On 12 October 2015 at Shree Peetha Nilaya (SPN), we performed Pitra Paksh, the Hindu custom of praying for our deceased ancestors. Pitra Paksh, also known as Mahalaya Amavasya, lasts for 16 lunar days. Even though the commemoration continues for all 16 days, it’s said that if one isn’t able to do the prayers on the other days, then just performing the ritual on Sarva Pitru Amavasya, the last day of Pitra Paksh, is enough to appease all the deceased souls from the family.
The ceremony combines the offering of food, water, incense, a lamp, and other items. Sri Swami Vishwananda blessed the ceremony with his presence in the beginning, while Swami Vishwaanashuyananda guided the steps of each offering.
The origin of Pitra Paksh stems back to Karna, the dangerous archer, who fought against the Pandavas in the Mahabharat War. Scripture says that when Karna’s soul transcended to heaven, the only food offered to him was gold. Hungry, Karna asked Indra, the Lord of Heaven, why gold was given for his meals. Indra explained that, because Karna had only offered gold for Shraddha, the prayer for ancestors, during his life, he would receive the same in Heaven. Essentially, what he gave is what he received.
Karna returned to the Earth for 15 days so that he could rectify his mistake and perform Shraddha properly, consciously offering food and water in the name of his ancestors. This custom is now known as Pitra Paksh.
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