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Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Significance Of Sraddha And Tarpan :



Significance Of Sraddha And Tarpan :

======== Understanding The Rituals In Hinduism ========


Shukla Yajur Ved Chapter 2, Mantra 34 :

"Satisfy the Pitris (departed ancestors) with oblations of Tarpan (water etc.) using the word 'Svahaa' ".

Antyesthi and Shraddha must be distinguished from each other. Funeral rites (antyeshthi) are Amangal (inauspicious) while Shraddha are Mangal (auspicious).

When a person dies, his or her gross body (Sthula sharira) is burnt. Cremation is the best way of destroying a dead body. This is highly beneficial for the departed soul. If the body is not burnt; the Jiva is linked to the earth. The soul hovers round or hangs about the dead body on account of Moha or attachment to the physical body. Its journey to the celestial regions is interfered with. The vibrations set up by the recitation of Mantras and the offerings and oblations of water, bring solace and comfort to the departed soul.

‘Antya Ishthi’ (Antyeshthi), the last sacrifice offered in fire, but the soul cannot quit the gross body without a vehicle of some kind. This vehicle is the Linga-sharira or subtle body, sometimes described as angushtha-matra (of the size of a thumb), invested in which the deceased person remains hovering near the burning ground or crematorium.

The Bhagavad Gita states that on the eve of death the individual soul contracts all its energies and centers these into this subtle body. Our ordinary sight is incapable of perceiving it. How the individual soul inhering in the linga-sharira enjoys the consequences of its needs from one birth to another can only be perceived by the Yogis with their extraordinary cognitive insight.

"The deluded do not see Him Who departs, stays and enjoys; but they who possess the eye of knowledge behold Him."

.............. The Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 15, Verse 10

He or she is then in the condition of a simple individual soul invested with a subtle body, and is called a PRETA, i.e. a departed spirit or ghost. Thus an embodied soul (jiva) who has departed from the physical body at death is called a Preta. He or she has no real body capable of enjoying or suffering anything, and is consequently in a restless, uncomfortable plight.

Moreover, while in this condition he or she is held to be an impure being, and all the relations who participate in his or her funeral rites are held to be impure until the first Shraddha is performed. The ceremony of Shraddha performed to help the soul at this stage is called PRETA KRIYA. Hence a Shraddha is not a funeral ceremony but a Pitri-Yajna or worship of departed ancestors, which worship, however, is something different from a puja (ceremonial worship). Furthermore, if a person dies away from kindred (relations), who alone can perform the funeral ceremonies, and who are perhaps unaware of his or her death, and unable therefore to perform them, he or she becomes a ‘Pishacha’.

The object then, of the Antyeshthi or funeral rites, which are carried out for twelve days after death, is not only to soothe or give Shanti (peace) by libations of consecrated water to the troubled spirit, but to furnish the Preta with an intermediate body, between the ‘linga’ or subtle and the ‘Sthula’ or gross body- with a body, that is to say, which is capable of enjoying or suffering, and which is composed of gross particles, though not of the same kind as the earthly gross body. In this manner only can the Preta obtain Gati or progress onwards.

Sraddha is the name of the ceremonies performed by relatives to help the Jiva (individual soul) who has cast off his physical body in death.

Immediately after death, the Jiva obtains the Ativahika body which is made up of fire, air and space. Later on, it may have a Yatana Deha for suffering the tortures of hell if it had done great sins on the earth-plane, or a celestial body for enjoying the pleasures of heaven if it had virtuous actions while living in the world. In the Yatana Deha the air-element preponderates: while in the celestial body, the element of fire is dominant. It takes one year for the Jiva to reach the Pitri Loka.


The Pitris :

The word Pitris primarily means the immediate ancestors. Viz. Father, mother etc. This abode of the Pitris is known as Pitri-loka. There are two classes of Pitris, viz., the Celestial Pitris who are the lords of the Pitri Loka, and the Human Pitris who go there after death. Brahmaa is the paternal grandfather of all. Kashyapa and the other Prajapatis are also Pitris, as they are the original progenitors. Pitri Loka or the Abode of the Pitris is also called by the name Bhuvar Loka. There are three stages in the ancestral life viz., father, grandfather and great grandfather, and mother, grandmother and great grandmother. These are the ancestors to any one living here. He who has done meritorious actions on this earth-life becomes united with his ancestors in the Pitri Loka and lives with them.

Gifts to deserving Braahmanas for the benefit of the Pitris, in the proper time and place and with faith, are known as Sraddha. Sraddha gives satisfaction to the Pitris. By the offering of the sixteen Sraddhas, the son helps his father to dwell in joy with the Pitris. Performance of Sraddha and Tarpan relieves the hunger and thirst of the departed soul during its journey to the Pitri Loka.

