Mahalaya Paksha 2023

Mahalaya Paksha 2023: What is Pitru Paksha, Dos and Don’ts, Why and How to do Shraddha rituals?

Feb 28, 2024Soubhagya Barick

Amavasya is the period when the moon is not visible i.e.; the no moon/new moon day in our Hindu calendar. This falls on the first no moon night of the lunar month.

It is believed that our deceased ancestors pay a visit to their descendants on this day. Therefore, Amavasya is considered appropriate to do Shraddha (Sraddha) for our ancestors. Shraddha includes the rituals, prayers and offerings done with dedication and sincerity to one's deceased parents and forefathers. Usually performed on their death anniversaries, Shraddha is also performed collectively for 'Pitru' /'Pitr' which consists of paternal and maternal ancestors, kith and kin as well as loved ones during Pitru Paksha.

What is Pitru Paksha?

Pitru Paksha refers to the 15 lunar days preceding Mahalaya Amavasya when people remember, thank and make offerings to their ancestors. This falls in the Bhadrapada month, on Purnima (full moon day) after Ganesh Chaturthi in September/October. The concluding and most important day, just before the start of Sharada Navaratri, is known as Mahalaya Amavasya. It is also known as Mahalaya Paksha.

This period is known by different names across regions and communities in our country, such as Pitri Pokkho, Pitri Paksa, Sorah Shraddha, Mahalaya, Pitru Pandharavda. It is said that any Pind Daan and Tarpanam (Tarpan) done by family members during this period satisfies the soul's hunger and thirst and gives them peace in the afterlife. Each day in the Paksha is governed by a Tithi (moon phase) and there are different benefits of Tarpanam associated with them.

Why should we do Shraddha? (Significance of Pitru Paksha)

The Aatma (souls) of three preceding generations of a person's forefathers are said to dwell in Pitru Loka which is a space between Swarga (heaven) and Bhumi (earth). According to the Puranas, Yama, the god of death, carries the soul of a deceased person from the earth to this territory.

Offering prayers to Pitru within these three generations is said to grant Moksha (liberation) to the doers as well as the ancestors. Those souls that await rebirth or are undergoing the cycle come down to their descendants' homes during this period and to be waiting to partake of the food and water offerings.

Lord Yama established that the offerings made to the Pitru Devatas in this fortnight will reach them directly. Our Puranas say that one month of human period equals one day in Pitru Loka. Krishna Paksha is one night for them and Shukla Paksha one day. The offerings that we make in the form of Pinda Pradaana and Tila Tarpanam in this time is said to be last them a year.

The Garuda Purana states that performing Sraddha during Mahalaya Paksha grants peace and blessings to the deceased souls, thereby ensuring their peaceful journey towards higher realms.

Similarly the Yajnavalkya Smriti says performing Sraddha during this Paksha is a means to repay our debt to forefathers and pray for their blessings.  The Agni Purana tells us that Mahalaya Sraddhas performed with absolute sincerity and a pure heart, help set our forefathers free from karmic bonds and take them towards Moksha.

Should a person miss carrying out one's parent’s annual Shraddha ritual, he can compensate it with this Pitru Paksha Shraddha. One can offer food, clothes, fruits and many other things to the deceased for their well-being in the eternal life as well as for their blessings. They can also offer food to cows and crows.

Shraddha Phala (Benefits of doing Sraddha)

When satisfied with the Shraddhas, Pitru Devatas bless the performers with good health, long life, progeny, wealth, and salvation. The performer is also said to get relief from obstacles/delay in marriages, debts, physical illnesses and experience growth in life.

|| पिता ददाति सत्पुत्रान् गोधनानि पितामह: |

| धनदाता भवेत्सोपि यस्तस्य प्रपितामह: |

| दद्याद्विपुलमन्नाद्यं वृद्धस्तु प्रपितामह: |

| तृप्ता: श्राद्धेन ते सर्वे दत्वा पुत्रस्य वांछितं ||

|| pitaa dadaati satputraan gOdhanaani pitaamaha: |

| dhanadaataa bhavEtsOpi yastasya prapitaamaha: |

| dadyaadvipulamannaadyam vRuddhastu prapitaamaha: |

| tRuptaa: shraaddhEna tE sarvE datvaa putrasya vaanCitam ||


When and Where

Mahalaya Paksha 2023 (Mahalaya Shraddha Dates 2023)





