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Shradhyan kriyate ya saa
It is a ritual to satiate ones ancestors and express unconditional reverence towards them.
Shradh is an act which is performed with utmost devotion to pay respect towards and serve the interest of dead parents and ancestors. The person who performs shradh with a pure devotion and peaceful mind is said to be freed from all the woes of the material world. Hence, every person must perform shradh in order to satisfy ones parents and ancestors and also for their own wellbeing. There is no other ritual in the world which is more sacred and pure than Shradh, so an intelligent being must try to perform Shradh to help his ancestors to move on smoothly in other planes of existence after death, thereby boosting their spiritual journey. The person who does shradh is bestowed with long life, health, wealth, prosperity, bright children, positive energy, and a son who can continue the family lineage and bring prosperity.
Our scriptures talk about the demerits of non-performance of Shradh. Hence one must understand the nature of Shradh and always try to perform it with total devotion. It is understandable that a dead person cannot carry his gross body, sthula sarira, along with him in his journey after life, so how can he carry food or water along with him? Hence whatever the kith and kin of him offer to him in the process of shradh is received by him. Scriptures advise that after death, there must be a process of Pinddaan. Firstly, when the death body is taken to the funeral pyre, 6 pindas are offered inorder to please the gods who are established in the earth and to avoid the obstacles created by the evil spirits and negative energies. There after 10 pindas are offered in dashagatra for the dead have a subtle body, sukshma sarira. This is the beginning point of the new journey of the deceased. Along their journey they need food and water (fine aspects of it) which is fulfilled by the pinddaan offered on Uttamshodasi. The plight of the dead ones become worser if the relatives does not offer pinddaan on those times. It is also important to note the eligible person who does not offer pinddaan also suffers a lot of difficulties.
Shradham na kurute mohat tasya raktam pibanti te
In absence of receiving pinddaan from their loved ones, the dead persons tend to drink the blood of their loved ones, even if they don’t want to.
Pitarasya shapam dattva prayanti cha
The cursed family will then have to suffer a lot of hardships in their life. They will not be blessed with health, wealth, longevity, prosperity and a son in their family.
Generally there are two main steps to shradh- Pind daan and Brahman Bhojan. After death, the deceased person goes to Devlok or Pitrulok as per the law of karma. Upon calling by the way of chanting mantras, they come to the place of Shradh from their respective lokas and accept the food which is offered to the Brahmins. The Brahmins are the medium through which they receive food. Since the deceased possess subtle bodies, by consuming subtler and fine particles of food, their hunger is satiated.
How does the Pitars or ancestors receive pinddaan offered by their relatives?
It is very natural to be curious to know as to how the Pitars or ancestors receive the offered pindaan which is in the form of rice, sesame seeds etc, from their loved ones. According to Law of Karma, after death jiva tends to stay in various planes or lokas of existence. There are various forms devta, pitar, ghost, elephant, ant, tree etc according to their karmas or actions in previous lives. Then question arises how can a small rice ball or pinda satisfy an elephant and if an ant could eat the entire rice ball, Devtas only drink the divine nectar, how can they be satisfied with a small pinda. Our Shastras has answer for all of the questions. There are the most revered pitars who live in pitruloka called Vishvedev and Agniswat. With the help of name and gotra of the deceased person, Vishvedev and Agniswat transfers the offerings of the pinddaan to the respective jiva in a manner accepted by it. If it is in devayoni, it is sent in the form of heavenly nectar, if it is in manav yoni or pashu yoni, it is sent in the form of anna and grass form. So with this, the deceased receive satisfaction and bless the karta and his family with happiness and wellbeing.
When is the best time to perform shradh?
The Shradh has to be performed twice every year. Apart from that the best time to perform shradh is on Amavasya, Vyatipat, Sankranti etc which are considered as sacred. The two occasions to perform shradh every year without fail are:
1) Punya Tithi or the date of death according to moon calander &
2) Pitrupaksha: the fortnight of ancestors start from Bhadrapad shukla poornima till the amavasya of the same month. Shukla paksha is the night of the pitars. As written in manusmriti one day/night of pitars are equal to one month of human beings. There are two parts or pakshas of a month. Krishna paksha is said to be the working day and shukla paksha is the sleeping night for pitars.
Who can perform Shradh
Shradh can be performed by Son, Daughter, Grandson, Great Grandson, Daughter’s Son, Wife, Brother, Nephew, Father, Mother, Daughter-in-law, Sister, Sister’s Son or anyone in the 7 generations.
There are twelve types of Shradh according to Vishwamitra Smriti and Bhavishya Puran.