September 15, 2008

A Reminder : Shraadh

Filed under: Chicken Soup For The Soul,opinions — Kaveeta Oberoi Kaul @ 12:09 pm
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Update: 2009 Shraadh begins on 5th September to 18th Sept in India. For USA and Canada Shraadh began yesterday 1.e. 4th Sept.

Shraadh or Pitrapaksh begins today, ending on 29th September, leading  on to Navratri.

Lifes most memorable moments are often those spent in the company of a dear one who has imperceptibly left an indelible mark in our journey. When they are snatched away by death”s steely clasp, we are left behind to mourn and grieve, not just for their death but what died within us in their loss.

Whilst tainting every joyous occasion with suffering in remembrance is not advisable, our sages therefore in their wisdom, appointed a certain time of the year to honour them. This period of 16 days which begins today, is known as ‘Shraadh’ or Pitrapaksh” . It is recommended that new ventures, business, or clothing not be bought during the length of Shraadha. Instead, depending on the ‘tithi’ or day of death, according to the hindu calendar, corresponding to that day, among the 16, ceremonies involving charity be performed, in remembrance of the departed souls, as also to pray for their well-being, to whatever realm they may have progressed .

I am not a religiously ritualistic individual like most others. Yet there are certain ceremonies which seem in consonance with even a cynical questioning mind. If one day in a year be devoted to praying for those who have helped shape our lives, given it a form which has enriched us, then it is but a negligible step to repay our indebtedness to them, pray for their salvation, while at once seeking their blessings.

Tears seem just a drop of nothingness, even if arisen from the depths of a bereaved soul.

For those to who finding the ‘tithi’ is problematic, or others who might prefer in a single day to honour all the departed souls of their family, it is the last day of the period,the 16th day, today when through the chantings of mantras, a plea is made to the Divine for helping them in their onward journey. Their favourite food is prepared, without onion, garlic, and distributed. Four portions one each for the crow, dog, cow, ant is kept aside, to reflect that all forms of life ought to be respected.

Needless to add that for those to who the services of a Pandit are not available, a simple visit to the temple and a prayer made with an earnest heart would suffice. It is the intention behind any practise which is of utmost importance. Rituals are at most a disciplining, and mood enhancing methodology. Sifting through a practise always reveals the underlying attribute , which serves the purpose of a guideline along the path to spirituality. This helps in avoiding a blinkered approach to our customs while simultaneouly keeping the spirit of the tradition alive.

The 15 day long rituals in worship of our ancestors Shraadha or ‘Pitrapaksh’  is a good time to feed at least one hungry person and the birds some rice and milk. Too many Why’s, What’,what for’s are not really necessary. All the same if answers are sought a little reading on the subject will help. In any case lovingly feeding hungry souls can never be a bad idea nor can worshipful remembrance of ancestors.

It is recommended that new ventures , new purchases not be made during this period. You will notice the decrease in number of releases of Bollywood films or for that matter announcements/mahurats for new ones. Perhaps those who most strictly adhere to this rule is our Bollywood fraternity. ‘Why risk it’ perhaps their inner dialogue.

For non believers this is simply meant to be time of the year when we should concentrate our energies and prayers for those departed souls who have played a role in our life. Our karma here may help them forward in their journey. Its the spirit world, proof of its prevalence surrounds us if we only care to notice. We take the prevalence of the remote and its functions for granted , yet are hugely skeptical of Indian rituals. .isnt the underlying principle similar?

On Shraadha however..

I wage not any feud with Death
For changes wrought on form and face;
No lower life that earth’s embrace
May breed with him, can fright my faith.

Eternal process moving on,
From state to state the spirit walks;
And these are but the shatter’d stalks,
Or ruin’d chrysalis of one.

Nor blame I Death, because he bare
The use of virtue out of earth:
I know transplanted human worth
Will bloom to profit, otherwhere.

Alfred Lord Tennyso


  1. […] Shraadha – Begins Today Filed under: India n Me, Our Festivals, Random, Relationships, opinions, spiritual wisdom — Kaveetaa Kaul @ 10:57 am Update 2008..Here […]

    Pingback by Shraadha - Begins Today « Sachiniti — September 15, 2008 @ 12:50 pm | Reply

  2. Hi Kaveetaa,

    Thanks for the really is nice. I wanted to ask you a question. In the US its difficult to find birds. what does one do then?

