Once again we come to a very auspicious time in the year. This period is called Pitr Paksa.  The auspicious period for remembering those who have passed on.  Every year so much confusion reign on the do’s and don’ts in this period. It is our fervent hope that this article does bring some sort of sanity during this period.

The most frequently asked question are addressed so that we have a basic understanding during these day of Pitr Paksa.

Question:- What is the significance of Pitr Paksha?

Answer: – Pitr (ancestors) Paksha (phase of the moon) or simply “The auspicious period for remembering those who have passed on” is a very important and significant moment in the Sanatan Vedic culture. The Sanskrit word Pitr embraces God in all His aspects, the earliest Sages, and our immediate ancestors to the third generation, and all our departed friends and relatives.

Pitr Paksha is set aside as a Memorial and thanksgiving to the departed souls, who, when on this earth, made some contribution to make it a better place. We acknowledge our indebtedness to our ancestors in this period. It’s an observance which is accompanied by intense Bhakti or devotion to the Almighty God of all.

Question: – Is there any proof that Pitr Paksa prayers must be performed in this period?

Answer:- There is much proof in our Vedic Sastras but for this purpose I will site just two. In the Srimad Bhagavat Puraan 7.14.19 Sri Vyasadev said to Narad Muni. “During the dark fortnight of the month Ashwina [September -October] one should offer oblations to the ancestors as far as they can afford it”. Secondly “A brahmana who is sufficiently rich must offer oblations to the forefathers during the dark-moon fortnight in the latter part of the month of Bhadra. Similarly, he should offer oblations to the relatives of the forefathers during the Mahalaya ceremonies in the month of Ashvina.

Question: – I heard that we must not offer meat, alcohol and cigarettes when we perform our Pitr Paksha prayers. We have been doing it for as long as I know because my grandparents used to eat meat, drink alcohol and smoke. Is this correct?

Answer: – Before one offers food to ones ancestors one must offer the food to Shri Vishnu which then becomes Vishnu prasad and then a portion of that food is offered to our ancestors.  Now ask yourself would it be correct to offer meat, cigarettes and alcohol to Shri Vishnu, of course not.  It’s a grave sin to offer any kind of non-sattvic foods (e.g. Meat and any type of intoxicants) to one’s ancestors.  The following three verses are proof in Vedic sastras. “It is Dharma that in the Shraddha feast one should never offer meat nor should one eat meat. Only vegetarian food must be offered because meat is obtained by killing.  (Srimad Bhagavat 7.15.7).

Vegetarian food prepared with pure ghee, milk, sugar and curd, etc. are most pleasing to the Pitrs (Ancestors)”. (Matsya Puran 17.30).

“Cow’s milk, honey and the sweet pudding made of milk and rice and sugar with dry nuts satisfies the Pitrs (Ancestors)”. (Matsya Puran 17.36)

Question: – Please can you advise why during this period no prayers, like Katha and Jhandi, weddings, moving into a new house etc are not performed?

Answer: – This is a period set-aside for our ancestors as a thanksgiving period. In this period one should not consume any meat, alcohol and other intoxicants. One must offer food and tarpan (water oblations) to ones’ ancestors daily during the day light hours. One should not perform weddings, Katha and Jhunda, Sacred thread ceremonies, one cannot move into a new house and sign important papers, start a new job, start a new business venture and so forth. But one should perform charity, deity worship, daily Sandhya (offering of Surya jal, etc), lighting of your Lakshmi Lamp, jap, study of scriptures, fasting like Ekadashi, Agni Hotr (a 10 second havan performed at the junction of sunrise and sunset) and so forth.

Question:- People say that if you don’t take out food in Pitr Paksha then one should not go to someone else’s home help them to prepare for the food or even to eat the food prepared because you didn’t perform your prayers first. Is this backed by our Sastras?

Answer:- This is a fabrication and it’s not Sastric based and thus not followed.  If one goes to a person house and don’t partake in the food that is offered to the God then that person is committing a grave offense because he/she is refusing Prasaadam (offered food) and we know from the Satya Narayan Katha about the Katha of King Tungadhwaja on how he lost everything by refusing the Prasaadam that was offered to him.  So to answer your Question yes one can and should partake in the meals.

