Sarva Pitru Amavasya or All fathers’ New Moon Day is intended for all departed souls in general irrespective of the lunar day they died. It is the most important day of Pitru Paksha. Pitru Paksha is a Sanskrit word that literally stands for ‘fortnight of the ancestors.’ Pitru means ancestors and Paksha means fortnight. Therefore, Pitru Paksha is a 15 lunar day period during which the Hindus pay homage to their ancestors mainly by way of food offerings. The period commences with the full moon day or Purnima that takes place immediately after Ganesh Chaturthi and ends with the new moon day or Amavasya known as Sarva Pitru Amavasya or Mahalaya Amavasya. This last day is the most important and highly sacred day.
Rites and Rituals of Sarva Pitru Amavasya
On this day, Shraddh and Tarpanam rituals are performed for the deceased members of the household who died on the tithis of Chaturdashi, Purnima or Amavasya. The performance of Sarva Pitru Amavasya rites can also compensate for any Shraddh ceremony apart from those following the tithis which may have been skipped during the year.
A shraddh ritual performed on this day is considered as fruitful and sacred as the one conducted in the holy city of Gaya, which is regarded as a special place to perform such rites.
Generally, a Shraddh is performed by the eldest son or any male relative of the paternal branch of the family limiting to the three preceding generations. However, on Sarva Putra Amavasya or Matamaha, the daughter’s son can also offer Sharaddh for the maternal side of the family if there is no male heir in the mother’s family. Some castes perform the Shraddh for only one generation. However, before performing the ritual, it is mandatory that the male child should have undergone a thread ceremony.
Significance and Sentiments
According to the Hindu religion, it is widely believed that a person should repay three types of Rinas or debts to attain life without any agonies. The three Rinas are Deva Rina, Rishi Rina and Pithru Rina which is debt to God, guru and ancestors.
It is regarded as the responsibility of the son to serve the parents when they are living as well as after their demise by performing the Shraddh to relieve the departed souls. The importance of these rites and rituals are mentioned in the Puranas namely, the Garuda Purana, Vayu Purana, Agni Purana, Matsya Purana and Markandeya Purana.