Rituals on the Sradha day
(The rituals to be performed on day of annual death ceremony.)
(I have summarized the rules for performance of Sradha in the section Sradha Vidhi. This compilation gives the rituals that have to be performed on the Sradha day. These rituals change from family to family. When performs a ritual he has to perform it as done by his paternal ancestors. These rituals to be performed on the Sradha day are not given to help you find fault with the priest adopted by us but to make you knowledgeable. Once we adopt the priest , he is our Guru(Teacher) and we have to follow his orders. If he does it wrongly, the sin goes to him and not to us. This write up is a summary of gleaned knowledge from Anna’s Sradha Vidhi, Srinivasan’s Pithru Yagnam And Yajurvediya Apasthambha Apara Prayogam by Anna.
Sradha comes from the word Sradha(Trust/loyalty) and indicates the annual ritual performed to offer food to three generations of our ancestors. It is believed that when our manes reach the land of the manes(Pithru Loka) , our one year is one day for them. We are only attempting to offer food and water to them every day. Normally every one performs Sradha only to his parents but it should be offered by us to all those to whom we have performed death ceremony, Real parents in case we are adopted, Grandparents , if they die after the death of all their sons and brother of father if he does not have a son , brother if he does not have a son .
On the day of Sradha after doing Madhyahnika, take bath again, change the sacred thread, The rules of Sradha say that it should be performed in The Kudhabha kala in the Aparahna which is approximately 8 hours after Sun rise. The following are the common rituals .
a. Since most of us do not maintain the Oupasana fire , now a days normally a Sradha starts with a ritual asking pardon for not doing it , which is followed by Oupasana.
b. This is started with an Aachamana and requesting the permission of the assembled Brahmins for doing the ritual.
c. We have to first put Durbha to denote our seat and then add Durbha along with pavithra and do Sankalpa along with wife to do the Oupasana.
d. Select a square spot with mud/sand and draw three lines in both directions, touch water, put Durbha on the chosen place and again touch water.
e. In that place start a fire by bringing a fire(either by camphor ) or if there is a stove with fire wood , by bringing an ember from there.
f. Add more dry sticks and put Durbha grass all round on the four sides. The Durbha placed in the east and west should have tip towards east and those kept on the south and north should have tip towards north.
g. Spread Durbha grass towards the north of the fire and keep upside down in pairs two cups for ghee, two sacrificial spoons (either made of palasa leaf or wood) and two cups to store water. Then make a Pavithram made of two Durbha grass(Note for Sradha or Pithru rituals , we have to wear a Pavithra made of three Durbha grass.)
h. Touch the vessels for Homa(fire sacrifice) by the pavithra and turn the cup for storing water, keep the pavithra in it, put some Akshathai (dried raw rice) , fill it up with water, clean it thrice with the pavithra and keep that vessel on the right side.
i. Melt some ghee in some other fire pour it in the cup meant for ghee, keep the pavithra, put fire on the north side, keep the ghee near it, dip the tip of the Durbha in the ghee , light it in fire and after circling the fire throw it on the northern side.
j. Move the ghee cup towards north , add the fire to the Homa kunda, again clean the ghee thrice with Durbha having its tip towards north, un tie the pavithra, touch water with it and put it in the fire with tip pointing towards the east.
k. Spread Durbha grass to the west of the fire and place the ghee cup on it.
l. Show the spoons for doing Homa in fire, and after dipping the Durbha in water add them to the fire.
m. Start the Homa(adding of ghee with spoon to the fire) chanting mantras , Athithenu manya swaha etc
n. Add akshatha on all the eight sides of the fire, take ghee four times with the small spoon and pour it in the big spoon in the left hand, keep the small spoon down, transfer the big spoon to right hand and do Homa. Repeat this with differing mantras till this preliminary Homa is over.
o. At the end keep the cup of ghee on the north and do Pranayama.
p. Sprinkle water first on the left side, the opposite side, the right side and once all round the fire.
q. Give Dakshina to the Brahmins.
r. Do Oupasana Homa. This consists of pouring ghee as well as keeping Samith on the fire by the chant of several mantras.
s. After Oupasana , do Abhivadaye, remove the pavithra
(Note: Till this point you were not doing Sradha but do amend for Oupasana that you ought to have done and then do Oupasana and these do not require the two Brahmins representing the Pithrus and Viswedevas. Also the Pavithra should be made of two Durbha)
t. The Sradha ritual starts after this.
2. Request the Brahmins who have been invited for the Sradha to take oil bath and take them near the Homa Kunda and chant the Sankalpa Mantras(with Yagnopavitha on the right side shoulder-Pracheena vidhi) , which would tell that we are performing the Sradha of a particular ancestor who was born in a particular Gothra and then clean the hand by touching water, The wife should be touching us on our shoulder by the Durbha. After Sankalpa we should receive the Durbha from her and put it on the Northern direction.
