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Pitra Paksh/ Shraaddh Paksha/ Kanaagat
Pitra Paksh, also known as 'Pitri Paksh', 'Kanaagat' or 'Shraaddh Paksha' is a fifteen/ Sixteen day period reserved in the latter half of the Hindu month of Bhadrapada for paying tribute to the ancestors. The fortnight is considered inauspicious and hence people are advised not to begin any new work or major undertaking. No marriages, engagements or other such functions are celebrated during 'Shraaddh Paksha' and in some communities people even refrain from taking long journeys or going abroad.
This 'Pitri Paksh' (fortnight dedicated to ancestors) is also called Kanaagat, as it coincides with transit of Sun into Zodiac sign of Kanya (Virgo).
In 2014, the Pitra Paksh/ Shraaddh Paksha/ Kanaagat will start on 09th September and end on 24th September.
The Legend Of Pitri Paksh
According to Hindu mythology, it is believed that during the period of Pitra Paksha, the souls of our ancestors leave Yama Lok or Pitri Lok and come down to the earth to live in the homes of their descendants. Here, they ought to be welcomed by serving them food and drinks during the performance of the Shraddha, or the prayers held for seeking peace for these souls.
There is an interesting legend associated with Pitri Paksh, which is as follows.
It is said that after the great donor king Karna died, his soul reached heaven. There, he was welcomed by the Gods, who offered him gold and jewels in place of food. But Karna was feeling hungry and wanted real food. So when he enquired about the reason behind serving him gold and jewels, he was told that during his life on earth, he had always donated these things only. Since, he had never donated any food for his ancestors during the Shraddha Paksha, he would not get any food himself.
On hearing this, Karna told the Gods that being unaware about the identity of his ancestors, he was unable to donate food to them during Shraddha. So, the Gods sent him back to earth for a period of fifteen days, during which time he rectified his mistake by donating enough food and water in the name of his anscestors. This fifteen day period came to be celebrated as the Pitri Paksh.
Rituals Associated With Pitra Paksh
Donating food and water is one of the most important aspects of paying homage to the ancestors during Pitri Paksha. According to Hindu culture, it is important for a son to perform shraaddha of his ancestors during the Pitri Paksh, as it is the only way of ensuring the attainment of moksh for them. In addition to performing Shraaddha, tarpan and pinddaan also form an integral part of the rituals of this fortnight of Kanaagat.
You may also visit https://astrodevam.com/festivals-of-india-mahalaya-paksha-shraadh-begins.html for additional information regarding this period.
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