Thursday, 24 September, 2020

Shradha Ritual In Hindu Religion


Ram Dayal Rakesh


Religion is each individual’s sacred relation with his God. This divine transformation is the result of faith in God who epitomises truth, justice and love. This is universal and common to all religions.
Shradh ceremony is very old tradition in Madheshi society too. It is assumed that this tradition is prevalent in this society from time immemorial. To be very specific, it is believed that it is in vouge in Hindu religion from the Vedic period. The very word shradh means the act of remembering one's dead ancestors. It also reminds us to express our sincere gratitude to our departed parents who were very near and dear and close to us while they were alive.

Customary In Many Religions
It is not customary in Hindu religion only but in so many religions of the world. The Buddhist Japanese celebrate the Obon festival from August 13 to 16. During this period they observe this ritual praying for eternal peace for their dead ancestors. Obon is also annual Japanese Buddhist custom to honour the spirits of the ancestors and is a time for many to visit villages and home towns.
Mexican Catholics visit graveyards of their relatives and decorate them with fresh flowers for paying due homage. Jews also remember their departed ones on Yom Hashoah. This tradition is called the Holocaust. Americans also remember their dead ancestors on the occasion of Halloween.
In Hindu scriptures, words like Pinda pitriyajna, mahapritriya yajna and ashtaka are well known. They have been mentioned in the ancient Vedic literatures which are proof enough that this tradition was in vouge in Vedic society. Pindpitriyajna is equal to Shradha itself which has been mentioned in Gobhilagrihyasutra.This word is also found in Kathopanishad.
They are revered sometimes like gods because they are more powerful. There is a popular believe in Madheshi society that if their dead ancestors are happy then they give blessing to their siblings. Sometimes it proves cent percent true. So their siblings leave no stone unturned to please their late ancestors. They observe this ritual for complete one fortnight from the darker half of the month of Aswin (Aswin Krishna Pakshya Pratipada) and ends on the brighter half of the same month (Ashwin Shukla Pakshya Pratipada.)

Remembering Ancestors
"Truly speaking, the word Shradha chiefly indicates towards the reminiscences of our late ancestors. Recollecting our late ancestors as stated earlier is no other than to understand the know-how of them, their activities, their conducts, their manners of actions, religion, culture as well as each and every branch of sacred and miscellaneous knowledge of them. The rightful knowledge of them leads as to go ahead in our life's journey. Thus while saying to our late history and culture they do not simply mean the accounts of the late kings and emperors but they compel us to say that they contain the whole field of this sacred and the miscellaneous knowledge of these days.
One should not have to consider history and culture as the dead subjects but it is inevitable to accept them as the life giving one instead. It is essential for us to study and teach pupils of those sacred and miscellaneous knowledge which are forgotten today.
This is the reason why our ancient seers had considered the history and the Puranas as the fifth Veda.''
(Shreemad Bhagawat Purana 1.4)

One foreign scholar has also written in the following lines:
“Death rites are important not only for the future of the dead but also for the continued welfare of the living and, since only a male can effectuate them; the importance of sons to ensure the safety of the deceased spirit is emphasized.”
Jeanean Fowler: Hinduism: P. 59.
So it is clear that Hindu people believe blindly in an afterlife of some kind.
This death ceremony is celebrated for a complete one fortnight and one day more.So this is called Sorah Shradh because it is started from full moon of Bhadra to 1st of bright Aswin.The whole fortnight is devoted to the worship of one’s ancestors.
This is called Pitripaksha. Or Mahalaya, a 16-day period in the Hindu calendar when people pay homage to their ancestors. This ritual is performed under the guidance of a priest and he also recites scriptures.
Annual Ritual
Many of them change their sacred threads on this occasion .Hindu people perform rites for their dead, generally at Pashupatinath and on the bank of the holy Bagmati River in Gokarneshwar. Here I would like to quote:
“Bathing rituals are a part of many festivals. Rivers, especially sources and confluences, are considered sacred in Nepal. Their life-giving and cleansing properties make appropriate symbols in annual rites held to honour the dead (Gokarna Aunsi and Sorah Sraddah).
Jim Goodman: Guide to Enjoying Nepalese Festivals: Introduction, P.2.
They offer food- balls of rice or barley flour and water to their souls. Some of them especially the Madheshi people go to Gaya , tiny town of Bihar Province of neighbouring country India ,situated on the bank of Falgu river for offering Pind to their departed relatives. Many of them do not shave and cut their hair or nails for a complete fortnight and eat vegetarian foods. Hindus perform this festival with religious feelings and fervor every year in this fixed time of the period. It is performed to pacify the souls of the deceased ancestors. The eldest son of a family performs fixed certain ceremonies prescribed by the Hindu scriptures. He is supposed to offer oblations (Pinda prepared with rice and barley flour) and this offering is called Pinddan.
They also offer water for the departed souls hoping that they will get it where ever they are. A special delicious dish is prepared which is called rice pudding and is served to the priest and other members of his family on this occasion. They also give some amount of money and new clothes to them as Dakshina. They believe that what they eat reaches the departed souls and sustains them in peace. This ceremony has great importance for them. So they never forget to celebrate this festival in their life time.
This fortnight is devoted to the worship of one’s ancestors.The ninth day is called Matri Navami, dedicated to female ancestors.

“The festival commemorates the story of Karna Raja, who fasted heavily in his life and gave gifts of pure gold to Brahmins.When he went to heaven he was served only gold to eat, since this had ever been his sole gift. The king begged to be allowed 15 more days on earth. After his wish was granted, the king spent his time giving away huge quantities of food, returning to a more comfortable niche in heaven.”
Jim Goodman:Guide to ENJOYING Nepalese Festivals:59

(The author writes on cultural issues frequently) 

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