    Comment by Nilesh — September 16, 2008 @ 8:36 am | Reply

  3. Nilesh.. I do empathise with the situation. No problem. You can perhaps visit a shelter, offer food , clothing or money either on the last day i.e.29th or a little everyday. The idea is to somehow keep your ancestors in your thoughts and pray to the Almighty to bless them with salvation.

    Comment by Kaveetaa Kaul — September 16, 2008 @ 3:07 pm | Reply

  4. An excellent article Kaveetaa! Only yesterday I was talking to my mom and I asked her what I need to do during Shraaddha fortnight? My Mom told me the same things that you advised and I was thinking of following them. Apart from all this I do wish to share a few feelings with you and the readers on this occasion.
    The way our society is moving today is appallingly pathetic. Our minds have been confused and tainted by the pseudo-secularist and the vote hungry politicians. Hindu culture and rituals are branded as superstitions and backward. I consider that science has also become a modern day fanatic religion. In order to follow the one do you have to oppose the other? That is the confusion I am talking about. Why don’t people realize that science and spirituality need to go hand in hand? I was shocked to read the comments of one Dr Pervez Hoodabhoy, a physicist from Pakistan. During his visit to one of the Indian universities of Science, he found Nehru’s words that were inscribed on the doorway, “I too worshiped in these temples” objectionable, simply because he felt that science is not worship – it is a challenge. I feel the word worship means to understand and grasp the essence, the moment you use words like challenge; it alienates you from its soul. In order to understand Spirituality or Science one needs to understand them in their entirety. All rituals create an atmosphere, an ambience, to bring the mind and body to focus on the all pervasive almighty God.
    Swami Vivekananda wrote that “All sects that have attempted to worship God without any form or ceremony have crushed without mercy everything that is beautiful and sublime in religion. Their religion is a fanaticism, at best a dry thing. The history of the world is a standing witness to this fact. Therefore do not decry these rituals and mythologies. Let people have them; let those who so desires have them. Do not exhibit that unworthy derisive smile and say, ‘They are fools; let them have it’. Not so; the greatest men I have seen in my life, the most wonderfully developed in spirituality, have all come through the discipline of the rituals. Rituals of religion are like the husk of a seed that preserve its life and make it germinate. Philosophy without religion becomes meaningless. Religion without rituals becomes insipid. It is only when the rituals are separated from the faith and assume an independent existence that they become mechanical and lifeless”.
    Human beings have not yet reached those heights where they can dispense with all sorts of symbols and rituals and devote themselves to purely abstract principles. Besides, what are abstract principles – they too are mere symbols, constructs of the mind without form or shape. That is why the Sages, Rishis and evolved Yogis did away with the religious symbolism only after they had reached a higher plane after intense Sadhana.
    A wisely planned and solemnly conducted ritual prepares the ground, creates the atmosphere, suggests the mood and predisposes the mind so that the spiritual aspirant may easily detach himself from the world and feel the mysterious presence of the Supreme Power called God.


    Comment by Anjali — September 16, 2008 @ 6:19 pm | Reply

  5. shraadh is usually done by the son, for married daughters what can they do? or should do?

    Comment by anu chandra — September 16, 2008 @ 11:28 pm | Reply

  6. Anjali..wonderfully expressed. You have raised so many issues that embody the core so to speak of dilemmas that plague a modern thinking society. Thought and thinking sometimes is the bane /impediment to spiritual progress.

    Dr. Pervez Hoodabhoys objection is suggestive of a mind that dwells too much on the letter of a term, rather than the spirit a malady that most cynics are diseased with. It is obvious that nehru meant it to be symbolic of having learnt and learnt well in these Universities. Our Guru shishya paramapara which had as its kernel an attitude of thankfulness, perhaps being the springboard of this remark.

    Science and spirituality..will the twain ever meet? for some it is an arguable premise , for others like me it is unarguably faulty. I would like to illustrate through an example. Lord Buddha, thousands of years ago discovered the truth of atoms, our genetic code, structure and the genetic link which binds the whole creation. He realised this through the technique of Vippasana meditation. Mind you, his findings were accurate to the enth decimal.. even pertaining to the number of vibrations per second our body passes through. having explored this truth, dissected, analysed and fathomed its consequences, he was able to attain the Gyan which even the Gods envy.

