Mahalaya Observed across Odisha

TNI Bureau: Mahalaya is being observed in every household of Odisha since time immemorial. As the day marks start of the ‘Devipakshya’ and the end of ‘the Pitru-pakshya’, many people offered ‘shradhha’ to their ancestors today in their houses and temple premises including Lingaraj temple and Bindu sarobar in Bhubaneswar.

Pitri- Paksha is a 16-day period during which Hindus pay homage to their ancestors since this is the time in the whole year when the ancestors’ spirits can be drawn to the Earth as per Hindu philosophy. It is believed that during Pitru pakshay ancestors bless with peace and positive support to their descendants living on this earth.

According to Hindu mythology, the souls of three preceding generations of one’s ancestor reside in Pitru–loka, a realm between heaven and earth. Shraddha offerings are given to please these ancestors.

People in the pre-dawn hours took holy dips and began the process to offer ‘Shraddha’ to their ancestors in the day. The rite is followed by ‘tarpan’ in different rivers of the state including Mahanadi in Cuttack, Sambalpur, Boudh and Sonepur. Many people perform the same at the nearby ponds clad in dhoti. They live on vegetarian food and refrain themselves from alcohol on Mahalaya.

As per the ritual, foods specially made in silver and copper vessels are being offered to the ancestors and then to Brahmins on banana leaves. When appreciated and acknowledged by Brahmins, it is believed, the ancestors are freed from their suffering and will readily assist you from the other side. On the other hand, if neglected and kept hungry, the misguided ancestors can cause havoc in all areas of one’s life.

An interesting legend has been attached to performance of ‘sharaddha’. When the legendary donor Karna died in the Mahabharata war, his soul transcended to heaven, and he was offered gold and jewels as food. However, Karna needed real food to eat and thus asked Indra, the lord of heaven, the reason for serving gold as food. Indra described Karna that he had donated gold all his life, but had never donated food to his ancestors in Shraddha. Karna said that since he was unaware of his ancestors, he never donated anything in their memory. To make amends, Karna was permitted to return to earth for a 15–day period during the Pitru Pakshya, so that he could perform Shraddha.

On Mahalaya day, the artists coloured the eyes of the Durga statues. The traditional six-day countdown to Mahasaptami starts from Mahalaya. Thus, Mahalaya carries auspicious value in Hindu religion.

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