A Blog on Mythology and occasionally on Reality.

This is a Blog on Mythology, both Indian and World and especially the analysis of the myths.

In effect, the interpretation of the inherent Symbolism.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mahalaya Amavasya

Today is Mahalaya Amavasya, also known as Mahalaya, the last day of the Pitru Paksha (the fortnight for the ancestors) and also the final day to offer oblations to ones ancestors.  According to Hindu religion, the souls of the three preceding generations reside in ‘pitru-loka’ a realm between the earth and the heavens and governed by the Lord of Death, Yama. However, during the pitru-paksha, the souls come down to earth and hover around the homes of their descendants and it becomes imperative for the descendants to feed their hungry souls. One of the ways to feed them is to feed the poor, though feeding the crows (also considered to be harbingers of death) or cows is a ritual many follow during the fortnight.
Details and significance of the day can be read in my article “Mahalaya” dated 7/10/2010 in the link - http://utkarshspeak.blogspot.com/2010/10/mahalaya.html
However, I would like to delve into another aspect of Mahalaya which is very important. This day is also marked as an important day for daan or charity which is considered to be a virtue. Many offer food, grains, clothes, etc. however, the most important of charities is donating food to the poor. This aspect of donation has its significance in an episode from the epic Mahabharata.
Karna, in Mahabharata was a well-known philanthropist and was also referred to as ‘daanveer’ – the hero of charities. All his life he had donated great wealth in the form of gold and jewels and at a crucial moment, he even donated his kavach, armour and kundal, gold earrings, (both of which he was born with and made him invincible) to Lord Indra who asks for it as alms in the guise of a Brahmin. Though Karna was well aware that he would need then during the forthcoming war and could be the only saviour, and the fact that the Brahmin was none other than Lord Indra, he gave them up as they were asked for in the form of alms and he could never deny anybody, not in the least a Brahmin, alms as long as he could.
After his death when his wounded and tired soul reaches the heavens, the way to heavens is strewn all around with the riches of the world. When in heaven, there was no food for him, just gold and silver. When he asks Yama, as to why was he not given any food, he was told that all he ever donated was gold and silver and never offered any food and water, especially to his ancestors. Karna went on to say that he did not offer anything to his ancestors, because he didn’t know who his ancestors were. He then requested Yama to grant him permission to go back to earth and feed his ancestors, so that their souls could seek salvation. Since his sons had all died during the war and there was none to do the same for him, the least he could do was seek salvation for his ancestors. Yama agreed to his request and Karna is supposed to have visited the earth for a fortnight where he fed the poor and offered water to his ancestors. It is this fortnight which is now known as ‘pitru-paksha’ and Lord Yama is supposed to have decreed that anybody who offered charities during this period would be rewarded hundred-fold in his afterlife!
The day ends with heralding of autumn and the Devi-paksha, from when the nine days of Durga Puja or Navratri starts. The inauspicious period is over and from tomorrow starts the celebrations!

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