Mahalaya Amavasai and Ancestors Worship (Post No.11,943)

Lantern Festival in Japan


Post No. 11,943

Date uploaded in London – –  27 APRIL 2023                  

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Amavasya (amaa vaasya) is the last day of the dark fortnight of a lunar month and is set apart for the performance of religious ceremonies in honour of the spirits of departed ancestors.  This monthly ceremony is called Tarpana. It means ‘a refreshing drink of water’.

Hindus are the greatest worshippers of Water and Nature. Since they originated in India, a tropical country, no ceremony can be done without water or a plant. All Hindu ceremonies explode the myths of Max Muller gang.

Of all the Amavasyas, the one that is universally observed as the chief day for the worship of the dead is Mahalaya Amavasya. The whole fortnight is called Pitri paksha. The meaning is the fifteen days sacred to the memory of the departed ancestors.

 A well known Sanskrit text says, “Each day of this holy fortnight is equal in point of sanctity to a day spent in Gaya “. it is a city in Bihar regarded as holiest for all kinds of religious rites in memory of the dead.

Sraddha is an annual ceremony done on the day of the departed soul (death anniversary). Sraaddha comes from Sanskrit word Sraddhaa/ Faith.

Orthodox Hindus observe a fifteen day period for the departed souls. It is called Mahaalaya or Pitrupaksha or Apara paksha. It is done during Bhadrapada Krishna Paksha Prathamai to Amavasai ( in some areas it is the month of Asvina). The sun at this time is in the Kanyaa Raasi (Virgo), and the belief is that at the moment of the entrance, the spirits of the dead relatives leave the Abode of Yama and come down to the houses of their descendants to receive their homage and worship.

Even Non -Brahmins do Sraaddhaas on Mahalaya Amavasai (New moon day) and Pausa Amavasai. Millions of Hindus go to tanks, rivers and seas to perform the ceremonies. And this homage or worship is not only ungrudgingly given but also regarded as the highest of all earthly duties.

Sraddha (sraaddhaa) is the ceremony when the people offer a ball of rice and sesamum seeds to the departed people. At that time, they are helped by Brahmins who bring the Darbha grass for the purpose.

Hindus do all Subha Karyaas (auspicious ceremonies) in the clockwise direction and all the Asubha Karyaas (inauspicious things) in the anti- clockwise direction.

During Sraddhas or Tarpana they wear the sacred cord on the right shoulder. In normal times and in auspicious things the sacred cord is on the left shoulder of a person which goes under the right arm.

Every Hindu should make at least one visit to Kaasi (Vaaranaasi in Uttar Pradesh) and Gayaa in Bihar. The reason for going to Gayaa (in Bihar) is to perform Sraaddha there, but for the sake of many who cannot go there, it has been decreed that a Mahaalaya Sraaddhaa is equal in merit to one performed at Gaya.

During this Mahalaya Paksha (fortnight) orthodox Hindus will observe fasting. They avoid eating outside their houses and they avoid all prohibited foods such as onion and garlic. They don’t go to restaurants or canteens.


The second half of the month of Bhaadrapad (August- September) is entirely devoted to ancestor worship. It is a series of offerings and feasts in honour of the dead. In some families only dry food is offered to a Brahmin priest in others many Brahmins are fed.

The day on which a man loses his father is represented in this fortnight by one corresponding to it for the performance of Sraaddha. For instance, if one has lost his father on an Ashtami (eight) day in any month, the ashtami in Mahalaya Fortnight becomes more important and he does the Sraddha on that day.


Ninth Day for Women

Ninth day in the fortnight is called Avidhava Navami, is the one on which offerings are made to the souls of women who died before their husbands. It is in fact the Widower’s day of adoring the soul of his lost wife. A woman whose husband is alive is invited to partake the dinner specially prepared and is honoured by being fed before the males are fed, unique privilege among Hindus. She is offered toilet requisites and a dress or piece of cloth, according to means.

Some people worship the dead mother on this day and so it is also known as Maatri Navami (Mother’s Memorial Day). Annual oblations are offered to all dead female ancestors, especially mother, offered, irrespective of the Tithi (day) of their death.


Hindus Ancestor worship – Naandhi

No important religious ritual or domestic ceremony is complete without a preliminary rite of ancestor worship. It is done before the Upanayana ceremony, Wedding ceremony and other all auspicious events etc. it is called Naandhi.

Naandhi means Benediction. Even in stage Dances and Dramas the first performance immediately after the curtain is lifted is the Naandhi ceremony. Here in families, a few days before the good event, they invite 11 Brahmins and provide them a good feast, Dakshina (fees) and Dhanas (donations/ gifts such as shoes, umbrellas o water jugs).

This is done in memory of three generations before him on his father’s side and three generations before him on his mother’s side. ( in 96 Tarpanas, three generations are honoured. Father,  grand father, great grand father; mother, grand mother and great grand mother; Mother’s father, grand father, great grand father; Mother’s mother, grand mother and great grand mother).

The family members go round the seated Brahmins, who represent the departed ancestors, and get their blessings. They recite the relevant benedictory mantras and throw yellow rice on the heads of all the family members. Then they organise Upanayanam, wedding, Seemantham etc.

