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According to the Hindu culture, Pitru Paksha is a 15 lunar days period when the Hindus remember and pay homage to their deceased family members or ancestors through food offerings, puja and prayers. It is believed that during this time, the deceased visit the earth and bless their kin with happiness and prosperity. As a sign of reverence, family members offer food, money and other gifts to their 'Pitras'.
Mahalaya Tarpan: Date And Meaning
This year Pitru Paksha will begin from 20 September and continue till 6 October. If we take into account the North Indian Purnimant calendar, this period falls in the lunar month of Ashwin beginning with the full moon day in Bhadrapada or the next day of full moon day. But according to the South Indian Amavasyant calendar, it falls in the lunar month of Bhadrapada beginning with the full moon day or the day after full moon day. The last day of Pitru Paksha is known as Sarvaptiri Amavasya or Mahalaya Amavasya and is considered one of the most significant days of this period.
Mahalaya marks the beginning of Durga Puja and devotees believe that it is on this day Goddess Durga has descended on the Earth. This year it falls on 6 October. Also, there is another ritual called Tarpan which is observed on this day, and it symbolises the short life of humans on the Earth. The term 'Tarpan' is derived from the word 'Trup' which means pleasing or satisfying others. Therefore, Pitru Tarpan means freeing the deceased from any unfulfilled desires so that they can complete their journey to the heavenly abode with happiness, peace and contentment.
At the dawn or early morning of Mahalaya, people from the Bengali community visit the ghats of Ganga or other rivers to pray to the ancestors so that they can bless their kin and bestow them with peace and happiness.
Mahalaya Tarpan: Rituals And Puja Method
- Baudhayana, an ancient mathematician believed that 'Tarpan should be performed at the riverside'.
- While performing this ritual, one needs to stand in the river so that the water level is just right to touch the belly button.
- Some other rituals also mention that a person can sit on the banks of the river and perform the tarpan.
- The Tarpan for deceased ancestors must be done facing the South and for the God and Sages, it must be done facing the East.
- With performing the rituals and remembering them, names of the ancestors are taken and mantras are chanted. Auspicious items like milk, water and black sesame seeds are also offered.
- Sesame seeds particularly constitute the food prepared for the Pitrus and is served either with cooked rice or any special food that the ancestors were fond of.
- The food is offered to satisfy the deceased and to seek blessings so that their kin can be happy and progress in their lives.
- People offer deities water using their fingertips. While offering water to sages, it must be done with the little or the third finger.
- Deceased ancestor's souls are offered water through the mid of the thumb and the index finger.