Pitru Paksha  

Pitru Paksha, also spelt as Pitr paksha or Pitri paksha, is a 15 - lunar day period when Hindus pay homage to their ancestors, especially through food offerings. The period is also known as Pitru Pakshya, Pitri Pokkho, Sola Shraddha, Kanagat, Jitiya, Mahalaya Paksha and Apara paksha.

Pitru Paksha is considered by Hindus to be inauspicious, given the death rite performed during the ceremony, known as Shraddha or tarpan. In southern and western India, it falls in the Hindu lunar month of Bhadrapada, beginning with the full moon day that occurs immediately after the Ganesh festival and ending with the new moon day known as Sarvapitri amavasya, Mahalaya amavasya or simply Mahalaya. The autumnal equinox falls within this period, i.e. the Sun transitions from the northern to the southern hemisphere during this period. In North India and Nepal, this period corresponds to the dark fortnight of the month Ashvin, instead of Bhadrapada.

According to Hindu mythology, the souls of three preceding generations of one's ancestor reside in Pitru - loka, a realm between heaven and earth. This realm is governed by Yama, the god of death, who takes the soul of a dying man from earth to Pitru- loka. When a person of the next generation dies, the first generation shifts to heaven and unites with God, so Shraddha offerings are not given. Thus, only the three generations in Pitru - loka are given Shraddha rites, in which Yama plays a significant role.

According to the sacred Hindu epics, at the beginning of Pitru Paksha, the sun enters the zodiac sign of Libra. Coinciding with this moment, it is believed that the spirits leave Pitru–loka and reside in their descendants' homes for a month until the sun enters the next zodiac Scorpio and there is a full moon. Hindus are expected to propitiate the ancestors in the first half, during the dark fortnight.

When the legendary donor Karna died in the epic Mahabharata war, his soul transcended to heaven, where he was offered gold and jewels as food. However, Karna needed real food to eat and asked Indra, the lord of heaven, the reason for serving gold as food. Indra told Karna that he had donated gold all his life, but had never donated food to his ancestors in Shraddha. Karna said that since he was unaware of his ancestors, he never donated anything in their memory. To make amends, Karna was permitted to return to earth for a 15 day period, so that he could perform Shraddha and donate food and water in their memory. This period is now known as Pitru Paksha. In some legends, Yama replaces Indra.

Pitru Paksha 2014 Dates

September 8, 2014 - PurnimaShradh
September 9, 2014 - PratipadaShradh
September 10, 2014 - DwitiyaShradh
September 11, 2014 - TritiyaShradh
September 12, 2014 - ChaturthiShradh
September 13, 2014 - Maha Bharani, PanchamiShradh
September 14, 2014 - ShastiShradh
September 15, 2014 - SaptamiShradh
September 16, 2014 - AshtamiShradh
September 17, 2014 - NavamiShradh
September 18, 2014 - DasamiShradh
September 19, 2014 - EkadashiShradh
September 20, 2014 - DwadashiShradh
September 21, 2014 - Magha ShradhTrayodashiShradh
September 22, 2014 - ChaturdashiShradh
September 23, 2014 - Sarva Pitru Amavasya

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