It’s amazing that in Hinduism all aspects of human existence are covered. Special days of the year have been assigned to celebrate different Gods and Goddesses, who symbolize a special energy in the universe. Similarly special days are also dedicated for remembering our ancestors. These days of the year are called Shradh Paksh.
*Pitru Paksha (Sanskrit: पितृ पक्ष) or Pitri paksha, (literally “fortnight of the ancestors”) is a 16–lunar day period in Hindu calendar.
We may in our busy lives forget to remember and pay homage to our ancestors who are directly responsible for our lives on this planet. Whatever we enjoy in this body is because of their contribution towards us. And so these particular days of the year we take special time off to remember them and to offer our love and respect for them. However the expression of love can be different in different people as we all are unique in our own ways. And so it would not be wrong for us to follow rituals as per our own understanding during this time. What really matters is the intent behind those gestures.
There can be three basic driving forces behind an action- fear, greed or love. Knowing that our ancestors will only bless us and never harm us, we must never fear them for these rituals. The purpose itself gets defeated when fear or greed become our driving force.
To simplify things for us our elders have also put down some rituals for us. Sometimes we may not understand the deeper meanings behind some of these rituals and they may remain un-deciphered. For example Gurudev had once told about the significance of sesame seeds being offered during tarpan (Libation to ancestors). He said that we offer the sesame seeds symbolically to our ancestors for communicating to them to let go of their small desires, which they may be still holding on to, so that they can rest in peace. As these desires are small and insignificant like the sesame seeds.
During any celebrations, offering special food is a part of our tradition. And so is during Shradh. But why serve food to “Brahmins” only? In my limited understanding a Brahmin is the worshiper of truth. And in his journey he attains contentment. It is said that when contented soul blesses, the prayers are heard. And so Brahmins may be chosen to offer prayers for our ancestors. Or it could have been that the form of Brahmin was symbolically taken as our ancestor and served. But nothing stops us from serving food to a needy person and I am sure the blessings of a needy would be equally effective as that of a Brahmin.
Whatever rituals we choose let us offer them with love to our ancestors without any fear in our hearts. Knowing that dedicating special days for remembering our elders who have crossed over to the other side will only bring more fulfillment in our lives. The vastness of Hinduism is in it’s philosophy. Let us know that the rituals are not absolute and may get redefined with time.
Know more about Pitra dosha- http://www.wisdom.srisriravishankar.org/what-is-pitra-dosha-remedies/
– Vasudha Jhunjhunwala
P.S.-If you know any such rituals and their meaning do post here for us to know more.
*Citation from Google