The Significance of Shradh and why do we perform them
Did you know the Significance of Shradh or why shradh is performed?
The Shradh are the holy-rites that are performed to pay tribute to one’s dead ancestors. There are in total sixteen days considered to be the ‘shradh’ period. In those sixteen days, fifteen are full days and the new moon night is considered another full day hence making it sixteen days. Let’s now find out the Significance of Shradh rites.
The Significance of Shradh
It is believed that the last three generations of our ancestors remain in the realms between the earth and heaven and the death God Yama operates the transit of the souls from there. As the lineage of the next generation dies, the souls of the first generation can go to heaven, hence their Shradhs are not performed. It is believed that Shradh are only performed for up to three generations.
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The legend behind the Shradh
There is also a legend attached that tells us why should we perform the rites in a rightful manner. It is believed that when the Great Donor Karan, (A character from the Mahabharata) died, he was sent to heaven and was offered only Gold and other precious things to eat, but not food. After he expressed the urge to be given food and not jewels to eat, he was told by Yama that in his entire life he donated only Gold and other material things. Since he never performed any Shradh and gave food in the name of his ancestors he cannot be given food to eat. To this, Karan replied that since he never knew about his parentage and ancestors how could he possibly perform any Shradh rites. He was then sent back on earth for fifteen days to perform the Shradh rites for his ancestors, and only then he was able to transcend to heaven and attain salvation or moksha.
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The Shradh rites are performed by the son or the maternal grandson in case if there is no son in the family. According to some scriptures like Garuda Purana, it is believed that a family without a son cannot achieve salvation, I guess this is the reason why people in the earlier times preferred a son and hoped for at least one boy in all their children.
The rites are performed on separate days in the entire duration of fifteen days according to the date and time of death or the status they had attained in life. If one is not able to perform the rites on a particular assigned day, then the rites can be performed on the Sarvapitri Amavasya i.e. all ancestors’ new moon day.
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The Shradh is also performed on the death anniversary every year. It is performed in the daytime either inside the house or on the bank of a river or in a temple. In India, some people also visit pilgrimages like Varanasi or Gaya, to perform the rites. The rites include preparation like kheer, rice, dal, or other favorites of the person for whom the rites are being performed. The food preparation can differ as per different family traditions.
The Pinda-Daan is performed which includes donating Cooked rice balls and barley floor balls with ghee and black sesame seeds. The food prepared is offered to a Priest or Brahmin, a cow, dog or crow, which is considered auspicious, after it has been eaten by them, the entire family can eat their lunch. The crow is considered to be the messenger of God Yama.
Some of the families also like to read Bhagwat Gita or Bhagwat Purana on this day and pray for the wellbeing of their ancestors.
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