    Scientists arrived at the same truth aeons later, which led to the invention of the atom bomb. The scientist who ultimately devised the bomb died of insanity. On the other hand Lord Buddha attained Nirvana. Is this self explanatory?

    The issue of rituals and their validity… as usual nobody could have explained it better than Swami Vivekananda “It is only when the rituals are separated from the faith and assume an independent existence that they become mechanical and lifeless”.

    Rituals attract the masses. Human behaviour may have been frightfully similar at the time of the Rishis, when doubt assailed the common man. Science need not necessarily be the only enemy. In order to mask the divinity of their intentions, Rishis often took recourse in rituals for it to be made palatable to even the most dense of minds.

    Swami Vivekananada also spoke thus ” You may be born in a church but dont die in one”. We have to try and ascend beyond the initial steps of rituals that steady the mind, bring on an aura of calmness and invite Higher beings to assist us in our existence on earth. When we are ready for more a guru shall make his presence felt. All paths lead to the sun..none is wring. It is entirely dependent on which suits us, what we are ready for and what we can assimilate.

    Comment by Kaveetaa Kaul — September 17, 2008 @ 2:55 pm | Reply

  7. Anu..Yes the ‘tarpan performed is by sons for their ancestors in which the wife plays a role as well. Your question is directed towards your parents I guess.For me too. Brothers have to do the ceremony..but everyday for the 16 days you can always feed the poor, or the crows some cooked rice, unboiled milk and black til. Finally it is the sentiment that go ahead and do just what you heart tells you.

    Comment by Kaveetaa Kaul — September 17, 2008 @ 6:15 pm | Reply

  8. Is there a date calculator available?
    Say for example..if someone passed away on 15 June 2004, on which day of shraadh in 2008, should the rituals be preformed?

    Comment by Alok — September 19, 2008 @ 9:38 am | Reply

  9. Alok, a pandit after consulting the panchang for that particular year would be able to tell you. Or else you can write to the Kalnirnay management. I tried looking up the year 2004 for you here but somehow the link wasnt working.Kal Nirnay is the most widely read yearly almanac with every possible detail on each day including tithi etc.

    Check in the archives.

    Comment by Kaveetaa Kaul — September 19, 2008 @ 9:53 am | Reply

  10. Oh I have found something else which may alleviate your problem.

    the tithi timer…

    Comment by Kaveetaa Kaul — September 19, 2008 @ 9:58 am | Reply

  11. nice post to read on…. see some great Navratri Greeting Cards here….

    Comment by Navratri Greetings & Wishes — September 23, 2008 @ 3:09 pm | Reply

  12. Dear Kaveeta
    A well written article.Perhaps it may interest u to read a related article when u visit the site please repy and leave your comments

    Comment by geeta — October 10, 2008 @ 9:36 pm | Reply

  13. please tell me if i can do pitrapaksh if my husbands fathers brother died

    Comment by manie — September 3, 2009 @ 12:43 pm | Reply

    • Pitrapaksh can and should be done for All ancestors. But according to me in the first year the pitrapash is done on the yearly date.

      Comment by Kaveetaa Kaul — September 8, 2009 @ 10:31 am | Reply

  14. Hi Kaveetaa,

    Thank you for an informative and sensible article. You´re right in that remembering and praying for our ancestors can only help us understand ourselves better.

    I was not aware about the belief that one shouldn´t make new purchases during this period. I bought myself a diamond ring last Sunday only to be told by my mother that it was a mistake. Would you know what one must do to offset any negative effects produced by a purchase at this time? I have put the ring away at the moment.

    Thanks so much.


    Comment by Anita Kanwar — September 10, 2009 @ 4:27 pm | Reply

  15. Hi Anita,

    Since the purchase was made inadvertently I guess you need not worry too much on this count especially since you mention you have decided not to wear it. The taboo on new purchases/ventures etc could also be due to inauspicious planetary positioning at this time or also to emphasis the point of mourning/remembering our ancestors.

    Imho, the best way to offset it would be to spend a few minutes a day in contemplation and puja, to give even a few coins and food to a needy person and on 18th do the special ritual of pitrapaksh. I profess to be no Pundit or gyaani but this is what I have gleaned from various readings. Above all pay homage to our parents.ancestors from the heart, thank them for the bounties received, apologise for any mistakes and seek blessings.

    Comment by Kaveetaa Kaul — September 11, 2009 @ 10:07 am | Reply

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