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26-07-2017, 03:46 PM

The human birth is hailed as the most important as it can lead to permanent release from the cycle of births and deaths. Sastras prescribe forty samskaras (purificatory rites) for rendering the three human bodies, the sthula, sukshma and karana (gross, subtle and causal), pure and fit for redemption by God's grace. Apara kriyas (post death ceremonies) and Sradham performed for one's parents are some of the most essential samskaras.

"Punnama narakat yasmat pitaram trayate suta:|
Tasmat putra iti prokta iha chapi paratra cha||" (Garuda Puranam 21.32)

"The son saves his parents from the hell called 'Put' and is therefore called 'Putra' in this world as well as the next."
"Anityani sarirani vibhavo naiva sasvata:|
Nityam sannihito mrityu: kartavyo dharmasangraha||" (Garuda Puranam 424,25)

"Bodies are transient; wealth is fleeting. Death is ever hovering; Dharma (virtue) alone should be accumulated." It is true that unless the jiva has attained mukti, he carries his accumulated load of punya and papa when he leaves the human body and departs for his next birth. Depending on Yama Dharmaraja's verdict on the basis of his karmic load, the jiva is left to enjoy the pleasures of swarga, suffer the misery of naraka or is born into fresh

bodies on the earth- man, animal, bird, worm, tree, grass etc. Here the Apara kriya and sraadham performed by his son play a very helpful and positive role. These ceremonies, if properly performed, are efficacious in mitigating the misery of the jiva, increasing his happiness and even obtaining his permanent union with the Lord. Sastras emphasise that these are obligatory duties for the son. He will be rid of Pitru-runa (debt) only by performing

these ceremonies properly. If he omits to perform them with sradha, ie. faith, he and his descendants will suffer untold misery. As the ceremony is to be performed with sradha, it is called sraadham.

First Day

A dying man suffers terribly. Hence before death actually knocks on the door, he should hasten to chant God's name, chant Vedas, Gayatri mantra, stotras etc. and sip Ganga water. Sastras declare unequivocally that the final thoughts of the dying man form the basis of his next birth. Hence it is important for the relatives to create a divine and peaceful atmosphere, chant Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavatham, stotrams like Vishnu Sahsranamam and, most importantly,

avoid mundane discussions and quarrels. When life departs, the body (sava) is treated to various ceremonies. At the same time the jiva is actually in the state of Preta. Sava is not the same as Preta. Sava is the body, whereas Preta is the condition of jiva. The jiva starts his long journey to the abode of Yama. The Yamadutas drag the jiva away from this world. The son (karta) takes the body on his lap, chants Panchaksharam in his right ear and drops the

Ganga water in his mouth. He then lays the body on a bed of Kusa (darbha) on the floor with head in direction of south. Rice is dropped in the mouth by close relatives. It should be noted that all the Apara kriya ceremonies are to be performed as laid down in the veda sutra to which the deceased belongs.

After homa, the body is bathed, fresh cloth is draped, decorations like garlands done and body carried to the cremation ground. The body is consigned to flames with Agni carried from home amid chanting of mantras. Homa is performed. The son and other relatives take bath in the cremation ground and return home. The karta is expected to shave at this time and then bathe.

The son now performs Nagna Prachchadana sraadham. As the clothes get burnt, the jiva, who is used to wearing clothes, feels the sense of shame. For this, in this sradham, clothes for ten days along with food items are gifted. The house has by now been washed. Though the body is burnt, the Preta feels terrible hunger and thirst. Pashanasthapanam, ie. Establishing of stones for invoking the Preta at two places, ie. Nadi-tira kunda (riverbank) and

Grihadvara kunda (house) is now done. Tilodaka (water mixed with til) and Vasodaka (water from cloth) along with coconut water etc. are offered at these two kundas. This procedure should be commenced right immediately after cremation in order to help the Preta overcome his insatiable hunger and thirst.

Presently there is a tendency to do Pashanasthapanam on the ninth day. This practice leads to severe suffering for the Preta for eight days and should not be encouraged. If not possible on day one, it should be started at least the next day or as early as possible. Tilodaka is offered thrice on day one. The

number of offerings is increased by one every day, leading to twelve on day ten. Vasodaka is thrice every day. Pindadanam, ie. Offering of rice ball is also done at the grihadvara kunda every day. Til (gingelly seed), kusa (darbha) and Tulasi are held to be very sacred and dear to Vishnu. Til originated from

the sweat and kusa from the hair of Vishnu. At the base of darbha grass is Brahma, Vishnu in the middle and Siva in the top. Hence the use of these three articles in the various sraadhas is prescribed.

