Ennapadam Bhagavati

Bhagavathi at Ennapadam Temple at Kerala

Friday, September 30, 2011



The best tribute to myriad aspects of eternal India and its culture was paid by Mark Twain in his book Following the Equator in these words: 'This is indeed India! The land of dreams and romance, fabulous wealth and fabulous poverty, of splendour and rags, of palaces and hovels, of famine and pestilence, of genii and giants and Aladdin lamps, of tigers and elephants, the cobra and the jungle, the country of hundred nations and a hundred tongues, of a thousand religions and two million Gods, cradle of the human race, birthplace of human speech, mother of history, grandmother of legend, great-grandmother of traditions, whose yesterdays bear date with the smouldering antiquities of the rest of nations, the one country under the sun that is endowed with an imperishable interest for alien prince and alien peasant, for lettered and ignorant, wise and fool, rich and poor, bond and free, the one land that all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for the shows of all the rest of the world combined. India has two million Gods, and worships them all. In religion all other countries are paupers; India is the only millionaire. 'So far as I am able to judge, nothing has been left undone, either by man or nature, to make India the most extraordinary country that the sun visits on his rounds. Nothing seems to have been forgotten, nothing overlooked.'

India is indeed a land of million Gods and billion festivals. India is a large, beautiful and bountiful country. While monotheistic faiths like Christianity and Islam believe in only one God, we Hindus are indeed blessed with a multitude of them. This is the Durga Puja season. While Durga Puja is the most important annual festival of Bengal, yet it has to be understood that it is celebrated on a grand scale every year in several other parts of India like Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka as well. The Bengalis have appropriately coined a popular phrase: 'Baro mashey tero parban' meaning 12 months and 13 festivals! There are enough valid reasons for having so many of them. Our country is large, dialects are many, climatic conditions vary from area to area. Obviously, if one part of the country celebrates a festival to pay homage to the Gods for a good harvest, those in some other area will have to wait for their turn.

THE DURGA PUJA FESTIVAL BEGINS WITH MAHALAYA IN THE LAST WEEK OF SEPTEMBER OR FIRST WEEK OF OCTOBER DEPENDING UPON THE TIME OF SOLSTICES EVERY YEAR. Mahalaya is an auspicious occasion observed seven days before the Durga Puja, and heralds the advent of Durga, the goddess of supreme power. It's a kind of invocation or invitation to the mother goddess to descend on earth - Jago Tumi Jago. This is done through the chanting of mantras and singing devotional songs.

This festival is dedicated to celebrate the Glory of the Divine Mother Ma Durga. The religious and spiritual sanction for the celebration of the grand festival arises from Devi Mahatmiyam. This is a sacred text that sings the Glory of the Divine Mother. This text has 700 Slokas on Goddess Durga and is also called as DURGA SAPTASATHI or the CHANDI. This book has 13 chapters. Three aspects of the Divine Mother have been depicted in this Holy Book. They are Maha Kaali, Maha Lakshmi and Maha Saraswathi. The whole of Devi Mahatmiyam is chanted on special occasions especially during Navaratri (nine nights).

Some of the merits of reading this sacred text are described in its 12th chapter. In Chapter 12, The Devi says: 'And whoever with a concentrated mind shall pray to me constantly with these hymns, for him I shall without doubt put down every trouble of his. And those who shall laud the destruction of Madhu and Kaitabha, the slaughter of Mahishasura and the slaying of Shumbha and Nishumbha,' and those also who shall listen with devotion to this sublime poem on my greatness on the eighth, the fourteenth and on the ninth days of the fortnight with concentrated mind, to them nothing wrong shall happen, nor calamities that arise from wrong doings, nor poverty and never any separation from their beloved ones. They shall not experience fear from enemies, or from robbers and kings, or from weapons, fire and flood. Hence this poem of my greatness must be chanted by men of concentrated minds and listened to always with devotion; for it is the supreme course of well-being. The place of my sanctuary is where this poem is duly chanted everyday and that place I will never forsake and there my presence is certain'.

