The dark fortnight of Ashvin (September-October) is known as Pitr Paksha, Pitru Paksha or Mahalaya Paksha. This is an occasion to perform rites for the departed ancestors to keep their souls indebted for years. Pitr Paksha is performed for the departed immediate relatives usually up to 3 preceding generations.
Pitr Paksha is performed from the 1st day / tithi of the Ashwin month and goes up to the following New Moon (Amavasya) day. Each of these 15 days is dedicated to the Shradh of those ancestors who had met eternity on that particular day / tithi.
Pitr paksha is the occasion to repay debt to our departed ancestors by satisfying their souls by performing rites. For this purpose “Shradh” is performed with a belief that our dead ones’ souls are alive amongst us. Yamaraja, the Lord of death allows the souls to come down to the earth and receive offers from their descendants. This practice is made to the dead “pitris”. The last day of this period, the new moon day, is considered as the most important day in the year for performing obsequies and rites.
The rituals in the festival are usually performed by the eldest son in the family or a male relative from the paternal side of the family. However, during the Sarvapitri Amavasya, if a male member is absent, the daughter’s son can offer Shraddha for his maternal family. The food offerings are cooked in copper vessels and placed on cups or banana leaves.