Wishing Everlasting Peace For Our Ancestors
Shraadh, a period observed for the everlasting peace of our ancestors began this year on September 1 and will end on September 17. We carry the genes of our ancestors and their attributes and by worshipping them we bring out the best in ourselves, thereby making this world a more harmonious place. This period of time comes annually according to a particular Vedic planetary constellation.
Shraadh begins with Purnima, full moon, and ends with the new moon. This period lasts for about two weeks. According to Vedic astrology, the ancestors normally leave Pitra-loka where they reside to dwell in the home of their descendants. At this time, offerings for the peace and salvation of these souls are performed.
On the new moon day, families ask for the blessings of their ancestors and in the evening, a special lighting of the lamp is performed. This signifies Pitru Vidaai, a final goodbye to the departed souls. During this time, it is believed that after the rituals of Shraadh, their souls will rest in peace.
According to the Srimad Bhagavad Gita, one’s body is destructible but the soul remains immortal. The soul never takes birth nor does it die, but is everlasting.
The time of Shraadh liberates the soul from the cycle of life and death resulting in salvation. Hence, performing Shraadh during Pitru Paksha is considered extremely important for departed souls to rest in peace so that they will never relive any disharmony that they may be experiencing.
During Shraadh, there are specific rituals that if performed with full faith, devotion, and respect to ensure that the departed souls will rest in peace and will also protect us from all negativity and evil.
Most of the rituals are based on prayer, and offerings of food and water. It is believed that ancestors are appeased by these offerings.
The Legend Of Shraadh
The significance of Shraadh is best explained in the Mahabharata. After the war between the Kauravas and the Pandavas, when everything ended, and Karna, one of the greatest legends in the war of the Mahabharata died and reached heaven, he was offered food in the form of gold and silver. He questioned Lord Indra about this who replied that all through his life, he had donated gold, diamond, and silver but had never donated any food in the name of his ancestors. Karna replied that he was not aware of his ancestors and had, hence, never done this. As a result, Indra allowed Karna to return to earth for 16 days, during which time he donated food, offered water and performed other actions.
Acts to be Avoided during Shraadh
1. Buying new clothes
2. Avoid auspicious events like marriage and birth ceremonies
3. Getting a haircut
4. Consuming non-vegetarian food, alcohol, and tobacco
5. Eating at others’ homes
Ancestral worship is not just exclusive to India. It is also well-developed in the Japanese Shinto ancient native religion of Japan and is still practised in a modified form under the influence of Buddhism and Confucianism. It was also important during the later Roman Empire.
It was prevalent in many parts of the world as totem worship wherein an object such as an animal or plant is revered by members of a particular social group because of a mystical or ritual relationship that exists with that group.
Ancestral worship in other parts of the world was a huge part of ancients who lived in harmony with nature. This was different from what the Vedas teach us. Both have their core values embedded in ahimsa, non-violence.
In the end, the ability to respect where we came from ― our parents and our ancestral lineage ― is important because they are a part of who we are today.