The demon 'Mahisasur' signifies the multifarious faces of evil and the weapons of Durga signify the innumerable weapons at our own disposal to tackle the evils that we face every day. The weapons were gifted to her by the Gods - with the single purpose of slaying the demon. Lord Shiva gave her the trident; Vishnu stepped in with his Sudarshan Chakra; Indra chipped in with thunder; Surya, the Sun God gave her the bow and arrow, whilst Viswakarma gave her the shield and other protective clothing. Brahma contributed the kamandalu; Kuber, the multi jeweled necklace and Yamraj, the kaldanda! In addition, the Himalayas gave her the lion, to carry her into the warfront.

I would like to touch upon some more ritualistic details relating to the Festival of Durga Puja. It is an important Hindu festival in India. It is also known as 'Durgotsab' in Bengal or 'Navratri' in South India. It is basically a ten days long festival in which Durga or Shakti, the Goddess of power is worshipped. The Goddess is worshipped in nine different forms namely Shailputri, Brahmcharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayani, Kalratri, Mahagauri and Siddhidatri. Though this festival is celebrated throughout the country, the zeal and enthusiasm of the celebrations in the northern belt of the country in the state of West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar and Tripura is incomparable to any other place. The celebrations in the capital of West Bengal, Kolkata is renowned all over the world.

The Durga Pooja is celebrated for nine days. However the last six days are more festive than the first three. From the day of Shashti i.e the sixth day, community gathering, celebrations and feasts begin with immense fervour. The last four days of Puja begins from the sixth day of the full moon phase that follows the Mahalaya and finishes with the Dashami or the tenth day. In between these six days, there are different kinds of special ceremonies on Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, Maha Nabami. In the wee hours of 'Saptami,' a banana tree is brought from a nearby pond or river and installed inside the Pandal after the 'Pran' or life of the Devi is invoked into the banana tree.

Durga Puja 2011 falls in October 2011 vide details below.

3rd October 2011 – Saptami
4th October 2011 – Ashtami
5th October 2011 - Navami
6th October 2011 - Vijaya Dasami

Durgotsav, as it is called in Bengal, starts from Mahalaya. This is the day that Godess Durga is supposed to have started her journey from her husband's house in Mount Kailash in the Himalayas to her mother's place in Bengal accompanied by her children. On this auspicious day, early in the morning, at four o'clock to be precise, a two-hour-long program is broadcast in Bengali from Akashvani Kolkata. A translated version in Hindi is subsequently transmitted from all other important radio stations. The translation is restricted to only the text. The beautiful memorable songs are left untouched. Many of the artistes are no longer in our midst but their recorded voices still reverberate in each and every Bengali house on Mahalaya day. Titled 'MAHISASURMARDINI' (which means 'the slayer of the demon-in-the-guise-of-a-buffalo') this program narrates how Durga was conceived, how she was armed with a variety of weapons given by the Gods to destroy the demon and how she achieved her goal in bringing peace and happiness to the World.
Since the early 1930s, Mahalaya has come to associate itself with an early morning radio program called Mahisasura Mardini or 'The Annihilation of the Demon.' This All India Radio (AIR) programme is a beautiful audio montage of recitation from the scriptural verses of CHANDI KAVYA', Bengali devotional songs, classical music and a dash of acoustic melodrama.

Birendra Krishna Bhadra

A two-hour pre-recorded cassette titled 'Mahisasurmardini' was released by the Gramophone Company of India (Ltd), Calcutta in 1983. In this cassette, recitation of the shlokas in fluent Sanskrit is by Birendra Krishna Bhadra and music direction is by Pankaj Kumar Mallick. The live broadcast of this musical programme took place for the first time way back in 1932!! Birendra Krishna Bhadra was only 28 years old at that time.