There is no culture or community in the world like Hindus who always remember their ancestors and honour them before every good event in the family. There is no culture in the world where three+ three generations are remembered by names before every event. Tamil Veda Tirukkural repeated what Manu Smrti said about Hindus Five Daily Duties. They have to offer food for five groups including ancestors

There is no community in the world where dead women are also honoured. If they have died before their husbands, there is more honour given to them and it is called Sumangali Prarthana.

Brahmins are supposed to do 96 days of Tarpana in a year. That means once in four days, they have to remember their ancestors and salute them.

Manu Smrti gives utmost importance for it. He warns that errors are excused in the worship of God. But no mistake is allowed in the worship of ancestors. His warning is very severe in this respect.

Max muller gang and Caldwell gang gets the biggest slap on their faces when one sees the day to day Hindu worship of Gods and Ancestors. They can’t show any parallel in any part of the world.


Ancestor Worship in Japan- Feast of Lanterns

If one can show a small parallel, that will be due to Hindu contact or vestiges left by Hindus. And it will be one off , insignificant event in a year. I read some sort of ancestor worship in Japan.

Japanese believe that the souls of the departed return to their old homes once a year. A festival called the Feast of Lanterns is made to welcome them. They come at evening on the thirteenth day of the seventh month of the old calendar, which falls towards the end of August. It is needful to light them on their way.

Those who know the influence of Hinduism and presence of Hindu gods in Japan would easily understand that this is nothing but Hindu custom.

When lot of people die in natural calamities, Hindus light Moksha Deepam in temples. The belief is that light ill show them the path upward. When someone dies the lamp is lit in that place for 13 days in Hindu houses. Even Christians follow Hindu custom and light candles in the place of death. But only Hindu scriptures give the reason for such a custom.

After Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination, 3000 people died in the Anti Sikh riots in Delhi area. Kanchi Shankaracharya arranged Moksha deepa for them in Kanchipuram.

My Old Articles:

96 Salutes to Departed Souls! | Tamil and Vedas › 2014/10/25 › 96-salutes-t…

25 Oct 2014 — 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

Tagged with Why sesame seedsin Tarpanam › tag › why-sesame-seedsin…

23 Dec 2013 — In the olden days Hindus were doing Tarpanam every day. Nowadays orthodox Hindus do it 96 times in a year where as others do it 12 times a …

Amavasya | Tamil and Vedas › tag › amavasya

8 Dec 2021 — Anumati- Divine Grace, personified as a Goddess representing the God’s favourable acceptance of worship and oblations. Though Tamils use Anumati …

adi amavasya | Tamil and Vedas › tag › adi-amavasya

25 Oct 2014 — Rameswaram on Mahalaya Amavasya (new moon day) … the use of Sesame seeds from Vedas to Indus Valley (Tarpanam means that which pleases; …

Priest who changed New Moon Day to “Full Moon Day”!! › 2014/07/02 › priest-who-…

2 Jul 2014 — He replied at once, “It is a full moon day”. Actually it was a new moon day (Amavasya in Hindu calendar). The king thought that he deliberately …

More about Lantern Festival

The Obon festival (お盆, also known as Bon festival) is an annual Japanese holiday that commemorates and remembers deceased ancestors. It is believed that their spirits return at this time to visit their relatives.

Chochin (paper) lanterns are hung to guide the spirits and Obon dances (bon odori) are performed. Families have reunions and visit the graves of their relatives and make food offerings at altars and temples.

It is observed from the 13th to the 15th day of the 7th month. However, according to the solar calendar the 7th month is July but according to the lunar calendar, the 7th month is August. Obon is therefore celebrated at different times in different regions depending on which calendar is observed. Many Japanese people will leave their cities around August 10 and come back on August 17-18.

Floating lanterns (toro nagashi)

In recent years, floating lanterns (toro nagashi) have gained in popularity. The beautiful lanterns float down a river that runs to the sea to symbolically send their ancestors’ spirits into the sky, although customs vary from region to region.

Bon Odori

The style of the traditional Bon Odori dance varies from region to region but it is normally based around the rhythms of Japanese taiko drums.

Dancers perform on a yagura stage and participants wear light cotton kimonos. Anyone can join in the dances which are held in parks, temples, and other public places around Japan.

Most lanterns you’ll see at a Japanese lantern festival are called chochin (提灯), which literally means “bucket light.” Chochin are cylindrical lanterns made of paper stretched over a split bamboo frame that can be folded up when not in use. They were made to be carried when walking at night in the days before electricity. Nowadays you can predominantly see chochin outside Japanese-style pubs, or izakaya—which are sometimes referred to as aka-chochin (赤提灯), or “red lanterns.”

A more general kind of lantern is called a toro (灯籠, literally, “light basket”). Toro are typically made of materials such as metal and wood. Stone lanterns found outside temples are known as ishi-doro (石灯籠, literally, “stone toro“), while hanging lanterns are tsuri-doro (吊り 灯籠, hanging toro). Since this is a general term for a lantern, it’s often applied to lantern festivals that don’t specifically feature chochin paper lanterns.

— subham—

Tags- Ancestor, worship, departed souls, Mahalaya, Amavasya, Sraddha, Tarpan, Nandhi, Gaya, water, sesamum, Brahmins, in Japan, Moksha deepam, Feast of Lanterns

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