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Dr K K Aggarwal

The science behind observing Shradhs

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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Shradhs are observed every year in Dakshinayana during Chaturmas in the Krishna Paksha of Ashwin month. Many rituals are performed to satisfy the unfulfilled desires of three generations of our ancestors.

According to the Vedas, every individual has three debts to be paid off, firstly, the Devtas (Dev Rin), secondly of Guru and teachers (Rishi Rin) and, thirdly, of Ancestors (Pitra Rin). From the scientific point of view, devtas represent people with Daivik qualities; teachers the ones who have taught us and Pitra, three generations of our ancestors. Rin from scientific point of view would mean unfinished desires or tasks.

The rituals scientifically would mean detaching oneself from the guilt of unfinished tasks of our ancestors by detoxifying our mind.

Debt means desires of our ancestors that had not been fulfilled during their lifetime. The responsibility to fulfil them automatically falls onto the eldest son in the family and they need to be carried out. If not, it is a sign of guilt disorder in the family and may present with loss of wealth, loss of direction and courage and health. The resultant problems faced were called Pitra Dosh in mythology.

The ritual of performing Shradhs originated to remove this guilt and the resultant illnesses. Shradh has many components.

  • Tarpan (offering water to the ancestors while reciting Mantras).
  • Arpan (preparing food what the ancestors used to like on the day of Shradh)
  • Brahmin bhoj (offering Satvik food to Brahmins)
  • Pind Daan (offering black sesame, Kusha Grass, Jwar and boiled or baked rice); observed by some.
  • Observing a spiritual holiday or incubation period (taking a break from the routine worldly desires and going to a distant place like Gaya).
  • Remembrance: Once the unfulfilled desires of the ancestors are over, remembering our ancestors every year on the day of their death anniversary.

Scientifically, Dakshinayana is the period of negative state of mind (nights are longer than days) and starts from 14th July and ends on 13th January. Chaturmas period (first four months) during Dakshinayana has the maximum negativity in the mind. Chaturmas includes the months of Sawan, Bhado, Ashwin and Kartik.

The negative state of mind in Sawan is related to anger and disturbed mind; in Bhado to non-fulfilment of desires and uncontrolled ego and in the month of Ashwin to guilt because of non-fulfilment of desires of others (ancestors), especially during Amavasya.

In the rituals, Tarpan of Jal (water) is offered to ancestors. Jal in mythology means flow of thoughts and offering Jal in mythology equates to confession and getting connected. Tarpan is always done with an aim to purify the mind and wash off the guilt.

Tarpan is always done after the desires of our ancestors have been fulfilled by the person performing the Shradh. This ritual is Arpan. Tarpan and Arpan on the day of Shradh mean getting connected to our consciousness and informing that all the unfinished tasks are over so that we can get rid of the long persisting guilt from our mind. Offering and making food which was liked by our ancestors on that day is just to remember and pay respect to them.

Confession is only possible in a Satwik state of mind, which requires eating of Satwik food for a few days. The ritual of offering Satwik food to Brahmins during the Shradh means making only Satwik food on that day so that everyone in the family is forced to eat Satwik food during Shradhs.

Pind Daan denotes medicinal ways of detaching oneself from the guilt. All the four offerings (black sesame, Kusha grass, Jwar and boiled or roasted rice) in Ayurveda have been described to detoxify the mind and making it Satwik by removing Rajas and Tamas.

If the guilt does not go by repeated Shradhs then one is required to go for a spiritual vacation during Shradh period so that he is away from the worldly desires for a few days before the Shradh and this is what going to Gaya means. This spiritual retreat works like an incubation period to the disturbed mind and gets rid of the disturbed mind and allows the undisturbed state of mind to confess and purify.

The Pitra ceremonies are usually performed either on Amavasya every month (period of most negativity in a month) or on the death anniversary or the Hindu Tithi (day) of the death of the ancestors coinciding with the day during Shradh days. If the date of death is not known then the Shradh is observed on Amavasya.

Some people perform Shradh for full 15 days and others perform it from the first day till the day of their ancestors’ Shradh.

It is said that once a Shradh is successfully performed or Gaya Shradh is performed, there is no need to perform Shradh rituals thereafter. Once the guilt is over, there is no need for further detoxification of the mind. After that the only ritual that needs to be performed is remembrance, which is usually performed on the death anniversary of the deceased ancestor usually by doing some charity on their names.

One is not supposed to do auspicious things during Shradh as during this period, the mind is in a process of detoxification.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this write up are entirely my own.

Shradhs in Hindu Mythology

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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Shradhs are observed by every family in Indian Hindu culture to seek forgiveness from the deceased person and our ancestors for their unfulfilled known or unknown desires.

Traditionally, people observe shradh either on the day of Amavasya every month or on the day of death anniversary of the deceased person or persons or during Shradh days observed in Chaturmas coinciding with the Hindi Tithi or the date on which the diseased person had died. Shradhs are observed till Mahashradh is observed which is usually at a place near Ganga in Gaya, Pushkar, Haridwar etc.

In mythology, mind is linked with ocean, river or water. Most Mahashradhs are held near sacred water as it requires the process of purification of the mind away from home so that one can relax and not only take a one holy bath but also take an internal bath of meditation and self-confession. Medically, Shradh is a type of an attachment disorder or guilt disorder where either you are attached to the thoughts of the diseased person which keep on disturbing in the day to day life and during dreams or you have a guilt that you have not been able to fulfill some of the desires of the diseased persons and that guilt keeps reminding you all the time in your day to day activity or in the dreams.

Shradh is a way or a reminder to you or your consciousness to fulfill and complete the incomplete jobs and finish up all the pending works. Sometimes doing this job may take time and that is the reason why Mahashradhs are done once or twice in a lifetime for a particular deceased person.

Whenever a good ritual or ceremony is held, we also seek blessings from our ancestors. For example, before marriage, it is a ritual to do pooja of ancestors and take blessings which only means that we want to get rid of in our mind the self confession and seek forgiveness from our ancestors that please don’t disturb our mind or in emotions at this juncture of our function and we are aware of the pending work which you asked us to do in future.

Typically, a Shradh ceremony involves self confession and pooja of black sesame seeds or consuming black sesame seeds. Black sesame seeds in Ayurveda are known for their quality of absorbing negative energies both external and internal. Once the pending job is over and in the mind of the family or the person all the assigned works are finished, then they usually go to one of the pilgrimages for Mahashradh which is like a Mahapind Daan. Remember people usually say – Ab to mera pind chhod do, which means please stop coming in my dreams and reminding me of my pending works.

Shradhs are also for unknown unfulfilled desires of our ancestors. When I say unknown desires, it means the desires which are unknown to the present family but maybe were known to the past family. This can only be understood by computer module where my soul is my internet server and spirit has the God as cloud internet. Both my internal server and cloud servers will have a social networking page of mine and will also have my page even if my physical body dies. Similarly, all the social pages of my ancestors will be present in the cloud internet. So, unfulfilled desires will always be posted there. People of my family or those who know me can get connected to that page and know that there were some unfulfilled desires which are yet to be fulfilled by my family and that keeps coming to us in the form of message from our friends that you are suffering due to unfulfilled desires which they might have read from that particular page and that is the reason why there is always a forgiveness seeking exercise during Shradh for those known and unknown unfulfilled desires of our ancestors.