Pankaj Kumar Mallick
(1905 - 1978)

In this context, it will not be too much to say that one man who'll always be remembered for making Mahalaya memorable to one and all every year is BIRENDRA KRISHNA BHADRA, the deathlessly magical voice behind the Mahisasura Mardini. The legendary narrator recites the holy verses and tells the story of the descent of Durga to earth, in his inimitable style. Though Birendra Krishna Bhadra has long passed away, but his recorded voice still forms the core of the Mahalaya program of the All India Radio. His vital, vivid, sonorous and reverberating voice, makes the Mahalaya recital for two hours, really captivating and mesmerizing for every household, filling it with the divine aura of his narration. This inspiring programme was conceived by Pankaj Kumar Mallick (1905-1978) singer of Rabindra Sangeet or TAGORE SONGS, composer and music director. He worked with the Kolkata radio station for about half a century, from 1927 to 1975. Pankaj Kumar who helped to launch the musical feature, Mahisasuramardini, in 1929 to celebrate DURGA PUJA, and his music direction in the programme was hailed as the work of a genius. Pankaj Kumar Mallick and Birendra Krishna Bhadra together made this Durga Pooja programme glorious and memorable.

The celebration of Durga Puja in India goes back to the dawn of history. To conclude in the words of Annie Besant: 'After a study of more than 40 years of the great religions of the world, I find none so perfect, so scientific, none so philosophical and none so spiritual as that great religion popularly known by the name of Hinduism. Make no mistake, without Hinduism, India has no future. Hinduism is the soil into which India's roots are stuck and torn out of that she will inevitably wither as a tree torn out from its place and if Hindus do not maintain Hinduism who shall save it? If India's own children do not cling to her faith who shall guard it? India alone can save India and INDIA AND HINDUISM ARE ONE.' 

Monday, September 26, 2011


Veneration of the dead rests on the ancient belief that the deceased family members in each family, have a continued existence and/or possess the ability to powerfully influence the fortunes of the living. Besides, the goal of ancestor veneration is to ensure the ancestors' continued well-being and positive disposition towards the living. The social or non-religious dimension of ancestor veneration relates to cultivation of kinship values, such as filial piety, family loyalty, and unbroken continuity of the family lineage in the time-past, time-present and time-future.

Today (27-9-2011, Tuesday) is Mahalaya Amavasya Day. This day of Pitr Paksha or Mahalaya Amavasya has great significance and importance for all Hindus in all parts of the world. It is the annual festival for worshipping and propitiating the spirits of our ancestors, with devout prayers for peace and spiritual tranquility.

Mahalaya Amavasya

According to age-old tradition going back to the beginnings of pre-history, earnest performance of the rites of Shrardha on this day would positively gratify the immortal souls of our ancestors unto eternity. Our forefathers/ancestors cannot come to this world whenever they think, except on Amavasya, Srardha day and the starting day of every month and during Malaya Paksha. So they all come in sookshma (means not visible to naked eyes) dehas and if we offer them the til (gingili) and water they accept that, and bless us directly. According to Hindu religious belief, on the Mahalaya Amavasya day, there is a conjunction of the sun and the moon and that the sun enters the sign Virgo (Kanya). Tradition has it that on this day the departed ancestors leave their abode of Yama and come down to the earth to receive their duly ordained rites from their descendants. The most vital difference between ‘Funeral’ rites and Shradha is that, while the funeral rites are considered inauspicious, the Shradha is considered as ritually auspicious and spiritually gratifying.

Mahalaya Amavasya Day is the day of Ancestor Worship for all the Hindu castes and communities in India cutting across linguistic and other local ritualistic and cultural differences. Ancestor Worship, also known as Ancestor Veneration or Ancestorism, is a religious practice based on the belief that deceased family members have a continued existence, who take an interest in the affairs of the world, and who possess the ability to influence the fortune of the living. All cultures attach ritual significance to the passing of loved ones, but this is not equivalent to ancestor worship among the Hindus.  

‘Jago Tumi Jago’ Wake up, Oh Goddess Durga! Wake up

I offer my humble and respectful Pranams to those selfless and public spirited individuals and devotees of Ma Durga who have with such sacred commitment taken the trouble of uploading all the videos relating to Five Parts of Mahalaya Mahishasuramardini rendered by Late Birendra Krishna Badra whose divine voice we have been hearing over the All India Radio Kolkata from 1932 till today. 