Question: – I’m a working class woman and I arrive home around sunset and it’s rather difficult to offer the food before sunset. What do I do in this case?

Answer: – One can offer your food to your ancestors anytime in the daylight hours. Which means that you can offer the food in the morning as well. One does not have to prepare elaborate preparations rather one can just make sweet rice which takes a few minutes to prepare. And if that’s difficult then cut a few fruits and offer that.

Question: – Why does one perform Tarpan (water oblations) in this period to our ancestors?

Answer: – The followers of Sanatan Vedic Dharma (Hindus) express their gratitude and devotion by offering oblations of water (Tarpan) in memory of their ancestors. Humans have three types of debts when they are born, one is to Shri Krshen and the devas, two is debt to the Rishis and three debt to our departed ancestors. ‘Trup’ means satisfying others. The word ‘Tarpan’ has been formed from the root word ‘Trup’. Offering water to Shri Krshen, the devas, the rishis and our ancestors satisfies them immensely and through this act, it is called Tarpan. The objective of performing Tarpan is so that Shri Krishen, the devas, the rishis and our ancestors whose names are pronounced while performing Tarpan, should bestow happiness on the performer.

Question: – If I were observing any vrat, would I stop it during Pitr Paksh. For e.g. if I was observing prayers that involved fasting on Saturday for God Shani, or a Lakshmi Vrat on Fridays and so forth?

Answer: – If someone has already started a fast like a 9 Saturday fast then that devotee can continue with that fast because it has already been started. The same goes for one who is performing a Lakshmi Vrat. But remember that one cannot start a vrat or fast in Pitr Paksa.

Question: – Can I light my Lakshmi lamp in this period?

Answer: – Yes absolutely you can light your Lakshmi lamp.  Why do people switch on their lights at home? It’s the same thing. The lamp is there to remove darkness from one’s life. As well as one is asking Mother Lakshmi for Her divine blessings.

Question: – What happens if a baby is born during Pitr Paksh and a family has not done their Pitr Paksh rituals yet. Do you stop the offerings because of this Ashucha period?

Answer: – Pitr Paksha is also devotional service to Shri Vishnu. And Shri Vishnu prayers are never stopped. So yes the family can still offer water and food. Only the mother cannot perform any puja as such because she is still menstruating etc. But she need not worry as whatever her husband does half of his spiritual merits goes to her. But remember excluding the mother, the father and the family still continue with the Pitr paksha prayers. This is proof from the Garud Puran. Pret Kand Chapter 29 verses 9, 11&12 “In impurity accruing from birth, the rules are less strict. The mother is purified after 10 days and the father just after taking a bath. In birth the relatives incur no impurity. Impurity attaches to parents alone. Primarily, it is the mother who becomes impure. The Father is purified by the touch of water alone. In birth or death O Garud, impurity lasts only for 10 days.

Question: – What type of fast does one perform during this period, what should I abstained from?

Answer: – One should abstain from eating meat and drinking alcohol.  It’s rather strange for me to say this because all humans are supposed to be vegetarian. One can have salt in this period.

Question: – Currently I live in a flat so it is not possible for me to offer the water or any food outside. Is there any other way that I can observe this fast?

Answer: – Now this is time, place and circumstances, if you live in an apartment  and you have a balcony then you can offer the food on the balcony. If you don’t have a balcony then offer the food and tarpan in one corner of the apartment facing the southern Direction. You must offer food to your ancestors for entire period. On the last day a havan is performed (optional) and food offered into the fire but I highly recommend performing charity.

Question: – My dad’s sister-in-law passed away last December and all the poojas up to the six months was performed. My question is that, can the pandit perform the havan & especially the Pindas for Pitr Paksha at mum’s house during their offering, although the one year ceremony was not done as yet?

Answer: – Yes absolutely that’s correct. To perform any shraddha pujas (like Pitr paksha pujas, 6th and 11 ½ month pujas, and so forth) is highly recommended in this period.

Question: – Do we have to observe this fasting period for the fortnight?

Answer: – Yes this period is not for only three days rather it’s a period of a fortnight. If one performs it for three or five days then it is better not to observe this period. Especially in our West Indian community many Hindus observe this very important period for just a few days.

