Mahalaya Paksha and Mahalaya Amavasya

Read this article on the Mahalaya Paksha - Pitru Paksha, a fortnight just before the start of Navarathri (9 nights), are very important days to the Hindus. During these days the Hindus perform rituals in memory of departed family members and to lift their souls to higher level in the nether world.

tarpanMahalaya paksha is a lunar cycle of 15 days falling in the month of Asvayuja (around September) preceding the Amavasya which normally falls during September of October of English calendar. This year it started on 12-9-11 and will end on 27-9-11. This is also known as the 'Pitru Paksha'. The most important day of the paksha is the last day of the paksha on the Amavasya day which falls on the 27th. This Amavasya is known as the Mahalaya Amavasya. This fortnight is important and sacred for Hindus and they offer oblations to their departed ancestors. The last day as mentioned is the Amavasya – the new moon day which is the most important day in the year for paying respects to the ancestors by way of oblations. It is believed that on these 15 nights the spirits (souls) of the departed ancestors come and stay in the earth plane and the food we offer to the hungry will satisfy the spirits of the ancestors. On these days offering tharpanas (oblations with water to the gods, spirits of ancestors etc) are auspicious and beneficial. Each of these days is having the benefits in different ways. These tharpanas are belied to have the power of liberating the souls of their curses and lift them up to a higher position in the nether world. So it is considered as an act of compassion to the departed souls. The final day that the day of Amavasya is the most important day for doing tharpanas for the departed souls especially those who died to weapons or accidents. During this day the gods treat all the souls alike. It is the belief that the souls of the departed, if pleased will change our life to be one of peace, tranquil and of prosperity. The gods also will suggest to please the souls of the ancestors which will solve most of our problems.

The legend about the Mahalaya Paksha

It is a belief among the Hindus that the charity and the good deeds done during the life will be accounted and will be returned by the gods in many folds. So also for bad things done and harassment to others will be returned in the same coin many fold. Karna (the illegitimate son of Kunthi) one of the Heros of Mahabharata, was known for his charity. He will not ass a single day without doing any charity and was known as the Dhaana sura veera Karna (Dhaana means charity, sura and veera means courage and boldness). On his death he was returned the dues for his charitable work in this world which were all in the form of gold, silver and precious stones etc as he had not given any food to anybody in charity. No food was given to him. He prayed to the god of death for food. The god of death suggested to him to go back to earth for fourteen (14) s\days to make up for competing the charitable act of giving food and come back. Karna came back to earth and fed the poor and the Brahmins for 14 days and offered oblations of water. Then he went back to the world after death. He had no dearth of food thereafter. These 14 days of Karna are commemorated in the paksha. Because of the grace of god of death, the offerings made during the Mahalaya paksha benefit all the departed souls, irrespective of their connections with us. Every communities of all the religions emphasis the importance of giving food to the needy as charity. It is said that the best vehicle for realizing god is the human body and empty stomach will not appreciate any religion. Hence the charity of food is the highest order of charity or gift. The Muslims are advised by the Quran to give charity in the form of food articles to the needy especially during the Ramzan just as for us during this paksha especially. So let us all who can afford give food or food items to the hungry and unfortunate. Perhaps this may be prevalent in Christian community also.

Pitru Paksha Observation to Please the Souls of Ancestors

pinda pradanam
As mentioned earlier, the Mahalaya Paksha is also known as Pitru Paksha. Why it is called Pitru Paksha? It is believed that the souls of the ancestors will descend to earth in the form of spirits and will be present around their current biological descendants to see their conditions. It is also believed that the souls of the ancestors have hunger and thirst. But they cannot eat or drink directly. Hence to quench their hunger and thirst, ways were prescribed by the great knowledgeable ancestors of ours, the Maharishis and the Munees. They after deep and prolonged meditation, found out the ways and has instructed their disciples to carry forward of this knowledge to the future generations. Over a period of time due to the change of life styles the procedures got diluted or neglected. It is also a fact that to perpetuate the caste system, certain rituals and religious observations were made the monopoly of the upper caste people. The laziness, easy going nature and the changed life style due to industrialization and business activities etc also contributed to the neglect. On all the new moons days (12 in a year) the souls of the departed elders will come to earth. Fasting on those days will lift our alertness and will bring our attention more towards the departed souls. If it is not possible to fast completely during the day, try to make it once or maximum 2 times with avoiding the regular staple food (in our case rice) should be followed. However, we should give the special food the souls crave for during these days. That is by way of Tharpanas. What is the meaning of tharpanas? Tharpana means the offerings which satisfy. Their favorite food is black sesame - sesame (Kari –black ellu) seeds mixed with pure water, tulsi leaves, sandalwood paste, some coins and sacred darbha grass with sincere devotion. Their favorite food is black sesame (kari ellu) seeds with pure water, tulsi leaves, sandalwood paste, some coins and sacred darbha grass with sincere devotion. In addition to the new moon days, this offerings has to be made preferably on all the 14 days and 15 nights of the pitru (Mahalaya) paksha. For this we are having the literature of the old sacred books wherein the examples of great rishees like Agasthya, Vasishta, and Avatars like Sri Rama and Sri Krishna etc. They appreciated their ancestors through the rituals of Tharpanas. The Tharpanas are to be done during daylight time only. By our observing these rules will enable the souls to reach higher planes and eventually merge with the ultimate. This in turn will make them to bless us. Strictly speaking every day everyone is expected to do Tharpanas. But at least we should do it on the new moon days, the samkramanam days and the Pitru Paksha days it should be observed. The castism is introduced by the vested interests persons on one side and the laziness of others on the other side.

Paksha – Moon Phase

Lunar month is divided into 2 halves – fortnights. Both the fortnights will have 14 days each and in one paksha there will be Pournami – full moon day and the other paksha will have Amavasya. The Pakshas are identified as the Krishna (dark) Paksha and Sukla (white) paksha. The Krishna Paksha is waning period of moon. The moon reduces in size day by day till it is new moon day on Amavasya. Sukla paksha is the waxing phase of moon. The moon increases in size till it become full moon on the 15th day. After Pournami till Amavasya it is Krishna Paksha and from Amavasya to Pournami it is Sukla Paksha. Mahalaya paksha is the 14 days before the Mahalaya Amavasya and the Amavasya. The Amavasya is the most important day in the Paksha. Those who could not do the tharpanas can do it on this day. Those whose parents are alive are not to do tharpanas. After this period, the period of dussera celebrations start with the worship of the goddesses and displaying dolls and social visits of neighbors by the ladies.

As explained earlier the most important part is the Anna Dana – free feeding of the poor. The more the number of persons fed, the more is the effect depending on our capacity. If possible the best thing is to identify the poor who is in need of food, call them home and feed them. If that is not possible for some reason, buy food and give them to eat. There may be some orphanages that may be in need of persons to feed the inmates, though many of the orphanages are having enough resources to feed their inmates. Giving cloths, bed sheets and blankets to wear and cover are the next best thing as donation. Other auspicious things to be done are feeding cows and dogs.poor feeding

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