Shraddha proper is performed for three generations of Pitris (the father, the grand-father and the great grand-father), or to all Pitris. Three cakes are offered to the father, grand-father and great grand-father. The rites that the son should perform for his father are known as Sapinda karana. Seven generations can mutually influence one another by the giving and receiving of food.

It is performed by making offerings of round balls of rice, flour etc. with accompaniments of sacred grass (kusha grass), flowers, and sprinkling of water, and with repetitions of mantras and texts from the Sama Ved, the whole ceremonial being conducted, not in a temple, but at any sacred spot such as the margin of a river.

The ceremonies performed during Pitr-Paksha have very special effects. According to a legend, the offerings of libations of water-tarpan, arghya etc. to the departed reach the Pitris immediately, due to a boon from Lord Yama.

As per the Puranic ideas, those who go to Naraka are extremely oppressed by hunger and thirst. Performance of Sraddha and offerings of rice and oblations to them, relieve their sufferings. Hence, performance of Sraddha is indispensable.Those who dwell in Swarga also get satisfaction, strength and nourishment.

Performance of Sraddha in honour of the forefathers is indispensable. Sraddha must be performed with faith, devotion and reverence. The son who does not perform Sraddha and Tarpan is an ungrateful son. He goes to hell. The scriptures declare:

"He who does not perform Sraddha takes his next birth in the lowest caste. He leads a miserable life and suffers from poverty.


A brief account of Shraddha and Tarpan:

The soul in its disembodied form hovers about its original and familiar places for ten days. It is in the form of a ghost during these ten days. The astral body takes shape from day to day with the formation of the head, eyes, and other limbs of the Linga Sarira, fed and nourished by the sesame and water poured out in libation over the stones which represent the ancestors.

On the first day after death a pinda or round ball (made from rice flour and milk) is offered with libations of water etc. on which the preta is supposed to feed, and which endows it with the basis of the requisite body.

Next day another pinda is offered with water etc. which gives it perhaps, limbs such as arms and legs. Then it receives hands, feet etc. This goes on for twelve days and the offering of the pinda on the twelfth day gives the head.

The soul is fully embodied on the twelfth day. It starts on its journey to the judgment seat of Lord Yama. It takes one full year from the time of death to reach Lord Yama's place.

The materials like milk, curds etc., that are offered as oblations in sacrifices assume a subtle form called Apurva and attach themselves to the sacrificer. The Jivatma then go enveloped by water, which is supplied by the materials that are offered as oblations in sacrifices.

The water forming the oblation assumes the subtle form of Apurva, envelopes the souls and leads them to Swarg to receive their rewards. Those who perform sacrifices give enjoyment to the Devatas in heaven and rejoice with them. They become serviceable companions to the Devatas. They contribute to the enjoyment of the Devatas by their presence and service in that world. They enjoy themselves in the Chandraloka and return to the earth at the end of their store of merit.

The path is beset with obstacles, distress and difficulties. The man who has done the wickedest deeds suffers more. But the difficulties can be removed and the journey be rendered easy and comfortable by the oblations and offerings given by the son of the deceased during the first year of the soul's journey and by feeding pure and learned Brahmins. The son should offer rice-balls to the father, without weeping. Death is certain for those who are born, and birth is certain for the dead. This is inevitable. Therefore, you should not grieve over it. The ten days' rites should not be neglected.

The son should perform the Sapinda ceremony on the twelfth day and the sixteen monthly offerings. The soul is sustained on its onward march to the judgment seat by the libations offered to it by the son.

The soul is scorched on the way by intense heat, but the gift of an umbrella by his son on the eleventh day gives pleasant shade above his head.

The path is full of great thorns, but the gift of shoes helps him to go riding on horses.

The miseries of cold, heat and wind are dreadful there, but he goes happily along the way by the power of gift of clothes.

There is great heat and there is no water, but drinks water when thirsty, through the gift of a water-pot by his son. The son should make a gift of a cow.

Hindu mythology says that Chitragupta, the recorder of facts, the Accountant General in the Kingdom of Lord Yama, informs the soul of his good and bad actions in his earthly life after the end of one full year. The soul leaves off its Pretatva or the garb of a traveler on this day. He is raised to the status of a Pitri or Ancestor, when instead of being regarded as impure, it is held to be a deva or deity, and practically worshipped as such in the Shraddha ceremonies, the first of which takes place on the twelfth day after death.


