Shraddha Tarpan, a debt every Hindu must repay

  • What is the importance of Pitru Paksh and Tarpan? How can we repay debts to our ancestors and how do they receive the offerings we make to them.

In a world where the old parents are to spend the last years of their life in old- age homes Hindu society is the only society that pays homage and oblations even to their dead. Through the system of four ashrams-Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanprastha and Sanyas we fulfil our duties towards a family member from birth until death. 


The seers of the Vedas, after minute observation of life, created a framework of systems that has kept the Hindu Society intact and closely knit, fulfilling its responsibilities towards each other and nature at large. Living a balanced life in harmony between Artha and Kaam and the higher values of Dharma and Moksha, Hindus are supposed to pay homage to three preceding generations of their ancestors, along with their sons and grandsons. No other society in the world has such remarkable value systems of reaffirming lineage of six generations through Pitru Paksh, the ‘fortnight for the ancestors’.


This sixteen day lunar period, known as Pitru Paksh begins on the first day of the fortnight and ends with the no moon day called Sarv Pitru Amavasya. It is observed in every region of Bharat under different names namely Pitri Pokkho, Solah Shraddha, Kanagat, Jitiya, Mahalaya, Apara Paksha, Akhadpak, Pitru Pandharavda. Sarvapitri Amavasya also known as Peddala Amavasya or Mahalaya Amavasya is the beginning of Matra Paksh. 


Sarva Pitra is an acknowledgement of all ancestors who have passed on to their next world.


What happens to the soul after we die?

Shri Krishna says-

नासतो विद्यते भावो नाभावो विद्यते सतः 

Meaning, everything on this earth is perishable and changeable except the Soul. We all have unlimited physical incarnations.


After shedding its physical body, the soul departs to various spaces or realms in the Universe like Brahmalok, Swarglok or Pitrulok.


We only know that part of universe where we exist, but the Space is infinite and within it exist infinite occurrences of the Milky Way Galaxy, of our Solar system, of Earth, and even infinite occurrences of us. Hindu Shastra explain 14 Loks/ planes or worlds make up a multiverse. 


The Pitrulok is said to be the spaces in the upper regions of the moon. The sun in Vaishakh, the second month of Hindu calendar is called Aryama, the God of the Pitrus (sun has different names as per its attributes in all the 12 months). With the travel of the moon the Pitris, via the rays of Aryama Sun are said to be closer to the earth during Pitru Paksh.


How do the Pitrus receive the offerings made to them?

Hindu Shastras say that each being is born with certain debts we must repay in his lifetime.


1. Dev Rin/ Bhutan rin - The air we breathe, the food we eat, our growth and life are sustained by a number of forces i.e. plants and animals. We are indebted to all of them. Hence, repay by respecting and protecting nature for coming generations.


2. Rishi Rin - Gain knowledge and pass ancient history as to the next generation.


3. Pitru Rin - Repay your ancestors by offering Shraddha Tarpan in every Pitru Paksh.


Our Rishis gave four hundred types of Yagyas to different sections of the Hindu society to be performed throughout the year. Agnihotra and Aupasana are to be performed at dawn and at dusk by every Hindu.


The offerings of Ghee, grains, herbs etc. called ahutis, are made to the sacred fire of the Yagya reciting, “Idam Na Mama”, meaning “This is Not Mine” which destroys the ego of the doer. Also, the Sacred Yagya Agni carries those healing herbs to the sun which brings back pure clean rain making vegetation on earth possible.


Every grain offered to Yagya Agni satisfies and pleases the Pitrus as well as the birds in the sky who receive and assimilate the offerings. Feeding Brahmins, Cows and Birds in their name also satisfies them. 


Tarpan requires offering just water, little milk and sesame seeds. Significance is that the unfulfilled desires are like tiny sesame seeds in this huge universe. By offering them we pray that our ancestors drop any lingering desires of past life and move ahead in the journey of their Soul.


“As water travels, it picks up and stores information from all of the places that it has travelled through, which can thereby connect people to a lot of different places and sources of information when they drink this water….each droplet of water has its own individual microscopic pattern….prayers make water create beautiful hexagonal water crystals…”. - Japanese pseudoscientist Dr. Masaru Emoto, New York Times best seller-‘The Hidden Messages in Water’ 


These Dharmik duties performed with love and respect for the ancestors are called Shraddh Karma. Service & obligations to the Pitrus are seva of Narayan Himself because Sanatan Dharma considers us ‘an ansh of the same Aatma’. All devgan, rishis, gurus are also served by Shraddh Karma.


Many Hindus have today forgotten about their Dharmik duties towards their Pitrus, whereas westerners come to India to perform Shraddha rituals for their dead! For e.g. Sylvester Stallone’s brother Michael and his wife performed Pind Daan, Shraddha Tarpan in Haridwar in 2015 for Stallone’s 36 year old son and for sister Toni Ann. 


On September 25, 2022, we @AyodhyaSummit will be honouring those ancestors by performing their Tarpan in Haridwar, Varanasi, Prayagraj, Omkareshwar, Ujjain, Amarakantak, Jabalpur and Puri. We humbly request the Hindu community to join at any of these spots, or form groups in their towns and perform Samoohik Tarpan. Together let’s revive our traditions and repay our Dharmik debts.



Author Meenakshi Sharan is a hospitality entrepreneur. She is also an avid history buff and the founder of Ayodhya Foundation which aims at promotion and revival of Vedic culture, Bhartiya Sangeet & Nritya, Arts & Handicrafts.  

To read all articles by author

Also read

1. Significance of Pitru Paksh, Tarpan and Shraaddh 

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