96 Salutes to Departed Souls!

Rameswaram on Mahalaya Amavasya (new moon day)

Research paper written by London Swaminathan
Research article No.1370; Dated 25th October 2014.

Whenever a state leader dies 21 gun salutes are given to him or her. Then he or she is forgotten. The canon balls are fired from the canons. On other occasions such as swearing in as the President of a country or a State visit also the custom is followed. There is no particular reason for the 21 gun salutes other than it is a naval tradition. But Hindu Brahmins salute the departed souls (manes or dead ancestors) 96 times a year!! Not with the canons, but with the water, Sesame seeds and Dharba grass! So the dead people will be remembered and respected throughout the year.

All Hindus pay respects to the departed relatives at least once a year or twice a year. But Brahmins used to give water oblations 96 times a year in the olden days. Now it has come down to 25 to 30 times every year.

thai amavasya
Thai month Amavasai (new moon day)

The beauty of the 96 ceremonies is that Brahmins do it for all the departed people. This was the reason for Hindu kings giving big donations of land and gold to the Brahmin priests. A large number of Tamil inscriptions out of the total 80,000+ inscriptions are about the donations made to the Brahmins or the temples.

When the Brahmins offer sesame seeds and water over the dharba grass in which they have invoke the departed people, they say that they offer it to all known and unknown people. First they say the names of three generations on father’s side and then three generations on mother’s side. On each side husbands and wives are remembered.

Another beauty is the mantra they recite. I will give you just one mantra:

“Please come through the sky route and take a seat here.
May the winds bring us happiness.
May the rivers carry happiness to us.
May the herbs give us happiness.
May night and day yield us happiness.
May the dust of the earth bring us happiness.
May the heavens give us happiness.
May the trees give us happiness.
May the sun pour down happiness.
May the cows yield us happiness. (Madu Vatha ruthayathe. . . . . . )

adi amavasya
Ad Amavasai Priest

This is actually from the Taitriya Aranyaka (10-39). They recite this mantra every time they pay respect to the departed relatives. There are more mantras like this in the same ceremony. When they finish it they say, “whoever has not got any friend or relative or father or mother or distant relatives let all souls be pleased with this offering (it is equal to Christian’s RIP= Rest in Peace)

Following days are selected by orthodox Hindus for this ceremony:
It is called Tarpanam or Srardham. In the olden days they were actually using fire to do this. Later it was simplified. I have already written a post about the use of Sesame seeds from Vedas to Indus Valley (Tarpanam means that which pleases; Srardham is that which is done with faith or sincerity)

12 New Moon Days called Amavasya
12 First days of 12 traditional months
12 Ashtaka days (Krishna Paksha Ashtami, Navami, Dasami of four months Margasirsha to Phalguna (3 X4 =12)
16 Mahalaya Paksha ( When the sun enters Kanya Rasi (Virgo in Hindu calendar, the ceremony is done during the dark period / Krishna Paksha)
14 Manvathi Sirardha days (Calendar shows the 14 Manvantara days. This is done to honour the rule of 14 Manus)
4 Yuga Adhi Srardham (This is to mark the beginning of 4 eras)
26 Vyadipada-Vaidruti-vishkambam (This is based on two of the 27 Yogas; 13+13=26 days are shown in traditional Panchang/calendars)
The total is 96.
TharpaNam Pic

This is practised all over India. Sanskrit literature has got hundreds of references to this custom. 2000 year old Sangam Tamil literature also refers to it. Hindus believed that the departed souls bless their living relatives from the heaven. They believed that they lived in the southern direction.

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1 Comment

  1. Ashtaka is it Ashtami, Navami and Dasami or Saptami, Ashtami and Navami.

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