3. Pour a drop of water in the hands of the Brahmin who has been chosen to represent the Viswe devas, and request him to take his Asana (seat) by giving him a Dharbha( The elder priest should be made to represent the Viswe deva.),. This ritual is done with sacred thread on the left shoulder
4. Then pour a drop of water and request another priest to represent the pithrus and give him seat by offering him a Durbha. This is done with sacred thread on right shoulder.
5. In some families they call three Brahmins and the third Brahmin represents Vishnu. He is offered seat with sacred thread hanging on the left shoulder. He represents the Vishnu who is requested to protect the Sradha. In most of the families there would not be any Brahmin representing the Vishnu But while serving food a leaf is put for Vishnu and food is served on it. The food in this leaf should not be eaten by our family people. Daughter, son in law or any Brahmachari can eat food from this leaf.
6. Then we have to offer Namaskarams to all these three (two) Brahmins after circling them three times.
7. Then we have to offer salutation to the devathas and pithrus( and Maha Vishnu.)
8. Then with Upaveethi(sacred thread on left shoulder) sprinkle rice on the Brahmin chosen to represent the Viswe devas.
9. Then with Pracheenavithi(Sacred thread on right shoulder) sprinkle Gingelly on the Brahmin chosen to represent the Pithrus. This sprinkling is done in the opposite way.
10. Then put rice with Upaveethi on the Brahmin representing Vishnu, if there is one.
11. Then with Pracheenavithi introduce ourselves by saying Abhivadaye and pray the blessings of the Brahmins to be able to complete the Sradha properly.
12. Then with Upaveethi face north , meditate on God Vishnu and think the place as Gaya and then with Pracheenavithi , face south meditate on our ancestors and request the permission of Brahmins to start the Sradha. They will say “permitted.”
13. Then with Upaveethi , wear the pavithra made with three Durba , do Pranayama (Om Bhoo)and chant the Sankalpa mantra of the Sradha.
14. Then we have to give asana to the Bhokthas(Brahmins) representing the Viswedevas and Pithrus. This is done by first putting a drop of water on their hand and then holding Durba in both our hands and holding the right hand by our right hand and his arm joint by the other hand and tell the mantra starting with “Prapnothu bhavan…”They would then accept the asana. This has to be done again for the Boktha representing the Pithrus .Please remember that for Viswe devas and Vishnu we should wear our sacred thread Upaveethi and for Pithrus Pracheenavithi
15. We should then offer Asana to the Maha Vishnu, if a Brahmin represents him.
16. After this we have to wash the feet of the Brahmins representing Viswedevas and Pithrus. For this a square using cow dung is drawn for washing the feet of Viswedevas and a circle for the Pithrus. Care should be taken that at no point of time the water used for washing the feet of Viswedevas and pithrus should mix. First the place where their feet are to be washed has to be worshipped. Then keeping the pavithra in the ear , the feet of Viswedevas has to be washed , with wife pouring water. Before water is poured we have to apply sandal paste/cow ghee to the feet. We have to sprinkle the water on ourselves and then on our wife and other family members assembled there.
17. Then the feet of the Pithru should be washed and the water thrown out. Then the feet of Maha Vishnu should be washed.
18. The Kartha(performer of Sradha) has to empty the water in his Pancha pathra , do Aachamana with the new water and enter the place where further Sradha is being done.
19. Then he should put Akshathai and do Avahana of Viswedevas , Pithrus and Maha Vishnu on the Brahmins
20. Then one should spread Durba grass to the south of the Homa fire and keep two small brass. Copper vessels, put little Yavam(grains like wheat, barley rice etc) , keep the pavithra (made of two Durbha grass) on the top of the vessel, fill it up with sandal water, then chant the mantra called Sannodevi. Similarly Water should be filled up in the other vessel with a different Manthra.
21. Then we should give Arghya to Vishnu with pure water . Then we have to give one cloth to tie, one cloth to cover the upper part , sacred thread, little sandal paste to decorate themselves to the Brahmins and then again sandal paste for worship and flower(Thulasi) to decorate .themselves. There are various ways of doing this depending on family custom. Some people show camphor and Sambrani to the Brahmins. Some people do it chanting mantras. Some people chant mantras and offer only Akshatha. The elders of the family should tell their young ones as to what is the family custom. Only family custom should be followed.
22. The honoring of Viswedevas as above should be done with Upaveethi and to Pithrus with Pracheenavithi. For Mahavishnu it is done with Upaveethi.
23. After this Homa is done. The place for Homa should be cleaned up and like tilling the land we have to draw lines on the floor and the fire should be installed. For married man, this fire is Oupasanagni . This was replaced by fire from the Kitchen stow and nowadays , Camphor is lit to make the agni. For preventing asuras and inviting devas, we should keep a small cup of Arghya with rice in the east of the fire.
24. You have to spread Durbha in the north of the fire and over them upturn all Homa vessels Each of these vessels including spoons of Palasa leaf should be cleaned by the pavithra made of two Durbha grasses.
25. In the preceding Homa only cow’s ghee should be used.
26. Then the major and minor spoons(made of wood or leaves of Pales tree) should be shown to the fire., cleaned with Durbha, shown again in fire, sprinkled with water and kept near the ghee vessel.
