Date : 1st Oct 2023

Posted By : Admin


This year Mahaalaya Paksha starts on September 29 to October 14, 2023.  The world Sraaddha according to Sage Pulastya, is derived as follows: sraddhayaa deeyate yasmath i.e. that which is performed with great faith.  Among the important items of a Sraaddha are the Arghya (water libation); Havana (fire-offering), feeding of the Brahmins, Pinda-dana, Vikira, Dakshina-offering and Tarpana. Holy Brahmins are fed in a worshipful manner, after invoking on them the souls of the departed ancestors of three generations identified with Vasu, Rudra and Adityas on the paternal or maternal side, as the case may be.  The Pitrus who live in Pitru-Loka in the form of Spirits, are fetched into the sraaddha venue by the Visvedevas or the universal soul.

The darbha or kusa grass and til or sesamum are two significant materials used in the performance of Sraaddha. Padmapurana states that kusa grass and black til sprang from the body of Vishnu.  Use of kusa makes the whole rite holy, being the essence of all holy waters.  Silver vessels are highly recommended because the ancient Pitrus milked Svadha in a silver vessel and they are highly pleased with the sight, use and gift of such vessels.

Sraaddha according to Bhavishya Purana are of 12 kinds – nitya, naimittika, kamya, vruddhi, sapinda, parvana, goshti, suddhi, karmanga, daivika, yatra, and, pushti depending upon the occasions at which they are performed.  Let us now confine to Mahaalaya Sraaddha which falls under the category of the compulsory.

Mahaalaya is that period of the year, covering principally the Krishna Paksha or the dark fortnight of the month of Kanya (Sept-Oct) and secondarily the succeeding dark fortnight. Dakshinayana in which the Kanya month falls and Krishna Paksha are the favourite epochs of Pitru karma.

Etymologically, the word Mahaalaya is derived thus: Maha+Aalaya i.e. the abode of the departed great.  Indeed, the Manes are said to be actually at the doors of living progeny, eagerly waiting to receive the oblations! So much so, if they are not propitiated on this occasion, they return to Pitru Loka disappointed.

Certain dates or thithis, nakshatras days, etc., are taboo for performance of Mahaalaya Sraaddha; they are, the Nanda-thithis namely, the first, sixth and eleventh; Fridays; the first, tenth and nineteenth nakshatra from the performer’s janma nakshatra etc. As against this dictum, the Amavasya or the New moon day, Bharani star day, and, Dwadashi or the 12th day of the lunar fortnight, are particularly propitious for the performance.  The taboos mentioned earlier, therefore, become inoperative.

If one’s departed ancestor had embraced Sanyasa, the Sraaddha performed in respect of him during the Mahaalaya should be done only on the Dwadashi 12th lunar day, when it becomes holy; because, that day is dedicated to God Vishnu. 

Another notable fact connected with Mahaalaya Sraadha is that, in it, not only the spirits of the departed parents, grand parents and great grand parents are invoked, but those of step mothers if any, departed brothers if any, and even departed preceptors and pupils, and, of course, Maha Vishnu who is the protector of Sraaddhas are also involved. 

Vishnupurana categorically states that when one performs Sraaddha with devotion and faith, he propitiates not merely his Pitrus but also the gods, sages, men, beasts, birds and crawling creatures too. 

It would thus seem that our ancients had laid great store by the performance of Mahaalaya Sraaddha, which it behoves us to continue without break.