The goal of ancestor worship by the Hindus is to ensure the ancestors’ continued well-being and positive disposition towards the living and sometimes to ask for special favours or assistance. The social or non-religious function of ancestor worship is to cultivate kinship values like filial piety, family loyalty, and continuity of the family lineage. Generally speaking, however, the purpose of ancestor worship is not to ask for favours but to do one’s filial duty. Some people believe that their ancestors actually need to be provided for by their descendants. Others do not believe that the ancestors are even aware of what their descendants do for them, but that the expression of filial piety is what is important. Whether or not the ancestor receives what is offered is not the issue. Therefore, for people unfamiliar with how ‘ancestor worship’ in Hindu India is actually practiced and thought of, the use of the translation ‘worship’ can be a cause of misunderstanding and is a misnomer in many ways. In English, the word ‘worship’ usually refers to the reverent love and devotion accorded a deity or divine being. However, in Hindu culture, this act of ‘worship’ does not mean the belief that the departed ancestors have become some kind of deity. Rather the act is a way to respect, honour and look after ancestors in their afterlife, in addition to seeking their guidance and benediction for their living descendants. In this sense, ‘ancestor veneration’ may convey a more accurate sense of Tarpanam and Srardha in the Sanatana Dharma tradition.

According to the age-old Hindu tradition, when one refers to ANCESTORS, it includes the following:
* Subtle bodies of all our known and unknown departed relations from all the previous generations are included in the category of our ancestors.
* Relatives from all the previous generations from the father’s and mother’s side; for a woman from her parent’s side as well as from her husband’s side are included in this category.
* Along with this subtle bodies of departed relatives from previous births are also included in ancestors.
* Normally a daughter married away to another family will never visit her previous generation and will instead visit her husband’s previous generation because it’s a custom for the women to follow the family tradition of their husbands.

Mahalaya Amavasya Day is an auspicious Hindu occasion observed seven days before the Durga Puja, and heralds the advent of DURGA, the Goddess of Supreme Power. The dark fortnight of Aswayuja is known as the Mahalaya Paksha or the fortnight especially sacred for offering oblations to the departed ancestors. Durga, Goddess of deliverance, comes to earth on the seventh day after the autumn new moon. She is depicted by the ‘kumors’ or potters as a resplendent golden figure standing on a lion’s back, each of her ten arms bearing a particular weapon, as she triumphs over the demon Mahisasura. Mahalaya Amavasya Day, the day Durga was assigned the task of eliminating all evils from the world, is a sacred day of invitation to the Mother Goddess Durga to descend on earth like a celestial lightning to put down evil and to restore Dharma on earth. The whole of Bengal, for centuries, has reverberated with the rapturous cries of ‘Jago Tumi Jago’ in Bengali which means ‘Wake up, Oh! Goddess Durga! Wake up’


From this day starts ‘Devipaksha’ and marks the end of ‘Pitri-paksha’. It is the day when many throng to the banks of river Ganga, clad in dhotis to offer prayers to their dead relatives and forefathers. People in the pre-dawn hours pray for their dead relatives and take holy dips in the Ganges. This ritual is known as ‘Torpon’ in Bengal and ‘Tarpan’ in the rest of India. Tradition has it that Lord Rama offered prayers to his venerable ancestors at Rameswaram. Sri Rama also performed Durga Puja on a war footing, just before he set out for Lanka to rescue Sita from Ravana. It was on the day of Mahalaya, the beginning of ‘devipoksha’, the Gods and Goddesses woke up to prepare themselves for Durga Puja.

Having been born as Hindus, we have to perform two types of ‘Kaaryaas’ namely ‘Deva Kaarya’ and ‘Pithru Kaarya’. The first one is to please the ‘Devas’, who are the representatives of The Almighty and it must be done with ‘Bhakthi’, by means of ‘Homams’ and ‘Yagnas’, so that, the Devas bless us all with natural requirements and resources. The second one is to please our ancestors (Pitrus) and it must be done with ‘Srardha’ and hence known as ‘Srardham’ & ‘Tarpanam’, so that, they bless us with a life full of health, happiness and peace. As the ‘Mahalaya Paksha’ time of 15 days fall in the month of ‘Purattasi’ during the ‘Dakshynayana’ period, the ‘Srardham’ & ‘Tarpanam’ becomes more auspicious and important, because of the fact that, ‘Dakshin’ denotes ‘South’ and our ancestors (Pitrus) are supposed to be resting in the southern hemisphere. That is why the great Tamil poet, sage Thiruvalluvar addressed our ancestors as ‘Thenpulathaar’(Ilvaazhkai).

