The Tamil month of Purattasi (mid-Sep to mid-Oct) is called Ancestor month. The reason is that Mahalaya Amavasya falls on this month. This is a 15-day period which is believed to be very auspicious for offering Tarpanam for ancestral souls. If we offer Tarpanam during this period, it is said that they will bless us twice. Mahalaya Amavasya comes 15 days before the New moon in Purattasi month. This is called Mahalaya Paksha. During this period, our ancestors are believed to come close to us on earth. So people offer special prayers to them like Tarpanam, Mahalaya Shraddha, etc. This can be done for all the late kith and kin.
In the Purattasi month, during the 15-day Mahalaya period, ancestors visit the earth to bless their kinsfolk. After we propitiate them, they are believed to be more willing and able to cross over to the other worlds. They become pleased and satisfied when we honor them by offering them the black sesame seeds, rice, Durva grass, sandalwood, and tulsi). Once they have crossed over to the other world completely and successfully, they become family deities. Then they will be able to bestow many blessings, thereby improving our lives immensely. Hindu Puranas like the Agni Purana, Matsya Purana and Garuda Purana talk at length about Tarpanam. In fact, Lord Yama, the god of death, has explained the significance of Tarpanam performed during this period.
Significance of Tarpanam
In India, saints and sages have always emphasized the importance of offering Amavasya Tarpanam. Tarpanam is the ritual of offering food to our late ancestors to appease them. It is believed that Tarpanam is no less important than other forms of worship. Tarpanam offered on new moon day (Amavasya) is called Amavasya Tarpanam. In many cultures, the practice of ancestor worship is widely prevalent. It is present in Europe, Asia, Africa, etc. The purpose of ancestor worship is to ensure that the ancestors are happy and satisfied and thereby develop a positive attitude towards the living and willing to render special favors or assistance. Such rituals acknowledge the profound influence that ancestors have over our lives. It is believed that when ancestors are unhappy and dissatisfied, they will cause serious problems in our lives. Catholic countries in Europe celebrate November 2 as All Souls Day to honor all dead souls. Families visit cemeteries on this day and light candles for dead relatives, leave flowers on their graves, etc. Some cultures observe rituals to invoke the ancestors' spirits for protection, and intercession on their behalf or even to ask for advice. Vengeful spirits are believed to manifest as ghosts and harm the living. In most cultures, ancestor spirits are believed to call the souls of people who are sick or near death, to the underworld and guide their souls, or meet the soul when they reach the underworld.
Benefits of Tarpanam
Many problems like debts, failed relationships, litigation, ill health, career setbacks, etc. are attributed to displeased ancestors or ancestral curses. Most people are not aware of the influence they have on them. Accidents that lead to serious injury or death/addiction to drugs, alcohol, tobacco, perpetual lack of money, chronic disease, constant arguments with spouse, untimely death in the family / mental ailments, etc. are some of the common manifestations of ancestral displeasure. Those who don't know the death dates of their ancestors can offer Pitru Paksha Tarpanam. It can be offered to people who lack children and who died violently (accident or murder). Those who didn't perform the annual Shraddh (performed on the death date) can also offer Tarpanam during this period. Performing Tarpanam is believed to bring lasting relief to people who suffer from insurmountable problems in their life.