Significance Of Pitru Paksha

Radhika Kothuri 

Sep 2021

*This year the Mahalaya paksha is forming on September 21st to October 6th in India and September 21st to October 5th in USA.

Pitru paksha or Mahalaya paksha is a supremely potent time period to connect with our ancestors. This is observed during the Bhadrapada masa, Krishna paksha, from Prathama to Amavasya (waning first moon to the new moon as per the lunar calendar and roughly September to October as per Gregorian calendar). Interestingly, Pitru paksha is followed by matru paksha, its female counterpart, which includes nine days of navaratris.

It is believed that our Pitrus (ancestors) visit the Earth plane during these 15 days in their sukshma deha (soul) to bless their loved ones.  Hence, it is the most favorable period to appease them by shraddha & tarpanam and seek their blessings. Mahalaya paksha is a special period dedicated to express our gratitude to all our ancestors. On mahalaya amavasya (new moon) day, the powerful combination of Sun and Moon is a very good period to meditate. It has been established that if one meditates during mahalaya paksha, especially on Amavasya day, one can feel the presence of the departed souls and receive their blessings. 

As per Sanatana Dharma, an individual must repay three forms of runas (debts) in order to live a life free of suffering. Deva runa – a debt to God, Rishi rina- debt to the guru, and Pithru runa – debt to the ancestors. All our puranas like Garuda purana, Agni purana, Vayu purana, and Markandeya purana mention the importance of these rites to be performed to the departed souls. 

In some Indian states, this is a time for new crops and harvest. The first rice is offered to the ancestors in the form of pinda, after which people pray to goddess Durga during the Navaratris. The significance of Ardhanareeswara tatwa is also seen here: praying to pitru (15 mahalaya paksha days) denotes shiva tatva and praying to matru denotes shakti tatva (9 navaratri days).

Meaning and importance of Tarpanam:

Tarpanam means bringing satisfaction and fulfilment. Tarpanam is performed to tell the departed souls to be content and move forward. In Sanskrit, “ap” means water and also means love. Someone who is very dear is called “Apta” in Sanskrit. Hence, in the memory of one’s beloved, giving them water as a symbol of love and life is Tarpanam.  During Tarpanam, a few sesame seeds and cooked rice are taken and left along with some water, thus calling upon the ancestors.

Astrology and Pitru Dosha:

Pitru dosha is a karmic debt of the ancestor transferred to the descendent. In simple words, this dosha is formed due to bad karmas or deeds by the forefathers during their lifetime. It is also formed because of sudden deaths or accidents causing people to pass away with unfulfilled desires or vows. These unfulfilled desires or bad karmas will run in the family for 4 to 7 generations. It is reflected in astrological charts in the form of malefic planetary combinations and is to be remedied by the person who has the pitru dosha in their jataka. Presence of pitru dosha in one’s horoscope and its specific placement may bring about unexpected and inevitable hardship. This dosha may give severe ups and downs in career, finances, and health and also lead to a lack of peace in life. Praying during pitru paksha and the resulting blessings we get from our ancestors will reduce the problems we face in life. 

Pitru dosha occurs because of

  1. Mistakes committed by our ancestors knowingly or unknowingly.
  2. Lack of completion/fulfillment of certain promises made by our ancestors.
  3. Any ancestors that expired at an early age had an unnatural death. Pitru dosha as a result of this is seen in the jataka up until the 7th generation on the father’s side and the 4th generation on the mother’s side.

How to appease our ancestors:

  1. Performing tarpanam is considered the most effective way to remove pitrudosha in the horoscope. It’s beneficial to know the thithi of the deceased (example: if someone has passed away on Trayodasi thithi, then the tarpanam can be performed on Trayodasi during Mahalaya paksha). If the thithi of the deceased is not known then shradham can be performed on Mahalaya Amavasya.
  2. Doing annadana on any one of the 15 mahalaya paksha days
  3. Giving alms on the name of our ancestors during mahalaya paksha.
  4. Bathing in holy rivers like Ganga, Yamuna, Cauvery, Narmada, Tungabhadra, Godavari, and Saraswati.
  5. Performing Shradha karmas at Rameshwaram, Kasi and Gaya during Mahalaya paksha.
  6. Donating jaggery, food grains, ghee, salt, clothes, silver, and sesame seeds

Karma and Pitru Dosha:

Now we know that pitru dosha is formed because of some mistakes or unfulfilled vows of our forefathers. So we know that our deeds and their consequences will be carried forward through to our future generations. Hence, keeping a constant conscious focus on our present life and doing good deeds helps not only ourselves but also our future generations. This will ensure that our deeds are not a burden to our next generation.