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Importance of Rituals Dedicated to the Dead in Hinduism

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Importance of Rituals Dedicated to the Dead in Hinduism


Importance of Rituals Dedicated to the Dead in Hinduism


posted 1 August 2008

Pitru Paksh Shraddh, Tarpanam or Shraddham are the various names used to describe the rituals performed for the dead relatives and ancestors in Hinduism. Shraddh holds an important place in rituals associated with Hindu religion and it is performed without fail by most Hindus. Apart from the immediate rituals after a death, there are also annual rituals like Pitru Paksh Shraddh in North India and <st1:place st="on">East India</st1:place>, Aadi Amavasai in Tamil Nadu, Karikadaka Vavu Bali in Kerala and Amavasi rituals in other places.

Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita talks about the journey of the dead and about the importance of the rituals dedicated to them. Annual Shraddh is usually performed during the Dakshinayana period (July to December). Prashna Upanishad indicates that the rituals performed on the first Krishna Paksha Amavasi during Dakshinayana period directly reach the Dead. In <st1:place st="on">South India</st1:place>, the first Amavasi after Dakshinayana is considered highly favorable for performing the Shraddham.



Shraddh should be performed with a pious mind. The person who performs the Shraddh should realize that for his birth, body, knowledge, wealth and sanskar he/she is indebted to the ancestors. All that is there was given by the ancestors. So the rituals performed is accepting this fact and is sort of thanksgiving. Both male and female relatives of the dead can perform the rituals.

The rituals including the ‘pind dhan’ that are performed reach the dead ancestors through the rays of Surya (Sun.) It is said that a year of humans is a day for the dead and therefore the ancestors enjoy the fruits of the annual Shraddh throughout the year.

Another belief is that the souls of dead remain in peace in Pitru Loka as a result of the rituals performed by their children or relatives. It is also said that the dead bless them for this and it helps the children and relatives to lead a good life on earth.

Equally important is feeding the poor on the day. Whenever rituals dedicated to the dead are performed, people distribute food and clothes among the poor.

Usually the rituals are performed on a riverbank or on seashore. There are also temples in <st1:country-region st="on"><st1:place st="on">India</st1:place></st1:country-region> where the rituals can be performed. In some places crows are invited to feed on the rice cake that is prepared for the ritual

The method of performing the rituals slightly varies from region to region. But the essence of the ritual is the same.

Posted by abhilash on 31.7.08

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I stopped doing this several years ago as at that time, there was a clash between Pitruloka of the Vedas and the reincarnation concept of the Gita. Only one of them could be true, so I picked reincarnation and decided there was no Pitruloka.


Now it is reversed. Subjectively, If I had to choose between Pitruloka and reincarnation, I will pick the former. However objectively, there is no evidence for either and so I have to pass on both.



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Thank you for your postings Suchandra.


This Posting is so important, as examplefied in sastra:


Iso 17 P:

. . . The complete Bhägavatam was heard by Mahäräja Parékñit and chanted by Çukadeva Gosvämé. Mahäräja Parékñit inquired from Çukadeva because Çukadeva was a greater spiritual master than any great yogé or transcendentalist of his time.

Mahäräja Parékñit’s main question was: “What is the duty of every man, specifically at the time of death?” Çukadeva Gosvämé answered Bhäg. 2.1.5:




tasmäd bhärata sarvätmä





bhagavän éçvaro hariù


çrotavyaù kértitavyaç ca


smartavyaç cecchatäbhayam








“Everyone who desires to be free from all anxieties should always hear about, glorify and remember the Personality of Godhead, who is the supreme director of everything, the extinguisher of all difficulties, and the Supersoul of all living entities.”




PS: Any updates on the 'Musical Columns' in ancient Hindu Architecture?

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