Pitri-Paksha or Shradh Story, Significance, Rituals & Importance | About Mahalaya


Paying homage to ancestors is an intrinsic feature of Hinduism. This 16 day period when ancestors are venerated and remembered, is known as Pitri-Paksha or Shradh.

The Period of Pitr-Paksha

Pitr-Paksha begins soon after Ganesh Chaturthi, on the full moon day and it ends with the new moon day (Mahalaya or Sarvpitri Amavasya). This period also coincides with the autumn equinox during September-October.


Pitr-Paksha food


Pitru-Paksha Belief…

It is believed that three generations of ancestors live in pitri-lok, a transit area between Heaven and earth, ruled by Yama. During Shradh it is believed that the spirits of these ancestors leave Pitri-lok and reside in the homes of their descendants, so that they can venerate and propitiate them.




Pitri-paksha or Shradh Story…

When Karna died in the battle of Mahabharat his spirit resided in pitri-lok. He was given gold and jewels to eat but not real food. When he questioned Yama, he was told that he had donated vast sums of gold in his lifetime, but had never offered food to his ancestors during Shradh. Thus he didn’t deserve edible food or water.




Pitri-paksha or Shradh Legend…

Karna was then permitted to return to earth for this fortnight (Shradh) and allowed to make amends by offering food and water to three generations of his ancestors. This period has since come to be known as Pitri-paksha or Shradh.


Pitr-Paksha pic


Shradh Significance…

Food is donated during Shradh to appease the spirits of the ancestors. Some people perform tarpan, shradh or pind-daan under the guidance of priests throughout this period. The custom was probably made to ensure that people do not forget their ancestors and remember they are bound by the bond of blood.


Pitr Paksha Shradh


About Mahalaya…

The last day of Shradh (Mahalaya) is known to be sacred and of great importance. Worshipping the ancestors on this day ensures their soul will transcend to Heaven. The scriptures stress on equal status for propitiating ancestors and performing pitri-paksha as is given to gods, guests and bhuta-preta (spirit).


Pitar Paksh Importance…

Mahalaya is observed for all ancestors, irrespective of which day they died on. It marks the day before the commencement of Navratri and Durga puja festivities




The Shradh period is considered inauspicious to start anything new, like marriages, building a house or starting a business etc. However, it is the only and most important time of the year to propitiate ancestors.

Pitru-Paksh Rituals…

Shradh is normally performed at noon in the house, by a water body or in a temple under the guidance of a priest. Food offerings made to the ancestors include rice, lentils, sweets, fruits etc. That day a portion of this food is left out in the open for crows to feed upon. The crow is believed to be the messenger of Yama, embodying the spirit of the ancestors. The priests are also offered food, clothes and alms.


Pitr-Paksha photo


In Hinduism it is believed that one is born with three debts: debt towards God (deva rin) debt towards the teacher (acharya or guru rin) and debt towards the forefathers or pitri rin. Performing certain rites and rituals during pitra-paksh or on Mahalaya ensures the salvation of ancestral souls (moksha) and with their blessings, our own wellbeing.



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One Response to “Pitri-Paksha or Shradh Story, Significance, Rituals & Importance | About Mahalaya”
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