EYE ON VEDIC FESTIVALS: PITRIS PAKSHA
Over the last three years, I have become fascinated by the impact of our ancestors on our present day karma. Mark Woylnn’s book, It Didn’t Start With You, reminds us of how our ancestor’s unresolved suffering, much of which is unknown to us, binds us painfully to them. So often our depression, anxiety, pain and phobias and obsessive thoughts comes to us genetically from our parents, grand-parents, and great grand-parents. In Vedic astrology you can often see this in the varga charts, D-40 and D-45 which are about ancestral lineage. In tracing family trees, it becomes more and more fascinating to discover our struggles are our ancestor’s struggles and they are cheering for us to complete what they may not have. We owe them so much for their sacrifice and devotion to bring up a family and continuing the family lineage. In my Varga 2 class, I have 3-4 lessons on ancestral karma.
The ancient Vedic culture knew this all too well. The Vishnu Purana states that the sraddha performed on the days leading up to the new moon in Virgo are equivalent to and as efficacious as performing the sraddha on the banks of the sacred rivers and sacred place such as Gaya.
So what is the significance of this holiday? My Jyotish Guru, Komilla Sutton, discusses it:
“Shraaddha are also known as Pitris paksha. Paksha is a fortnight and the pitris paksha always takes places when the Moon is in its waning phase, Krishna Paksha. Shraddha usually take place 10 days after Ganesha Chathurti. This fortnight is left to pray to the dead. The New moon in Virgo signals the end of the Shraaddh.
If you want to remember your departed loved ones, this is a good time to do so. Feed the poor, give donation and celebrate their life with a feast in their memory- usually a vegetarian and Sattvic food. Honor their memory and remember them with fondness.” (Komilla Sutton)
If you do not have a Hindu temple near you, you can observe on your own by bringing out 3 generations of family pictures, lighting candles and feeling gratitude and donating to the poor. You can also say mantras for your ancestors. My Swami recommends chanting daily though and including everyone in our prayers. You can offer water and simply say “om maataa-pitribhyaam namah”
As we heal and remember, we heal and honor their light in us with gratitude.
Shraddha means faith and reverence. It is one of the important duties of every person according to the Hindu belief. Shraddha are performed in the Krishna paksha (waning Moon fortnight) before the new Moon is Virgo (sept. 7-20) . The rituals performed during this time give great religious merit. The ancestors are worshiped and every effort is made to satisfy their wishes so that they can rest in peace for the rest of the year.
Why should we do sraddha to the departed?
The reality is we would not be here and be who we are if not for our ancestors. If we owe Mr. X money, but he moves away before we repay our debt to him, that debt does not go away just because he is somewhere else, is it not? With this prayer to the Pitris, “O! Pitris, in whichever form you may be, wherever you may be, we wish to remember and pray for your peace and welfare, and offer you the oblations with devotion. Please bless us and forgive us for any omissions and commissions in our life with you on this earth”. May we all express our gratitude to our ancestors and the Lord during this Mahãlaya Paksha.
The final day of Pitris Paksha is the Mahalay Amavasya (the dark night before new moon)- Oct 5th 2022. This takes place when the Sun and Moon conjunct in Virgo. All the ancestors are prayed to on this day. The belief is that they all come down to earth from their abode to join the world of living for a day.