Pitru Paksha also spelt as Pitri Paksha is a 16-lunar day period when Hindus pay homage to their ancestors through shradh prayers and food offerings. It falls in the lunar month of Bhadrapada beginning on the full moon day or the day after full moon day. It is believed that performing rites helps liberate souls to attain salvation from the vicious circle of life and death. It is also known as Pitri Pokkho, Sola Shraddha, Apara Paksha and Mahalaya Paksha. Pitru Paksha is considered by Hindus to be inauspicious, given the death rite performed during the ceremony, known as Shraddha (Shraad) or tarpan. In 2017, Pitru Paksha begins on September 5 and end on September 19.

As per Hinduism, the souls of three preceding generations reside in Pitru-loka, a realm between heaven and earth. The realm is looked after by Yama, the god of death. It is believed that when a person of the next generation dies, the first generation shifts to heaven and unites with the God. Only the three generations in Pitru-loka are given Shraddha rites.

When Karna, the great warrior from the Hindu epic Mahabharata, died during the war his soul transcended to heaven. Karna was offered gold and jewel as food but he needed real food to eat. He approached Lord Indra and asked the reason he was served gold as food (In some legends Yama replaces Indra). Indra revealed that Karna has donated gold all his life but had never donated food to his ancestors. To which Karna replied that he was unaware of the ritual and his ancestors. To control the damages, Karna was allowed to visit earth for a fortnight so that he could perform the death rituals of his ancestors and donate food and water. This period is known as Pitru Paksha.

Pitrupaksha calendar 2017

5 September (Tuesday) – Purnima Shraddha
6 September (Wednesday) – Pratipada Shraddha
7 September (Thursday) – Dwitiya Shraddha
8 September (Friday) – Tritiya Shraddha
9 September (Saturday) – Chaturthi Shraddha
10 September (Sunday) – Maha Bharani, Panchami Shraddha
11 September (Monday) – Shashthi Shraddha
12 September (Tuesday) – Saptami Shraddha
13 September (Wednesday) – Ashtami Shraddha
14 September (Thursday) – Navami Shraddha
15 September (Friday) – Dashami Shraddha
16 September (Saturday) – Ekadashi Shraddha
17 September (Sunday) – Dwadashi Shraddha, Trayodashi Shraddha
18 September (Monday) – Magha Shraddha, Chaturdashi Shraddha
19 September (Tuesday) – Sarva Pitru Amavasya