Why Hindus observe the traditions of Pitru Paksha?

Submitted by Dharam Sewraj

This is a brief explanation and it is good to know. This is not to offend anyone, as many times one is asked why do you observe Pitru Paksha , and the answer you hear is: “My parents used to do it.”

When the legendary donor Karna died in the epic Mahabharata war, his soul transcended to heaven, where he was offered gold and jewels as food.

However, Karna needed real food to eat and asked Indra the Lord of heaven, the reason for serving gold as food. Indra told Karna that he had donated gold all his life, but had never donated food to his ancestors.

Karna said that since he was unaware of his ancestors, he never donated anything in their memory. To make amends, Karna was permitted to return to earth for a 15-day period, so that he could perform a prayer and donate food and water in their memory.

This period is now known as Pitru Paksha.  The performance of prayer by a son during Pitru Paksha is regarded as compulsory by Hindus, to ensure that the soul of the ancestor goes to heaven.

In this context, the scripture says:

“There is no salvation for a man without a son.”

The scriptures preach that a householder should propitiate ancestors, along with the Gods, Ghosts and Guests.  The scriptures says that if the ancestors are content with the prayer, they will bestow health, wealth, knowledge and longevity, and ultimately heaven and salvation upon the performer.

ALSO READ: Soul-stirring chants at Hindu Dharma Campaign

The performance of Sarvapitri Amavasya rites can also compensate a forgotten or neglected annual prayer ceremony, which should ideally coincide with the death anniversary of the deceased.

According to Sharma, the ceremony is central to the concept of lineages.  Prayer involves oblations to three preceding generations – by reciting their names – as well as to the mythical lineage ancestor.

A person thus gets to know the names of six generations (three preceding generation, his own and two succeeding generations -his sons and grandsons) in his life, reaffirming lineage ties.

Pitru Paksha emphasises the fact that the ancestors and the current generation and their next unborn generation are connected by blood ties. The current generation repays their debt to the ancestors in the Pitru Paksha.

This debt is considered of utmost importance along with a person’s debt to his gurus and his parents. God can forgive us as we are not perfect in the things we do, we learn along the way…

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