Pitru Paksha, also called Shraddha Paksha, is a fortnight of Shraddha, extending from Bhadrapada Purnima (full moon) to Sarva Pitru Amavasya. During this time, Hindus honor their ancestors by making food offerings. It is not a period for conducting auspicious events as death rites are performed at this time. There are many rules to be observed during Pitru Paksha, as it is important that the rituals of Shraddha or Tarpanam should be performed properly.
The rules to be followed are given below. Avoid the activities mentioned below, if you want your ancestors to accept your offerings.
1. Do not perform any auspicious work on Pitru Paksha days.
2. Do not purchase any new vehicle or other items.
3. Avoid non-vegetarian food totally.
4. Those performing Shraddha rituals should not cut their nails. Neither should they shave or get a haircut.
5. Avoid tobacco, cigarettes, or alcohol. Such things will hinder you from getting the results of performing Shraddha rituals.
6. Avoid wearing slippers in the house for the entire 16 days.
7. Supposedly, Pitrus may come to your home in any form during Pitru Paksha. Hence, do not harm any animals like cows, cats, or dogs that come to your house. Instead, give them food and treat them kindly.
8. Those performing the Shraddha should strictly observe celibacy.
9. Avoid eating gram, cumin, lentils, black salt, cucumber, gourd, mustard greens, etc.
10. Iron vessels should not be used for rituals. Use silver, gold, copper, or bronze vessels.
11. If Shraddha Karma is done at certain places, it gives special benefits. Such places include Gaya, Badrinath, and Prayag, where ancestors can get salvation.
12. For the Pind Daan and Tarpan, use your land alone. Ancestors will not get the donation given at the door of another person.
13. Shraddha Karma shouldn’t be done during evening, night, dawn, or dusk.
14. During Pitru Paksha, give plenty of food to brahmins, cows, dogs, cats, ants, and crows.
As this period is considered inauspicious, Shraddha rituals should be done under the guidance of knowledgeable priests.
The Shraddha is performed on the exact lunar day when the ancestor died. But some special days are allotted for those who died in a certain manner or enjoyed a certain status in life. Sarva Pitru Amavasya, also called Mahalaya Amavasya, is the most important day during Pitru Paksha. On this day, Shraddha can be performed for all ancestors, irrespective of the lunar day they died. Those who forgot to perform Shraddha, too, can do it on this day. Shraddha rituals performed on this day are considered as beneficial as those conducted in Gaya, a very holy place to perform the rite.