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Shraaddh and Tarpan (Pitri Paksh)
See also Shraaddh; Shraaddh Niyam; Shraaddh in Gayaa
Funeral rites and Shraaddh must be distinguished from each other. Funeral rites (Antyeshti) are Amangal (inauspicious) while Shraaddh are Mangal (auspicious).
To understand this it should be borne in mind that when a person dies, his or her gross body (Sthool Shareer) is burnt. This being in fact the "Antya ishti" (Antyeshti) the last sacrifice offered in fire, but the soul cannot quit the gross body without a vehicle of some kind. This vehicle is the Ling Shareer or subtle body, sometimes described as Angushth Maatra (of the size of a thumb), invested in which the deceased person remains hovering near the burning ground or crematorium.
He or she is then in the condition of a simple individual soul invested with a subtle body, and is called a Pret, ie a departed spirit or a ghost. Thus an embodied soul (Jeev) who has departed from the physical body at death is called a Pret. He or she has no real body, capable of enjoying or suffering anything, and is consequently in a restless, uncomfortable plight.
Moreover, while in this condition he or she is held to be an impure being, and all the relations who participate in his or her funeral rites are held to be impure until the first Shraaddh is performed. Furthermore, if a person dies away from his kindred (relations), who alone can perform the funeral ceremonies, and who are perhaps unaware of his or her death, and unable therefore to perform them, he or she becomes a ‘Pishaach’, a foul wandering ghost, disposed to take revenge for its misery upon all living creatures by a variety of malignant acts.
The object then, of the Antyeshti or funeral rites, which are carried out for twelve days after death, is not only to soothe or give Shaanti (peace) by libations of consecrated water to the troubled spirit, but to furnish the Pret with an intermediate body, between the ‘Ling’ or subtle and the ‘Sthool’ or gross body- with a body, that is to say, which is capable of enjoying or suffering, and which is composed of gross particles, though not of the same kind as the earthly gross body. In this manner only the Pret can obtain Gati or progress onwards.
A Brief Account of Shraaddh and Tarpan
Shraaddh is the name of the ceremonies performed by relatives to help the departed soul. The ceremony of Shraaddh performed to help the soul at this stage is called Pret Kriyaa. Hence a Shraaddh is not a funeral ceremony but a Pitri Yagya or worship of departed ancestors, which worship, however, is something different from a Poojaa (ceremonial worship) to a god. It is performed by making offerings of round balls of rice, flour etc. with accompaniments of sacred grass (Kush grass), flowers, and sprinkling of water, and with repetitions of Mantra and texts from the Saam Ved, the whole ceremonial being conducted, not in a temple, but at any sacred spot such as the margin of a river.
It takes many months for the departed soul to reach the abode of the Pitri or the souls of the ancestors. The word Pitri primarily means the immediate ancestors, such as Father, mother etc. This abode of the Pitri is known as Pitri Lok.
The proper Shraaddh is performed for three generations of Pitri (the father, the grand-father and the great grand-father), or to all Pitris. Three cakes are offered to the father, grand-father and great grand-father. Gifts to deserving Brahmins (priests) for the benefit of the Pitris, in the proper time and place and with faith, are known as Shraaddh. Shraaddh gives satisfaction to the Pitris. Performance of Shraaddh and Tarpan (libations of water) relieves the hunger and thirst of the departed soul during its journey to the Pitri Lok. By the offering of the Shraaddh, the son helps his father to dwell in joy with the Pitri. The rites that the son should perform for his father are known as Sa-Pindee-Karan.
Shraaddh must be performed with faith, devotion and reverence. The son who does not perform Shraaddh and Tarpan is an ungrateful son. The sacred scriptures declare: "He who does not perform Shraaddh will lead a miserable life and suffer from poverty". The ceremonies performed during Pitri Paksha have very special effects. According to a legend, the offerings of libations of water Tarpan, Arghya etc to the departed reach the Pitri immediately, due to a boon from Lord Yam (the God of death).
The Bhagvad Geetaa, which forms a vital and philosophically important part of the great epic Mahaabhaarat, states that on the eve of death the individual soul contracts all its energies and centers these into the subtle body. Our ordinary sight is incapable of perceiving it. How the individual soul inhering in the Ling Shareer enjoys the consequences of its needs from one birth to another can only be perceived by the Yogee with their extraordinary cognitive insight.
Geetaa, 15 : 10
Why Are Three Balls of Rice Offered in Shraaddh?
Addressing Yudhishthir, Bheeshm said: "Listen to me with concentrated attention, O king, as I explain to thee, O Bharat, these mysteries appertaining to who are truly deserving of honor and worship, after the same manner in which the holy Vyaas had explained them to me in days of yore. The subject is a mystery to the very deities, O monarch. Yam of stainless deed, with the aid of vows well-observed and Yag meditation had acquired the knowledge of these mysteries as the high fruit of his penances........
