In Hinduism – we are born with 4 debts – Debt to God, to our ancestors, Teachers, Other beings. Therefore, it is our Dharma to act to get rid of these debts.
The term ‘Shraddha’ has originated from ‘Shraddhaa’ (faith). It is impossible to repay the various favors, which our deceased forefathers have done for us. The ritual performed for them with complete faith is known as Shraddha.
‘Shraadh’ means ‘Shraddha’ which stands for unconditional, limitless reverence. Sons pay respectful homage to their deceased parents and grand parents. The fifteen days of “Krishna Paksh” (dark fortnight) of Ashvina month(september-October) following Ganesh Chaturthi are called ‘Pitra Paksh’ or Shraadh days. “Shraadh” is performed respectfully for the departed elders only during this period.
This is an occasion to perform rites for the departed ancestors to keep their souls indebted for years. The son or the grandson of the departed person/s performs the Shraadh.
Shraadh : also known as Pitru Paksha literally meaning “fortnight of the ancestors” is a 16-lunar day period when Hindus pay homage to their ancestors (Pitrs), especially by food offerings. It falls in the Hindu lunar month of Bhadrapada , beginning with the full moon day (Purnima) that occurs immediately after Ganesh festival and ending with the new moon day known as Mahalaya Amavasya.
1. Deceased Ancestors who are present in the Pitru region by performing Shraad are given momentum with the goal that they can advance to a higher sub-plane of existence.
2. Fulfilling wishes and longings of the demised ancestors from ones’ family who are caught in the negative locales because of unfulfilled yearnings and giving energy for their further advance.
According to Hindu mythology, the souls of three preceding generations of one’s ancestor reside in Pitru-loka, a realm between heaven and earth – 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 and are thus not given Shraadh offerings. Thus, only the three generations in Pitru-loka are given Shraadh rites.
Karna and Shraadh
According to the Mahabharata, Karna’s soul was sent to heaven upon his death. But over there he was offered only gold and silver ornaments in place of food. He went to the Lord Indra, where he asked the reason for this. Lord Indra said that in his life on Earth he only donated gold and silver ornaments to the people in need but food was never donated by him for his ancestors. In response Karna said he was not aware of his ancestos so Lord Indra gave him 15 days to go back to Earth to offer food for his ancestors. In order to fulfill his desire Karna performed Shraadh rituals for his ancestors on Earth.