Thus, Tiruvalluvar says:

To conclude ‘performing ‘Tarpanam’ on Mahalaya Amavasya is a must for all Hindus and similarly, performing ‘Srardham’ & ‘Tarpanam’ at Prayag (Allahabad), Kaasi (Varanasi) and Gaya (Bihar) is compulsory for at least once in a life time, because, our ancestors are believed to be eagerly awaiting our ‘Tharpanam’ and ‘Pindams’ (rice balls or flour balls) at those places to attain ‘Moksha’. In Tamil it is called as ‘Munnorkalai Karai Aetral’.

The blessings of our ancestors are very important for us to lead a trouble-free life full of health, wealth, happiness and peace of mind.
After I had finished writing the above article, I came across a very interesting article titled SRADDHA AND FUNERAL OBSEQUIES written by my wife’s maternal grandfather Late Dharmapracharaka M.K.Venkateswara Iyer (1874-1957) in a Journal called THE BHARATA DHARMA IN 1937.

DHARMAPRACHARAKA M.K.Venkateswara Iyer (1874-1957)
And his wife SMT.THAILAMBAL (1881-1951)

M.K.Venkateswara Iyer was an outstanding Vedic and Sanskrit scholar and wrote several books in English and Sanskrit dedicated to the propogation of different aspects and dimensions of Hindu Dharma. He was honoured with the title of DHARMAPRACHARAKA by Paramacharya of Kanchi in 1918. I am presenting below the full text of M.K.Venkateswara Iyer’s article, mainly because he has made a detailed reference to many interesting questions that are usually asked by the general public in the last part of this article.

The fundamental basis for our funeral ceremonies is  the fact of the existence of Jiva after death in Subtler bodies called Preta (प्रेत); and Pitri (पितृ) Sarira (शरीर) and its subsequent re-birth in this world in bodies cor­responding to its past karma. Those who have faith in Vedic literature believe in the existence of Yamaloka, Indraloka, Agniloka, Varunaloka, Vayuloka, Maholoka, Janoloka, Tapoloka, Satyaloka, Vaikunta, Kailasa, Goloka etc. They further believe that we are related to these lokas as we are related to other countries in this world. Therefore we are affected by our good or bad karma towards the inhabitants of those lokas as we are affected, by the other peoples of this world, According to Sastras the ad­visory council of Dharma Rajah and his administration of justice is per­fect. They are wise, learned, impartial, honest and are always anxious to do the best for the progress of Jivas towards perfection. He is called Yama also because he controls and regulates the life of living beings. His administration of justice enforcing obedience to the law of righteousness or Dharma, is supported by Omnipotence, Omniscience and Omnipresence of the Supreme Being. His accountant is called Chitragupta.

He is extremely clever, honest, and prompt in the discharge of his duties and will be exact in his records. All thoughts, words and deeds of human beings are recorded in his account books with absolute precision. He cannot be influenced by anybody to conceal any fact. When Jivas commit sins to an extent which justifies transportation they are forcibly ejected from their bodies and are transported to Yamaloka. There are cases where the Jivas feel that they have done all that could be done by them in these bodies and aspire for better divine bodies. They leave their bodies of their own accord as persons shift from old houses to new bungalows. They are called Swachchanda mrityu (स्ववच्छन्दमृत्यु). The Jivas who are compulsorily ejected from their bodies may be compared to offenders who are arrested and transported or deported. Those who have committed heinous sins are taken to Yamaloka by the southern gate. The others are taken by the other gates for which there are classifications of Karma test. On the separation of the Jiva from the body which is called death, the Yama Bhatas must produce the Jiva before Yama in three muhurtams. The distance to be travelled is 84,000 Yojanas. After recording its appearance in Yamaloka, the Jiva is sent back to the place of death with escorts.

