Mahalaya Amavasya (october 14, 2023), a unique ritual dedicated to departed ancestors (pitrus)

Mahalaya tharpanam sankalpa.

Mahalaya Amavasya, Assam.

Above image: Hindu devotees perform ‘Tarpan’ rituals for the souls of their departed ancestors during the holy day of ‘Mahalaya’ in Agartala on Sunday (25th September, 2022).....................

Mahalaya Paksha pitru tharpanam,
Above image: Srirangapatna in Mandya district Draws Huge Crowd On Mahalaya Amavasya Day (14th October 2023).  Here the Cauvery river, the lifeline of people of Southern parts of the State flows with full force;  huge crowds from different parts of the State  descend on Mahalaya Amavasya Day and they offer  ‘Pinda’ to the river and do tharpanam to their pitus  for the salvation of the souls of their departed near and dear ones.In return to receive the benevolence of the ancestors and to seek peace, prosperity and harmony in your home. Venue : Gosai ghat..............

Mahalaya Amavasya, also known as Pitru Moksha Amavasya, Pitru Amavasya or Sarvapitri Amavasya, is a traditional and most auspicious annual ritual day in the Hindu calendar  dedicated to honor our ancestors - pithroos. It is an expression of thanksgiving  by members to their previous generations  dating back to a couple of centuries or more for all the life they have given to them. It is very much similar to All Souls Day and Christians remember and pray for “all the faithful departed”; Día de los Muertos welcomes the return of the departed for a yearly family. Many of them visit the graveyar and place flowers on the tombstone and pray for them and seek their blessings. 

According to the Amavasyant calendar followed in South India, Pitru Amavasya is observed in the Bhadrapada month or Purattasi Tamil month on New Moon Day (Amavasya). For North Indians who follow the Purnimant calendar,  Mahalaya Amavasya is observed in Ashwin; during September-October according to the Gregorian calendar.  During this period, it is believed, that our departed ancestors - pitrus (pithroos)  visit the earth to accept our shraddha offerings and bless us for our well-being.  Doing mahalaya shraddha is important  for the Hindus, particularly for those who have missed the Tithi on a few occasions  for unknown reasons.   it is good to perform sraddha every day during mahalaya paksha and if not possible,  one can do it on one of the 15  days during the waning phase of the moon. 

This most essential annual ritual is held  in many towns on the banks of the river and will go on till Ayudha Puja Day; Hindus  who prefer river banks, etc.,  will descend on the sites and under the guidance of Purohits/pundits   pray for the salvation of the souls of their forefathers  by sprinkling  tharpana water mixed with black sesame seeds on the darbha grass  and pindams so that they could be free from the dreadful cycles of births and deaths and pangs of joy and pains. 

 The benefits of Mahalaya shraddha  are said to be manifold  and  one should perform it without fail  for the benefits of progeny in his family. 

Doing sraddha on prathama improves financial independence; On dvitiya, beneficial to posterity; on tritiya it promotes progress in the welfare;  on chaturthi it may help us get rid of enemies; on panchami Thithi  it will help us  gain gold, silver, etc to be needed for wedding, etc;  sapthami   sraddha blesses us with power and fame ; on ashtami blesses us with knowledge; on navami doing sradha will give one  gain a good life partner. If performed on dasami  one’s wishes of any kind will get fulfilled;  on ekadasi one gets Veda jnana; on dvadasi one’s family line continues ; on trayodashi  Sharadha will get one gain decent wealth; on  chaturdashi, thithi  is done to appease those who had dhur maranam - unnatural death; 

Mahalaya Paksha, offering pindam to pitrus,

It is to ne noted that Mahalaya tharpanam , mahalaya sraddha and mahalaya Amavasya are all related to ritual offerings to ancestors and ought to be done by Hindus without fail. A simple offering in memory of pitrus will be  good enough is a humble way of expressing our gratitude to them for the sacrifices they did i the past. It is a way to express our indebtedness to them  without whom we  won't exist on this earth. 


Lots of devotees in the temple city of Kumbakonam, TN visit he famous  Sarangapani temple dedicated to God  Mahavishnu, who had  no parent.  Yet, in that temple the lord  performs sraddha for a childless  departed  devotee.  The Lord performed the funeral rites and every year he does sraddha for the devotee, as a son would for his father.  Devotees who have pitru sapa visit this temple for atonement and lord's blessing to be free from the curse. We can understand the importance of sraddha  From the acts of the presiding deity at the temple who takes upon himself the task of performing thithi for his ardant childless devotee we can understand how important it is for a Hindu to pay his respect his forefathers.

There are many complex and bewildering beliefs and legends related to Mahalaya Amavasya, but, the common consensus has been that sraddha will ensure moksha to ancestors - to take eternal sleep in the shadow of the lord in his heavenly abode. 



Krishna-Shukla paksha.

Pitru = Pitru (Pitrus) are the group of our ancestors who have passed away and are staying at various other planets.

Paksha = It is the fifteen days period of the Mahalaya month.

Each of the Hindu months are divided into 15 days of two Pakshas, that is, one is Shukla Paksha and another is Krishna Paksha.

In this, the 16 days (Padya to Amavasya) are kept especially for the Pitru Paksha Mahalaya each year.

Mahalaya = This total 16 days of the Pitru Paksha is known as the Mahalaya (Maha + Alaya = Greatly + auspicious period) month for the Hindus.

Mahalaya Amavasya