29 September, 2023


Purnima Sraddha

30 September, 2023


Pratipata /Padwa Sraddha

01 October, 2023


Dvitiya Sraddha

02 October, 2023


Tritiya Sraddha

03 October, 2023


Chaturthi/Chauth/Maha Bharani Sraddha

04 October, 2023


Panchami Sraddha

05 October, 2023


Shashthi/Chhath Sraddha

06 October, 2023


Saptami Sraddha

07 October, 2023


Ashtami Sraddha

08 October, 2023


Navami Sraddha

09 October, 2023


Dashami Sraddha

10 October, 2023


Ekadash Sraddha

11 October, 2023


Dwadasi Sraddha

12 October, 2023


Trayodasi Sraddha

13 October, 2023


Chaturdashi Sraddha

14 October, 2023


Mahalaya Amavasya /Sarva Pitri Amavasya


Sarvapitri Amavasya (Mahalaya Amavasya) is the new moon day dedicated to all ancestors regardless of the day they had passed away. Anyone who missed performing Sraddha for them previously can make up for it during this time.

Gaya in Bihar and Varanasi (Kasi) in Uttar Pradesh are long regarded as appropriate to perform Shraddha in our country. While these places receive pilgrims round the year, the Pitru Paksha period welcomes lakhs of families to perform the rituals.  Other Pitru Kshetras include Vaitarni (Odisha), Srirangapatna (Mysuru), Siddhpur (Gujarat), Badrinath and Rameswaram. If one is not able to travel to a holy place, one can perform it in his house.


Who must perform Shraddha and how?

Everyone who has lost their fathers must perform this Paksha. Our sacred texts iterate that the son of the deceased, particularly the first eldest, or any male relative of the paternal side of the family, within the preceding three generations, must perform the Shraddha. On Sarvapitri Amavasya, the daughter's son can offer prayers for the maternal side of his family if there are no male successors in his mother's family.

The performer must consult his family priest and invite a few Brahmin priests to come home, help execute the rituals and have lunch. This is to be done as per every individual’s family tradition and community customs.

In some families there will be three priests and one Vishnu leaf. The food served on the Vishnu leaf will be eaten by one of the priests.

On the eve of the Sraddha (Srardham), one has to arrange wooden peeta (Manai/Asana) for the priests, a few plates, etc. On the day of the Sraddha, the house needs to be swept and was cleaned before the priests come.

The performer and the other family members must take a head bath and be ready. The performer must wear a clean/new dhoti, without a shirt and a ring of Darbha grass on his finger. The Darbha or Kusha grass is said to be highly sacred and invoke the ancestors. A sacred thread is worn by the performer that is changed from left to right shoulders and vice-versa many times during the ceremony.

The wife must make Pinda Daana, an offering of cooked rice, Til (black sesame seeds) and rolled into balls with ghee. This is offered with water from the hand as per instructions from the priest.




Offering to crows

Crows are regarded as carriers of our ancestors’ souls. Hence, it is customary in many communities to offer fresh cooked rice with ghee and dal to crows every morning and on Amavasya. During Sraddha, families offer Pinda to crows by placing them near the roof top, balcony or open area in their household and beckon them by cawing.


Dos and Don’ts during Pitru Paksha

Since this is a solemn period to do rituals, marriages and auspicious events are not held during Pitru Paksha. Pilgrimages can be undertaken. It is inauspicious to buy gold, house or cut one's hair or shave one's beard during this time. 

People are advised to not include onion, garlic, non-vegetarian food in their diet and alcohol out of respect for the ancestors.

The food that is prepared as offerings can include the favourites of the deceased. Usually, native vegetables and fruits are used which include raw banana, cluster beans, broad beans, snake gourd, bitter gourd, jack fruit, broad beans, mango, yam, ginger, cucumber and moong dal.

Food is prepared in clean, brass vessels and served on a plantain leaf.

Homes are expected to be kept clean and tidy to welcome the deceased souls. 

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