As per traditions, an individual born in this world has to fulfill three ruinas or debts. They are as follows:
o DeavaRuina- It is the debt towards the Almighty God. This is fulfilled by the performance of Yajnas or sacrifices.
o Rishi Ruina- It is the debt that we owe towards the ancient seers, who performed great sacrifices for the betterment of mankind. This ruina is fulfilled by the studying of the Vedic scriptures.
o PitraRuina- It is the debt towards the forefathers. This is fulfilled by begetting sons through procreation and the performance of Shraadhs in accordance with the Vedas.
Amongst the above ruinas, PitraRuina is a way of remembering and paying respect towards our forefathers who are no longer alive. Shraadhs are performed to ensure that the memories of our forefathers and loved ones, do not fade away.
Types of Shraadh
Many different types of Shraadhs are performed as per the Vedic scriptures. They are as follows:
When is Shraadh performed?
Also known as Pitrapaksh or Kanaagath, Shraadh is performed over a period of fifteen days. The date or tithi of death, as per the Hindu calendar, is considered as the day of Shraadh. The other fifteen days are known as the Pitrapaksh. Shraadhs usually fall somewhere between the months of August and September. During the performance of the Shraadhs, the departed members are invited to be a part of the family and feasts are organized in their honor.
Brahmin is personified
On the specified day of the Shraadh, a special Brahman is invited to personify and represent the departed soul. It is believed that the Brahmins belong to the learned class of people and are also free from the materialistic desires of the world. Thus, they are considered to be apt to represent the departed soul.
Preparation for Shraadh
On the specified day, a special room is allocated for the performance of Shraadh. The room chosen for the purpose is intensively cleaned and necessarily prepared for the performance of Shraadh. As per tradition, the eldest male member of the family performs the Shraadh. The man along with his wife performs the turpun or the offering of water onto a sauce pan. Another turpun is also offered to BhismaPitamha, owing to the fact that he had died without marriage as well as children. On this particular day, no onion, garlic or turmeric is used for the purpose of cooking. The food liked by the departed person is offered to the invited Brahmin. The following items are the fundamental requirements of a Shraadh ceremony:
o Banana leaves divided into four portions
o Pitcher full of water
o Dhoop and Agarbathi (incense sticks)
o Oil (to lit the lamp)
o Saucepan for the performance of turpun
Procedure of Shraadh
After the completion of all the elementary preparations, the Brahman is invited to chant the slokas and the specific Vedic mantras. If a Brahmin is not available for the performance of the Shraadhs, the eldest male member performs the Shraadh by closing his eyes and remembering the departed soul. Then the turpun is performed by the male member and his wife, whereby water is offered to the departed soul by pouring it into a sauce pan amidst the chanting of mantras and slokas.
The offered food (called prasad) is then distributed amongst those present. Usually the prasad is distributed as afternoon meal. Out of this prasad, a small portion is distributed into the four pieces of banana leaves. The first is offered to a cow, the second to a crow, the third to a dog and the fourth to ants. After this, the Brahmin is offered meals and is attended with extreme care. It is believed that the satisfied Atman of a Brahmin is extremely important for the performance of Shraadh. After the meal, the Brahmin again begins chanting the slokas.
The Shraadh Offerings
The offerings in a Shraadh are made through a Brahmin because Brahmins are considered to be the highest of the four Hindu varnas. It is also believed that the Brahmins with rigid practices are directly connected to the spiritual energies of the world. However, offerings are also made during the Shraadh by donating to the poor and the handicapped. The donations are usually made in the name of the ancestors.
Benefits of the Shraadh Offerings
There is a huge significance of Shraadh offerings. They are as follows:
o Through the offerings to the Brahmins, an individual can attain the Pitras or the Super Karma. The Pitras are believed to bring down suffering and enable the liberation of the individual from the materialistic pleasures.
o Through the offerings made to the Brahmins, one can attain the Mukti or freedom for their ancestors. The Brahmins are believed to possess the capability to directly invoke the divine energies and transfer the departed soul to higher planetary plane of existence.
o Donations offered to the poor affects those ancestors who are dwelling in the lower astral planes. This helps because the leaky auras of the poor helps the ancestors to more easily feed on them.
o The performance of Shraadhs as well as offerings help in furthering of the belief of existence of life after death. It also helps in offering reverence to the departed soul.
o The performance of Shraadh helps in getting the blessings of the ancestors and thereby helps in gaining positive karma and material prosperity in life.
There are many slokas associated with the performance of Shraadhs. They are as follows:
o Api – even
o Yoginam – Karma Yogis
o Madgaten Ab – absorbed in self
o Shraadhvan – filled with Shraadh
o Antaratmana – with the inner self
o Mam – Me
o Bhajate – worships
o Yuktatama – most steadfast
o Me – by me
o Matah – regarded
o Sah – that
Meaning–When the above words are arranged in a proper order and chanted it means, ‘Of all the Karma Yogis, (he or she) whose inner self is absorbed in Me, and who worships Me filled with Shraadh, is regarded by Me to be the most steadfast’.
As per legend, during his lifetime, Karna, the son of Surya, made a lot of charities by donating lands, money and jewelry. Finally, after his death, when he reached heaven, he found that he was surrounded by a lot of wealth but did not have any food. It was because he did not donate any food in his charities, during his lifetime. After starving for a number of days, he requested Yamraaj for a solution. Yamraaj granted him fourteen days on earth, during which he organized Shraadhs for his ancestors as well as made donations in the form of food. Finally when returned to heaven, he was surrounded with food and he lived happily.
Therefore, it is widely believed that the offerings made on the occasion of Shraadh, directly reaches the benefactor in heaven. A son performing the Shraadh rites for his father directly reaches his father and frees the performer from any Pitr Dosh.
Advantages Of Shraadh
o The performance of Shraadhs helps in attaining financial prosperity and stability
o The performance of Shraadhs also helps in possessing immovable assets and having material gains
o Performing Shraadhs helps in attaining smooth functioning of business
o Performing of Shraadhs also helps in negating the adverse effects of afflicted Jupiter as well as to obtain Siddhi
o It also helps in attaining spiritual development as well as performing well in higher education
Significance and Rituals of Shraadh
The ritualistic significance of offering Shraadhs are as follows:
o As per Vishnu Purana, “The offerings of food, made in the course of Shraadh with faith, and with name and lineage clearly pronounced, are duly delivered to those manes in the manner and form as may be conducive to them”.
o Sri Aurobindo Ghosh had once written from the jail, “I constantly get inspiration from Swami Vivekananda’s soul, and for the last 15 days I have had the feeling that Swami Vivekananda’s astral form is providing me with guidance to make spiritual exploration of the subtle world”.
o It is also believed that Lord Rama had performed Shraadh for his father Dasharatha. Saint EknathjiMaharaj is also believed to have offered Shraadh for his late father.
o When Shah Jahan was being tortured in the hands of Aurangazeb, he had said, “Blessed are the Hindus who offer sweetmeats, puris, and puddings even to their dead parents, and here is my son who cannot even give proper drinking water to his father who is alive. The Hindus are far better than you, for they try and serve even their dead parents”.
o It is believed that the performance of Shraadhs pleases the Gods as well provide the performer with a degree of inner satisfaction.
o The performance of Shraadhs also helps in promoting the reverential feelings towards ancestors.