If the sons or other relations perform funeral obsequies, the   troubles of the departed souls or Pretas will be mitigated. At the initial stage the departed soul is called Preta (प्रेत) = One who has departed from this world. As the physical body is detached from the Jiva and is buried or cremated, the Jiva becomes Nagna (नग्न) or naked. To have a covering for the Jiva a present of cloth or (वस्त्रददान) is made. As the Jiva has no eyes then a light or deepa (दीप) is presented to a deserving person which act is believed to bless the Jiva with vision. To have a proper subtle body or Sarira for the Jiva, obsequies begin from the day of death.. Three forms of gifts are made on the first day and it is increased to four, five etc. up to the tenth day thereby making seventy five. These are believed to contribute materials for the building up of a Pitri sarira(पित्रशरीर). As these ceremo­nies have reference only to one soul until the eleventh day, these are called, (एकोदिष्ट) == Having reference to one only. The ceremony on the twelth day which brackets the departed Jiva with the predeceased ancestors is called Sapindikarana (सपिणदीकर्ण). As those who perform these obseq­uies are polluted all the obsequies up to the tenth day are performed with uncooked rice alone. On the eleventh day the Pitri Sarira is supposed to be complete and the performer is therefore pure enough to perform the Ekoddishta (एकोदिष्ट) on that day with cooked rice.

In ordinary Sraddha there are three important elements: viz.
(1) Homa (होम)Offering in   fire   (2)  Feeding the Brahmanas who represent the Pitris (ब्राह्मनभोजनम) and (3) Pinda Danam (पिन्डदानम) offering pinda to the Pitris.

The following doubts may arise with   regard   to   these   ceremonies which we shall try to answer in the light of Smiritis.

(1) When the ancestors who are dead are born   in other bodies, how can the offerings now made be of any use to them?

(2) When brothers perform Sraddham in different places, how do the invoked Pitris attend the ceremonies in different places simultaneously?

(3) If the mantras repeated during Sraddham will   take the offerings to the departed souls in various places, can we adopt   the same course in sending materials to our relations living in distant places in this world.

(4) How can the act of one be of use to another when each has to enjoy the result of his own karma only?

(5) Is there any difference between the omission of funeral ceremonies
by one who has inherited the wealth of the departed person and another
who did not get any of his assets?

(6) What is the basis for finding out persons on whom we may invoke the Pitris?

(7) When we offer the same kind of cooked rice in fire for all depart­ed souls, how do they benefit thereby when   they may be in different constitutions?

(8) What becomes of our offerings if the departed souls have attained moksha?

(9) We are asked to feed Brahmanas, well-versed in Vedas after in­voking the Pitris to appear in their constitutions? Supposing such are not available why not we have others?

(10) If Sraddhas are necessary for the   nutrition   of   our deceased ancestors, how is it we are asked to perform Sraddha only annually?

(11) How do we benefit by the Sraddhas performed by our descen­dants of our previous lives?

(12)   What are the various kinds of Sraddhas and their relative importance?


I had requested Pujyashri.M.H.Gopalakrishnan nephew of Dharmapracharaka M.K.Venketeswara Iyer, to give me the answers to the questions that were raised by Shri M.K.Venketeswara Iyer in 1937. Pujyashri.M.H.Gopalakrishnan is also a profound Sanskrit scholar and he is the son-in-law of Mahamahopadhya Nurni Ananathakrishna Shastrigal who was the Principal of Madras Sanskrit College and later became an All-India figure as the Head of the Department of Sanskrit in Calcutta University. Shri.Gopalakrishnan has done me a great honour by sending me the following reply which I am presenting below in full without any editing.

Sradham means worship of ancestors with faith  - belief in Scriptures – and devotion. Without doing “ sradham “ no KARMA will be effective. Not even passing of school examinations.

(1) When the ancestors who are dead are born   in other bodies, how can the offerings now made be of any use to them?

There are two aspects to PITRI POOJANAM
A – The departed ancestors are benefited and are helped to raise to auspicious worlds, where they live like demy Gods for long (Of course thereafter they will have to get back to this earth where the benefit accumulated by their own effort or by their sons etc. get exhausted or get terminated.

B – The son also get immense benefit by PITRI POOJANM

The ancestors get born in other bodies ONLY when the inflow of benefits stops – when the offerings now made – stop.

