Courtesy: Sri.Sarma Sastrigal


Pitru Yagna

In the Yaksha Prashna of Mahabhrata there comes a Yaksha who takes away the four Pandavas and asks Dharma Raja questions about the nuances of dharma,

Is there a person who enjoys all pleasures of the senses, who is intelligent, is respected by all creatures and worshipped by the world, who breathes and yet is not alive?

Indriyartha-ananubhavan buddhim-alloka-pujitah |
sammatah sarva-bhutanam ucchvasan-ko na jivati ||

The person who fails to do his duty towards god, guests, fellow human beings, pitrus and his own self by gaining knowledge, may breathe but is not alive.


devatatithi bhrtyanam pitrnam atmanashca yah |
nanirvapati pancanam ucchvasan-na sa jivati ||

This shows the importance of the Panchamaha Yagnas that include pitru yagna or duty towards one's forefathers.
The word pitru denotes our parents, forefathers, mentors and people who have served as guides to make us who we are. We owe them our respects for two reasons, one is a sense of gratitude for what we have so far and another is to learn and imbibe the virtues that they have lived by. The Vedas order us not to neglect this pitru yagna.


deva-pitr-karyabhyam na pramaditavyam - May you not neglect your duty towards the devas and pitrus.
yani asmakam sucharitani, tani tvayopasyani. no itarani. - Imbibe the noble and virtuous actions of your preceptors and not the other.

We owe a large part of who we are to our parents and forefathers. Taking care of them, imbibing their virtues and imparting them to future generations is all a part of pitru yagna. Our culture and value system that we have gained from the rihis have been passed one like a perennial river from generation to generation that enriches our lives today. We owe a great deal of gratitude towards our forefathers for imparting this to us. We also have the responsibility to pass this along to future generations.

Paying homage to dead ancestors by tarpana and sharda is an important part of pitru yagna. The performer evokes a sense of gratitude and peace towards his diseased parents by these rituals. By offering emancipation, one is actually trying to free oneself from various predispositions that one has as a result of the debt incurred. Our forefathers have attributed so much importance to pitru tarpana that it is one of the few rituals that has been passed on to us from the age of the rishis with little modifications.

Great personalities in Ramayana and Mahabharata show the importance of pitru tarpana by giving it the care that is needed and performing it without fail even in times of distress. Sri Rama never misses a tarpana even in the heights of grief having lost Sita.


सप्तानाम् च समुद्राणाम् तेषाम् तीर्थेषु लक्ष्मण |
उपस्पृष्टम् च विधिवत् पितरः च अपि तर्पिताः || ३-७५-४


saptaanaam samudraaNaam teshaam tiirteshu lakshmana |
upasprishTam cha vidhi vat pitaraH cha api tarpitaH ||

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