The dark fortnight which falls in the Hindu calendar month of Bhadrapad (September) is known as Pitr-Paksha or Mahalay Paksha all over the Hindu World. Pitra Paksha is performed from the 1st day / tithi of the Ashwin month and goes up to the following New Moon (Amavasya) day. Each of these 15 days is dedicated to the Shraddha of those ancestors who had met eternity on that particular day/tithi. During Pitra Paksha, Shraddha is performed for the departed immediate relatives usually up to three preceding generations. Shraddh is the name of the ceremonies performed by relatives to help the departed soul in Pitr-Paksha. The word Shraadh comes from Shraddha or devotion. Pitrapaksha gives a chance to repay debt to our deceased ancestors by gratifying their spirits. The Lord of death, Yamaraja enables the dead ones to come to earth and receive offers from the descendants.
Shraddh must be performed with faith, devotion and reverence. As per the ritual, 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 Shraddh. Shraddh gives satisfaction to the Pitris. Performance of Shraddh and Tarpan (libations of water) relieves the hunger and thirst of the departed soul during its journey to the Pitri Loka. By the offering of the Shraddh, the son helps his father to dwell in joy with the Pitris. Departed souls in the family, for whom Shraadh is not performed, are said to wander aimlessly on Earth. The Pitr Paksha Shraadh is also offered to ancestors whose dates of death are not known Rituals are offered in the names of the departed in the many holy Ghats spread across the country. The whole fortnight preceding Amavasya is considered to be apt for this occasion. People gather in the banks of Godavari and Krishna to perform rituals and rites for the departed. The Holy waters of the river plays a major part in the ritualistic festival.
The customs and rituals performed vary regionally. Some people fast on the day; some abstain from non-vegetarian food, avoid onion and garlic and some do not cut their hair or shave through out the fortnight. Generally, no new clothes are worn nor purchased out the fortnight.
The Hindu festival Pitr-Paksha 2009 starts on Saturday 5 September and lasts a fortnight until Friday 18 September. The next day after this Amavasya marks the beginning of the wonderful celebration of Navaratri when the Devis are worshipped
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