As a early morning routine of 99% Indians (1% are wise or luckily ignorant for not using whatsapp) I too was checking my whatsapp messages on 4th of September. As usual i had received messages from friends, family, clients and so on, while scrolling through the messages, I stumbled upon a video sent by my friend with the caption ‘humanity above religion’ the caption itself entrapped my eyes and I was 99.9% aware that the video is meant to give sermons and lectures to some Hindu custom or ritual since, these days, it’s just sanatan dharma which is tutored about humanity, a dharma, which has never invaded or harmed anyone, which promotes the principle of ‘Sarve Bhavantu Sukhina’ (let all be happy, including animals and insects). ‘Sanatan’ means eternal and Dharma means ‘something that sustains us’, hence something that has eternally sustained us is Sanatan Dharma. Since many of us like to be tutored on WESTERN VERSION OF HUMANITY and promote this Western Version, I decided to download the video, as expected it was about ritual related to Sanatan Dharma, a ritual which is extremely scientific and nurtures family bond, it was about Pitru Paksha which has begun on 3rd September. The video showed a small boy moving around on the street with a tiffin box given by his mother to feed the BRAHMIN OF A TEMPLE so that his Late Grandfather can get the food in heaven, On his way to reach the brahmin, the small boy comes across a beggar who is starving for food, the small child refuses to give the tiffin to the beggar as he is instructed by the mother that his Grandpa shall get food if the temple brahmin eats this food. He moves further to find a mosque where by a old maulvi is sitting and calls him ‘masjid wale panditji’ thereafter some drama takes place and the boy gives food to the old poor MASJID WALE PANDIT JI and concludes that ALL ARE SAME.! This video is widely circulated, degrading and belittling the values and scientific aspects of Pitru Paksha, since i strongly disapprove of the video, i write this article basing it on the Dharma Shahstras and discussing with my Vedantic Research Scholar friend from IITB Mr. Venkatesh Kadamb.
Pitru Paksha are 16 days after Anant Chaturdashi or Big Ganpati visarjan, as we say in Mumbai. Bhadrapad Poornima or Ashwin Poornima (full moon) depending on the Hindu calendar one follows, marks the beginning of Pitru Paksha, it ends with Mahalaya Amvasya. These days are dedicated to do TARPAN. TARPAN literally means to satiate, there are many kinds of Tarpan that one may undertake for the departed soul, it is a fact that, Sanatan philosophy teaches the concept that once a soul leaves a body, it enters a new one, this fact has been stated in almost all Dharmic books including Bhagwad Gita, the same Gita, which is a tiny extract of Dharma Shahstras, yet for us, its as big as Himalayas since we all live a busy life and can’t read all shahstras, the 700 odd verses give entire gist of the vedas, in that Gita, Arjun fears to battle since he apprehends destruction of families and such destruction shall stop the offering of Tarpan to ancestors, (gita 1.41). Hence one should understand that Tarpan is necessary, now how this Tarpan should be and where is the departed soul? In heaven, hell or some body since we firmly believe that soul travels from one body to another, it also travels to heaven, but heaven for Hindus is as good as this planet earth, in simple words, you are in a ordinary jail or a jail made of gold, Katha Upanishad throws light on this subject, anyway, let’s understand why should one do Tarpan to the departed soul, as i said, Tarpan means to satiate, we are having our own karmas, these karmas are responsible for our birth, death and rebirth, Puri Shankaracharya, Pujya Neeschalanand Saraswati gives the following example of Tarpan or Shraddha, ‘imagine these karmas as your Bank balance, you have your own bank balance and someone puts some amount in your account which is bonus for you, your son or grandsons and generations offer Shraddha to you after your death, this Shraddha will increase your karmas and the interest of this will be earned by the son, grandsons etc’, hence Shraddha is done to increase the good karmas of your ancestors in their next births and your good karma in this birth, eg. If some ancestor has taken birth as a Lion, you perform Shraddha for him, this tarpan/shraddha would help him to get good prey and live like a King in the jungle, else we also see many lions tortured in circuses. Hence, this is the meaning and reason behind Shraddha or Tarpan. Now the question comes, how Tarpan needs to be made? As per Shahstras, there are many kinds of Tarpans, family comes together, prepares foodthat ancestors or particular departed souls liked, offer this food to the crows and cows and Brahmins, sit together and talk about ancestors, tell history about them to the children of the house, children get inspiration from such facts of their ancestors, for eg, if someone was a great scholar, and this fact is brought to the notice of a small child, he would start taking interest in studies to become like his ancestor.
The reason food is offered to cow is because, cow is the most holy animal in our dharma, even Cow Dung has Goddess Lakshmi in it, this is said by the wise men, Cow hosts ’33 koti’ devatas hence one part of food is offered to cow, one part is offered to a crow, now crow is considered as the nearest bird to Yama Devata, God of Death, it is considered to be the carrier of soul after it departs the body, hence crow is fed, scientifically, crows have a great sense of taste, that could also be a reason our shahstras decided to feast them 16 days in a year if you disagree with anything else !!! As far as Brahmin is concerned, a Brahmin is fed and given dakshina not to feed his stomach, but this is done to feed your brains, a brahmin is invited or one goes to a learned Brahmin to understand the concept of Death and life thereafter, after he gives you the knowledge, one may offer food, gifts and money in order to thank him, one may decide to pay him meager amount and rather donate largely for other causes which would please their ancestors, this DAAN(donation) has great importance which is largely explained in shahstras and Brhidaranyak Upanishad, for eg, if you visit Nashik, Maharashtra, the banks of Godavari River are filled with echoes of Pind Daan or daan for cows known as Go-Daan, donating for poor Brahmin children, donating for education causes, this all is done, keeping the interest of the ancestor and not oneself, nowadays people feed any random poor person found on road and say that this was done for the ancestor, the video above suggested the same and spoke of feeding masjid wale panditji, for a moment, imagine yourself visiting a lawyer’s office for your legal matter, he advises you to proceed in a particular manner in consonance with law, you proceed as per your own whim and fancy and the judge passes an adverse order and you regret your decision, if you would have agreed with your lawyer and then asked him to add your points in the arguments, then the judge would have accepted legal as well as your practical position and passed a suitable order for you, hence, Daan, Tarpan has to be in consonance with shastras and after that if you wish, you can feed as many and anyone you feel. Feeding someone for your ancestors but wrongly will not be beneficial for you or your ancestor, at the same time, not feeding anyone is also wrong. One more way of Tarpan has been stated in the shahstras for someone who cannot afford any monetary transactions. This Tarpan is known as ‘MAANSIK’ or Tarpan through Thoughts, one may choose to go on a secluded River Bank, or a forest and shout loudly to the ancestors and offer whatever he thinks they would have liked through his thoughts and Mind, this is also prescribed by the Shahstras. Hence, Pitru Paksha is not mere mindless feeding of Brahmins or crows but has got a deeper meaning to it. As said in d beginning, this is done to satiate our ancestors, wherever and whichever form and shape they are and not for ourselves or a mere exercise. Such satiating of ancestors through food also fetches dividends for you. These 16 days also encourage your children to imbibe the good morals and principles of your forefathers. I hope that, with this all of us would perform Tarpan of Sarva Pitru Amavasya keeping in minds our ancestors and departed souls from our lives and pray for their well being and in return get blessings. Remember we don’t grieve on graves of our ancestors with flowers and shawls, we donate and offer something in their name so that they can accomplish their desires either through us or in their coming births !