Pitru Paksha

Pitru Paksha is a sixteen-day period in which Hindus honor and give respect to their ancestors. During this time period – which begins on the first Purnima (full moon) following Ganesh Chaturthi and ends on Peddala Amavasya – participants are allowed to not only honor those from their direct biological lineage but also those who have contributed to their spiritual, moral, and/or intellectual development either in this life or during previous lives. These individuals can be family, friends, mentors, teachers, or anyone else who has touched their lives in a meaningful way.


According to legend, when the warrior King Karna died during the Mahabharata War and his spirit ascended to heaven, he was given meals of jewels and gold instead of food. Realizing that he couldn’t sustain himself on these items, he addressed the lord of heaven, Indra, and asked him why he wasn’t receiving real food. Lord Indra then told him it was because he had given these items as donations his entire life but never donated food to his ancestors. To which Karna replied that he wasn’t aware of his ancestors. Hearing this argument, Indra agreed to let Karna return to Earth for a fifteen-day period so he could make amends and donate food in his ancestors’ memory, a period of time which is now known as Pitru Paksha.

Customs, Traditions, and Celebrations

During this time, the ritual of Shraddha is performed. The specifics of this ritual may differ from person to person, but usually, it combines three components. The first part is Pindadan, the offering of Pinda to the ancestors. Pinda are rice balls that are usually made of goat’s milk, ghee, sugar, rice, honey, and sometimes barley. The second part of the ceremony is Tarpan, the offering of water mixed with kusha grass, barley, flour, and black sesame. The final part of the ceremony is Feeding the Brahmin, which involves giving food to the Brahmin priests. Also, during this time, it is considered auspicious to read from the Holy Scriptures.

However, there are also some things that must be avoided during Pitru Paksha. Participants are supposed to avoid engaging in new endeavors; eating non-vegetarian foods; shaving or getting haircuts; and eating onions, garlic, or junk food.