Many hindus offer food after three days when they are performing their havan, this is incorrect.  Shri Yamaraj releases our ancestors in this period for them to accept the food that we offer them.  This memorial period is not just for three days rather it’s for a fortnight. If a guest comes to your house will you make the guest starve?  No! of course not.  Then why are your ancestors not being fed daily. Remember you do not have to cook all kinds of food daily to offer to your ancestors. Whatever you cook for yourself on that day some of that can be offered to your ancestors.

Question: – I was advised that we do not need to perform Pitr Paksha puja this year as we have already performed ceremonies this year due to death in the family. I do not agree with this advice and I still wish to perform Pitr Paksa Puja, can I?

Answer: – The advice given was indeed incorrect.  We should and must perform Pitr Paksha puja regardless of a death in family. By performing the Pitr Paksa puja the deceased comes in the form a Pitr in Pitr Paksha to honour the prashad and thus it is very beneficial for the deceased as well as those who observe this period.

Question: – My father-in-law has passed on but my mother-in-law is alive and she is the head of the family.  Previously we would all perform the Pitr paksha puja at her house, offer our tarpan at her house in the morning of the prayer, assist in the preparation of sattvic food etc and puja. But now my mother-in-law has suggested that her sons each do the prayer separately in their own homes, is this okay – considering that she is the elder in the family and still alive?

Answer: – Yes she is correct. Once one leaves one’s parents home and stay by oneself then I would humbly advise that they perform their Tarpan and offer food at their own homes.

Question: – Can I perform Pitr Paksh for my parents, even though I am married and follow the Family Linage of my in-laws?

Answer: – Yes absolutely.  I even offer tarpana and food to my late friends as well the more departed souls you offer tarpan and food to, the more blessings you receive.

Question: – Who should observes Pitr Paksha?

Answer: – All followers of Sanatan Vedic Dharma should.  It does not matter what language you speak or what area of the world you have come, this is not a prayer for Hindi speaking devotees only.  It’s due to ignorance and misunderstanding that it has become a prayer only for the “Hindi speaking people” and this very sad. We should be congregating and not segregating.

Question: – Many of us prepare all kinds of dishes, what is the main food to be offered?

Answer: – Food must be offered daily for the fortnight. It does not have to be nine curries, it can be whatever you prepare for yourselves, but of course it must be vegetarian food only.   There is no special food that has to be cooked but it would be nice to prepare vegetarian food that your ancestors liked.  Please don’t do it because you have to, do it with love and devotion.

Question: – Can girls offer water and partake in the prayer and eat the prayed food?

Answer: – Yes absolutely, Prasaadam is food offered and is not a rubber stamped only for men and more so the eldest son.  Prasaad is mercy, it is blessings from Bhagwaan and is available to all humankind regardless of their sex, colour and creed or geographical up-being.

Question: – Why do we use Til or sesame seeds, Jau or Barley seeds and Kush grass?

Answer: – This is stated in the Garud Puran Pret Khand chapter 29 verses 15-17 “Sesame seeds originate from My sweat and hence holy. Asuras, Danavas and Daityas flee from the place where Til or Sesame seeds are kept.  These seeds whether it is white, black and brown destroy sins committed by the body. One sesame seed offered in the holy rite is equal to a gift of a drona or a basin of golden gingelly seeds. Gingelly seeds offered in tarpan and homa have an everlasting benefit, cause all bodily sins are removed.

Verses 18-19 “Darbha (kush) grass is born of My hair and the gingelly seeds originate from My sweat, not otherwise.

Verses 20 “Brahma is stationed at the root of the Darbha grass. Keshav is stationed in the middle and know that Shankar is stationed at the tip of the Darbha grass. Thus, the three Deities are stationed in the Darbha grass.”

Verse 21 “Performing all rites with concentrated mind he should give water, rice and barley”.

Ch15 verse 64 “Barley-meal, boiled rice, fruits, etc one should partake”

Question: – Can we donate salt in charity?