The jiva, on departing from the human body, assumes the body of air (vayaviya sarira). The pinda (rice ball) offered and the food gifted during sradhams help in the formation of Pindaja (more solid) sarira. Vayaviya sarira's suffering is mitigated by the formation of Pindaja sarira. The first day's pindadan helps in the formation of head, the second day's the neck and shoulders, the third the heart, the fourth the back, the fifth the navel, the sixth the waist,

the seventh the generative organ, the eighth the thighs and the ninth day's the legs. If Pindadan is delayed, Vayavya sarira would continue and the jiva's hardship would become unbearable. This development is the reason for making earnest offerings of Pinda and water in time every day without postponing

to ninth day. The offered Pinda gets divided into four parts. Two parts go into the formation of the Pindasarira, one part goes to Yamadutas and the fourth part satisfies the hunger of the Preta. Gnatis (blood relatives of seven generations) also join in the offering of Tilodaka and Vasodaka every day in the Naditira (riverbank) kunda.

Ekottaravrudhi sradham is also to be performed every day from day one. Rice and vegetables (Ama sradham) for three persons are gifted on first day. The quantity is to be increased by one person's need (ekottara vrudhi) every day, similar to tilodaka at the kunda. The quantity for twelve persons is to be

gifted on the tenth day. Nava sradham by way of gifting of rice should also be performed on odd days, ie. Day one, three, five, seven, nine and eleven.

Second Day

Sanchayana, ie. Collection of bones of the dead body is performed at the cremation ground on the second day. The Asthi is then let in sacred waters of rivers or buried. Other sraadhams are to be continued every day till tenth day as mentioned earlier. No shaving is to be done by the karta except on the tenth day as prescribed.

Tenth Day: Dasastu

On the tenth day, Dasaham, those Gnatis who have not joined every day, perform the cumulative offering of 75 tilodakas and 30 vasodakas. On this day, as the Pindaja sarira is complete, the hunger and thirst increase manifold. Hence large quantities of food to the liking of the jiva are offered this day by way of Prabhutabali. The pashanas (stones) in the two kundas are then disposed of in water. On returning home after shave and bath, Santhi homam and Ananda homam are performed.

Eleventh Day

On the eleventh day, Punyahavachanam is performed to remove impurity of karta and the home which pervaded in the last ten days. After Nava sradham, Vrushotsargam should be completed. Here homa is performed with Gosukta and a bull is worshipped and is left free to graze. The bull is gifted away to a Siva temple. Bull represents Dharma. Vrushotsargam helps in the attainment of auspicious worlds by the jiva. Ekoddishta sraadham is then performed.

There are sixteen such sraadhas to be performed during the year. This sraadham performed on the eleventh day is called Adya masikam. The sraadham is followed by Pinda pradanam, bath and Punyahavachanam.

The balance 15 Ekoddishta sradhas to be performed later are: Unamasikam on any day in the period of 3 days from 27th day; Traipakshikam in the 5 day period from 40th day; Unashanmasikam in the 10 day period from 170th day; Unabdikam in the 15 day period from 340th day; eleven Anumasikams on the monthly tithi in the11 months. It is currently the practice to 'attract' (advance) the above 15 sraadhas and perform all of them on eleventh day itself

through gift of rice and vegetables (Ama sradham). In case the karta passes away during the year, the Ekoddishta sraadhas would remain incomplete, leading to failure of release of jiva from Preta state into Pitru plane. Further this kind of advance action also helps in celebrating any marriages etc. in the family during the year if necessary. The 15 Ekoddishta sraadhas are however not to be missed on the appointed days during the year. They should be performed for timely assistance to the jiva during his long journey.

Twelfth Day: Sapindikaranam

On the eleventh and twelfth days, the Preta eats the offered food heartily. The main ceremony on the twelfth day is Sapindikaranam. The immediate Pitrus in the family are reckoned to be three. The father of the deceased is Vasu; the grandfather is Rudra and the great-grandfather is Aditya. This is how they were being invoked in all the sraadhams performed by the deceased all these days. The time has now come for the jiva of the deceased to leave the

status of Preta and become Pitru. He becomes the new Vasu for the Karta. There is a generational change. The earlier Aditya now leaves pitruloka and proceeds to swarga. For this purpose the Argya in the Ekoddishta sraadha for the deceased and the Argya in the Parvana sradha for the three forefathers are now mixed. The Pinda for the deceased Preta is divided into three parts and mixed with the three Pindas of the forefathers. This is Sapindikaranam,

resulting in the Preta becoming Pitru. The three Pindas now represent the new Vasu, Rudra and Aditya.


