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23. 09. 2017
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PITRAPAKSHA OR KANAGAT

Also known as Shraddha-Paksha , this is a unique ceremony that is religiously performed with in a fixed fortnight in the month of Ashwani or Kivar. The Hindus set aside sixteen days in a year which are known the fortnight of performing the Shraddhas, which is one of the most effective remedy for PITRA DOSHA in the horoscope.

The lunar calendar date (1st to 14th with both Amavasya and Poornima of the previous month included) of death is considered as the Shraddha day of that particular person. If a person dies on any tithi, apart from observing the Shraddha on that particular day at that time of the year, with in this fortnight his or her death day is observed with well defined ceremonies. The waning period of the moon during the month of Kivar, plus the Poornima of the previous month form this 'Kanagat period'.

This is called Kanagat because with in this period the Sun enters Virgo (Kanya) sign of the Zodiac. Hence Kanya + gat (gone) makes the full term. There is yet another etymological interpretation of this term which relates to Kama of Mahabharat fame. That will be explained later.

This period falls normally around first week or second week of September. The sixteen days include the 'tithis' of death, irrespective of the waxing or waning of the noon. So we have these sixteen days as : Poornima, Pratipada, Dwiteeya, Triteeya, Chaturthi, Panchami, Shasthi, Saptami, Asthami, Navami, Dashmi, Edadashi, Dwadashi, Triyodashi, Chaturdashi and Amavasya.

Some add one extra day by including the first day of the next fortnight — i.e. Pratipada (following the Amarvasya) — and reserve this day for performance of the Shraddha by a person of his departed maternal relations in case there be no one alive or active in that person's maternal side. This day is also called 'Naan-Parva' — i.e. the day for observing the Shraddha of Nana (maternal grand father).

This day, early in the morning the person who is performing the Shraddha of his ancestors (paternal, generally) has to take bath early and start offering water to his departed ancestor after he has done so for Bheeshma Pitamah of Mahabharat fame. It is a bounden duty of every devout Hindu to give such offerings to Bheeshma who died celebate and unmarried in order to keep his word to his father. Meanwhile, the person's wife takes bath early and starts preparing especial type of food with great piety.

No haldi (turmeric) is used in this kind of food—neither species like heenga (asafoetida) let alone garlic and onion. Among the vegetables, red ones like tomato and carrot are also not allowed. Simple food, as far as is possible, is made. Raddish, ginger, green chillies (no red chillies or their powder) and root-vegetables are preferred, apart from the use of Urad dal either in the form of Dahi vada or in kachoris. So two to three kinds of dry vegetables, a 'wet' or 'rasedaar vegetable' (either potatoes or arbi), raita (preferably of Kaddu or pumpkin), finely cut pieces of raddish (for salad), Dahi-vadas, milk (either hot or cold and thick enriched with dry fruits' addition), some choicest sweets (either home made or from the market), etc. are prepared. In certain choices of food items, the departed person's culinary choice within permissible limits is particularly given consideration to. On this day, a brahman (or brahmani) is invited and is fed first after prior feeding the fire and offering morsals of the cooked food to birds (called Kaagaur) and pet animals (preferably cow-the morsel given to it is called 'Gau-grass', literally the morsel of food for the cow).

At that moment that invited Brahman represents the departed person. When he is fully fed, his hands are washed and then he is offered 'paan' (betel leaf already made with katha, chuna and supari etc.) and dakshina — the fees for accepting our invitation — of five, ten, fifty or hundred rupees depending upon the economic 'affordability' of the performer of the Shraddha. Only after this invited guest is duly treated that the members of the household partake of the sacred food. It is always a big ceremony with all the relations—particularly favourites of the departed person — are invited.

The person who gives dakshina is not supposed to have the evening meal. This is called 'Ashta-prahari bhojan' (food for the entire day). Since this food is invariably very rich and heavy, normally there is no need to have a second meal in the day. In some communities individual shraddhas are not performed and all the departed males' Shraddha is performed on Amavasya and of the departed females on Chaturdashi.

Scriptures ordain that a person must perform Shraddha of his three higher generations of male and female cognates : of Pita, Pitamaha and Prapitamah (father, grandfather and great grand father) and their female counter parts : Mata, Matamahi and Pramatamahi (mother, grand mother and great grand mother). Everyone is entitled to perform Shraddha of one's any departed cognate or of a departed person towards whose memory one wants to pay his gratitude, but normally it is the son's exclusive right. And among the sons too, if they are living together in one place the eldest one. However, if there are five sons of a departed father and all are living separately, each of them should perform Shraddhas of his father.

The popular belief is that "let there be as many Shraddha performed of a departed person as many sons he had." Colloquially this feeling is expressed by this expression : "Jitane poota utane pindaa" (as many sacred offerings for a departed person as sons he or she had).

It is basically the ceremony of showing one's gratitude to one's departed ancestors. There is a story in the Mahabharat which stresses on the importance of this ceremony in the Hindu Sanskars. We all know that Kama was renowned for his charity and large heartedness. Since he was unrecognized son of the Pandavas' mother, Kunti, because she begot him in her unmarried state owing a mantra she received from the Sun-god, Kama had no idea who his parents really were. Even when he learnt about them she couldn't show much respect to them.

Ultimately when Kama died he was surprised to find his soul being given a berth in hell and not heaven which he thought to be his due. Upon enquiry his soul learnt the bitter fact that since in his mortal duties he paid no attention towards his ancestors, 'Pitra-rina' (what is due to his ancestors) had not been repaid and hence he was not entitled to get the place in the heaven. Then Kama requested Yam-raj to let him go down to the earth to repay his debt to his ancestors. He was allowed only a fortnight's time to perform this duty.

Hence the term 'Kanaagat' which is also derived to mean Karna-Aagat or 'Kama's arrival' whose corrupted pronounciation is 'Kanagat'.

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