‘Shraadh’, this topic has always amused many of us who believe in life after death and the effect which the departed souls can have on us.
The on going period of ‘Shraadh’ or “Pitru Paksha” as some call it, is a 16 day period during which the Hindus pay homage to their ancestors. It is believed that Lord Ganesha has blessed all the departed souls to relieve themselves from their sufferings during ‘shraadh’. The ancestors from this or the previous lifetime are able to approach earth planet and their descendants and feed on the willing offerings by their families.
So during this whole period, various offerings are made in terms of food, money, prayers, etc., to get the blessings of the ‘pitras’ and not to offend them in any manner. Also, people do it to ensure that the ‘pitras’ have all the basic facilities of food, water, shelter, clothing, etc., when they are far away, especially at a place which is mystical. It is also seen as a period to heal the ancestors, releasing them of their sufferings if any, and getting countless blessings from them.
Seeing various superstitions associated with the ‘shraadhs’ a sane, active mind does thinkof what fear of the dead or Necrophobia can make people do. Spending loads of money on the name of dead by feeding the already well fed Brahmins, giving them lavish gifts to ensure their ancestors will get the same things, visiting temples and praying for them during this period, doing all the totkas to get rid of the wrath of the dead. There are even some who do not eat at others place or not enjoy luxuries during these days, no matter how many sins they may be committing otherwise on day to day basis.
‘Shraadh’ has more to do about the feelings of reverence towards those who were more experienced (they were born before us), wise (depends on how you judge their judgements), and loving (relation is one to one basis- remember).We can never ever match the countless blessings, affection, love, care and concern our ancestors would have had for us but performing rituals out of fear is not what the souls expect.
What’s more important is that we treat our family members properly when they are with us in person. What good is it if we hold elaborate rituals prescribed to us by the priests for the peace of souls of the dead when we could not even take care of them well during their lifetime?? Are we showing off our love for our ancestors to the world, are we plain selfish and desire some gains out of this, or do we fear the fury of the departed souls in some way and hence seek forgiveness?
If any of these is the reason behind the rituals, then they are indeed meaningless!
To the dead, we owe only the truth which is selfless and pure.