If a man before dyeing, does a good deed - digging a tank or a well for public use – so long as the benefit of the work is enjoyed by others in earth – the dead doer – of the work – gets the benefit. Hence the need to praise good deeds and prohibition of destruction of wells and water tanks, bridges etc. are not to be destroyed even for the development of the area concerned

The need for doing PITRI POOJANAM by the son is needed so long as the son lives.

Also the statement often repeated that after Gaya Sradham, annual “sradham need not be performed” is not a fact but is only an exaggerated praise of  Gaya Srdham. Hence continue to do Sradham.  

(2) When brothers perform Sraddham in different places, how do the invoked Pitris attend the ceremonies in different places simultaneously?

Departed ancestors - are capable of (ghosts also) transcending geographical space and time.

(3) If the mantras repeated during Sraddham will   take the offerings to the departed souls in various places, can we adopt   the same course in sending materials to our relations living in distant places in this world.

This question of Atheists who do not believe in scriptures can not understand this.

Sastras deal with subjects and things and not with knowledge by five senses of human. The Sastras are only authority

(4) How can the act of one be of use to another when each has to enjoy the result of his own karma only?

The assumption in the question – that the benefit go to the doer and not to another – is correct ( Ref. Valmiki’ s story – He was a decoit – before becoming a sage) But there are exceptions.Well known are –

Samskaras like Jaathakarma, Naamakarma  - Cowlam etc – upto  VRITHA SAMAAPTI ( Just before marriage –done by  boy’s father their benefit go to the son. From Marriage, the son is on his own.

Similarly, the sradham done by the son – their benefit go to the departed ancestors.

So also the benefit of Karmas performed by the priests go to the YAJAMAANA  - Once the priests receive the Dakshina.( Hence the importance of giving Dakshina).

(5) Is there any difference between the omission of funeral ceremonies
by one who has inherited the wealth of the departed person and another
who did not get any of his assets?

The funeral related duties are mandatory to the sons and JNATIS (blood relations) and are prescribed in detail “what “ for each. There is no option. This has no relation, also to how the parent and sons behaved before the death of the father. Also, the father on his part, while having discretion on the distribution of self earned wealth, according to current law, has no discretion on the distribution of ancestral property. This is the Law.

Son’s duty cannot change just because there was an injustice in the distribution of wealth, by the father in the will. Also all quarrels end with death.

“MARANA THANI VAIRANI “ Hence Rama asks Vibhishana ( only survivor of the family) to perform Apara Karma to RAVANA.

(6) What is the basis for finding out persons on whom we may invoke the Pitris?

The Boktha are to be
a. Well learned in Vedas
b. They should be of the same Gotra
c. They should be having Shikai

Now a day it is impossible to find or fulfill these conditions)
Fully Qualified priests do not agree to be Boktas.

(7) When we offer the same kind of cooked rice in fire for all depart­ed souls, how do they benefit thereby when   they may be in different constitutions?

What we offer gets transmuted into what is good for the PITRIS where ever they are.

(8) What becomes of our offerings if the departed souls have attained moksha?

In Bhagavatham, Lord Narasimha specifically answers this – to Prahlada – your father having been killed by me, I took him on my lap – I put my hands inside his body – has gone to supreme abode. But you as his son,  do perform all prescribed Aparakarma.

(9) We are asked to feed Brahmanas, well-versed in Vedas after in­voking the Pitris to appear in their constitutions? Supposing such are not available why not we have others?

(10) If Sraddhas are necessary for the   nutrition   of   our deceased ancestors, how is it we are asked to perform Sraddha only annually?

Our one year is one day for PITRIS. So they get fed daily if annually sradham is done.

(11) How do we benefit by the Sraddhas performed by our descen­dants of our previous lives?

Sradham is related to this body. So, when those who are in PITRILOKAM or auspicious world, the fruits of Sradham performed by authorized relations / descendents, related to the body before death, only reaches the pitris and ancestors. Once they are reborn in the earth, the relation with the descendents of the previous birth gets snapped. But those authorized persons do get the benefit of having performed Sradham.

What are the various kinds of Sraddhas and their relative importance?

It was explained that sradha means the deed done / to be done with faith and devotion in relation to departed ancestors.

