Shorah Shraddha, sixteen days for dead ancestors
Also known as Pitri Paksha in Nepali, the fortnight of ancestors, known commonly as Shorah Sarad is a sixteen lunar day period when the Hindus worship and pay homage to their ancestors, especially through food offerings. This time period is also known as Pitri Pokkho, Kanagat, Jitiya, Mahalaya Paksha and Apara Paksha.
As Shraddha and tarpan are given during this period, the Hindus consider it to be inauspicious. Shorah Shraddha falls in the Hindu lunar month of Bhadrapada (September – October) which begins with the full moon day (Purnima) and immediately after Ganesh festival and ends with new moon day with the start of the Hindu holy festival of Dashain.
During this period, although the senior male member of the family gives tarpan to the three preceding generations every day, one day in particular is fixed for the Shraddha (depending upon the death anniversary on the basis of Hindu traditional calendar called patro).
According to the legends, when the legendary donor Karna died in the epic Mahabharat battle, his soul transcended to heaven where he was offered gold and jewels as food. However, wanting real food to eat, he went to ask the King of the heaven Indra about it (in some legends, Indra is replaced by Yama, the Lord of death). Indra, then, informed him that Karna had only donated gold all his life and never a single grain of food to his ancestors in Shraddha. As Karna was unaware of who his ancestors were, he had never donated anything in their memory, so in order to make amends, Karna was allowed to return back to earth for 16 days to perform Shraddha and donate food and water in the memory of his ancestors. Hence, this sixteen days period is now observed as Pitri Paksha or Shorah Shraddha.
The fifteen days of the period consists of 15 Tithis that are Pratipat, Dvitiya, Tritiya, Chaturthi, Panchami, Shashti, Saptami, Ashtami, Navami, Dasami, Ekadashi, Dvadasi, Trayodasi, Chaturdashi and Amavasya (Aunsi in Nepali). The Shraddha of the dead ancestors are performed on the same tithi as they had died. Usually the eldest son performs the puja while the other participates in it. It is conducted with the belief that this will ensure their ancestor’s soul to rest in peace in heaven. Also, the forgotten or missed annual Shraddha could be performed during this period and during this entire period purity in food habit should be maintains which means that the people, especially those whose parents are dead, needs to keep away from impure foods like meat, garlic and onions, etc. Also, a day before the Shraddha, ekchhaki is performed when the sons eat only one meal during the morning and in dinner, they usually eat roti made of wheat flour, which is considered pure, without any vegetables with oil, spices or salt it.
Also, the food offerings that include kheer, milk, rice, dal and vegetable of spring beans are made to the ancestors which are cooked in either silver or copper vessels and placed on a banana leaf or cups made of dried leaves (duna or bota).