This article explains all about pitru pakshas or shraddhs, its significance, the rituals  performed as well as  Do`s and Don’ts during  pitru pakshas .

What is Pitru Paksha?

In the ancient texts, pitrus or pitras refer to ancestors and paksha means a particular time. So the term pitru paksha suggests it is the time when we offer prayers and food to the ancestors.

Pitru Paksha or Pitri paksha is a 16–lunar day period in Hindu calendar when Hindus pay homage to their ancestor (Pitrs), especially through food offerings.

Pitru Paksha is considered by Hindus to be inauspicious, given the death rite performed during the ceremony, known as Shraddha or tarpan.

According to South Indian Amavasyant calendar it falls in the lunar month of Bhadrapada beginning with the full moon day or day after full moon day.

According to North Indian Purnimant calendar this period falls in the lunar month of Ashwin beginning with the full moon day in Bhadrapada or next day of full moon day.

It is just nomenclature of lunar months which differs and both North Indians and South Indians perform Shraddha ritual on similar days.

Mythology behind Pitru Paksha 

According to Hindu mythology, the tradition of offering Shraddha (donations) during Pitru Paksha is attributed to Karna. Karna was a charitable person and had donated gold and other precious things throughout his life to help the needy and downtrodden. When he died, his soul went to heaven, where he was given gold and jewels to eat. Amused, he went to Indra to know the reason for the same. Indra told him that despite donating many things, particularly gold during his life, he had never donated any food to his ancestors. Karna reasoned that since he wasn’t aware of his ancestors, he never donated anything. So  Karna was permitted to return to earth for a 15–day period, so that he could perform Shraddha and donate food and water in their memory. This period is now known as Pitru Paksha.


 For  Hindus the performance of Shraddha by a son during Pitru Paksha is regarded as compulsory, to ensure that the soul of the ancestor goes to heaven. According to Garuda Purana  “there is no salvation for a man without a son”.The scripture Markandeya Purana says that if the ancestors are satisfied with the shraddhas, they will bestow health, wealth, knowledge and longevity, and ultimately heaven and salvation or moksha upon the performer.

The Rituals

The Ritual of Shraddha involves the male member, usually the eldest son of a family. The male who performs the shraddha should take a purifying bath  and is expected to wear a dhoti. He is required wear a ring of kush grass. Then the ancestors are invoked to reside in the ring. The shraddha is usually performed bare-chested, as the position of the sacred thread worn by him needs to be changed multiple times during the ceremony. The shraddha involves pinda-daan, which is an offering to the ancestors of pindas  i.e cooked rice and barley flour balls mixed with ghee and black sesame seeds,  accompanying the release of water from the hand. It is followed by the worship of Vishnu, a gold image or Shaligram stone and Yama. The food offering is then made, cooked especially for the ceremony on the roof. The offering is considered to be accepted if a crow arrives and devours the food; the bird is believed to be a messenger from Yama or the spirit of the ancestors. A cow and a dog are also fed, and Brahmin priests are also offered food. Once the ancestors (crow) and Brahmins have eaten, the family members can have lunch.

Pitru Paksha -2016 Dates

16 September (Friday) Purnima Shraddha

17 September (Saturday) Pratipada Shraddha

18 September (Sunday) Dwitiya Shraddha

19 September (Monday) Tritiya Shraddha, Chaturthi Shraddha

20 September (Tuesday) Maha Bharani, Panchami Shraddha

21 September (Wednesday) Shashthi Shraddha

22 September (Thursday) Saptami Shraddha

23 September (Friday) Ashtami Shraddha

24 September (Saturday) Navami Shraddha

25 September (Sunday) Dashami Shraddha

26 September (Monday) Ekadashi Shraddha

27 September (Tuesday) Dwadashi Shraddha

28 September (Wednesday) Magha Shraddha, Trayodashi Shraddha

29 September (Thursday) Chaturdashi Shraddha

30 September (Friday) Sarva Pitru Amavasya

 Things to be avoided during Pitru Paksha.

  • This isn’t a good time for new beginnings. Avoid starting anything new, even something seemingly as insignificant as buying and wearing new clothes, washing hair, cutting hair and even shaving .
  • As per  astrologers, getting married, celebrating the birth of a new born, settling down in a new home, starting a new business and other such important events should be postponed or advanced so as to not to fall under the period of Pitru Paksha.
  • Eating non vegetarian food or even including onion and garlic in the food is forbidden.
  • It is believed that only when a person performs the rituals with earnestness and no malice at heart does his efforts bear fruit. Thus, it is important to clear one’s mind of all negative thoughts.It is also important to refrain from pleasurable activities for the ritual to be successful.