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Unknown Facts of Mahalaya Amavasay

Mahalaya Amavasay
Mahalaya Amavasay - Pitru Paksha, a fortnight just before the start of Navarathri (9 nights), are very important days to the Hindus. During these days the Hindus perform rituals in memory of departed family members and to lift their souls to higher level in the nether world.
Mahalaya Amavasay

Mahalaya Amavasay is a lunar cycle of 15 days falling in the month of Asvayuja (around September) preceding the Amavasay which normally falls during September or October of English calendar. This is also known as 'Pitru Paksha'. The most important day of Paksha is the last day of Paksha on the Amavasay day which falls on 30th September in this year. This Amavasay is known as the Mahalaya Amavasay. This fortnight is important and sacred for Hindus and they offer oblations to their departed ancestors.

Significance of Mahalaya Amavasay

The last day as mentioned is the Amavasay – the new moon day which is the most important day in the year for paying respects to the ancestors by the way of oblations. It is believed that on these 15 nights the spirits (souls) of the departed ancestors come and stay in the earth plane and the food we offer will satisfy the spirits of ancestors. On these days offering tharpanas (oblations with water to the gods, spirits of ancestors etc) are auspicious and beneficial.

Each of these days is having the benefits in different ways. These tharpanas are belied to have the power of liberating the souls of their curses and lift them up to a higher position in the nether world. So it is considered as an act of compassion to the departed souls. The final day of Amavasay is the most important day for doing tharpanas for the departed souls especially those who died to weapons or accidents. During this day the gods treat all the souls alike. It is the belief that the souls of departed, if pleased will change our life to be one of peace, tranquil and of prosperity. The gods also will suggest to please the souls of ancestors which will solve most of our problems.

The legend about the Mahalaya Paksha

It is a belief among Hindus that the charity and good deeds done during the life will be accounted and will be returned by gods in many folds. So also for bad things done and harassment to others will be returned in the same coin many fold. Karna (the illegitimate son of Kunthi) one of the Heros of Mahabharata, was known for his charity. He not even missed a single day without doing any charity and was known as the Dhaana sura veera Karna (Dhaana means charity, sura and veera means courage and boldness). On his death he was returned the dues for his charitable work in this world which were all in the form of gold, silver and precious stones etc as he had not given any food to anybody in charity. No food was given to him. He prayed to the god of death for food. The god of death suggested him to go back to earth for fourteen (14) days to make up for competing the charitable act of giving food and come back. Karna came back to earth and fed the poor and the Brahmins for 14 days and offered oblations of water. Then he went back to the world after death. He had no dearth of food thereafter. These 14 days of Karna are commemorated in the Paksha.

Because of the grace of god of death, the offerings made during the Mahalaya paksha benefit all the departed souls, irrespective of their connections with us. Every communities of all the religions emphasis the importance of giving food to the needy as charity. It is said that the best vehicle for realizing god is the human body and empty stomach will not appreciate any religion. Hence the charity of food is the highest order of charity or gift. The Muslims are advised by Quran to give charity in the form of food articles to the needy especially during Ramzan just as for us during this paksha especially. So let us afford food to the hungry and unfortunate. Perhaps this may be prevalent in Christian community also.

Paksha – Moon Phase

Lunar month is divided into 2 halves – fortnights. Both the fortnights will have 14 days each and in one paksha there will be Pournami – full moon day and the other paksha will have Amavasay. The Pakshas are identified as the Krishna (dark) Paksha and Sukla (white) paksha. The Krishna Paksha is waning period of moon. The moon reduces in size day by day till it is new moon day on Amavasay. Sukla paksha is the waxing phase of moon. The moon increases in size till it become full moon on the 15th day. After Pournami till Amavasay it is Krishna Paksha and from Amavasay to Pournami it is Sukla Paksha. Mahalaya paksha is the 14 days before the Mahalaya Amavasay and the Amavasay. The Amavasay is the most important day in the Paksha. Those who could not do the tharpanas can do it on this day. Those whose parents are alive are not to do tharpanas. After this period, the period of Dussera celebrations start with the worship of the goddesses and displaying dolls and social visits of neighbors by the ladies.

As explained earlier the most important part is the Anna Dana – free feeding of the poor. The more the number of persons fed, the more is the effect depending on our capacity. If possible the best thing is to identify the poor who is in need of food, call them home and feed them. If that is not possible for some reason, buy food and give them to eat. There may be some orphanages that may be in need of persons to feed the inmates, though many of the orphanages are having enough resources to feed their inmates. Giving cloths, bed sheets and blankets to wear and cover are the next best thing as donation. Other auspicious things to be done are feeding cows and dogs.

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