From Manu Smrti :

" Whatever a man, full of faith, duly gives according to the prescribed rule, that becomes in the other world a perpetual and imperishable (gratification) for the manes. "

" The days of the dark half of the month, beginning with the tenth, but excepting the fourteenth, are recommended for a funeral sacrifice. "

"As the second half of the month is preferable to the first half, even so the afternoon is better for the performance of a funeral sacrifice than the forenoon. "

" Let him not perform a funeral sacrifice at night, because the night is declared to belong to the Rakshasas, nor in the twilight, nor when the sun has just risen. "

" At all rites in honour of the manes the word SWADHA is the highest benison. "

[Note: During Agni-Hotra or Havan ceremony, oblations are offered to the gods with the word SWAHA but to the manes during funeral sacrifice, the word SWADHA must be used.]

The manes are always pleased with offerings made in open, naturally pure places, on the banks of rivers, and in secluded spots.


Propitiation Of Departed Spirits :

The day of Mahalaya Amavasya is a day of great significance and importance to all Hindus. It is the annual festival for propitiating the spirits of our ancestors, with devout prayers for peace. The Hindu Itihasas say, that on the Mahalaya Amavasya, there is a conjunction of the sun and the moon and that the sun enters the sign Virgo (Kanya). On this day, the departed manes, i.e., our ancestors, leave their abode in the world of Yama and come down to the world of mortals and occupy the houses of their descendants.

The fortnight preceding the new moon is specially consecrated for the propitiation of such departed spirits. The ceremonies performed in honour of the manes or ancestors during each day of this fortnight are considered to be equal to those performed at Gaya. The principle in all such rites is the worship of the departed souls and the satisfaction of their wishes so that they might be in peace during the rest of the year.


Offerings to Ancestor is one of the fundamental doctrines of Hinduism.Those who have given up the performance of Shraddha, Tarpana and other religious rites on account of wrong influence, ignorance and egoism have done great harm to their ancestors and themselves. They should wake up now. They should start doing these ceremonies, from now. It is not too late.


"Om Shanti Shanti Shanti"

SIGNIFICANCE OF PERFORMING TARPANAM :

=============== MAHALAYA SPECIAL ===============

The fifteen days of the dark fortnight (krishna paksha) of the month of Bhadrapada (according to the lunar calendar) or the month of Ashwin (according to the solar calendar) are called pitru paksha or mahalaya paksha and the amavasya occurring in that period as Mahalaya Amavasya or Sarvapitru Amavasya. These days are considered to be extremely appropriate for performing the post-death rites (shraaddh, tarpan, daan etc,) to the departed forefathers.

The answer to the question why specifically this period has been chosen lies in the ancient story relating to the Mahabharata hero, Karna. According to tradition, Karna could not get any food to eat when he went after his death to the higher regions, though he could get plenty of silver and gold there. This was because he had donated plenty of gold and silver but not food during his lifetime. Distressed much he prayed to Lord Yama, the god of death, and through his grace, returned to this earth during this paksha or the fortnight. He then gifted plenty of food to the hungry and reached back to his allotted higher plane. Hence annadaana or giving food to the hungry has become the central part of the rituals during these days. Yama also ordained that offerings made on these days would benefit all departed souls whether they were related to the donor or not.

On all the fifteen days, offerings are made to the departed manes, including those whose names or manner of death are not known. On these days tarpan, shraaddha and pinda daan are performed daily according to the procedures under the guidance of a priest. Although these rites are to be carried out daily in this fortnight, it is considered that to perform them on the last day i.e. on Mahalaya Amavasya or Sarva Pitru Amavasya is considered extremely important and highly sacred. Sarvapitri amavasya is intended for all ancestors, irrespective of the lunar day they died. It is the most important day of the Pitru Paksha Those who have missed performing shraddha for any unavoidable reason can do so on this day. A shraddha ritual performed on this day is considered as fruitful as one conducted in the holy city of Gaya, which is considered as a special place to perform these rites.

Persons who perform these rites observe certain basic disciplines or austerities like not having a shave, abstinence from pleasures etc. during this period. As these days are considered inauspicious for any new ventures, no new purchases or business commitments are undertaken. Feeding the priests and other invitee brahmanas with kheer or payasam during this period is considered to be highly pleasing to the pitrus or the manes.

It is called as Mahalaya because the word ‘Maha’ means great or big or large and ‘Laya’ means destruction. Mahalaya therefore means great destruction caused during the war between Deities and Demons wherein large number of Devathas and Rishis had died in the hands of Rakshasas during the period starting from Bhadrapada Bahula Paadyami to Amavasya.

It is believed that the departed souls will attain peace by the rituals and rites performed during Pitru Paksha and they will, in turn, give their blessings to the descendents who performed these ceremonies for their welfare and prosperity of their Vamsam or lineage.

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