There is a somber annual event in the Hindu calendar known as Pitru Paksha (Pitt-true Puck-shuh). September 2nd marks the beginning of the time period known as Pitru Paksha 2020 worldwide. Pitru Paksha (“the fortnight of the ancestors”) is a period dedicated to honoring our ancestors. This includes our blood relatives as well as significant teachers and close friends who were in our lives.
Pitru Paksha 2020 is a time of remembrance and of offering our gratitude. What we have been given in this lifetime is due to the merits of generations of ancestors. This includes acts which are both known and unknown to us. We honor their legacy, as they paved the way for future generations.
Indians participate in special rituals and rites during this time. Many people participate in pujas or yajnas (fire rituals) for their departed ancestors, which are performed by Brahmins, or Vedic priests.
Offerings can also be made at home. People make offerings with black sesame seeds mixed with white basmati rice, and clarified butter (ghee). There are specific mantras which are recited during this period. Our ancestors contribute to our karmic legacy and it is important to honor their departed souls. Typically in Vedic astrology, the new Moon each month (amavasya) is also favorable for honoring your ancestors.
You may wish to donate food or offer vegetarian food to others in honor of your ancestors on that day.
Another name for Pitru Paksha is Shraadh or Shraadh Paksha. The word Shraadh is a cognate of the word “shraddha” or faith. Shri Vivek Godbole explains, “We don’t know where where our ancestors are in this lifetime and in what form they are in. When you offer food to them, then they will have food for one year. We don’t know where the soul is. In any form, the soul will give blessings.”
Because our ancestors are always close to us, they are can hear our thoughts and prayers all the time. They can carry any of our desires to the divine realm. When our ancestors bless us, then the gods and goddesses will also bless us.
He also recommends putting some amount of money aside each month to honor your ancestors. Then after one year, donate that money to a local temple or charitable organization in memory of your ancestors.
Pitru Paksha 2020 commences on the first day of the waxing (dark phase) Moon in the Vedic lunar month of Bhadrapada each year. Vedamurti Vivekshastri Godbole elucidates on the importance of Pitru Paksha 2020 in these videos.
PRACTICES DURING PITRU PAKSHA 2020
Individuals focus on their spiritual practices and meditation during the entirety of Pitru Paksha. It is typically not a time to commence new ventures or to enter into new agreements. Marriages are typically to be avoided. While most people are not traveling these days due to COVID19, air travel should also be minimized as much as possible during Pitru Paksha. An exception under normal circumstances is if the travel is for spiritual purposes (i.e. a pilgrimage).
Families pay homage to relatives who have passed on. They do so on the specific phase of the moon (the tithi) which coincides with the day that the person left his/ her body. Special meals are also prepared for these days, according to Indian tradition. They include pinda – or rice balls mixed with sesame seeds and served on banana leaves. Offerings are made to ancestors at the bank of a river.
Pitru puja is done for ancestors who have departed the earthly plane more than one year ago. For those who have left within the past year (i.e. less than 365 days), a different type of yajna is performed, to ensure that the soul travels safely on its journey. Regardless of when your ancestor departed the earthly plane, you can perform a puja on Mahalaya amavasya. This is the last night of Pitru Paksha. It falls on September 16th in North America and the 17th in Europe and India. Please consult mypanchang.com for specifics.
Then we focus our worship to the deities to grant us many boons in this life. This year, Aadhik Maas, the “extra month” in the lunar calendar directly follows Pitru Paksha 2020. As with Pitru Paksha, Aadhik Maas is also a time where it is ill advised to start new ventures. Navaratri 2020 commences after that.