Wednesday, September 23, 2009
mahalaya amavasya is the day of the moonless night before navarathri. during the krishna paksha(the fortnight of the waning moon),hindus propitiate three generations of ancestors from both their parents' sides.the departed souls are believed to be living in pitruloka,a region between earth and heaven.it is ruled by yama,the god of death.during this period the ancestors leave their abode and descend to earth to live in the homes of their descendants.
water added with sesame seeds is offered to the deceased who are represented by 'bhugnas' made of dharba grass.normally darbha grass is collected on amavasya day in the month of 'simha' at the fag end of the monsoon from nearby lakes and tanks where they grow wildly. the grass collected on this day can be used for a complete year. these rites are done accompanied by the chanting of mantras.the sound vibration makes the effort more beneficial than otherwise.it is called tarpanam(tharpanam).it means to satisfy,to please.
in tarpanam,pitrus are installed on a five strand dharba(bhugna). the five strands represent the the five life elements.dharba is considered to have come to earth from the hair of the creator (parama purusha) in the process of creation.if one does this act with sincerity and devotion,one immediately feels very contended.in the 'manusmriti',tarpanam has been described as pitruyagyam.it is a sacrifice dedicated to the memory of the forefathers.it is said that forefathers look forward to the offerings.in the 'yamapuranam' it is said that yama frees all souls in the dark fortnight of the month of 'kanya'(september-october),to enable them to visit their children and accept the food that they offer.the risk of not performing tarpanam can be huge. they may invite the wrath of the forefathers and if cursed by them suffer the consequences." vricchika darsanaat yanti nirasa pitaro gatah". doing tarpanam properly ensures happiness and contentment. "dine dine gaya tulyam"-the ceremonies honouring the pitrus performed during this fortnight are considered to be equal to the ceremonies performed in the sacred city of gaya.every devout hindu is careful not to annoy his pitrus. otherwise,the old women at home will not give him a peaceful time!
there is an interesting legend highlighting the importance of donating food. 'karna' of the epic mahabharatha was a great donor of wealth.but he never donated food.after his death,he received plenty of gold and silver in heaven for his charitable deeds.but his soul was hungry and yearned for food. when he was alive, he never did tarpanam in memory of his ancestors.realising his mistake of not donating food and not doing tarpanam for his ancestors,karna pleaded with yama to send him back to earth so that he could make up for this shortcoming.yama agreed to karna's request. he breathed life back to him. karna returned to earth and this time fed the poor and offered tarpanam.when he returned to the nether region after expiry of 14 days he had food to his heart's content.these 14 days are celebrated as 'mahalaya paksha'.donating food on the amavasya day is considered to be the most important ritual!the easiest way to access to God’s grace is by feeding a famished human being starving for food, and donating clothes to him. donating food(annadaanam) is considered to be the greatest charity among all the charities.it is believed that the person who donates food would attain an elevated status in life!
the ancestors are happy alright but not the shopkeepers.their sales dramatically drop during this period.in fact, no important activity is carried out during this inauspicious period of 'pitrupaksha'.no new cars are bought,no new flats are purchased and no new films are released. everyone awaits the departure of the souls of the ancestors after they have been fully satisfied with the tarpanam offerings to commence their auspicious activities.