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Sunday, 17 August 2014

Mahalaya Paksha

The mahalaya paksha tarpana sankalpam reads: "...kanyAgathe savitari AshADyAhA panchama aparapaksha prayuktha mAhAlaya paksha puNyakAle...".  The mahalaya paksha (aparapaksha) is the fifth paksha (fortnight) beginning with Ashada masa purnima. In southern and western India, it falls in the Hindu lunar month of Bhadrapada (September-October), beginning with the full moon day (purnima) that occurs immediately after Ganesh chaturthi and ending with the new moon day known as sarvapitru amavasya or mahalaya amavasya.

अस्मै हि पितरौ पुत्रान् बिभर्तः
That is why parents beget children.
- Yajur Veda 6.1.6 

The above sentence is told by Suparna (Garuda's mother) to her sons. The following story is told by Vyasa who had given to the world the eighteen puranas.

Kadru (Garuda's stepmother) made Suparna her slave. To redeem her from the slavery is the duty of her sons. Even though not able to protect themselves during difficulty, parents protect their children. When the parents are not in a position to protect themselves, is it not the duty of the children to protect their parents?

Kadru told Garuda that the slavery of Suparna can be redeemed only if nectar from Swarga was brought and given to her. Garuda took the blessings of his parents and elders and went to Swarga, fought there, won the battle, brought the nectar and saved his mother. 

Our parents leave the world leaving behind the body which is made of five elements. They obtain a watery body and become PITRUS and also become the citizens of the kingdom Vaivasvata Aadi. There they will not be in a position to get the things they need for their very existence. Only under such circumstances they expect the assistance of their children. Yamadharma out of compassion for the PITRU DEVATAS, sends them to earth with an instruction to take food from their children. The period when Yamadharma allows them to this world is called MAHALAYA PAKSHA. Either to cleanse the place where PITRUS lived once or to consume the food offered by the children, PITRUS are sent to this world. The PITRUS fond of getting the six type of food eagerly come down. During the sixteen days the children would perform MAHALAYA SHRADDHA ceremony. The PITRUS feel as if they are part of a festival with their children. That is why this period is called MAHA AALAYAM i.e. Meaning great temple. If the children do not celebrate all the days, and if not even for a day, the PITRUS return to their abode, disappointed, cursing their children. Their curse will be as follows.  “Since you have not done the SHRADDHA to us, you will not beget children to do this to you and you will suffer in the world without food to eat”. 

Let us not become eligible for the curse of the PITRUS.

प्रेतपक्षं प्रतीक्षन्ते गुरुवच्च समन्विताः।
कन्यागते सवितरि पितरो यन्ति वै सुतान्।।
ततो वृश्चिकसम्प्राप्तौ नीरसा पितरो गताः।
पुनः स्वभवने यान्ति शापं दत्वा सुदारुणम्॥ (माधवीयम्)

Maharishis say that even those who live through begging should at least give some amount of food to their departed parents. During the MAHALAYA PAKSHA Shraddha shall be performed if not on all the fifteen days, at least on the following days: MAHABHARANI, VYATIPATA, MADHYASHTAMI, TRAYODASHI. Performance of Shraddha on those days will give greater results (Phalan). Even in the day to day life we say thanks to those who help us. Parents who had given us life, protected us, brought up to a good position, visit us during the MAHALAYA PAKSHA.  Is it not our duty to welcome, feed and keep them comfortable? At least the day on which they passed away (TITHI) one should perform Shraddha. As children enjoy the assets left behind by the parents and it is their duty to repay them.

The DHARMA SHASTRAS order as follows:

  • Do Shraddha on all fifteen days of MAHALAYA PAKSHA (Tarpan has to be done twice - one for each Tithi, if there is Tithi Dvayam on a day)
  • If you do not have facilities to do so, do atleast on PANCHAMI OR ASHTAMI up to AMAVASYA
  • Do Shraddha as ordained to be done
  • If it is not practicable to do so, do as HIRANYA Shraddha
  • Even if this is not practicable, do TARPANAM with sesame (TILA) with water

By doing with all sincerity the PITRUS feel happy, hence bless and return. In the olden days people were doing on all the sixteen days during MAHALAYA PAKSHA every year. There are specific results for the performance on each TITHI says Rishi Apastamba. Failure to perform will result in not begetting children  because of the curse of the PITRU DEVATAS.

पुत्रान् आयुः तथा आरोग्यं ऐश्वर्यमतुलं तथा।
प्राप्नोति पञ्चमे दत्वा श्राद्धं कामान् तथा परान्॥

Panchami according to Jabali is the duration from Panchami to Ashtami. For those who had taken SANYASA in the family DWADASHI is the apt TITHI and for those who died by weapons CHATURDASHI is the apt day for performing the rites. Those who perform Shraddha for the entire Paksha should do two TARPANAS on the Amavasya day. One should not do two Shraddhas in a day. But on the day of AMAVASYA, TARPANA shall be done for two sides of the family (ie) PITRUS from the father’s side and PITRUS from the mother’s side.  During the MAHALAYA PAKSHA, TARPANA ought to be done to KARUNIKA PITRUS too.

The following are called KARUNIKA PITRU DEVATAS:

  1. Younger brother of the father
  2. Elder brother of the father
  3. Elder brother
  4. Younger brother
  5. Sisters
  6. Ones own sons
  7. Aunt (Sisters of father)
  8. Aunt’s son (Amman)
  9. Wife of father’s elder brother
  10. Wife of father’s younger brother
  11. Daughters and sons of father’s brothers
  12. Wife
  13. Father in law
  14. Mother in law
  15. Daughter in law
  16. Wife’s brothers
  17. Guru
  18. Master under whom one serves
  19. Friends
For all the mentioned, TARPANS are to be performed during the MAHALAYA PAKSHA. Should we not do ANNA MAHALAYA Shraddha at least once in our lifetime?

2016 Shraddha Days 

  1. 16 September (Friday) Purnima Shraddha
  2. 17 September (Saturday) Pratipada Shraddha
  3. 18 September (Sunday) Dwitiya Shraddha
  4. 19 September (Monday) Tritiya Shraddha, Chaturthi Shraddha
  5. 20 October (Tuesday) Mahabharani Shraddha, Panchami Shraddha
  6. 21 October (Wednesday) Shashthi Shraddha
  7. 22 October (Thursday)  Saptami Shraddha
  8. 23 October (Friday)  Ashtami Shraddha
  9. 24 October (Saturday)  Navami Shraddha
  10. 25 October (Sunday)  Dashami Shraddha
  11. 26 October (Monday)  Ekadashi Shraddha
  12. 27 October (Tuesday)  Dwadashi Shraddha
  13. 28 October (Wednesday) Magha Shraddha,  Trayodashi Shraddha
  14. 29 October (Thursday) Chaturdashi Shraddha
  15. 30 October (Friday) Sarva Pitru Shraddha

Shraddha for both father and mother must be done on the same day in either one of their Tithis. The last day of Pitru Paksha is known as Sarva Pitru amavasya or Mahalaya amavasya... is the most significant day of Pitru Paksha. 

The second and third mahalaya paksha (Grace Period) of the year

If for any reason tarpanam cannot be done during mahalaya paksha, the same can be done in the paksha's following the next two purnima's respectively. Failing to do tarpanam even during this grace period makes one eligible for the curse of Pitrus.

Mahalaya Paksha Tarpana Sankalpam for Durmuki varsham (all Tithis)

Also read: மஹாலயபக்ஷம் - ஸ்ரீ காஞ்சி மஹாஸ்வாமிகள்

Courtesy:,, my acharya Sri Vasudeva Sastrigal