Hence there are many Sradhas

Offerings in the fire –
Offerings of water – Tharpanam
Offering of Bhojanam to Brahmins – invoked as ancestors after washing their feet and offering them a decent cloth.
Other types – Sradham to those of our ancestors ( not parents, their parents or grandparents) who remain as ghosts and are roaming about without water and food –
 Offering is done by squeezing the water of the VASTRAM of KARTHA
By Vyasa pindam ( Crow) after feeding Boktas
By squeezing the tuft of wet hair.

NOTE: Immediately after the death, the body is purified and decorated. The body then becomes Havis for the Yagna to be performed by the son.( Hence no eye donation if vedic Aparakarma is performed).After putting the fire – Aupasana fire – on the body the following are given in charity.
a lamp – to remove darkness.
vastram – to remove nakedness.
Bronze vessel and spoon and rice for quenching hunger
A tumbler / a chombu  of water for drinking water

Function on 13th day – Griha Sudhi Homam is NOT part of Aparakarma. 13th day function is purification of the place, where death took place.

I had requested my revered friend SADHU PROF. V. RANGARAJAN Founder & Spiritual Head, Sri Bharatamata Gurukula Ashram & Yogi Ramsuratkumar Indological Research Centre, Sister Nivedita Academy, Sri Bharatamata Mandir Srinivasanagar, Krishnarajapuram, BANGALORE to send me a message of spiritual benediction on the eve of Mahalaya Amavasya. He has blessed me with the following message. I am presenting the Full Text of the Message.

Mahalaya Paksha or the Pitru Paksha, which is the dark half of Bhadrapada Month according to Hindu almanac, is observed by Hindus since Vedic times as the auspicious period for performing the obsequial rites to the departed ancestors. Hindus believe in rebirth and transmigration of soul. The soul that departs from the physical body passes through Devayana, the path of gods or the Pitruyana, the path of manes according to the merits and demerits acquired through their actions in the earthly sojourn. Those who go through Devayana ultimately attain their identity with the Supreme Self and those who go in Pitri Yana come back to earthly life again after enjoying the merits of their action.

Hindus believe that by performing the Mahalaya Shraaddha during the Mahalaya  Paksha on the Tithys of the departed ancestors helps the souls of the ancestors to go to higher worlds of consciousness. Even if the Tithy is not known, the Mahalaya Tarpana performed on Mahalaya Amavasya Day, goes to the departed souls. It is believed that a special class of deities called Vasus, Rudras and Adityas, the guardians of the Pitrus, receive the offering to the Pitrus and transmit their essence to the concerned ones in a form that suits their level of existence, be they in heaven or hell, in human or subhuman bodies.

According to Sri Aurobindo’s theory of evolution, the Consciousness descends into the material or earthly plane and gradually evolves through various forms of life, rising to the realm of human existence and from there it marches ahead in a Divine progression, to a Supramental or Divine Existence. There cannot, therefore, be any regression or soul descending back into the lower forms of life from the human realm.  Secondly, the efficacy of the Shraaddha is questioned by some who contend that it is the Law of Karma that determines the destiny of each soul and whether we perform the Shraaddha or not, each and every soul wends it way god wards ultimately after enjoying the deserts of their actions in the earthly life through births and rebirths.

The Vedas speak of Pitru Rina, our debt to our forefathers who gave us not only our physical bodies, but also the culture, heritage and spiritual values for the ascent of the soul from the mundane material existence to Divine Consciousness. The Tarpana or the Shraaddha that are performed is the right way of thanksgiving our pledge to live according to the way and values of life set forth by them. As Dr. P.V. Kane has rightly suggested in his History of Dharmasaastra, “It is a good practice to set apart at least one day in a year for the remembrance of one’s near and dear relatives that are no more, to invite relatives, friends and learned people to a dinner in memory of the dead and to bestow monetary gifts on poor but learned persons of character and devoted to the practice of plain living and high thinking. This will be in keeping with our past traditions and will also give a new orientation to and infuse new life into practices that have become lifeless and meaning less to many people.” 

On this Mahalaya Amavasya today, the following beautiful words of the English Poet T.S.Eliot (1888-1985) come to my mind, heart and soul:

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.