Shraadh means to give with devotion or to offer one’s respect. Shraadh is a ritual for expressing one’s respectful feelings for the ancestors. According to Indian texts a soul has to wander about in the various worlds after death and has to suffer a lot due to past karmas. Shraadh is a means of alleviating this suffering.
Shraddhyaa Kriyate Yaa Saa: Shraadh is the ritual accomplished to satiate one’s ancestors.
The nature’s cycle keeps on going according to its fixed programme and similarly man to keeps moving from the birth to death then again to birth and so on. This goes on and on endlessly and souls that have passed away keep taking birth in new forms.
This cycle was set into process by the Almighty and our ancient Rishis and Yogis divided the human life from birth to death into various parts so that man could lead a balanced life and accomplish the tasks in his life that are important for his existence. They designated particular rituals for each part of a person’s life so that life could be lived to the full.
Along with this they also advised man to offer his thanks and gratitude to the Almighty and seek his divine blessings so that he could lead a happy, contented and divine life full of all comforts and pleasures.
According to Hindu tradition life is divided into various parts and similarly there are different Samskars which mark a particular phase or part of life. When a soul enters the womb or when a woman becomes pregnant Punsavan Samskar is accomplished.
On birth of the child Choodamani Samskar is done. When the child starts his education the Upanayan Samskar is accomplished which marks the phase of development of an ignorant individual into a knowledgable person.
Similarly when a person becomes young Vivah Samskar is accomplished whereby he gets married and enters into a new phase of life. All through his life he has to go through several Samskars and when finally he gets old and dies the Kapal Kriya Samskar is accomplished as the soul leaves to take birth in a new body.
Thus this system is very well organised and it is based on human emotions and feelings. Even after death the link with the soul continues and in India every year a ritual is carried out to offer one’s respect and love to the departed soul.
In the ancient text Garud Puraan and other Puraans it is clearly stated that by offering food to dead one’s ancestors their souls feel satiated and they bless the person with wealth, children, knowledge, joys, pleasures and a total life.
Shraadh is this ritual well known all over India and it needs no special introduction. But very few people are aware that there are twelve types of Shraadh.
1. Nitya Shraadh
It is done daily. And in this ceremony sesame seeds, grains, water, milk, fruit, vegetables and food are offered to the departed soul daily.
2. Neimitik Shraadh
It is also known as Ekodisht Shraadh. In it food is offered to an odd number of priests say 1, 3, or 5 in number.
3. Kaamya Shraadh
In it prayers and respect is offered to the departed soul with the aim of fulfilment of some wish.
4. Vriddhi Shraadh
It is done for gain of prosperity and children. Only persons who have gone through Upanayan Samskar should do it.
5. Sapindan Shraadh
In it four clean vessels are taken and in each some water mixed with fragrance and sesame seeds is taken.
These four are symbolic of Pretaatma (wandering spirits), Pitaatmaa (spirits of higher souls), Devaatmaa (spirits which are divine) and other unknown souls. Then the water from the first vessel is poured into the second.
6. Paarvann Shraadh
It is done on a moonless night or on some special occasion.
7. Goshtth Shraadh
It is done for gain of cattle.
8. Shurdhyarth Shraadh
It is done with the help of priests for gain of wealth, amd for appeasing scholars and ancestors.
9. Karmaang Shraadh
In it prayers are offered to the ancestors when a woman becomes pregnant or when Seemaantonayan and Punsavan Samskars are being accomplished.
10. Deivik Shraadh
In it oblations are made with ghee in the holy fire for good luck in travels and to seek the well wishes of deities.
11. Oupcharik Shraadh
It is done for physical health and riddance from diseases.
12. Saanvatsarik Shraadh
It is best among all Shraadhs and it is accomplished on the day on which the soul departed. It is a very important ritual for in the text Bhavishya Purann Lord Sun says – I do not accept the prayers of a person who does not perform Saanvatsarik Shraadh and neither do Vishnu, Brahma, Rudra and other deities.
Hence one should surely carry out this ritual each year on the day the ancestor passed away.
It is stated in the texts that a person who does not accomplish the Shraadh of his dead parents has to suffer much in life and even after. He may even be born in lower planes of existence as a result.
Some might ask what they should do if they do not remember the dates of passing away of their parents?
Such a person should do Shraadh on the moonless night in the month of Shraadhs. Shraadh for dead women folk should be done on the ninth day of dark fortnight of the lunar calendar.
Shraadh is accomplished not only for dead parents but all ancestors whose names one might not remember or whose dates of passing away are not remembered.
This ritual is symbolic of giving respect to the dead ancestors and a way of getting their blessings and well wishes. Hence every person should perform Shraadh.
But merely inviting some priests and offering them food and gifts is not enough. Rather one should include a Sadhana in this process. Only then is the ritual fruitful. Following is the Sadhana for this purpose which every person should try with full faith and devotion for gaining the maximum from the departed souls.