This year, the Mahalaya Amavasya, or Pitra Moksha Amavasya, is on Saturday, 14 October. This is when the portal to our ancestors becomes available
Continuation of Bharat’s ancient civilisation, her strength and beauty lie in the diversity of our age-old traditions. Our ancient rishis understood even the subtlest details about the way life functions. And to create a deeply harmonious life, not just at our physical body level but also at our subtle body (atman) level, they created profound rituals that are rooted in scientific understanding. It is a different matter that as Bharat was invaded, looted and ruled by foreign forces for over a thousand years, each invader systematically tried to destroy these scientific traditions and branded them as blind faith or dogmas.
One such deep-rooted tradition is of the period of Shradh. A time to pray to our departed ancestors. In most of the Hindu households, this is a very significant period. Because, people believe that it is a time, when a portal of sorts is opened and Pitrs or ancestors come to us. And, this is a period when we can pay our dues, our respect, seek forgiveness, and also thank our ancestors for contributing immensely to the life we are leading today.
The whole of Hindu thought is based on one central principle of life after death, meaning rebirth. It is believed that we are not just the body that is made up of five gross elements; earth, water, fire, air and ether. In addition to these five gross elements which make up our physical bodies, we also have a mind – a collection of all our past thoughts, emotions, habits and memories, and on top of it we also have an atman – an ever-present consciousness, we can also call it our real ‘Self’. When one dies, the gross physical elements of the body merge in the vast five elements of nature, but our mind with all its data gets attached to our Self and it lives on.
After a certain time and upon finding the suitable environment, this Self with the mind (samskaras) attached to it, takes a new body, new birth, new incarnation. And the new birth is decided based on the previous samskaras.
Now, between one’s death and taking the new incarnation, there is usually a cooling-off period. This is when the departed ones (Pitrs) are available, and when during the Shradh days the cosmic portal opens up, we can utilise this time and offer our prayers, gratitude etc. to our ancestors. This portal opening becomes most active during the Mahalaya Amavasya or Pitra Moksha Amavasya. And, so, this no-moon or new moon night becomes the most significant day of the entire Shradh duration.
To understand this, we can take the example of fragrance. Imagine a guest coming to our house putting a very nice fragrance. Now even when the guest is gone, the whole house is still filled with the fragrance for some time. And next time when you meet the same person, the memory of that fragrance comes back to your living experience, as if real. This is how the ‘Self’ also works. Even after the physical body has perished, the ‘Self’ remains for some time, and that particular time can be utilized for offering our prayers to the departed ‘Self’, which in reality has not really departed. Does this ‘Self’ remain as a fragrance for a month, a year or 10 years, we can never know. As our understanding of the time dimension in our physical experience is very different from the dimension of time for the ‘Self’ in the non-physical realm of existence. That is why every year, we follow this practice of offering prayers to our Pitrs on every Mahalaya Amavasya.
This year the Mahalaya Amavasya or Pitra Moksha Amavasya is on Saturday, 14 October. This is when the portal to our ancestors becomes available. There are many things in our lives for which we are grateful to our ancestors. Our very life is sitting on their foundational contribution. There are many things we might have said or done that might have hurt them when they were here in their physical form, for which we never got the chance to ask for their forgiveness, and also there might be some unfulfilled desires they had. So, this is the time to pray to them, show our gratitude to them, ask for forgiveness and try to liberate them from our attachments, so that they can go on their journey ahead, as life is a continuum, it does not begin with birth and end with death.
We must use this period, and heartfully communicate with our ancestors. In fact, many people around this period report seeing very specific dreams of their departed loved ones asking for a certain kind of food they want to have. That is why, on Mahalaya Amavasya, we prepare the choicest food of our departed ancestors and feed it to the poor, to the needy and also to our friends, family, brahmins and well-wishers.
“महत्वाकांक्षा में अगर सर्व कल्याण जुड़े तभी वह अर्थ की तरफ ले जाता है, अन्यथा वह अनर्थ का मार्ग है"
"Knowing ourselves is the beginning of creating a joyful life".