Answer: – This is stated in the Garud Puran Ch 2 verse 30-32 “Salt has come out from the body of Shri Vishnu”. “Salt is very effective for the destruction of sins”. Garud Puran Ch 29 verse 30-33 “Salt is on par with everything divine. It yields everything the person wishes for himself. No dish tastes sweet without salt. Hence, salt is the favourite with the ancestors. The gift of salt leads them to heaven. Salt originated from the body of Vishnu. Hence, yogins praise a gift of salt. Whenever a person is on their deathbed, salt should be given as a gift. It opens the door way to heaven.” Hmmmm this is rather contradictory to what Indians generally believe “Oh I can’t donate salt all my luck will disappear”. Can you see how blindly we have followed over the years? So please from now believe and have faith in the words of Shri Vishnu and donate salt freely.

Question: – Can we offer food in the fire/havan kund?

Answer: – Yes in the Srimad Bhagavat 3.6.30 the great Rishi Maitrey says “Agni-dev is the mouth of the God and if food is offered into the fire then the God consumes the food first and then that food becomes prasadam, which serves as an antiseptic to ward off the difficulties of this age (Kali Yuga)”.  Please remember that all the Devi’s and Deva’s including Shri Vishnu eats via the mouth of God Agni. The sacrifices made to Agni-dev go to the devas because Agni-dev is a messenger to and from the other devas.

Question:- If a widow has only daughters can they take out the food?

Answer:- Yes that is quite fine – male or female can offer food and Tarpan, as long as it’s offered. Hinduism (Sanathan Dharm) is not a sexist religion.

Question:- If a girls parents are late and she has no brothers who does Pitr paksha for them?

Answer:- The girl/daughter performs the pujas. Even if she is married when tarpan (offering of water) is performed she should take her parents names…

Question:- Is it true that Shri Raam and Mother Sita performed Shraddha puja?

Answer:- Yes in the Garud Puran Pret Khand 10.31-51 this is stated: – “O Garudaji, I shall tell you how once Sita saw in the body of a brahmana the ancestors, her father-in-law, grandfather-in –law and her great-grand-father-in –law. At the behest of his father, Ram went to the forest. When he reached Pushkar, the holy center, together with his consort Sita he performed Shraddha with the ripe fruits Sita collected from the trees. When the sun reached the middle of the sky the sages who had been invited by Ram presented themselves. When Sita saw the sages she was extremely delighted. By the instructions of Ram she served them with the food. Then, all of a sudden, she got away from among the brahmanas. Covering herself behind the bushes she hid herself. Then having learnt that Sita had gone all-alone, Ram was anxious and lost in thought. He wondered why she had gone away so soon without feasting the brahmanas. He thought to himself “Maybe she felt shy, I shall search for her.” Thinking this way He himself feasted the brahmanas. When the brahmanas went away Sita returned. Then Shri Ram spoke to her: “ Why did you leave when the sages came here to the forest. Let me know the reason of your abrupt departure” then addressed by the God, Sita stood with her face cast down. With tears flowing down from her eyes she spoke thus to her God. “God, hear, I saw a wonder here. I saw your father, in front of the brahmanas dressed in royal costume. I saw two elderly folk donning the similar garb. On seeing your father I moved away from his presence. Attired in bark and hide, how could I serve him with food? How could I offer him food in a vessel of grass in which even slaves would not eat from? How could I, full of perspiration and dirt, go before him knowing that he had never seen me before in that miserable state? I felt shy and moved away from his presence, O Ram.” Thus, O Garud I have told you how Sita saw the ancestors

Question:- Did Shree Caitanya Mahaprabhu perform Shraddha (Pinda) puja?

Answer:- Yes Shree Caitanya Mahaprabhu who is the embodiment of Shree Radha and Krsn did perform shraddha puja and this is confirmed in the Caitany Caritamrit Adi Lila Chapter 17 verse 8… “Thereafter the God went to Gaya. There He met Srila Ishvara Puri.” Purport by Srila Prabhupad “ Shree Caitanya Mahaprabhu went to Gaya to offer respectful oblations to His forefathers. This process is called Pinda-Daan. In Vedic society, after the death of a relative, especially one’s father or mother, one must go to Gaya and there offer oblations to the lotus feet of Shri Vishnu. Therefore hundreds and thousands of men gather in Gaya daily to offer such oblations, or Shraddha. Following this principle, God Caitanya Mahaprabhu also went there to offer pinda to His dead father. Fortunately He met Ishvara Puri there.”

Question:- Are we allowed to perform our daily offering of jal (water) to God Surya (Sun)?

