Pitru Paksha is an annual 15 days long observance aimed at honoring our forefathers who brought us into this world. Also referred to as Shraddha Paksha, the term 'Shraddha' signifies sincerity. This event falls in the Krishna Paksha, the waning phase of the lunar cycle, which commences after the festival of Lord Ganesha Chaturthi.
Pitru Tarpan, the ancestral rites, is a significant tradition that involves paying homage to one's deceased family members. These rites are typically performed on the tithi (date) of their death, but if this is not possible, then Pitru Paksha can be used as an opportunity to do so. According to Vedic culture, after death, the souls of the departed are judged by Lord Yama based on their remaining karma. Depending on the judgment, they may move on to higher or lower worlds or reincarnate on earth. However, souls may not be able to move on anywhere due to their karmic debt, and they tend to stay in Pitru Loka (the world of ancestors) for an extended period. During Pitru Paksha, these souls are believed to return to earth in the form of ether, and paying homage to them helps them move on to their next birth with ease.
Pitru Tarpan aids the souls of one's ancestors in transitioning to their next destination. Puranas also mention that a soul can receive offerings from its descendants regardless of its location, even if it has reincarnated in a different family on earth.
Performing Pitru tarpan is an effective remedy to alleviate or eliminate the negative impact of Pitru dosha which is associated with ancestors. Pitru dosha can cause various problems related to family and finances, including difficulties in childbirth. For instance, if a departed soul belonging to a prosperous family desires to be reborn in the same lineage to inherit the wealth, then the descendants, i.e. grandchildren, must perform the necessary rituals; otherwise, the soul may be unable to move on from the Pitru Loka, resulting in childbirth issues for the descendants.
Offering prayers to Saturn is considered an effective remedy as it represents our ancestors. One can feed crows daily or on Saturdays and also offer food to the domestic animals associated with the Saturn's nakshatra to seek its blessings.
Tithis and Nakshatras
Out of the 15 days in Pitru Paksha, Amavasya holds the most significant importance as it is associated with the Pitris, the Gods of ancestors. This day is also known as Mahalaya Amavasya or Sarva Pitru Amavasya, representing the ancestors of everyone, including deities and everything present in the Pitru Loka. The tithis of Chaturthi, Shashti, and Chaturdashi hold secondary importance. On these days, especially on Amavasya, anyone can offer prayers and perform Pind Pradan, which is the offering of food to ancestors in the form of a rice ball made of cooked rice, ghee, honey, and black sesame.
In addition to tithis, certain nakshatras such as Bharani and Magha are also given great importance during Pitru Paksha. Bharani nakshatra is associated with Lord Yama, the God of Death and the ruler of Pitru Loka, while Magha nakshatra is associated with the Pitris themselves. As a result, those born under Magha nakshatra will always show respect to those born under Bharani nakshatra.