Pitru Paksha: Significance of Honouring Your Ancestors

Pitru Paksha is a period in a year where the Hindus perform shradh rituals for the departed souls of their family members and their ancestors. The Pitru paksha is a wide period of 16 lunar days according to the Hindu Calendar. The word Pitru means ancestors and the word Paksha means period thus, pitru paksha literally means ancestorial period. Pitru is also spelled as Pitri paksha and Pitr paksha and is celebrated across cultures with various names. It is also known as Apara Paksha, Pitri Pokkho, Kanagat, Jitiya, and Sorah Shraddha. This year the Pitru paksha will start on the 20th of September, 2021 which is a Monday and it will end on the 6th of October 2021 which is a Wednesday.

During the 16 days of Pitru paksha, people belonging to Hindu culture pay homage to the deceased souls and ancestors by performing specific rituals. Let us look as the significance of Pitru Paksha in details and unveil the significance of each ritual one by one.

Significance of Pitru Paksha

According to the Hindu faith, it is believed that when a close one departs from the worldly realm, they wander between Heaven and Earth.  It is assumed that the soul of the departed family members and ancestors even after death are attached to their worldly life. It is said that if the wishes, unfinished work or some duty of the departed souls has remained undone on this plane, then the departed souls become restless and wander.  This is why, the ritual of Pitru paksha is performed. The ritual of Pitru paksha is performed to liberate the soul from this plane and allow them to transit happily towards their heavenly abode.  Pitru paksha is a ritual which helps a departed soul to liberate and offers peace to their soul. It helps the departed souls to transit from earth without any difficulties and helps them to break free from all the worldly bondages. Offering food plays a significant role during this period. Let us learn about the origin or the legend of offering food during Pirta paksha.

Legend of Pitru paksha

According to the famous legend of Pitru paksha, When Karna passed away his soul transited to Heaven. During his stay in Heaven, Karna was offered a lot of gold, flowers and precious jewels but he was not given any food to eat or any water to drink. This left Karna very hungry and thirsty. Upset with this treatment, Karna’s soul went up to Lord Indra and asked why was he not given food to eat? Lord Indra looked at Karna’s soul and said Karna, you have always offered pure gold, flowers and precious gemstones to your departed ancestors but you never offered any food to them. Karna replied by saying that he did not know who his ancestors were so he did not give food offering. After listening to Karna, Indra gave him a time period of 15 days to rectify his mistake. Karna understood his mistake and performed a shradh during this period by offering food and water in the memory of his departed ancestors.

It is believed that offering food to animals and birds offers happiness to the souls of the deceased and makes their journey to heaven a peaceful one. In the period of Pitru paksha we often offer food to cows and crows, isn’t it? Food plays a significant role in pitru paksha and one can witness a variety of food delicacies being offered to the cows, and crow. Let us delve deep into understanding why we offer food to honour the departed souls.

Significance of Food during Pitrupaksha

According to the Hindu beliefs, the Karmas of the past life are passed on to this life and we thus have to fulfil those unfinished Karmas that we owe to our ancestors in order to offer them solace and to help them to continue on their journey to heaven without any obstacles. On this day, we often offer food to cows, crows and dogs as it is believed that the offering made to the animals and birds will make the deceased ancestors happy in their realm and help them to get Moksha. It is believed that once a human exists from the Earth, their soul wander between Earth and Heaven. This space is ruled by Yama, the God of death. Here, the souls are restless as their hunger and thirst are not quenched. Moreover, these departed souls also feel pain and thus suffer a lot, waiting to go to heaven. But the way to the Holy Heavens is not that easy. Hence,  during Shradh when we perform ‘Pind Daan’ or when we offer food during Pitru Paksha, it is said to offer relief to the souls of deceased ancestors and it makes their journey towards attaining moksha easier.         

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