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Festivals - Shraadh

LIFE IS MEANT TO BE A COMPLETE STORY WITH ITS SHARE OF joy, sorrow, ambition and achievemwnts. After going through childhood, middle age, and old age, all people have to leave this world one day. Whatever be the age of a person, he or she is missed the most by the family. Irrespective of the contribution of each person towards family and society, that person's life leaves an indelible mark on the lives of those who came in contact with him or her. The family forms a sort of a cocoon from where an individual contributes his share to the external world. The family also gains from it, and each member builds from the spiritual and material endowment left behind by the father, mother, brother, sister, grandfather, grandmother, uncle and aunt so as to


take hold of and anchor one's life.One should be proud of one's ancestors for one has gained from them in one way or another.Amongst all the gay and happy occasions, like festivals, marriage and engagements, one should not bring forth too much the memory of those who have left this world, for a sense of gloom may descend on the gathering. Life must go on with a joyful note; but those who have gone, having given so much to us, must not be allowed to fade away, and should be remembered with reverence and dignity, creating an atmosphere of happy memories.
On a special day, we invite those who have departed, to be a part of the family. In their honour, a feast befitting the sanctity of their abode in the heavens is given once a year.


The Hindus set aside sixteen days in a year which are known as 'Shraadhs', 'Pitrapaksh' or 'Kanaagath'. The Tith, or the date (according to the Hindu calendar) of death is considered as the Shraadh of that particular person. The waning period of the moon during the month of Kwar, plus the Purnima of the previous fortnight, form the period of Shraadhs. They fall somewhere in August or September. The sixteen days include the Tith of death, irrespective of the waxing or waning of the moon. We have Purnima, Parva, Dooj, Teej, Chauth, Panchami, Chat, Saptami, Ashtami, Navami, Dashmi, Ekadashi, Dwadashi, Treodashi, Chaturdashi, and Amavas. One can find out from the jantri (almance) or from the panditji, the corresponding dates according to the English calendar and note them down against the name of each individual who is to be honoured. Individually, on the Tith of each person, the ceremony can be performed. There may be a common date for two or three persons.


On the appointed day a pandit or panditani - as the case may be - is invited as a special guest, and he or she personifies the departed soul. The pandit or panditani is chosen becausehe or she is supposed to belong to the learned class and does not fall in the material category. Such persons are supposed to be away from monetary and other worldly desires. They are supposed to keep erring society in a 'spiritual sphere' by their teaching and guidance. Hence, they are to be honoured, and looked after, by society itself. They supposedly are the people fit to represent those who have gone away from this world.


Let us now come to the actual ceremony, which is done on the day of Kanaagath, or Shraadh of the person to be remembered. This ceremony is not performed in the puja room, but in any other room arranged for this purpose. The chosen room is cleaned properly, and sponged with water. No one should be allowed to wear any footwear inside this room. A low table or chowki is placed be covered by a clean tablecloth, and flowers arranged on it. Agarbatti or dhoop is lighted near the photograph(s) and a small thaali containing roli and rice is kept nearby. There is no need of aipun or water since only teeka is put on the photograph(s), which has (have) been cleaned with a wet cloth and garlanded.


A carpet or durrie is spread in front. A place for the panditji is made by placing a clean rug on one side; on the other side, two rugs are placed for the couple performing the Shraadh. The others can sit on the durrie. Custom has it that the eldest male member does the Shraadh, and the lady of the house runs around collecting the items required during the ceremony, but this author has seen at Badrinath that both the husband and wife do the Shraadh together. The relatives of the wife are also to be honoured similarly, even in the husband's house (on their respective Tiths). The woman along with her husband does the turpun (offering of water), for both sides of the family. One turpun is also done for Bhishma Pitamah, who died without getting married and had no children. To honour him, and to remember him, is the duty of every Indian, for he lived for the betterment of the people, without caring for himself. Any childhood friend is also remembered

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