The word “Pitra Paksha” comprises two words ‘Pitra’ means ancestors and ‘Paksha’ means phase of the moon. The auspicious period in the dark fortnight of Ashwini (September – October) is known as Pitra Paksha. This is an occasion to pacify the departed ancestors by performing rites to repay debts to the ancestors. This year Pitra Paksha will start on 20th September 2021 and will continue till 6th October 2021.
Pitra Paksha is observed from the 1st day or Tithi of the Ashwin month and continues till the following new Moon day which is known as Amavasya. During this period of 15 days, the Shraddha or Tarpan of the ancestors is performed on the Tithi on which they met eternity. Apart from this, each day is dedicated to the Tarpan of all the ancestors in this period.
According to Hindu Mythology, there exists a zone between heaven and earth which is known as Pitra Lok. All the ancestors or Pitra dwell at this place. This zone is governed by Yamadeva or god of earth. The person of the first generation goes to heaven only when the person of the second generation dies. Hence, the death rites or Shraddha for the person of the first generation are not completed. Therefore, in Pitra Paksha, the Shraddha of ancestors of three preceding generations is done to propitiate them.
In Bhagwat Gita, Lord Krishna says, “the soul never takes birth and never dies at any time nor does it come into being again when the body is created. The soul is birthless, eternal, imperishable and timeless and is never destroyed when the body is destroyed.” The Pitra Paksha rites liberate a soul from the vicious circle of life and death and it attains salvation. The Shraddha of Pitra Paksha involves oblations to three preceding generations by taking their names and also by taking the name of the family tree or Gotra. These rites are performed by the current generation to repay the debts of ancestors.
It is essential that rituals of Shraddha be performed by the eldest son or any male relative of the paternal branch of the family limited to the preceding three generations. However, on Sarvapitri Amavasya, the daughter’s son can offer Shraddha for the maternal side of his family. The Shraddha involves Pind-Dan to the ancestors. Brahmans are offered food, new clothes and dakshina.
The performance of Shraddha during Pitra paksha will give more peace and happiness for yourself and your family. As per Markandeya Purana, if the ancestors are content with the Shraddhas they bestow health, wealth, knowledge and longevity and ultimately heaven and salvation to the performers.