Once upon a time, a celestial messenger, coming to the court of Indra of his own accord, but remaining invisible, addressed the chief of the deities in these words - "At the command of those two deities who are the foremost of all physicians, and who are endued with every desirable attribute, I have come to this place where I behold human beings and Pitri (deceased ancestors) and the deities assembled together. Why, indeed, is sexual congress interdicted for the man who performs a Shraaddh and for him also who eats at a Shraaddh (for the particular day)? Why are three rice-balls offered separately at a Shraaddh? Unto whom should the first of those rice-balls be offered? Unto whom should the second one be offered? And whose has it been said is the third or remaining one? I desire to know all this."
The Pitri said - "Welcome art thou, and blessings upon thee. Do thou listen, O best of all rangers of the sky. The question you have asked is a high one and fraught with deep meaning. The Pitris of that man who indulges in sexual congress on the day he performs a Sraddha, or eats at a Sraddha have to lie for the period of a whole month on his vital seed. As regards the classification of the rice-balls offered at a Shraaddh, we shall explain what should be done with them one after another. The first rice-ball should be conceived as thrown into the waters. The second ball should be given to one of the wives to eat. The third ball should be cast into the blazing fire. Even this is the ordinance that has been declared in respect of the Shraaddh. Even this is the ordinance that is followed in practice according to the rites of religion. The Pitri of that man who act according to this ordinance become gratified with him and remain always cheerful. The progeny of such a man increases and inexhaustible wealth always remains at his command."
"The celestial messenger said - "Thou hast explained the division of the rice-balls and their consignment one after another to the three (viz., water, the spouse, and the blazing fire), together with the reasons thereof. 1 Whom does that rice-tall which is consigned to the waters reach? How does it, by being so consigned, gratify the deities and how does it rescue the Pitri? The second ball is eaten by the spouse. That has been laid down in ordinance. How do the Pitri of that man (whose spouse eats the ball) become the eaters thereof? The last ball goes into the blazing fire. How does that ball succeed in finding its way to thee, or who is he unto whom it goes? I desire to bear this,--that is, what are the ends attained by the rice-balls offered at Shraaddh when thus disposed of by being cast into the water, given to the spouse, and thrown into the blazing fire.
"The Pitri said - "Great is this question which thou hast asked. It involves a mystery and is fraught with wonder. We have been exceedingly gratified with thee, O ranger of the sky, The very deities and the Muni applaud acts done in honor of the Pitri. Even they do not know what the certain conclusions are of the ordinances in respect of the acts done in honor of the Pitri. Excepting the high souled, immortal, and excellent Maarkandeya, that learned Braahman of great fame, who is ever devoted to the Pitri, none amongst them is conversant with the mysteries of the ordinances in respect of the Pitri. Having heard from the holy Vyaas what the end is of the three rice-balls offered at the Shraaddh, as explained by the Pitri themselves in reply to the question of the celestial messenger, I shall explain the same to thee.
Do thou hear, O monarch, what the conclusions are with respect to the ordinances about the Shraaddh. Listen with rapt attention, O Bharat, to me as I explain what the end is of the three rice-balls. That rice-ball which goes into water is regarded as gratifying the deity of the Moon. That deity, thus gratified, O thou of great intelligence, gratifies in return the other deities and the Pitri also with them. It has been laid down that the second rice-ball should be eaten by the spouse (of the man that performs the Shraaddh). The Pitri, who are ever desirous of progeny, confer children on the woman of the house.
Listen now to me as I tell thee what becomes of the rice-ball that is cast into the blazing fire. With that ball the Pitri are gratified and as the result thereof they grant the fruition of all wishes unto the person offering it. I have thus told thee everything about the end of the three rice-balls offered at the Shraaddh and consigned to the three (viz., water, the spouse, and the fire). That Braahman who becomes the Ritwik at a Shraaddh constitutes himself, by that act, the Pitri of the person performing the Shraaddh. Hence, he should abstain that day from sexual intercourse with even his own spouse. O best of all rangers of the sky, the man who eats at Shraaddh should bear himself with purity for that day. By acting otherwise, one surely incurs the faults I have indicated. It cannot be otherwise. Hence, the Braahman who is invited to a Shraaddh for eating the offerings should eat them after purifying himself by a bath and bear himself piously for that day by abstaining from every kind of injury or evil. The progeny of such a person multiply and he also who feeds him reaps the same reward."
What is Havir
Bhaag in Shraaddh?
From Manu Smriti
The days of the dark half of the month, beginning with the tenth, but excepting the fourteenth, are recommended for a funeral sacrifice.
As the second half of the month is preferable to the first half, even so the afternoon is better for the performance of a funeral sacrifice than the forenoon.
Let him not perform a funeral sacrifice at night, because the night is declared to belong to the Raakshas, nor in the twilight, nor when the Sun has just risen.
At all rites in honor of the manes the word Swadhaa is the highest benison.
Note: During Agni-Hotra
or Havan ceremony, oblations are offered to the gods with the word "Swaahaa"
but to the manes during funeral sacrifice, the word "Swadhaa" is
Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 06/10/12