The Yamadutas tie ropes on the thirteenth day and drag the Pindaja sariraka jiva of the size of only a thumb (angushta matra) on the long path towards the abode of Yama, the city of Samyamini. The distance is 86000 yojanas (one yojana is about thirteen kilometres). This journey takes one human year, equal to one day for Devas. The virtuous cross this path with comfort. But the sinners suffer various types of miseries like extremes of cold, heat, rain and

other agonies caused by various surroundings and inhabitants. The jiva experiences unbearable hunger and thirst continuously. The path is full of stones and thorns; there is no shade or water available throughout the path. The jiva is dragged day and night without any rest. He travels 247 yojanas every day. He passes sixteen cities on the way,which are both sources of different types of torture as well as places for some rest. The cities are:

1.Yamyapuri: Here the jiva compares the suffering undergone by him now amidst the taunts of Yamabhatas and hordes of Pretas with the pleasures of family life enjoyed earlier; he becomes more distressed.
2. Souripuri: On the way the jiva grabs the pinda and water offered by the karta during Anumasika sradham. Seeing the terrific form of the king Jangam in this city he becomes mortally afraid. He takes the food offered during the traipakshika sradham.
3. Nagendra bhavan: The jiva passes through a frightening forest . After reaching this city the jiva takes the food offered during the next Masikam.

4. Gandharvanagar: After another bout of distressing travel, the jiva reaches this city in the third month where he consumes the food offered during the next Masikam.
5. Sailagam: In the fourth month the jiva takes the food offered by the karta. He faces here a shower of stones.
6. Kraunchapuri: The jiva takes the food offered during the fifth Masikam.

7. Krurapuri: The sixth month Masika offering reaches the jiva here; he is thoroughly shaken by the terrible suffering he continuously goes through.
8. Vichitra bhavan: Unashanmasika sradha offering now becomes the food for the very hungry and tired jiva. In the middle of this journey, towards the close of six months, the dreadful Vaitarana river comes in between Vichitra bhavan and Bahvapad. This river is full of foul smelling blood, bones, flesh and

terrible fish and surrounded by ferocious birds. The danas (gifts) made specially on the twelfth day go a long way in mitigating the severe hardships faced by the jiva. These danas are given prior to Sapindikaranam. Gift of a kapila (black coloured) cow helps in easy and quick crossing of the dreaded Vaitarani

river. The sixth month Masikam offering is now fed to the jiva on the other bank of the river. It is therefore necessary to pay special attention to choose a good Brahmana and make suitable offerings in this Masikam.

9. Bahvapad: The seventh month Masikam offering reaches the jiva here.
10. Dukhad: The suffering continues.
11. Nanakrandapuri: As the name indicates, this place is full of cries of distress of Pretas. The frightened jiva weeps inconsolably. The eighth month Masikam offering is fed now to him.

12. Sutapta bhavan: Here the jiva experiences extreme heat. The ninth month Masikam offering reaches him now.
13. Roudra nagar: Further terrible experiences await the jiva here. He takes the tenth month Masikam offering.
14. Payovarshan: Torrential rain and hailstorm are the features of this place. The jiva takes the eleventh month Masikam offering.

15. Sithadhyapuri: The jiva reaches here after eleven and a half months. He is exposed now to extreme cold. He also experiences severe hunger.
16. Bahudharma bhitipuri: In this last city, there are twelve devatas called Sravanas. They are the powerful sons of Brahma and they report all the good and bad actions of the jiva to Yamaraj and Chitragupta.

Dasa (ten items) danams on the twelfth day are considered very important. The ten items in Dasa danam are: cow, land, til, gold, ghee, clothes, grains, jaggery, silver and salt. In addition Deepa (lamp), Nouka (boat), saiya (bed), kambala (blanket), chatra (umbrella), chappal (padaraksha) etc. are all gifted on this day. If danams are not given, the Yamabhatas taunt the jiva saying that no help has come from the karta to mitigate his suffering. It is

necessary for the Karta to perform Sandhyavandanam during all the impure (Asoucha) days of Apara Kriya. Unlike Deva Puja, Sandhyavandanam is Nitya karma, not to be missed. When the karta sits for Sandhyavandanam and performs achamanam, the asoucha (impurity) leaves him temporarily and returns at the close of the thrice-daily ritual.

Sodakumbha sraadham is performed on the twelfth day after completing Sapindikaranam. A kumbha filled with water is gifted. Cocunut water is also given. Sastras prescribe that this should be performed every day for the whole year. It is nowadays the practice to perform this every month on the day previous to Anumasika sraadham.

