Death Anniversary Rituals Observed by Hindus•
Posted on December 02 2022
Hindus perform various death anniversary rituals for a year or every year after passing of their loved ones. These rituals are called shraddha and are performed to pay respect to them. It is believed that on the tithi of the death of the person. If the exact tithi is not known, then the rituals are usually carried out on the Amavasya or new moon day of that month during the aparanha period. These rituals helps us to remain connected to our deceased loved ones.
The actual death anniversary rituals in Hinduism vary from community to community. However, any Shraddha ritual entails carrying out the following four activities.
This activity involves the invoking of the supreme power and requesting their presence at the place where you plan to perform their rituals. The purpose of this step is to seek their blessings and guidance to carry out the shraddha properly without any mistake.
This step entails offering pindas to the deceased souls. The pinda is typically a ball of cooked rice with ghee, cows’s milk, honey and sugar on it. It is important to offer the pinda wholeheartedly with utmost respect, sentiment and devotion to the person whom it is being offered. There are usually four pindas comprising one large rice ball and four small rice balls. The large ball represents the person for whom the ritual is being done and the three small balls represent the ancestors of the performer. The large ball is broken and mixed with the small balls to represent the reunion of the deceased with his/her ancestors.
This activity involves serving the departed souls with clean water with white flour, kusha grass, barley and black sesame seeds. This is done to satisfy the Almighty and the soul of the ancestors of the performer of the shraddha. This is followed by offering the water to the deceased. It is said that the tarpan helps to appease or placate the deceased before sending them back to their heavenly abode.
Feeding a Brahmin
This step is an important part of the Shraddha and must compulsorily be done to wind up the ritual. You can feed a brahmin in a nearby temple. If you are availing the services of a Brahmin to guide you with the rituals, you can consider feeding him. Often, an offering is made to crows before feeding the brahmin. This is because it is believed that the ancestors take the form of crows and come on the date of the ritual for the offerings of the Shraddha rituals. It is said that they get angered if they do not receive this offering. This is why the crows are fed before the Brahmins.
There are some things to keep in mind when performing the death anniversary or shraddha rituals for your loved ones.
- The milk, ghee and curd used to prepare food during the Shraddha ritual and for the pooja must be only from a cow. The milk should not be taken from a cow that has just recently given birth.
- Use silverware to perform the death anniversary rituals. This is because silver is said to be auspicious and has the power to get rid of evil forces. If you have no silverware, you can use copper and/or bronze utensils instead.
- Use barley, mustard and sesame to perform the Shraddha pooja as they are considered to be highly auspicious like silver. Additionally, sesame offers protection against evil forces while ushering good fortune and luck at the same time.
- Serve kheer to brahmins after the ritual. Kheer is often mandatory for any Hindu ritual.
- Take only a vegetarian diet during the Shraddha period. Refrain from including eggs and any form of meat in the meal. Avoid using garlic and onion to cook the food.
- Make sure that only fresh grains and fruits are used for the Shraddha pooja. Stale and/or rotten grains and fruits must completely be avoided.
The shraddha vidhi must be performed facing the southern direction on a sloping surface. The rituals can also be done in a temple, a pilgrimage site or the banks of a river. It is believed that the merit obtained from performing the shraddha increases multifold when the death anniversary rituals are carried out in the house of the person performing the rituals. The place where the shraddha is done is smeared with cow dung to keep it off from inauspicious objects, animals or insects. The rituals observed as a homage to the departed souls reach out to them immediately during the Shraddha and helps their souls to rest in peace.
The death anniversary or shraddha rituals serve as a repayment of debts towards the deceased and other deceased ancestors. The rituals also help the souls of the deceased to develop a sense of detachment from their loved ones and get liberated from the birth-death life cycle to become one with the Almighty. The pooja must be done with complete dedication to get full benefit from performing the rituals.
North Indians consider the period of fifteen days of the Ashwin month during the Krishna Paksha as Pitru Paksha. On the other hand, South Indians refer to the fifteen days of the Bhadrapada month during the Krishna Paksha as Pitru Paksha. In the earlier days, the death anniversary rituals were performed only by the male members of the family. However, over the years, women have also started engaging themselves in some of the rituals related to shraddha.
Written by- Deepthi K