Lifes most memorable moments are often those spent in the company of a dear one who has imperceptibly left an indelible mark in our journey. When they are snatched away by death”s steely clasp, we are left behind to mourn and grieve, not just for their death but what died within us in ther loss.
Whilst tainting every joyous occasion with suffering in remembrance is not advisable, our sages therefore in their wisdom, appointed a certain time of the year to honour them. This period of 16 days which ended today, is known as ‘Shraadh’ or Pitrapaksh” . It is recommended that new ventures, business, or clothing not be bought during the length of Shraadha. Instead, depending on the ‘tithi’ or day of death, according to the hindu calendar, corresponding to that day, among the 16, ceremonies involving charity be performed, in remembrance of the departed souls, as also to pray for their well-being,to whatever realm they may have progressed .
I am not a religiously ritualistic individual like most others. Yet there are certain ceremonies which seem in consonance with even a cynical questioning mind. If one day in a year be devoted to praying for those who have helped shape our lives, given it a form which has enriched us, then it is but a neglegible step to repay our indebtedness to them, pray for their salvation, while at once seeking their blessings.
Tears seem just a drop of nothingness, even if arisen from the depths of a bereaved soul.
For those to who finding the ‘tithi’ is problematic, or others who might prefer in a single day to honour all the departed souls of their family, it is the last day of the period,the 16th day, today when through the chantings of mantras, a plea is made to the Divine for helping them in their onward journey. Their favourite food is prepared, without onion, garlic, and distributed. Four portions one each for the crow, dog, cow, ant is kept aside, to reflect that all forms of life ought to be respected.
Needless to add that for those to who the services of a Pandit are not available, a simple visit to the temple and a prayer made with an earnest heart would suffice. It is the intention behind any practise which is of utmost importance. Rituals are at most a disciplining, and mood enhancing methodology. Sifting through a practise always reveals the underlying attribute , which serves the purpose of a guideline along the path to spirituality. This helps in avoiding a blinkered approach to our customs while simultaneouly keeping the spirit of the tradition alive.
Tomorrow is the first day of “Navratri” or the nine nights of the mother Goddess when she is propitiated as the embodiment of “Shakti” or Primal energy.
The uniqueness of being an Indian is never as strongly sensed than during these quaint festivals , which help energise and reinvigorate. Life would seem so artficially enhanced bereft of these..
On Shraadha however..
I wage not any feud with Death
For changes wrought on form and face;
No lower life that earth’s embrace
May breed with him, can fright my faith.
Eternal process moving on,
From state to state the spirit walks;
And these are but the shatter’d stalks,
Or ruin’d chrysalis of one.
Nor blame I Death, because he bare
The use of virtue out of earth:
I know transplanted human worth
Will bloom to profit, otherwhere.
Alfred Lord Tennyson