of the son is his irresponsibility not to see his dying father or mother before their death. It is the most disrespectful act and tithis performed by the son in the later years do not carry elements of either respect or affection for the parents who made so many sacrifices.  

32. Among the pitru rituals Parvana shraddha is is an important one in which the tithi is done properly with proper food, homam, annadhanam and Pinda Daana, an offering of cooked rice made by wife, Til (black sesame seeds) and rolled into balls with ghee. This is offered with water from the hand as per instructions from the priest.

33. Correct mentioning of the gotra of respective ancestors is essential when pitru karya ritual is being done. The  effects of pitru tarpanam  will reach the pitru as per gothra.

34. If Amavasya and mahalaya fall on the same day, first amavasya tharpanam must be done followed by Mahalaya Paksha ritual.

35. Pitru tharpanam or shraddha is not done by a person, he will never have peace of mind or eternal bliss. 

36. Shastras emphasize the fact pitru karyam must be postponed to a later date if a close relative  dies in the 15 day period in that month. 

37. On Sarvapitri Amavasya, the daughter's son can offer prayers for the maternal side of his family if there are no male successors in his mother's family.

38. This being  a solemn period to do rituals, marriages and auspicious events are avoided during Pitru Paksha

39. Though, it may be right to go on a pilgrimage to holy places,, this period in the most inauspicious to purchase gold, silver, etc., for Subha karyam - like weddings, Seemantham, etc. 

 40. Normally, in the month of Purattasi during this particular period,  many devout Hindus avoid onion, garlic, non-vegetarian food in their diet and also alcohol out of respect for the ancestors

41. If Amavasya and  Monday fall on the same day, it is called Prathyaksha Amavasya. Particularly Somavara amavasya falling in the Tamil month of Purattasi is special and Somavara prathikshanam is an important religious event.  Going round the Peepal  tree (Arasa maram - Vishnu roopam) and Veppa maram (Neem tree- Lakshmi roopam)  108 times is good; if not possible, one can go round 21 times). The worship will remove obstacles regarding girls' wedding, bless the wedded couples with a kid and will remove the negative effects of  Sani Bhagavan.  Peepal  tree is said to carry the trinity gods - Shiva at top,  Brahma at the bottom and Vishnu in the middle.

42. Brothers can do pithru karyam together led by the eldest. If circumstances demand brothers can do the same individually and it is not wrong in modern perspective, according to some learned purohits hailing from Thanjavur and Kumbakonam. 
43. The concluding day of Pitru Paksha is referred to as Sarvapitri Amavasya or Mahalaya Amavasya. Mahalaya Amavasya holds special significance within the context of Pitru Paksha Mahalaya amavasya tharpanam  or tarpan  rituals are  performed to propitiate our pitrus and invoke their blessings for prosperous and peaceful  life in the ensuing years.

44. It is believed as mentioned in the Hindu scriptures that God MahaVishnu is pleased to accept all the pujas, Aradhanas and other Pitru related  worships. The puja specifically done for the departed ancestors  is called Thilasmara  Nirmalya Puja  and the lord gives darshan to the Pitrus and his divine appearance is only visible to them. Further, it is believed, that the pitrus visit the earth and be with their descendants for 15 days only on the advice of ''Emperuman.'' Mahalayam means ''holy place where holymen or saints live.'

45. Pitru puja - Mahalaya tharpanam is to be done facing south.  East is meant for the Devas, West is for the humans, North is for the rudras and South direction  is taken over by the Pitrus and it is controlled by demigod of death Yama. His  administration Samayamini is in the south, so, pitru rituals are done in the direction facing south. 

Which places are appropriate to conduct pitru rituals?   It's is good to perform mahalaya tharpanam on the banks of the Cauvery, Krishna river, Godavari, etc., in south India.  Vedaranyam, Kodiakarai beach, Rameswaram, Kanyakumari beach and  Poompuhar Confluence of the Cauvery) in TN  are most suitable places for tharpanam. As for Temple tanks, places like like Mahamaham  Kumbakonam, Kamalalayam, Thiruvarur,  Mannargudi Rajagopala swami temple tank, Tamil Nadu are equally important. The most auspicious places are on the banks of the Cauvery river -  Srirangapatna, KA,  Amma mandapam, Srirangam, Thiruvaiyaru bathing ghat, Mayiladuthurai (Nandi Kattam), etc.  At Thiruvaiyaru the presiding deity Aiyarappar (Shiva) and his consort - Aramkartha nayaki arrive at the ghat for the annual Theerthavari.

Gaya, Bihar and Varanasi (Kasi) in Uttar Pradesh are right places to perform Shraddha in our country.  Puranas say Bhagirathan is said to have done Pitru tharpanam at a pace called Sagar near the confluence of the ganges. While these places receive pilgrims round the year, the Pitru Paksha period welcomes lakhs of families to perform the rituals.  Other Pitru Kshetras include Vaitarni (Odisha), Srirangapatna (Mysuru), Siddhpur (Gujarat), Badrinath and Rameswaram, Kanyakumari and Thiruvaiyaru in in Tamil Nadu. Doing Pitru tharpanam at the confluence of the Cauvery, Amitha nad Bhavani near Erode and offering Annadhanam in the Sangameswarar temple there - will help the devotees to be free from bad effects of Sani, will get rid of pitru sabam and will be blessed with a baby . 

If one is unable to visit the holy sites for pitru karyam, there is nothing wrong in performing the rituals at home with help from the Purohits or Pundits.