27. Then the sticks (Samith to be kept as border) should be kept on West, south and north. Then two such Samith should be kept on the fire.
28. Then water should be sprinkled(pariseshechanam) in the anti clock wise direction around the fire.
29. Then the cooked rice should be offered to the fire several times along with mantra. You have to hold the g spoon in left hand, rice should be kept three times, ghee poured three times , The major spoon transferred to right hand, touch , the pot of ghee and the rice offered to the fire.(There is a very peculiar mantra used here viz e matha pralulobha charthyanuvratha, thanme retha pitha vrungthaa abhuranyopa padhythaam --- sarmane swaha , meaning if my mother has not observed chastity, then let this rice go to my real father.)
The number of times the rice has to be kept, the number of times ghee has to be poured depends on the rules of the Gothra.
30. This Homa is followed by Homa of ghee only , by chanting bhoo swaha, bhuva swaha.. etc ending it with offering to agni with seven toungues. With the last mantra, the entire ghee in the pot of ghee should be emptied.
31. Keep the spoons on the north and do pranayama and then do pariseshechanam in anti clock wise direction.
32. Pour little water , put Akshatha. And sprinkle the water on self and then on the wife.
33. Then pray to the father, grandfather and great grandfather , telling them that the food which is tasty and pure has been prepared for them.
34. Cleaning the place by Durbha. Act as if you are digging the place using Durbha. Pray that the asuras , and evil spirits should go away from there.
35. Put Asana(seat ) for the three people to take their food. Clean below the leaves with Durbha . Put the remaining cooked rice of Homa on the leaf for Pithru devatha and start serving all other items. The order is Vishnu, Viswe deva and Pithru. Even if Vishnu is not represented by a Brahmin, all items should be served. Then we have to invite the Brahmins by using Mantras.
36. Then we have to sit before the leaf of the Brahmin , fold our left leg and do the necessary rituals inviting him to eat the food like abhihara., make The Boktha touch all the food items and our wife should give him Arghya. In some houses people give Bhojana Dakshina at this time. In some houses Dakshina is given after they finish the food.
37. Then we should pour little water in a line and spread in a line starting from south to North the remaining rice after making Pinda. Again water has to be sprinkled on the rice This should be first done before the leaf of Viswedevas and then the pithrus (The line is from east to west and we have to sprinkle water mixed withy Gingelly) and later Maha Vishnu.
38. Till the Bhokthas complete their food, we should think about our ancestors and Chant Gayathri.
39. Then we have to do Aachamana twice after keeping the Pavithra in the ears and after putting the Pavithra again and putting the Sacred thread on right shoulder keep the Durbha from north to south in between the leaves of the Viswedevas and Pithrus ,keep the pinda on it and sprinkle Gingelly mixed with water on the Pinda. We should then request our ancestors who have been cremated by fire or buried to accept the Pinda and be happy.
40. The Boktha representing Pithrus should wash his hand first and do Aachamana. Then the other two. Then the Kartha should do Aachamana
41. After the Bhokthas finish their meals , we should first ask their pardon for any shortcomings in the meals and then we should request them to bless us so that we get the effect of doing Sradha at Gaya. Then the Bhokthas will say “ We are satisfied. This is liked by the Pithrus..”
42. We then pray to our ancestors in the Pithru loka and request them to bless us my giving us the result of doing the Sradha in Gaya. Then all the clan(family) members present there do three pradakshinams to the Brahmins and do Namaskarams to them. Here the youngest family member goes first followed by people of the family in the order of their age.
43. Then the Brahmins who are Bhokthas as well as the priest bless us and our family by throwing Akshathai at us. The Kartha should put the Uthariya(upper cloth) over his shoulders so that the akshatha falls in them. He should put it in a cup place before God and salute the God. He should then put little akshatha on his head. He should request the blessings of elder ones and ask them to bless him by putting the akshatha and bless the younger family members assembled who do Namaskarams .
44. We should then ask the pardon of the Bhokthas for troubling them by giving unsuitable food and then put our upper cloth before them on the floor. Then they would walk over it. We should put the dust of their feet caught in the upper cloth on our head.
45. Next ceremony is Pinda Dhana. Pinda means rice balls. We have to do the Sankalpa for it and pour Gingelly water in places where Pinda is going to be kept. When we mention the time like Thithi day season etc we should wear the sacred thread normally and the later part with Pracheenavithi. We should pray to Pithrus that they should get satisfaction by the Pinda offered by us. Pindas are offered to the three generation of Pithrus and not only to the Pithru to whom Sradha is done.
46. We should eat the rice of the Pinda(Some families it is only smelled.) People who want a son born to them can give the Pithamaha Pinda to their wife and ask her to eat it.
47. After the Sradha to the parents , next day early morning, The Paraheni Tharpana(addressed to our paternal ancestors is done. Nowadays the priests because they will not be able to come the next day , make us do the Paraheni Tharpana immediately after the Sradha.