Answer:- YES

Question:- Can one celebrate one’s birthday in this time?

Answer:- Yes this is fine. Of course with the orthodox older folks this will not be kosher but try to explain to a little child “O baby so sorry I can’t celebrate your birthday because it’s Pitr Paksha”. This child will grow up to hate Pitr Paksha. Please people we have to move with the times.

Question:- How certain are we that the food that we offer goes to our ancestors?

Answer:- In the Garud Puran Pret Khand 19. 26-27 Shree Garud-ji asks: “O Shri Vishnu, things are gifted by the relatives at home in the favour of the deceased. How do they reach the deceased and who receives them?” Shri Vishnu replied “O Garud, Varun dev (the deva in charge of the oceans) receives those gifts and hands them over to Me. I give them to Suryadev, and from Suryadev the deceased person obtains them” so from the above verse its quite clear whatever you give on behalf or the food that you offer to you ancestors, the food/gift goes to that entity in whatever form it is in.

Question:- At my in-laws house after they offer all the food to the Pitr’s, they perform havan of which only the males are allowed to partake, is this correct?

Answer:- This is absolutely nonsense and not backed by sastras. A family that prays together stays together. When are we going to learn that prayers are not rubber stamped ONLY FOR MEN TO PERFORM? Prayers are meant for all humanity to perform regardless of sex, colour or creed.

Question:- During this time, if it is that time of the month for us females are we allowed or not allowed to prepare the food, offer the water or part-take in the prayer performed.

Answer:- Well this is an age-old question. Strictly speaking when a female has her menses she should not perform all these prayers. But again we are living in an age where circumstances force us to do things that were not done previously.  I don’t have a problem with it if the circumstances permit it. I would rather have a female in her menses performing the puja than a male who is drunk or not in his senses performing the prayers.

Question:- My in-laws are still living. My husband and I are observing Pitr Paksh with them. I would like to know if we must also offer water daily or do my in-laws only offer water?

Answer:- Both your in laws, your husband and your self must offer tarpan daily.

Question:- Is there no other way to do the final once off prayer for the departed ancestors, instead of doing this Pitr Paksha prayers every year?

Answer:- NO. The Pitr prayers are performed yearly and not once off. A question I would like to ask you. Ask your doctor for a once off injection that will not make you sick again. I am quite certain there is no such medication or injection. Yearly we have to visit the doctor for constant medication so in Pitr Paksha we feed our ancestors in this time until next year. And finally we have three debts to pay viz. debt to Shri Krsn and the devas, debt to the Rishis and finally debt to ones’ departed ancestors.  It’s an on going process.

Question:- How do we dispose of the Pitrs Prasad after it has been offered to them?

Answer:- According to the Bhagavad Gita, “Bhut Yajn” is an important part of charity and if placed outside (which in this case for your Pitr’s). Your Pitr’s eat this food ethereally {through smell}. After your Pitr’s eat the food it cannot be consumed by humans and thus Ants, Insects, Dogs and Birds and other creatures enjoy eating this food. Sastras call this Panch-Bali (5 types of creatures we should feed). Its extremely auspicious if any life forms (Vedic sastras state there are 8,400,000 species of life forms) consume the Prashad. But if the food still hasn’t been eaten then you can dispose of the remnants in a local river or if that is a bit difficult then dig a hole in your yard and bury the prashad.

Question:- Are we allowed to visit family and friends during this time?

Answer:- YES

Question:- Can a female perform shraddha puja’s (for example Pitr prayers, 6th month, 11½ month etc)?

Answer:- The daughter, wife, mother and daughter-in-law of the deceased person have the authority to perform Shraddha. In spite of this, in the current era, some who conduct the Shraddha puja deny their consent for females to perform Shraddha. In emergency conditions, however, if no one is available for performing Shraddha, then it is better for it to be performed by females instead of not performing it at all. This is collaborated in the Garud Puran Pret Khand 8.3 Shri Vishnu replied to Shree Garud-ji: “ If both families are maleless, the women should perform the obsequies”.

This is an article that should be sent to anyone important in your life.  I woulappreciate it if you will forward this to every Hindu you know.  Spread it like wild fire.  Please Contribute any info you may have.

With mountains of Love & Regards,

Mahindra Tiwary

Akshay Tiwary


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