Thirteenth Day

On the thirteenth day, Grihayagnam or subhasweekaram is performed. Auspiciousness is welcomed back. Udakasanthi, Navagraha homam etc. are performed. The family prays at the temple in the evening on this day. Grihayagnam is performed again on the day after the Abdika (first annual) sradham.


Pitrus in Pitruloka are permitted by Yama to visit their descendant family on earth on many specified occasions every year. They expect their hunger and thirst to be relieved by offerings of food, water and clothes by the son by way of sradham on all these occasions. The pinda, til and water offered in remembrance and food and clothes given to the appointed Brahmanas in the sradham are transformed by Agni and Pitrudevatas like Agnishvatta into

items suitable for consumption of the Pitrus and sent to them wherever they are and in whichever bodies they might be living. If sradham is not performed by the son, the disappointed Pitrus curse generations of descendants. These curses have strong adverse effects on progeny, marriage, education, employment etc.

Sastras count 96 occasions of such visits by Pitrus in a year, which means that 96 sradhams are to be performed. Presently, the Pratyabdika (Annual - in the month/ tithi) sradham alone is being performed as per Parvana vidhanam, ie. with full features. Mahalaya sradham is performed by some in a partial

form. On Amavasya days and on the first days of the months (ie.12 no.; otherwise at least 4 no., once in three months), Tarpanam is being performed. Tarpanam is also considered as simplified and abbreviated sraadham.


In ancient times there was a brahmana called Ruchi. He did not marry. He was roaming around like a vanaprastha. He became a true Gnani, no doubt. One day Pitrus of his lineage met him on the way. They asked him to marry and produce sons and rid himself of Pitru-debt. Ruchi engaged in a long debate with them. He expatiated on the dangers of downfall for one who is attached to his family. The Pitrus finally told him that he would only go to hell

after his death and undergo great suffering on account of the sin he is committing by way of neglect of Pitrus. Now Ruchi felt that none would offer him a girl in marriage. He decided to please Brahma. After penance lasting a hundred years, Brahma appeared and expressed his complete concurrence with the advice tendered by the Pitrus. He asked Ruchi to worship Pitrus themselves for blessing him with a suitable girl for marriage. Brahma blessed that Ruchi

would become a Prajapati. Ruchi made ceremonial offerings to Pitrus in a river and sang the praise of Pitrus. His Pitru-stotras appearing in Garuda Purana have unparalleled beauty and are greatly devotional and elevating. The Pitrus appeared and happily blessed that he would immediately marry a beautiful

girl and become a Prajapati. An Apsara named Pramlocha approached Ruchi with marriage proposal for her daughter Manini. Ruchi married Manini. His son Rouchya became a Manu and was responsible for spread of human race in his manvantara. Pitrus' blessings and curses are indeed extremely powerful.

Sage Jaratkaru's story is better known. Like Ruchi, he also was a Gnani who abhorred marriage. One day he happened to see his ancestors shouting with pain from inside a well. On enquiry, the Pitrus informed him that someone called Jaratkaru in their family, who did not marry, was responsible for their piteous plight. Jaratkaru was shocked. He argued with the Pitrus about the dangers of marriage. But when he was convinced that marriage was necessary

for the redemption of the Pitrus, he agreed. He laid down a strange condition that his wife-to-be should also bear the same name as his, ie. Jaratkaru. Devi fulfilled that condition also. Manasa Devi, amsa of Parasakthi, herself became Jaratkaru and married him. Their son was Sage Astika, who later stopped king Janamejaya from mass killing of innocent snakes in the Sarpayagna organised by the king in revenge for serpent Takshaka biting his father Parikshit to death.

Devi Bhagavatham states:
"Jivato vakyakaranat kshayahe bhuribhojanat|
Gayayam pindadanachcha tribhi: putrasya putrata||" (6.4.15)

"When parents are alive, their words should be implicitly obeyed. After death, on their death anniversary, sraadham with offering of lots of food should be performed. At least once in lifetime, Sraadham (Pinda danam) should be performed in Gaya. These three actions alone make a son worthy of being called a true son."

11-04-2018, 10:48 PM
This is excellent material, very useful. I need further help. I am required to help a family do the cremation rites. Since I do not consider myself eligible to do it, I want to give the family instructions on how to do it. The family and I live in Germany. The grandmother of the family head has passed away and the cremation is set for Friday the 13th.

01-05-2018, 11:28 AM
Where can I find the detailed procedures (steps, mantras, material offered etc.) for performing maasikam ceremonies?