Mahalaya Paksha is a time when people of Hindu religion perform Shraddh (a ritual of offering prayers, food and water to the departed souls of the family including ancestors). The Mahalaya Paksha falls in the month of September- October, during the fortnight od Purattasi or Aswayuja. During this period the Moon is in its waning phase, this period is observed as the Mahalaya Paksha.
The reason Mahalaya Paksha holds a great significance is because, this is the only time frame in the entire year when one can perform Shraddh by offering food, water and prayers in the name of the deceased and offer this food to the cows and crows. It is believed that when a bird or an animal consumes the food offered during Shraddh makes the soul of the deceased ancestor happy and helps them to move one step further towards attaining moksha.
Also, taking a dip in the holy waters of Rameshwaram, Thilatharpanapuri or in the Sethusamudram, in the district of Thiruvarur, which in Tamil Nadu is believed to be propitious. Similarly, taking a dip in Bathing in holy rivers of Ganges, Kashi, Kaveri, Gaya, Yamuna, Kurukshetra, Narmada, Saraswati, and giving alms as per your own will and capability while remembering your Pithra’s (ancestors) is said to fill your life with immense happiness and bliss.
During this period a variety of food which was once liked by the deceased member during his/her life on Earth is offered when the Shraddh is performed. Mahalaya Paksha is also known as Pitru Paksha, Apara Paksha, Sola Shraddh, Pitri Pokho, or Jitya. Mahalaya Pakha spans for about 15 days. These 15 days form the potent time frame to make the souls of the deceased ancestors happy and contented. It is a ritual which is known to clear the hindrances and liberate the souls of the departed ancestors from being attached to the worldly things and people on Earth. This custom makes the journey towards heaven smooth.
Mahalaya Paksha according to the ancient Holy texts is the best time for an individual to seek blessings of the ancestors and to earn punya. The ancient Tamil Scriptures address Pitrus as Neethar and Tenpulathar. According to these pious texts, In the entire year, it is only during the time of 15 days of the Mahalaya Paksha, that our deceased ancestors visit us on this plane (Earth). This is the most significant time frame to receive blessings from the ancestors. The blessings that we receive from our long-gone ancestors have the power to uplift our lives and make our life happy and fruitful. Let us understand the significance of observing Mahalaya Paksha and the benefits it offers in details.
It is believed that our deceased ancestors visit Earth during the 15 days of Mahalaya Paksha in subtle form which is often referred to as the ‘Sukshma Deham’. They can see us and observe us, hence it becomes our moral duty to appease them and help them to transcend to Heaven.
Some of these souls are so powerful that their blessings have the ability to change our fate in our favour. Thus, it is important to keep our vastu clean and perform Shraddh in order to appease them.
Let us look at the repercussions or the ill effects caused if a person has Pitra Dosha in the natal chart.
- If a person is suffering from Pitra Dosha, it can result in late marriage.
- Loss in business, job and can lead to poverty.
- Can doom one’s career and make it unsuccessful.
- Leads to a strenuous married life.
- Attract illnesses and diseases.
- It can create a dull atmosphere at home, can lead to someone being ill in the family all the time.
- Pitra Dosha can make an individual’s life miserable. It can make one lethargic and cause many other problems. Hence it is important to pacify the souls of our departed ancestors in order to get relief from the suffering and miseries.
People suffering from Pitra Dosha are often suggested to perform Tarpanam for all the 15 days of Mahalaya Paksha. Doing so, is believed to appease the deceased ancestors as well as attain their precious blessings. The blessings that we get from our deceased ancestors bring about a positive change in our life and make us happy.
Given below are the benefits we obtain by the blessings that our ancestors bless us with:
- Helps to remove obstacles from our life
- Helps in career growth and paves the way for new opportunities
- Resolves the problem of marriage and helps in getting the ideal partner
- Wards off illnesses and diseases
- Attracts positive energies and peace in the house
- Helps to maintain harmony in married couples
- Stabilises financial conditions
- Helps to calm wavering mind
- Offers clear vision
- Gives overall bliss
People who cannot perform Shraddh or Tharpanam every day during the period of Mahalaya Paksha can perform the ritual of Tharpanam during the time of Bharani Nakshatra.
The family members of people who have lost their dear ones due to unnatural death or people whose family member/s committed suicide, were murdered or passed away in an accident, they should perform a Shraddh on the tithi of Mahalaya Chaturdashi. Food plays a major role during the Mahalaya Paksha.
According to the legends, past three generations of our deceased ancestors wander between the space that is between Earth and Heaven. This space is known as Yamaloka which is governed by Lord Yama, the God of death. The souls who live in this plane go through a lot of suffering and can feel the emotions like pain, hunger and thirst. This is when the Mahalaya Paksha comes into the picture. The Mahalaya Paksha is the only time when these restless souls feel contented as their present generation offer prayers, food and water in their name.
Let us learn about the legend of performing Shraddh as it will help us understand the after life and the impact it can have on us while on this plane and even in the life after death.
Legend of Mahalaya Paksha and the ritual of performing Shraddh
Once a person dies on this plane (Earth), his/her soul can still feel all the emotions which they felt during their time on Earth. It is believed that the souls too feel hungry, thirsty, sad, happy, contended etc. It is said that the souls of our deceased past three generations of ancestors are stuck between Heaven and Earth. This place is known as the Yamaloka. Here, the souls are restless and go through a rough time. This is how, the ritual of performing Shraddh during the Mahalaya Paksha helps. As this is the only time, the souls of our departed ancestors can descend on back on Earth in Sukshma Deham as mentioned above and satisfy their hunger and thirst by the food and water we offer during Shraddh. Let us learn about the story of how this ritual came to be practiced.
Karna, a great warrior died in the battle field. During his life on Earth, he did a lot of charity and donated precious gems, Gold and Silver to the brahmins. At the moment he died, his soul transcended to the heaven. Karna’s soul was always served with precious gemstones, Gold and pure Silver which left Karna’s soul baffled. Tired and irritated because of hunger and thirst, Karna’s soul went to Yama and asked him on why he was not given food to consume and water to drink? This is when Lord Yama told Karna’s soul that when on Earth, Karna just donated jewels and precious metals but never donated food or water. On hearing this Karna’s soul became sad. Yama then educated him with the procedure of Shraddh and gave him a time period of 15 days to rectify his mistake and offer food and water to his deceased ancestors and ask them for forgiveness with a pure intention and only then will his soul be liberated and attain moksha. Karna’s soul did exactly as instructed by Yama and since then, the ritual of performing Shraddh came into practice.
Now, that we know the importance and benefits of performing Shraddh, let us learn about the things we must not to do.
Things one must not to do while performing Shraddh
- Make sure that you do not offer meat as Bhog during the Shraddh.
- Never consume meat for 15 days during Mahalaya Paksha.
- While making an offering of the food to the deceased ancestors, make sure that you do not serve this food in plastic, steel, copper or any other metal. Instead, offer food in the earthen vessels or fresh leaves.
- Make sure not to ring a bell while the Shraddh pooja is performed.
- Perform Pooja and remember the departed ancestors with true heart and pray for their liberation.
- Respect your elders and other members of the family.
- Observe partial fasting for 15 days of Mahalaya Paksha.
Thus, the Mahalaya Paksha is an important phase that spans for 15 days each year. This is the period when our deceased ancestors visit us and bless us abundantly without our knowledge.
It is the best time to do good deeds like doing donations, offering food to animals, birds or to the needy. Remembering and praying for the liberation of our long-gone ancestors.